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April 16th 2017
Published: April 20th 2017
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We arrived in Barcelona, the first stop on our 5 week Spain, Morocco and Paris trip, about 24 hours after leaving Melbourne. The journey was painless, however the we spent the next 2.5 hours in the immigration queue. I suppose that was our punishment for flying into Spain on the first public holiday of Semana Santa (Easter).

By the time we arrived at our hotel we were both pretty tired so we had a short nap before heading out to explore. We wandered north from our hotel along Passeig de Gracia past Casa Batllo and Casa Mila. We then ventured into the small back streets and wandered around admiring the architecture until it was time to meet up with Scott's work colleague Nat and her boyfriend Evan.

Nat and Evan had spent the past four weeks travelling around Spain and Morocco. Our trips overlapped for only one night so we caught up for dinner to hear all about their travels and make them jealous that our holiday was just beginning whereas theirs was ending. We ate at a tapas restaurant they had discovered and had a delicious meal of various tapas and drinks. Dinner was followed by late night churros and thick Spanish hot chocolate...after which we decided it was definitely bed time!

The following morning we joined one of the many free walking tours which are available in Barcelona. We met up with the group in Placa Reil which is just off Las Ramblas. From Placa Reil we walked through the gorgeous narrow streets of the Gothic Quarter to Placa del Pi which is in front of the 14th century church Santa Maria del Pi.

From Santa Maria del Pei we wandered through the Jewish Quarter past old synagogues and hidden Hebrew writing. We made our way towards Placa Sant Jaume where we visited courtyard of Barcelona Cathedral (La Seu) which was pretty but very busy.

We then headed on to Placa Sant Felip Neri and it's church. The front of the church is scarred by schrapnel wounds from the Spanish civil war. The square was framed by buildings which had been relocated to their present location to fit with the gothic architecture.

From there we made our way to the highest point in the old part of the city (which was not very high!). We then visited some columns which were remnants of the Roman city of Barcino which was founded in approximately the 1st Century BC.

We then headed to the Placa del Rei which is in front of the medieval Royal Palace. Placa del Rei was one of the prime locations for public executions during the Spanish Inquest. It is also supposedly where Christopher Columbus reported back to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand after visiting the new world (apparently not true, but a good story nonetheless).

From Placa del Rei we headed to our final stop out the front of Santa Maria del Mar. Santa Maria del Mar, which was financed and constructed by the 'ordinary people' was completed on 3 November 1383.

After the tour ended we headed to Mercat de la Boqueria which is probably the most famous market in Barcelona. We wandered through the (incredibly busy) aisles past the fresh produce and restaurants until we came across an empanada stand where we bought our lunch. The empanadas were delicious though not as good as the ones from the market in Cartagena, Colombia. After lunch we headed back to our hotel to embrace the Spanish siesta tradition.

That night we headed back to the Gothic Quarter to have dinner at a pinxtos restaurant which had good reviews. As the restaurant was near Santa Maria del Pi we stopped in there beforehand to admire the stained glass window from the inside. After taking some photos we decided it was dinner time. We grabbed some seats at the bar and then tried to figure out what each of the pintxos were. We made it through about 6 each before we decided to admit defeat.

The following morning we joined another free walking tour, this time focusing on the life and work of the famous Barcelona architect Antoni Gaudi. On the way to the tour we were able to visit the Barcelona Cathedral which was free as we arrived before 10am. We then made our way to Placa Reil to join our tour.

Once the whole group had arrived we made our way to Palau Guell which was one of Guadi's first commissions. The facade was interesting; at first it appears to be symmetrical but on closer inspection the asymmetry became apparent. We both liked the ornate cast iron doors.

From Palau Guell we hopped on the subway and headed towards Casa Batllo which is probably one of the most recognised Gaudi commissions. After discussing theories on the inspiration for Gaudi's design (he didn't discuss his inspiration) we moved on to Casa Mila.

Apparently the owners of Casa Mila had requested Gaudi use the same style as Casa Batllo (but make it bigger and better of course) for Casa Mila; however the end result was completely different. Apparently it violated a number of planning laws at the time due to it's height and encroachment on the footpath.

From Casa Mila we hopped back on the subway towards our final stop of the tour, La Sagrada Familia. Sagrada Familia, which is still under construction 135 years later, was Gaudi's real passion. Whilst he only managed to complete one facade (the Nativity facade) prior to his death he did manage to leave plans outlining his vision for the other four facades and the remainder of the interior. Unfortunately many of them were destroyed during the Spanish civil war so the design for the remainder of the church has been pieced together from various models and plans which friends / colleagues managed to hide. The other facades (one complete, one almost complete and one still very much under construction) look much much newer and lack the incredible detail of the Nativity Facade.

After the tour we grabbed some empanadas for lunch and then waited in the park across from Sagrada Familia until our time slot to enter the tower of the Passion facade. We entered the church a little early which gave us a bit of time to take in it's incredible size and the lovely stain glass windows.

We caught the elevator up to the viewing deck of the tower of the Passion facade and stepped out to admire the view over the city. There was a small view point through the facade just after the elevator which we stopped to take some photos at. This turned out to be a good decision as the sides of the main viewing area are protected by wire mesh.

After admiring the view for a while we made our way down the spiral staircase back to the main church. Once back at street level we commenced the audio tour which talks about the history and various architectural details of the church. The stain glass windows were definitely my favourite part.

From Sagrada Familia we caught the train towards Barcelonetta where we stopped off at the Maritime Museum. Inside the museum was a life size (60m long) replica of the royal galley Admirals of the Juan de Austria which was involved in the defeat of the Turkish Armada in 1571. The museum contained a lot of detail about the life of the sailors on the ship (some voluntary, some not). It sounded like a pretty miserable way to spend your life.

From the museum we walked along the coast past the port and on to the beach at Barceloneta. We then made our way to Parc de la Cituadella which was nice and busy with people drinking, relaxing and rollerblading on gravel... We sat for a while and people watched which was nice.

For dinner that night we went to a paella restaurant our guide had recommended. I made Scott wait until a Spanish acceptable hour (8:30) but by the time we arrived there was a waiting list.. We put our names on the list and then grabbed a drink nearby to kill the 30-40 minutes the restaurant said we'd have to wait. An hour later our table was ready (and I was at risk of being murdered by Scott for making him wait until 9:30 for dinner!).

The paella was delicious. I had a vegetarian version whilst Scott went for the seafood / meat / various mysterious delights version. We both enjoyed the meal a lot.

The following day we had a fairly slow start which turned out to be a good decision as all markets and most shops were closed for Easter Monday. After breakfast we walked through the Gothic Quarter, then to the Arc de Triomph and back to our hotel. We spent the next few hours reading and playing board games until it was time to make our way to Park Guell for our timeslot to visit the restricted area.

Park Guell didn't look that far from our hotel on the map, but we were definitely glad we opted for the bus as it was up a decent hill! The park itself was teeming with people...we walked around until we found the access point for the restricted zone.

We weren't particularly impressed by the restricted zone. It would have been much nicer with far less people... We spent about half an hour there (and managed to get the classic shot of the mosaic seats with the view over Barcelona) but were definitely ready to leave after that.

That night for dinner we headed to a pinxtos restaurant which was listed in an article Scott's aunt sent us. We ordered some drinks and pinxtos which were delicious. The restaurant was on a street lined with tapas and pinxtos bars so after we finished our first round we moved onto the next place.

After dinner we headed back to the hotel to pack up ready for our train to Madrid the following morning.

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22nd April 2017

We haven't been to Spain yet and enjoy reading about your wanderings around Barcelona. Thanks for sharing

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