Wednesday, 28 September 2011

spain: part 1 - barcelona...

I had been so excited about re-visiting Barcelona, what I think might be my favourite city (after London) and I wasn't let down. It has to be said that after a lot of stress (a 7:05am flight from Gatwick is not ideal on a Monday morning!) I made it to Girona Airport and made my way by coach to Barcelona city. BCN feels like no other city to me; It's cosmopolitan, full of amazing architecture and has a really good vibe. When I arrived the weather was a perfect 28 degrees so I didn't feel like I was roasting my skin whilst walking through the all-so familiar winding neighbourhood of the Eixample with my excessively filled suitcase. I was staying with an old friend from my Erasmus days who still lived in the city and who I found to be literally living at the back of my old apartment block, an amazing coincidence which made all the memories of my year in BCN flood back. I did have to wipe away a little tear as I stopped at her front door and took it all in before ringing the buzzer. 

My friend and I chatted away like we'd never been apart for the last 3 years and after having a nap we went out to meet her Catalan boyfriend for coffee. Now I have to say I am rather jealous of my friend who is now more or less fluent in Spanish and Catalan. It was funny having a three way conversation in Spanish with her boyfriend whilst talking to her in English and her talking to him in Catalan. I had also forgotten how much tastier and cheaper Spanish coffee is; particularly over ice in the hot weather. I knew that from the first sip I would be forking out a few more €1.20s during my trip! 

A few hours later and our other friend arrived from Liverpool completing our little reunion. In true Barcelona style we decided to celebrate by going out for a few copas. I must admit I am not a big beer fan, however, I will concede that drinking beer in Spain is almost a necessity as it is just so refreshing in the blazing heat. So, whilst in the mood to reminisce about the good old days we ended up in our old haunt L'Ovella Negra (the black sheep), a relaxed pub/bar off Las Ramblas and popular with tourists and locals a-like. There you can drink a jarra of beer or una clara (beer with lemon fanta) and are given a bowl of popcorn to enjoy alongside for free (a budget tapa). I can't count how many times I have been to this place on my fingers nor my toes but I still love it and recommend this bar to anyone visiting Barcelona as a good place to start a night out or for a chilled evening catch-up.

For the next few days we made the most of the sun by wandering the streets, eating al-fresco and going to the beach and parks. It was really nice to see that finally the monument in the Parc de la Ciutadella had finally been restored and was no longer covered in horrible scaffolding (another reminder of just how long I'd been away for). After a lot of shopping in the sales and ramblings in the Barri Gotic we arrived at Carrer d'Avinyo a street made famous by Pablo Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (representing some of his lady-friends from one of the brothels on the street). Although at first sight this area seems quite run-down and a little back-street-ish, during the day there really is nothing to worry about even if you are a solo traveller. There are plenty of boutiques, cool sweet/pastry shops, cafes and a gem of a restaurant: Sukur. The menu del dia with bread and wine at this beautifully decorated Mediterranean restaurant sets you back a mere €10 (VAT included) and gives you the choice of 4 options for starter, main and desert. I went for Spanokopita with hummus and bread, chicken with lemon and rosemary potatoes and greek yoghurt with walnuts. I have to say that I am quite knowledgable when it comes to Greek cooking due to having lots of Greek friends and have tasted traditional Greek cuisine cooked by their mamas before. The food here was a pleasant surprise as it was both extremely tasty and authentic and great quality for a menu of the day selection at this price. 

So my time in Barcelona was coming to an end as I had to get back for all the Summer weddings. However, I couldn't leave without experiencing one of my favourite things about BCN - the nightlife. I found myself on a few crazy nights out in some really cool clubs, a stock exchange bar and a secret underground bar to name a few before heading back to London. Now I'm sure you don't need me to recommend Barcelona as an amazing place to visit but hopefully my stories will give you an insight into the less-touristy side of a city that I am in love with. I can't wait to go back soon!

Hasta pronto!

Em x

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