This weekend was one of a few firsts, which have left me feeling pretty damn proud of myself, if I’m completely honest with you. Firstly, on Thursday, I went canyoning. We travelled to Ronda, one of the prettiest towns I have ever seen, into the canyons and abseiled, climbed and travelled through some seriously rocky rivers. I was terrified, but I did it, and I actually enjoyed it. Hazel 1, fear of being out of control, 0.
Next up was travelling solo for the first time. I usually hate flying; I hate the business and urgency of airports, I hate how serious everyone looks when you’re going through security, and I hate planes. This weekend, however, I managed to sort-of enjoy flying alone to Barcelona to meet up with some friends for a weekend of sight-seeing, far too much food and cocktails.
As much as I would have appreciated a hand to hold throughout the turbulence, I have to say it is much easier making your way through an airport with only yourself and your own bags to focus on.
Now, onto the weekend itself. I was so excited to visit Barcelona, it’s one of those cities that I have always wanted to see, but had just never gotten round to before, and it certainly did not disappoint. I studied Gaudi and his work during my first year at university, so I knew that the architecture was going to be beautiful, and it truly is.
La Sagrada Familia and Park Guëll are definitely worth a visit, they are breathtaking and unlike anything I had ever seen before. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to go into the cathedral itself, which was the only disappointment of our trip, but at least we know for next time to book well in advance!
Park Guëll is quite a trek to get to (although the escalators that they have installed on the steepest parts of the uphill route definitely made it a lot easier), but it is worth battling through the crowds to see Gaudi’s residential creation. In the most attractive and intriguing way, his house looks like something that wouldn’t be out of place in a children’s cartoon.
Despite the beauty of Gaudi’s work, my favourite part of Barcelona has to be Las Ramblas.
Although still full of tourists, for me Las Ramblas had much more of a community feel to it than other parts of the city; every shop or restaurant was different to the one before it and La Boqueria Mercat (about halfway down) was just amazing. I love a good food market and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such visually stunning treats.
Although the plan had been to find some paella, we actually ended up treating ourselves to some very non-Spanish food and cocktails at The Hard Rock Cafe, situated at the top of Las Ramblas opposite La Plaça de Catalunya. This was partly because I love it there and wanted my friends to experience all the foodie goodness, and also because they have an excellent gluten free menu.
In my opinion, restaurants like The Hard Rock Cafe generally go one of two ways: they either live up to their reputations and my expectations, or they serve up something overpriced and greasy and leave me feeling seriously underwhelmed. Barcelona Hard Rock Cafe can definitely be defined by the first of these options, I could eat that meal over and over.
While we’re on the topic of food, I couldn’t write this blog post without mentioning the brunch we enjoyed on Sunday morning, before I had to head back to the airport. We were desperate to go to the beach, as we had run out of time to do so the previous day, and so decided to find somewhere to eat on the way.
Brunch and Cake is right in the middle of the beach and Port Vell, we chose it because it was the busiest on the street of restaurants and as soon as our food was served we knew we had made the right choice.
The portions were HUGE, quirky and absolutely delicious; I have never been anywhere like it! We were all slightly dubious about some of the mixtures of flavours when they were written on the menu, but we needn’t have been and all three of us left with very full and very happy stomachs.
I didn’t realise I had quite so much to write in this post; my plan was to give you just a brief overview of a city that I wish I could have spent more time in. So, not wanting to bore you too much, I’ll just mention one more place before I sign off: Port Vell.
Now, we didn’t actually mean to visit the port on Saturday evening, our plan was actually to head to the beach for some after-dinner drinks, but we got a little lost and ended up stumbling upon a nighttime boat race, which was an experience.
I never realised how pretty ports can be at night, which I know sounds slightly ridiculous, but there is something kind of calming about rows of boats and dimmed lights over the water. The only thing I wasn’t a fan of was the bridge over to the huge shopping centre that overlooks the port, which swayed slightly and so made walking in a straight line after a couple of cocktails and glasses of sangria a difficult task!
I know that this first trip to Barcelona won’t be my last, it’s a truly beautiful city that I cannot wait to revisit. This will be my last travel post for a little while, as my next trip isn’t for a few weeks, but be assured that I will keep you updated on my year abroad and the new lifestyle that is coming with it.