Barcelona: Chic bohemian and worthy of the hype…

Bilbao to Barcelona
Bilbao to Barcelona

Woke up in Barcelona.
First on the cards was a walk to La Ramblas. It’s the most talked about in Barcelona and I wanted to find out why. What’s so special. I saw. It’s a street that’s like the spinal cord. It’s wide with wide pavements in the middle where thousands of people walk up and down, where restaurants have their seating so people could watch people, where artists are at work while you watch in amazement, where many more narrow streets branching out and where strange people will offer you weed. 🙂

La Ramblas
La Ramblas

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While walking we had one place in mind. La Boqueria. The oh so famous fresh food market. How we regretted having lunch before coming here. It was amazing! Food food and more food. you get stalls of colourful cups of fruit juices and fruit salad stacked up on ice, jamon hanging from ceiling or sliced up and ready to eat, empanada’s of all different shapes and colours, seafood bars where people just wait to be seated on stools and fresh seafood is made to order within the small stalls, then a whole world of fresh fruits and veggies and seafood!

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After munching on a few things we got back on to Ramblas and headed straight to the waterfront passing beautiful old buildings and little streets adorn with bohemian fashion and decors. The next stop was the Barcelona cathedral. During our trip we got to see so many cathedrals and this was definitely one of the most beautiful ones and it was free! (surprise surprise) As soon as we got there it started pouring but that didn’t stop us from taking photos under an umbrella. 🙂

First day in Barcelona and it looked very promising.

The column
The column

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The Barcelona Cathedral
The Barcelona Cathedral
Barcelona Cathedral
Barcelona Cathedral

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We decided to dedicate our next day to Gaudi. What is Barcelona without Antonio Gaudi? However I will do that in the next post otherwise this is going to be too long. But worth mentioning is the best paella we had that night along the beach. Full of shellfish and big portions of food and sangria. In our happy place after the sangrias we ended up walking in the middle of the night in El Born and Barri Gotic, two neighbourhoods that are not the most safest to be walking at that time. But we had an amazing walk admiring the calmness except for the occasional drunk men out and about and seeing a whole new side of Barcelona when everything had stopped.

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Next morning we did a little day trip to Monserrat, which will also be another post. But once we got back to we walked from Plaza Espanya towards Font Magica de Monjuic or magic fountains for the night show that is not to be missed. Along the way we stopped at a few beautiful buildings and one of them was Mies Van Der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion. The Fountain area was already full of people when we got there and there was so much happening. When the show started, really late it was amazing. What a way to end the day.

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Barcelona Pavillion
Barcelona Pavilion

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Crowds waiting for the water works
Magic Fountain
Magic Fountain

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Last day In Barcelona was the best. We started off at Arc de Triomp and then a walk in Barri Gotic and El Born during day. They are undoubtedly my favourite areas in Barcelona. A little dirty, a little dodgy but full of character and full of things to see and do. Along the way we sampled everything chocolate and pastries, chatted to wonderfully friendly shop owners, watched some outdoor performances by some cool guys, witnessed a wedding at another beautiful cathedral, a peak at Picasso Museum and a taste of artsy culture. In the evening we hired bikes and rode through the tiny streets ringing the bell every two minutes and along the waterfront all the way to barceloneta beach, had a few cocktails and rode back and ended the day and our trip to Barcelona in such a high!

Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe

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Gorgeous little hideaways
Gorgeous little hideaways

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Barri Gotic or Gothic Quarters
Barri Gotic or Gothic Quarters

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Barceloneta Beach
Barceloneta Beach

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Travel tip – Hiring a bike is a must do when in Barclona. Anyone can do it as the streets are full of riders and is safe. We got our bikes from a place called Green Bikes and they are friendly and flexible. Only 3 euros an hour and their bikes are pretty good.
You are going to be spoiled for choices when it comes to food in Barcelona. But don’t eat at La Ramblas. You are going to be another one of those tourists then. 🙂

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Madrid: Where it all began…

When we were trying to decide where to go for our next big adventure, we were tossing up between a few countries and then I put my foot down and decided on Spain & Portugal. (ok maybe I exaggerated a little bit there ;))
And then after 4 months of planning and a 25 hour plane ride later we were in Madrid. After finding our hotel and leaving our backpacks we stepped out to the streets of Madrid.

