Our Trip to Spain! Part Two.
I’m just now blogging the details of our trip to Spain last Fall. #bloggergameonpoint.
So where do I even begin?!
Barcelona is a dream come true. With its Gothic architecture and maze of tiny cobblestone streets, Barcelona reminded me a lot of Rome and Paris, but with a different vibe; eccentric, gritty, and a little wild. Modernist and surrealist artists like Picasso, Gaudí, and Dalí have left their mark on the city and the Art Nouveau architecture makes the city feel magical and surreal. The streets are lively past 4am and many cafes and shops don’t open until 11am and close again for long breaks in the afternoon. Barcelonans are livin’ right. And they know how to PARTAY.
Except for that guy. Womp womp.
Mike and I rented this apartment, which I loved. It’s affordable and located in what ended up being my favorite part of Barcelona – the El Born district. El Born is a charming and artsy part of the city with beautiful Gothic architecture, and a lot of independent shops, galleries, cafes, and bars. The area is a maze of tiny streets that turn around on each other and open into little plazas. I loved that we had so many great places to grab a drink or a bite to eat just steps outside our door. The owners of our apartment also run an art gallery on the first floor and gave us a bunch of suggestions of their favorite places to go in the area. This apartment has a full kitchen so we were able to shop at the local market and fill the fridge with snacks and drinks and also prepare some meals at home. The washer and dryer was a great convenience as well. I always try to book a place with a washer so I can pack as light as possible.
We spent an afternoon wandering the grounds of Park Güell, and guys, I don’t know how to describe this place without underselling it. Everywhere we turned we were met with ornate and whimsical details. I felt like I was in a crazy fairytale dream forest. I have to imagine this place inspired the game Candy Land.
We visited the Picasso Museum, just a five minute walk from our apartment. The museum sprawls over a row of five Gothic palaces, but it’s actually very approachable in size. The art is arranged chronologically and I found it interesting and so inspiring to follow Picasso’s artistic journey from realism to surrealism. There weren’t any pictures allowed inside, so apparently I took this one of Mike fiddling with his audio guide and decided that was good enough?
A big highlight of the trip was the day we spent in the Catalan countryside at a horse and pony ranch. We were given a tour of the facilities and a home-cooked picnic lunch. Mike and I, along with our guide and two others, rode horseback along secluded country roads with breathtaking views of Barcelona and the Mediterranean Sea. It was one of those times where I had to pinch myself because it didn’t seem real. I kept whispering to my horse “This can’t be real life!” (surely she agreed). Afterwards, we unsaddled, groomed, and fed the horses. My horse, Romy, was the sweetest and gentlest creature. She and I had a real spiritual connection. Every so often I’d give her a hug and call her a pumpkin, then she’d rub her head on my arm and lick my elbow, that kind of thing. It was one of my favorite memories of the trip, nay, of my life, and I will never forget it.
We rented electric bikes (SO FUN!) but also (SO TERRIFYING!) and zipped around the city for a few hours. We visited some famous landmarks like the Arc de Triomf, Parc de la Ciutadella, and a few Gaudi creations like Casa Batlló. If you look at the picture of Casa Batlló below, you will notice the balconies are skulls, the pillars are bones, and though you can’t see it in this photo, the roof is likened to the back of a dragon. BONKERS. We ended the afternoon with an audio-guided visit to Gaudi’s most famous work of art, La Sagrada Familia, which was breathtaking.
We paid a visit to Bar Marsella, the oldest bar in Barcelona, to partake in their house-made absinthe. I love the vibe of this place. The ceiling is peeling, everything looks like it’s falling apart, and the shelves are covered in 200-year-old dusty bottles of liquor. Allegedly, Ernest Hemingway used to get sauced on the absinthe and pen his novels here. I was like, “Isn’t it crazy to think we may be sitting at the very table where ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ was written?!” and Mike D was like “The Metallica song?”. HASHTAG HISTORY BUFFS.
