I’m not going to lie; one of the biggest joys of my job is the opportunity to travel the world. A language development conference in Bilbao meant visiting a new country for me! My flight with KLM was comfortable and perhaps too entertaining (love when airlines have great movies available), and I didn’t end up getting hardly any sleep as a result. My first order of business in Barcelona was getting a SIM card, which thankfully were available in the airport. 15 Euros seem a small price to pay for the ability to Google map my way around town, particularly considering I’ll be renting a car later in my trip.
In an effort to not be completely extravagant, I decided to take public transit into town, which consisted of an airport bus and a metro. Ah Europe, with its ever abundant staircases and never-ending tunnels between stations. Normally, this is not a concern, but when hauling around 50-odd pounds of crap, one gets sweaty right quick. I finally emerged from my underground travels and made my way to the bed and breakfast I’d be staying at. I experienced a momentary panic when no one answered the doorbell (only to realize I’d punched in the wrong address in Google maps), and so I was soon met by my warm and friendly host. It was a charming apartment and beautifully-decorated—with a kind of rustic/chic vibe. My room was small but comfortable and tastefully-furnished, with high ceilings and outfitted with all that I would need. While settling in and getting ready for the day, I made the rather unwelcome discovery that one of my main lenses didn’t work with the camera body I’d brought. This is the first time shooting with the Nikon V2, and I have a vague recollection of discovering many months ago some weird glitch that rendered this lens essentially useless. Berating myself for not having checked things out before I left, I thanked my lucky stars that I still at least had one working lens (fixed focal-length). It is not unfortunately a wide-angle lens, so I’ll be supplementing my shooting with my trusty iPhone.
The advantage of a morning-arriving flight is one still has a half-day, which is enough time to cover some ground but a short enough period so as to ease oneself in to full-time travel mode. I decided that I would walk in the general direction of the Gothic Quarter. I made my way down one of the main thoroughfares and marvelled at the wide, tree-lined streets, where vast, centre portions of the road are devoted to bicycles and pedestrians and smaller outer lanes given to cars. The buildings were beautiful, with ornate wrought-iron balconies and often with stained glass turrets. I meandered my way down through the winding, narrow streets of the Gothic Quarter until I came across Barcelona Cathedral, which dates back to the 14th century.
This gorgeous Gothic cathedral had every thing that I love about cathedrals–soaring pillars, ornate woodwork and beautiful stained glass windows. It also provided a welcome respite from the throngs of tourists. I learned from my host that it was a bank holiday, which is why there were relatively few locals on the streets (though there were certainly plenty of tourists to fill them up). I noticed a queue growing at one side of the cathedral and discovered it was for the elevator up to the rooftop. The roof afforded beautiful views from the hills out to the sea, and so I loitered for a time, drinking it in while bemusedly watching the different selfie methods employed by my fellow tourist. I made my way back down and through the secluded Gothic cloister, where 13 geese are kept. One of the patron saints of Barcelona is Eulalia, a martyred Roman Christian virgin entombed in the cathedral, who was 13 when she was martyred (hence the 13 geese).
From there, I continued my wandering in search of a tapas bar I’d read about, not far from the water, only to discover that they were closed (presumably because of the bank holiday). However, Isla Tortuga, which happened to be next door, was open and so I sidled on up to the bar and ordered me some tapas. Before planning this trip, I knew very little about Spanish food, but made it a point to try a couple Spanish restaurants in Toronto before I left. Of the things I know, cava and croquetas (Spanish croquettes) are some of the best things ever. I am generally a lover of sparking wine, and particularly cava, so I was thrilled to be in cava country. I will often get an amused look at bars in North America when I order sparkling wine, with the bartender often asking if I’m celebrating a special occasion (what, being a Tuesday isn’t enough?), so it’s delightful that I am finally in a city where that is the go-to drink. The mushroom croquetas were super delicious, as were my other tapas.
From there, I decided to seek out a nearby spot in the Gothic Quarter, specializing in gin, called Bar Rubí. I read, much to my joy, that the gin and tonic is an especially popular drink in Barcelona (and my drink of choice outside of sparkling wine). As it was relatively early still, the bar wasn’t busy, and I grabbed a seat, admiring the wealth of gin choices on display. I decided to go with one of the house-made infusions, mango gin and tonic (super delicious). Apparently, it’s customary in Barcelona to serve G&Ts in a a large wine glass–a very large one in my case. I nursed my drink and watched the bar fill up, a good mix of foreigners and locals. After I’d had my fill, I made my way to the metro and took the short ride back to the B&B. I discovered I’d walked 18.5 K steps (12 km) during my half day of meandering, so I figured it might be an idea to save my legs.