After just two minutes of walking we found plenty of cobble stone streets, cute restaurants with chairs and tables out on the street and jamon hanging off the ceilings and people chatting and getting ready for the lunch rush. We decided to first get some food so wandered in to a restaurant which had ‘Paella Marisco’ on their chalk board menu but it was empty. We knew before coming here that in Spain people don’t have lunch until well past 1pm. And we were a little bit early. The guy behind the bar was nice and asked us to have a seat but food won’t be ready till 1. We were fine with that and I ordered the paella and a sangria while A ordered jamon tostadas with a beer. We saw tostadas in every lunch menu and they were pretty much slices of toasted bread with thinly sliced cured meat.

Then we excitedly waited for our first taste of Spain.

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"Paella Marisco"
“Paella Marisco” 
"Pimientos & Sangria"
“Pimientos & Sangria”
"Churros of a different kind"
“Churros of a different kind”
"Cute shops everywhere"
“Cute shops everywhere”

Then we headed back for a nap to get rid of jet-lag (unsuccessfully) and started wandering again at night. It was a different sight. The streets were completely taken over by people. We walked to Puerta de sol (Gate of the sun) one of the most known and busiest squares in Madrid. People were everywhere. There were dancers, footballers, magicians and sellers. It was somewhat overwhelming but exciting at the same time. Next stop Gran via, the street known as the Spanish Broadway. It was big. Architecture, lights, shopping, food, people, cars, all in one place. It was a shoppers paradise. From there we moved onto Plaza Mayor, where grand buildings stood on all four sides making this one of the biggest squares I’ve seen, Yet it was much calmer than Sol, maybe it was late at night. Still it had a very real european feeling with restaurants on all sides and seating out in the open.

Puerta del sol
Puerta del sol

Gran via madrid

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Plaza Mayor
Plaza Mayor
Plaza Mayor
Plaza Mayor

Day 2 in Madrid started with a walking tour. We decided to do a free walking tour just to get a glimpse of the city, to know the places we might not go otherwise. This turned out to be a good idea. We started from Plaza Mayor and went to the ‘square of the closed gate’, the oldest restaurant, Plaza de La villa, Catedral de La Almudena, Palacio Real de Madrid, Plaza Oriente and finished off at Plaza de Isabel II or the Opera Square.

walking tour

"colours of Spain"
“colours of Spain”
colours of Spain
colours of Spain
"Almudena Cathedral"
“Almudena Cathedral”
"Almudena Cathedral"
“Almudena Cathedral”
"Almudena Cathedral"
“Almudena Cathedral”
"Royal Palace of Madrid"
“Royal Palace of Madrid”
"Royal Palace of Madrid"
“Royal Palace of Madrid”

After the walk we decided to venture on our own towards the Art district which turned out to be quite different from the Madrid we have seen so far. It was big and clean with less tourists and felt more like a CBD in a western country of course except for the amazing architecture that are centuries old. First we headed towards Reina Sofia Museum, after being inspired by the works of Picasso, Salvador Dali and many alike we headed to the Prada Museum. It is Spain’s main National Museum and home to some of the finest collections. And not surprisingly there was a massive line. It was too long to wait to get in for us so we decided to take a photo of the line, say hello to the museum and move on.thumb_IMG_3942_1024

"Reina Sofia"
“Reina Sofia”
"Caixa Forum"
“Caixa Forum”
"Prada Museum"
“Prada Museum”

And move on we did. We spent an amazing Autumn evening in Retiro Park.The park was full of colours, sun was ready to set and the weather was beautiful. What better way could you end a day? Walk around the park, a quick look at the crystal palace just before it closed and ended the day sitting in a cafe near the lake, sipping coffee, watching people and writing postcards. The park was full of colours, sun was ready to set and the weather was beautiful. What better way could you end a day? Walk around the park, a quick look at the crystal palace just before it closed and ended the day sitting in a cafe near the lake, sipping coffee, watching people and writing postcards.

"Retiro park"
“Retiro park”

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"Crystal Palace"
“Crystal Palace”

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"Postcards from Madrid"
“Postcards from Madrid”

On our way back we came across the Puerta de Alcala. The light was perfect for some amazing shots. Dinner was at Mercado San Miguel. I have no photos for proof. But it’s something you have to do. There are lot of options. Buy some tapas with all sorts of fillings, a nice big glass of sangria and… The End. 🙂

"Puerta de Alcala"
“Puerta de Alcala”

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"Puerta de Alcala"
“Puerta de Alcala”

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Travel tip – Madrid is full of tourists and even more tourist traps when it comes to eating and drinking. Have meals at their times. Lunch after 1pm and dinner after 8pm. Always stay away from restaurants and bars near major sights and wander into the little streets. A tip we got from a local, if there are english menu’s, if there are signs saying’ we speak english’ or if there are photos of the dishes in the menu, especially paella, run! 🙂