June 5, 2014

Barcelona: Plaças i Passeigs

My final day in Barcelona (this time) was devoted to visiting the main squares, hitting some good eats, and lounging on the beach again.

I had to find thick hot chocolate and churros. Google led me to La Pallaresa, just off La Rambla. It is no Angelina's, but the churros are cool because they are looped at the ends to be better for dipping. I recommend getting the drink without the whipped cream; the cream kind of overwhelms the chocolate, and not in a good way. Ask for the cream on the side.

Plaça de Catalunya has two large fountains, tons of cars chugging about, and some interesting looking buildings to admire. Show up, look around, move on. Yawn.

Plaça d'Espanya, on the other hand, wins my award for the most beautifully impressive square in Barcelona. The roundabout itself is okay, but go through the two tall brick towers and come face to face with a gorgeous museum palace of Catalonian art that rises gracefully above a chorus of fountains. La Font Màgica claims the sound stage and can mesmerize you for the better part of an hour. Make sure you go to see the fountains during the scheduled "show times" for the most complete experience. Here I felt like I was wrapped up in an entire world of a true European Balboa Park.

Plaça de les Drassanes at the end of the Passeig de Colom (Columbus) has an enormous statue of Christopher Columbus. The irony is that the freshly united kingdom of Spain (King Ferdinand of Aragon and Catalonia married Queen Isabella of Castile) that commissioned Columbus was based in Madrid, not in Barcelona, and this was the beginning of the independence problems. The real value in wandering to this square is in the incredible towers and domes you are teased with over the rooftops. It makes a perfect vantage point for starting your journey of architectural discovery (like Columbus).

But my favorite plaça of the trip was stumbled upon on my ways to and from the beach. Plaça de la Barceloneta is easy to find from the main walkway to the beach, but it is never crowded and always peaceful. There are two small cafes on either side of a the small church of Sant Miquel del Port. The center is a large lamppost with four water spouts, perfect for filling up your water bottle before and after the beach. I chose to eat at Can Ganussa and had good food at a good price. The waiter pretended he didn't speak English (I heard it later!), so I pretended that yo hablo español, and it was muy bueno.

After all of these squares and my beach time were over, I braved the Barrí Gotic one last time to find the bakery that Alex and Marc recommended to me from their trip last spring. Sweet Dreams made all of my chocolate cupcake/vanilla ice cream/caramel/chocolate/cinnamon dreams come true, and it can do the same for you. DO NOT MISS this bakery if you like dessert. Or do miss it, and regret every day of your life. Your choice.

The last place I went to was the La Boqueria market off La Rambla. The atmosphere was okay (too claustrophobic for my taste), but the avocado I got there was like butter! For a better market feel, I recommend the Campo di Fiori in Rome, but La Boqueria is great for putting together a cheap and fresh meal. I grabbed a salad and the luscious avocado for 4 euros, added my leftover fish and meat tapas, and olé! Dinner!

Returning to Barcelona is going to be fun and easy, and I'm excited to add in day trips next time! These three days were a perfect introduction, and I know I will only fall more in love with this version of "Venice+Paris on the beach" every time I come back.

Day 1, The Basics
Day 2, Gimme Some Gaudí & Jazz
Barc-alone-a: Why Are Solo Adventures Important?