Blissful Barcelona

From my August Roster post, I said how I received two Seychelles and after my first beautiful trip there which was tainted a little with rain, I chanced my luck on the swaps page for some new destinations. A week or so later, someone had accepted a swap to the beautiful city of Barcelona! And to make things even better I would be flying with my friend Guillermo who is also from there, so I was really looking forward to this trip.

We departed out of Dubai at 8:20am with 7 hours and 4 minutes over to Barcelona El Prat Airport. It was a completely full flight with two services, and despite feeling tired when I landed I powered through and went to explore this city I’d heard so much about.

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I began with making my way over to The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família or more commonly known as La Sagrada Família. A single ticket on the metro cost €2.40 and was just a short 15 minute journey over 2 lines from our hotel. It is a large unfinished Roman Catholic church in Barcelona, designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926). Gaudí’s work on the building is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in November 2010 Pope Benedict XVI consecrated and proclaimed it a minor basilica, as distinct from a cathedral, which must be the seat of a bishop.

In 1882 construction of Sagrada Família commenced under architect Francisco Paula de Villar until 1883, when Gaudí became involved when Francisco resigned as the head architect. Taking over the project, Gaudí transformed it with his architectural and engineering style, combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms. Gaudí devoted his last years to the project, and at the time of his death at age 73 in 1926, less than a quarter of the project was complete.

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If I’m completely honest, first impressions of the cathedral I was a little underwhelmed. I completely understand, and knew it would be under construction but there was a lot of boarding around the bottom which stopped the ability to get good pictures. Additionally, when I have seen other peoples pictures of the cathedral I honestly don’t know where they took these from as I struggled to get a full size picture with also myself in it?

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I did want to go inside and go up the cathedral, but it was a Tuesday and they didn’t have any tickets available until Friday afternoon. Didn’t look like I was going to be going inside! Jumping onto the metro again, I made my way over to Las Ramblas so I could have some much needed Spanish tapas and sangria! Just another short journey, and I arrived onto the incredibly busy streets.

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Wandering around the small beautiful alley ways it decided to try and rain a little (surprise surprise) so I headed out into a square where the Barcelona Cathedral is and stopped in a restaurant.

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Ordering patatas bravas, padron peppers, mussels and meatballs with a glass of sangria, I actually received the most mediocre dishes and a poorly presented sangria. I wish I’d had some tapas recommendations as I wasn’t entirely sure where to go!

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From here I decided I would walk to Barcelonetta Beach as the sun was back out shining and it was a gorgeous summers day. These beautiful alley ways that stretch out across the city I could wander in forever admiring the balconies and window frames and people watching around the city.

The walk to the beach was much further than anticipated and I couldn’t wait to just sit down and grab a drink whilst the sun went down, but the place was that heaving with tourists I couldn’t really find anywhere to do this so after a little sit on the side of the sands, I decided to go back to the hotel and get ready for an evening out with my friend.

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All dressed and ready to go, Guillermo said he would take me to Festa Major de Gracia, but first he would take me back to Sagrada Familia as it is much better at night. And from here it was much better, the way the church is lit up makes it look much more impressive, however the most impressive side wasn’t actually lit up… unsure who decided on that  one but you could still admire its beauty from here.

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Finally we walked on to meet his friends and make our way over to the festival. The Gracia festival is a very colourful local street festival that fills many streets and plazas in the Gracia area of Barcelona. Gracia was once a separate village from the city of Barcelona and was not fully incorporated into the city until 1897. This is why the Gracia neighbourhood still has narrow village streets and a special village feel and charm.

The Festa Major de Gracia street festival is Barcelona’s biggest, most colourful and most popular neighbourhood festival. The neighbourhood festivals are organised by residents of local neighbours with the aim of bringing the residents and neighbours together in communal activities and events. It’s a wonderful tradition and the Gracia festival is the most famous of all the local Barcelona festivals, attracting over one and a half million visitors each year in August.

This year it was also the 200th anniversary which I felt blessed to have had the chance to visit then. We walked around the streets and admired the beautifully decorated neighbourhoods which had different themes from King Kong in New York to Russia to Halloween and on every street doors and bars were opened up selling drinks incredibly cheap. You could get a beer for a €1!

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As the night progressed, with it being a bank holiday here in Barcelona the place became livelier and street parties opened up with Djs playing all sorts of throw back songs. There was such a care free vibe here as I was tango dancing down the street and I felt totally immersed in the Spanish culture. I wish things like this happened back home in the UK. I can totally understand why all the Spanish crew were excited to head back home for this!

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Time to call it a night, as a long 24 hours of being awake approached we headed back to the hotel after such a fabulous evening. Thank you so much Guillermo for showing me such an amazing side to your city, you completely turned my layover around! I highly recommend anyone to visit Barcelona during this time and to head to Festa Major de Gracia!

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