This is the first in a series of guest posts by our lovely writer Emma Clair Kelly, who attended the awesome #Catalunyaexperience blog trip on our behalf. They spent a week exploring the beautiful region and first stop was Barcelona, Catalonia’s vibrant and very cool capital…
When spending time in Barcelona it’s hard not to get distracted by the stunning architecture at every street corner. The character of La Ramblas, the quirky little squares and side streets that slink off it like tributaries, the random, uncharacterised architecture jumbled together, the brightly coloured facades, it’s easy to find yourself constantly looking at the city through a viewfinder. However, Barcelona has so much more to offer, a secret life that lies beneath the surface tourist current and to which, I was privy to as the guest of the Catalan Tourist Board.
Go on a Gothic Photographic tour
Put the camera down for a moment, if you dare and take a stroll through the city streets by the hand of an experienced photographer who will double up as your guide. Follow his lead through the winding, narrow streets of the gothic quarter or along the crumbling Roman city walls, and listen to his fascinating history of the city with interesting anecdotes not found in any tourist guide. The tour is suitable for all ages- couples, families and groups and gives a fantastic opportunity for some unique holiday shots that everyone will want to see when you get home.
Are you ready for your close-up? The talented photographers will capture some amazing holiday moments worthy of a frame on the mantelpiece.
Experience the Catalan hospitality
One of tourist company’s Trip4Reals many attractions is to have lunch with a local family in their home, where you can experience real, authentic, home-cooked Catalan food. Lluis and Rose’s home offers a stunning location in the shadow of Tibidabo in a quieter area of the city. This charismatic couple deliver the ultimate in Catalan hospitality, serving dishes ranging from perfectly dressed salads to delicious fish. You cannot help but feel part of the family as Lluis and Rose welcome you into their beautifully decorated home and serve up a meal worthy of a King with something for everyone. The icing on the proverbial cake however, is Lluis’ speciality gin and tonic with a secret ingredient that makes it decidedly moreish. Feel free to spend the afternoon lounging on their balcony and believe me- you’ll have made friends for life. P.S-we believe the G&T secret ingredient is the lemons from his own lemon tree, but don’t tell anyone!
Our advice? Don’t eat breakfast! Chill out with Lluis and Rose on their terrace with stunning panoramic views of Tibidabo- feel free to go for second helpings of food (and Lluis’ gin and tonic!)
Spend a lively evening at Camp Nou
To understand the passion of the Catalan people, it is essential to visit Camp Nou- the home ground of the Barcelona football team. When they play at home the atmosphere at this iconic stadium is electric, with supporters from all walks of life, ages and interests piling into the arena. The passion for the sport is contagious, with men, women, children, grannies, universally shouting their support for the team with myriad of anthems. The stands are filled with maroon jerseys, flags and posters dedicated to Messi. This one isn’t exactly off the beaten track but non-football fans might overlook it, which I think is a real shame.
Just shout; Barca!Barca! Barca! and you’ll fit right in.
Learn the art of Catalan cooking
After having lunch at Lluis’, you might feel the desire to recreate some of their delicious dishes in your own kitchen long after your visit to Barcelona. Never fear, the wonderful staff at BCN Kitchen will cater to your every need, to ensure that whenever you feel nostalgic for Barcelona you can whip up a paella to relive your memories. BCN Kitchen offers a variety of cooking crash courses ranging from Thai to authentic Catalan cooking. The talented and passionate in-house chef Rais will take you under her wing at the local market to buy your ingredients- explaining the unique flavour of each, all the while giving you a little bit of Barcelona history. Back in the modern, well-equipped kitchen you’ll be guided step-by-step to create a four course meal of delicious tapas, Spanish omelette, paella and desserts fit for any Catalan. The centre of Catalan culture is food and nothing is more important to the Catalan people than sharing a bottle of wine over a delectable table of treats.
Again. Don’t eat breakfast! Leave any squeamishness at the door- Rais will have you deshelling crayfish and degutting octopus!
Let the art do the talking
It wouldn’t be right to talk about Barcelona and not talk about the legacy of Picasso and Gaudi. Their influence is integral to the city and laced into its very fabric, the cobblestones, the gateposts, the statues. Nothing is more spectacular than rounding a corner and having your breath taken away by the spectacular Sagrada Familia- Gaudi’s unfinished, ambitious masterpiece. His dream. While, there are talks now that it will be completed in the 2020’s, something of its appeal will be lost when the scaffolding and cranes are pulled down, there is something intrinsically awe-inspiring about its ‘unfinishedness’. Take the tourist bus blue line on a meandering tour of the city to take in the impressive architecture of the city from the top deck.
Hop off the blue line at Sagrada Familia but be prepared for long queues, it can take up to an hour for entry but you will not be disappointed. All the entrance fees are donated to the continued work on the cathedral so in a small way, you will have contributed to its construction.
There is something intoxicating about Barcelona, I can’t quite put my finger on what it is but the city oozes character, heritage and culture. The streets are littered with tributes to art and design, little cafes pop up randomly on corners or downside streets and the smell of freshly cooked tapas permeate the air. To thoroughly experience the welcoming, warm personality of Barcelona and the Catalan people, stay in the retro Chic and Basic Hotel just a stones throw from La Ramblas or Eric Vokel Apartments conveniently located around the corner from Sagrada Familia. The only question remaining is- What are you waiting for?
Words and photos (except the top photo) by regular writer contributor Emma Clair-Kelly. All her opinions are her own.