A Weekend in Barcelona
Updated: Sep 3, 2020
Whether you attribute a lack of research to laziness or perhaps a delayed approach to curiosity, I entered Spain with little to no Google searches. Traveling, I’ve learned, is meeting a destination as a stranger, listening to what it has to say, and appreciating it on its own. I didn’t want to step off the plane already knowing what I was getting into— that takes that addicting x-factor out of adventure; I wanted Barcelona to tell me who it was.
I was lucky to have a local connection; my good friend Laura (who is practically my sister— we look so similar even my dad got us confused once) was my cultural bridge. Her family took me in like a long-lost daughter and had me feeling at home in an instant. They offered me a warm welcome to Spain and, as many people know, first impressions count. My trip was off to a great start.
I spent two full days in Barcelona. On day one, Laura’s parents excitedly unleashed Barcelona’s history and culture on me as we weaved through the Gothic Quarter and surrounding streets of Santa Maria del Mar. We passed tapas bars, live musicians, flea markets, and quiet streets under roofs of string lights and decorative banners; the city felt like a celebration.
Lunch I learned, is the largest meal of the day in Spain— and our lunch at Senyor Parellada did not disappoint. My one request of an authentic paella was fulfilled. Appetizers rolled in, each with their own distinct and delicious taste: patatas bravas, mushrooms, and some kind of Spanish chicken nugget. Laura’s dad, Xavier, ordered us a bottle of red wine from the south of Spain.
Soon we were all high off good company and good wine, and the paella arrived simmering in a savory aroma of surf and turf. The smell enveloped the table and demanded us to take notice. We dug in and the creamy rice surprised me. Its flavors were richer than anything I expected. Shrimp, oysters, squid, sausage, chicken, red peppers, all cooked in a shallow, round pan larger than a basketball. We indulged and finished off the whole thing. Without any time to consider more food, nor digest, three more plates of dessert appeared. Fruits and custards topped off our already full bellies. We left the restaurant laughing through our food comas.
Closer to the center of the city, we walked the infamous “La Rambla” street into Mercat de la Boqueria. The place was buzzing with energy. Rainbows of fruit were stacked high and half of the ocean’s seafood seemed to have swam straight into the market. Laura’s mom, Montse, urged us to try jamon. We finished off the salty meat with a helping of sweet, juicy watermelon.
The next day, Laura and I set out on our own and by the time we were done, it felt like we hadn’t left a stone in Barcelona uncovered. Park Güell; The Bunkers; La Sagrada Familia; Arc de Triomf; Ciutadella Park; La Barceloneta— all this while losing count of how many subway rides and buses it took to conquer the city. By the end of the afternoon, we decided it was more than necessary to ride in one of those tourist tricycles. Laura tracked someone down and off we went, speeding through the streets as our 17 year old driver tried to impress us with his reckless bicycling. We weren’t in any immediate danger, of course, and so we were amused.
We spent the rest of our evening walking the streets of Barceloneta in search of crepes. At least ten stops later, we found French Crepes, in Spain, in an Italian cafe, run by a Croatian man. The whole situation I realized, was a bit funny. I tried to order my milkshake and crepe in Italian even though the man was Spanish, and Laura and I both ended up speaking to him in English. I began to realize that these mixed up language exchanges were becoming a bit of a trend for me.
We spoke to the owner and his son and eventually circled the neighborhood once more; this time, looking for strawberry mojitos. We cut our search in half this time, trying about five stops before finding reasonably priced drinks. At this point it was around 10 PM and in Spain, that’s a normal time for dinner; so we went home.
Dashing down the subway stairs and back up again, we nearly missed our bus home. We hopped up just in time and arrived back to Caldes de Montbui with rumbling stomachs. Montse made us soup and I enjoyed one more piece of bread covered in fresh tomato and olive oil— a Catalan specialty.
Besides my obvious reunion with a good friend, my favorite part of visiting Spain was the warm energy that radiated from everyone I came into contact with. Not one person gave Barcelona a bad rep. It was as if I blindly reached my hand out, and Barcelona led me through its maze while shining the sun on my face.
Color, comfort, and kindness enveloped me the second I landed in Barcelona, and that’s a feeling I’ll never forget. For many people, that bright sunlight and sense of vibrancy are synonymous with Spain and the people who call it home. There’s a laid back feeling in the air, and it charmed me from the start. As I left the next morning I recalled something the Croatian cafe owner said to us, “mañana” he said, “was the first word I learned in Spanish, and ‘mañana’ means ‘tomorrow.’ And that’s Spain for you. Do it tomorrow.”