Ok, so we’re back in the US already. However, Spain is still running through our veins and I need to recap Barcelona.
It is much more than La Sagrada Familia which I blogged about last week. Barcelona has a funny spot in our hearts. It was not a favorite destination on our Europe tour in 1985. It was dirty, seedy and rampant with petty thieves – pretty much all the things I love about big cities today (I say with a wink.) And then there is the part of our story which has to do with the 1992 Summer Olympics, held in Barcelona. I got to watching a lot of those Olympics during my ninth month of pregnancy. We named Carli – technically, her name is Carmen – after seeing the Spanish name splashed several times at those Olympics.
Like all big cities, Barcelona is divided by neighborhoods or barrios, in Spanish. And, like all big cities, there is a distinct vibe you get when you are in each one. We were able to stay in 4 different neighborhoods. I’m gonna guess you haven’t heard of these, it’s the Woody Way for travel: off the main path. There are roughly a dozen main barrios in Barcelona.
The neighborhood on the perimeter which is up & coming. Sants is right next to the train station.
Not only did this make for easy launching to Prague, Figueres and Cadaqués, but it also offered a different look at Barcelona. This neighborhood is holding on to authentic Barcelona character, while it evolves into the more “hip” part of town.
During this evolution it seems to offer more affordable dining & sleeping options.
A restaurant that provides enchanting little postcards… with a digestif “from my home” (on the house!)
Keeping in mind that affordable may not work for every traveler, especially in our age group.
Sants is next door to the more affluent, and maybe more familiar, Montjuïc district.
Narrow streets and spiderweb alleys define this district.
Heavy graffiti blast storefront doors,
pedestrians and cars fight for space,
and at the same time it is embellished with a 14th Century Gothic church, La Santa Maria del Mar.
This is also the neighborhood of the Chocolate Museum and the Picasso Museum. We do not recommend the chocolate museum – waste of our Euros.
But I did learn something: Barcelona was the gateway to introduce chocolate to Europe, thanks to imports from Mexico by the Spanish conquistadors.
Practically the opposite feel of El Born. Eixample has wide, spacious streets,
flanked with high end, designer-brand shopping opportunities. What the heck are the Popes doing, staying in this district?!
Well, it helped staying at a humble AirBnb at only $26/night. It is in this barrio that I was able to capture our Gaudí experience. (More pictures in that link.)
One of my favorite barrios. And what made it extra special was our AirBnb hostess, Tizziana. She gave me an awesome Thai massage, provided detailed walking maps, cheap eats and cheap music venues… all nearby.
An Italian ex-pat, her sunny flat was on the 3rd floor of extremely narrow stairs overlooking the “red street” (red light district.) Who needs TV?
Heck, we were staying on Carrer d’En Robador. Street of thieves. Yes, the gritty side of Barcelona. (Total side note: I can’t tell you how many times the jump rope rhyme, “Not Last Night But The Night Before” flashed through my head!) El Raval is definitely the most culturally diverse barrios. I loved it. We ate Mexican tacos, Italian fresh spaghetti
and Asian fusion (though, technically, that was in the Born district.)
The little shops around here are reminiscent of Alberta Street in Portland – organic. Vinyl record shops, second hand clothing sold by the kilo, art galleries…
Another bonus staying in El Raval, is its proximity to the famed beaches, La Boqueria,
and an easy route to Plaça de Catalunya. That’s where you can catch the AeroBus which carries travelers to the airport every 10 MINUTES!