Visiting Barcelona in the coldest time of the year… Is that a good idea? Well, it’s still a lot warmer there than in Assen, so I wasn’t too worried. And flights in February were well priced too. And well… excuses aren’t really necessary for visiting my girlfriend again, are they?
So halfway February on a cold morning I boarded the train to Schiphol and flew to arrive in warm, sunny Barcelona at the end of the afternoon. I was again able to shoot some interesting photos over the Pyrenees and read through most of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ during the trip. A short busride to the center on the Aerobus later and I was there again. It’s really starting to feel familiar here now.
On Thursday we didn’t have a busy schedule, just a lovely day walking around a bit and enjoy being together again. We visited the Palau Robert and the connected Jardins del Palau Robert where a photo-exposition on refugees was on show, we visited some markets and all in all just had a lovely relaxing day.
On Friday we visited the Parc Guell. This park has two areas: a closed one with paid admission and a free public area. I visited the commercial part on my first trip to Barcelona back in 2014 and with its Gaudi design, the lovely balcony overlooking Barcelona and the stairs with the lizard it is an impressive part. But this time we walked through the public part and that is at least as impressive. There are some truly beautiful arches and bridges you can walk over and under, and on the top you are once again rewarded with a tremendous view.
But there is another reason why you should really visit the public parc: it is here where the street musicians play and there are some remarkable musicians at work here. Under an arch a duo played a fantastic classical set in violin and cello, that we heard from far away but undisputed King of the musicians at Parc Guell -rewarded with his own stage at the top of the hill and quite a celebrity in the area- is Jason Jeans, an Italian rocker stuck in the rocking 70’s. He’s more of a variety act in his leopard jeans and groovy sunglasses, but he is a hoot to see perform.
In the evening we decided to take a chance on a concert. It read as a combination with Jazz and classical instruments, but the only classical part of the band was a cello and it’s aged player (also the writer of the compositions). The lyrics were a bit preachy from what I understood from Monica and the main part of the audience seemed to have been made up out of the parents and friends of the band. It’s amazing we sat through the whole concert but made sure we were gone before the encore.
Far, far better was a musical scene we walked into after the concert when we were roaming the streets of the Gothic quarter. Four men in normal clothing were singing opera behind the high walls of the cathedral and it sounded incredible. Musically the highlight of this trip, I kid you not. Superb to see walkers by emotionally gripped by just four guys singing in the street.
When I happened upon Sant Pau in a previous visit we planned visit the former hospital for a good visit and on Saturday we did just that. The architecture of this place (now part of the World Heritage) is just fantastic. Lovely colours, beautiful shapes. Hard to imagine this at one time was ‘just a hostpital’.
The main entrance of Sant Pau looks directly towards the Sagrada Familia and it’s a nice walk to get from one place to the next. Just before arriving there Monica had another little treat in store: one of the Caffetteria’s had Sicilian snacks: a ‘Arancini Siciliani’ and if you find ‘Cremeria Siciliana’ in Barcelona you should definitely try this.
We also visited the market near Torre Agbar where Monica spotted a vintage soda siphon that I really really wanted and when it got dark I played around with long exposure photography a bit, a bit of a new photo-graphical hobby of mine.
It’s Sunday and even though it’s February, I have no problem going out with merely a T-Shirt and a jacket and then even the jacket tends to be a bit warm… Today we go for a bit of an excursion to Sitges, a lovely little village some 30km below Barcelona and popular with the Barcelonians.
Sitges has a gorgeous historic center and a beautiful bit of beach. Shortly after we arrived we saw a local folk-dance in progress. Interesting to see that not only old people were dancing, but also a younger group and even a small group of kids were already training for the dance. A lovely day with a freat time at the beach and we ended our stay with a small snack in an Amsterdam/Dutch café before heading back to Barcelona.
Back in Barcelona we took another chance on a concert when we visited a small club in Gracia, close to home. In the club Soda Acustic a small Jazz trio played a really lovely set. Good to see some jazz ‘old style/young musicians’. And again to see that the clubs do fill up for these sort of concerts, I love that!
Monday was already my last full day in Barcelona and today we set out to at least scratch that one item of the to-do list that even though I’ve been to Barcelona six times now, still remains unvisited: FC Barcelona or Camp Nou! However it was not as full a visit as many people will suspect. A tour through the building is really expensive and especially if you’re with two or more people. SO we walked around the stadium a bit, visited the Football store and took some pictures here and there.
Far more interesting (at least to me) was a visit to Parc de Pedralbes. The area was mentioned in the book ‘No Word from Gurb’ and it’s is a really beautiful park. We took loads of pictures there, saw the Palau Reial and also really lovely: lots and lots of bathing Monk parakeets. We ended the day at the beach watching the moon come up and that was about as perfect as it gets.
For our last evening we had a local delicacy even though it doesn’t much look like it when you put on the aprons: Calçots or green onions. They’re grilled and served with a dipping sauce. You peel of the outer layer, dip the remainder in the sauce and eat that. The procedure is a bit weird, but it tastes great! At least if got me out of eating snails for one more evening (for future reference: had them once and I will never ever ever ever eat snails again!).
On the last morning it was a bit of a rush to get home. We sadly said our goodbye’s hastily at the door as Monica made to the office and I had to rush to the airport. Of course there would be strikes on public transport just now: it was the start of MWC ( Mobile World Congress ). Luckily the Aerobus drove as normal, but with the morning traffic being even more busy than usual we hardly moved forward at all. In the end all worked out well and I was very much in time at the airport.
The flight back was mostly over a sheet of clouds, which was a shame as we flew over (or close to) Paris. Once back in the Netherlands a trainride later I was back in the rainy, cold reality of Assen and it feels like it’s high time to plan the next trip :)
(Click any of the images for the full set)