Barcelona is small in comparison to other major cities, so we got around easily by walking most of the time. I had been warned more than once about Barcelona’s pick-pockets but we didn’t have any problems. Mike kept his wallet in a buttoned or zipped pocket at all times and I wore a cross-body purse and carried it in front of me at night and in crowded areas. The El Raval neighborhood got a little sketchy at night, but overall we felt very safe.
Barcelona is in the region of Catalonia and Catalans view their region, their culture, and their heritage as entirely unique (and, for many, superior) to that of the rest of Spain. Very few people that we spoke to, and literally zero cab drivers, spoke English. Although Catalan was the predominant language spoken, most people were patient with our wobbly Spanish and the Google translate app helped A LOT.
Other favorites in Barcelona:
- 7 Portes for proper Spanish paella.
- Encants Flea Market. This place is sprawling and filled to the brim with cool vintage housewares but a lot of junk too. Give yourself time to dig and don’t be afraid to haggle.
- For funky vintage clothing and accessories, head to Carrer de la Riera Baixa street in the El Raval neighborhood. We stumbled upon a lot of cool vintage shops and record stores.
- Arcano for amaaaazing tapas (pictured in the lower right of the photo above). Order the empanadas or regret your life!
After 4 days in Barcelona, we packed our bags and took a bus to Tossa De Mar for $16. Tossa De Mar is a small medieval town in the Costa Brava about two hours north of Barcelona. We rented this apartment, a five minute walk from the beach. The owners of the apartment live in the building and were extremely gracious. They left us a bottle of wine and a list of their favorite things to do in Tossa with a hand written map.
Funny story about our apartment in Tossa. The weather was warm and sunny the entire trip, except for one night, when a thunderstorm rolled in around midnight; the angry kind of storm where the thunder shakes your chest and bolts of white lightning split the sky. We laid in bed, listening to the wind howl and the rain lash against the windows. It was thrilling, really. But then we started to smell something sewagey. Mike got up to investigate. “Uhhh, Tracey, the bathroom is flooding”. And then bam! Power went out. We looked outside and the street was flooded about a foot deep. Water began rising from the patio into the kitchen. Panicked, we buzzed the owners who, thankfully, rushed over, unplugged the floor drains, and scooped up the water in buckets. After a bit of mopping, a generous peppering of lysol, and some messing with the breakers, everything ended up fine, but for a minute we felt like we were in a Final Destination movie. If you remember, our house flooded with two feet of sewage right before our trip. Note to the universe: Stop trying to make flooding happen!
Anywho, Tossa de Mar is absolutely GORGEOUS. I’ve never seen anything like it. The beaches are straight out of a painting. The entire picturesque town is built around a castle from the 1300s. THE THIRTEEN HUNDREDS! W.I.L.D.
This leg of the trip was so relaxing. We pretty much just laid on the beach and drank sangria errryday. It was transformative.
Real people actually live on that enchanting street, behind those blue doors, and inside that stupid-cute window. Ludicrous!
At the very tippy top of Tossa de Mar, there lies an outdoor restaurant, Bar del Far de Tossa, with a 360 degree view of the town, castle, beach, and sea. We walked up there on our final night in Tossa (it’s a climb) and watched the sun set while we dined on tapas and sangria. It was another one of those “Is this real life?” moments, but sadly there was no horse to whisper to.
The shopping in Tossa is excellent. Because Morocco is close-by, there is a great variety of Moroccan rugs, baskets, towels, handbags, and clothing. Everything is insanely affordable too. I wish I had brought an empty suitcase with me.
That large sisal basket was only 12 euro. That’s less than a gourmet pizza! Plus, leather details! SOLD. That leather embossed purse was only 25 euro. Come on now.
This may be *controversial* but I now own three horror-movie voodoo-doll key chains. Does this make me a collector?
I did not buy this interesting travel mug, but I now realize it would have made a great Mothers Day gift. Srrlz, Mom!
You made it to the end! High fives all around. But wait! In case you missed it, check out this video of our trip:
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May 6, 2015
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