One of the things Thomas and I always talk about when we visit a new place is the livability of it. A few weeks ago, we headed off to Barcelona, my first time in Spain, and it got a pretty high rating from me. The city had a great vibe! Lots of active people, interesting architecture, nice parks, artists everywhere, and great food – I think my only complaint was the heat and tired feet from walking so much.
Most of our trips become culinary adventures – this one included. I assumed the food would be similar to Mexican food, or maybe Paella, but Barcelona is known for it’s tapas (little dishes holding just a couple bites) or pinchos (little slices of bread topped with various ingredients, held in place with a toothpick). Below was my favorite pincho that we tried – cream cheese, jam and fresh mint. They’re set out at a bar so you can sample whatever kinds you want. Each one was about $1.50, and when you’re done, they just add up the toothpicks to calculate the total.
Though flamenco dancing didn’t originate in this area, we went to a dinner theater one night and had front row seats for a flamenco show. The dancers were impressive and tapped faster than I could snap my camera. I’d like to see them up against some Irish folk dancers. :) Dinner was tapas – bread with chopped tomatos and olive oil, fried potatoes with aioli sauce, various cheeses and dried hams, and Padron peppers, also known as Pepper Roulette. These are generally very sweet tasty peppers, but every once in a while you get a spicy hot one. They look identical, so you can’t tell which is which until you taste it.
One of my favorite sites was the Sagrada Família church. It was designed by Gaudi, famous for his modernist designs, in the 1800s and still is not complete. The detail and style are what is unique about it. I particularly liked the inside which was modeled after science and nature concepts like plants and trees.
On Sunday, we found locals gathered outside a cathedral dancing the Sardana, the Catalan national dance, with a full set of musicians to the side. The dance looks somewhat like a traditional Greek dance, where the dancers form a circle, hold hands, and tap and kick their feet. We stayed on the sidelines, but I loved seeing the older locals dancing along – many wearing white cotton shoes laced up their legs.
The other thing I wanted to comment on was the conflict in Barcelona’s identity that weekend. We happened to be there during the final World Cup game, where Spain beat The Netherlands. There was much celebration and pride in their country. However, the day before, we stumbled upon a huge protest (over 1 million people) who wanted the Catalonia region, including Barcelona, to have independence from Spain. Even though it’s part of Spain, it has it’s own language – Catalan rather than Spanish – and a very strong culture. After living in Belgium, with 2 different languages, cultures, and even governments split down the middle of the country, it’s a little easier to understand, but the flipflop from one day to the next was what I found humorous.
I’ve got to add one more note about a famous Barcelona site we saw…the Barcelona Naked Man. This is a real human (older) man who proudly walks the streets of Barcelona, sporting only a hat, tennis shoes, and a tattooed on pair of shorts. I had read about him, but was shocked when I actually spotted him. I quickly told Thomas, who with no shame, stood right in front of him, snapping away on his 80-200mm lens. The guy was not impressed, but we came home with some amusing photos.
For those that want to see:
It was only a weekend, but we took a bunch more photos on our trip to Barcelona. If you’d like to see them, they’re posted on PicasaWeb:
- Weekend in Barcelona (60 photos)