Barcelona was the host of our first “sisters-only” trip 3 years ago. With two of us in the US and one in India, we had to pick a city in Europe. Our second criterion was traveling to a city that none of us had been to – which was challenging cause we’ve all traveled extensively. Barcelona was chosen simply by a process of elimination but it did not disappoint!
It is a colorful city that’s thoroughly cosmopolitan and of course, very touristy too.
We stayed within the trendy city center where the cobblestone-streets were littered with bars and restaurants that remained open long past midnight. We preferred the outdoor seating cause it allowed us to soak up the vibrancy that filled the atmosphere.
The dining was a bit of a challenge for the two out of three vegetarians in the group, but we certainly didn’t go hungry. Our favorite tapas were Patatas bravas or “brave potatoes” – small chunks of potato that are baked or fried to golden perfection and Padrón peppers – basically, fried peppers dressed with oil and salt. They weren’t hot like jalapenos but tasty nevertheless.
We also had a lot of Sangria – actually, more Sangria in that one week than I’ve ever had, before or since.
The hustle-bustle of the city was enjoyable and we did all the tourist things. Below is the Plaça de Catalunya in the city center – full of beautiful sculptures and fountains and famous for the numerous amount of pigeons that call it home.
Las Ramblas, a large boulevard that runs through the heart of the city center and is filled with Barcelona action at its best – human statue art, portrait or caricature artists, live music performances, and established attractions like the Museu de l’ Erotica [Erotica Museum]. And crammed with restaurants and shops selling everything from souvenirs to nuts and chocolates.
A trip to Barcelona isn’t complete without visiting the Gaudí House Museum [the famous architect lived here from 1906 to 1925]..
or visiting La Boqueria – the famous market with its explosion of colors – that sells everything from fresh fruits and juices to vegetables and nuts and seeds and cheese and……you get the point.
A must-stop place is the Escriba Bakery – a 100-year-old beautiful patisserie & chocolateria on La Rambla with its divine cakes…..
and macaroons of all varieties…..
Barcelona is also famous for its freshly cooked, still hot & crispy, Churros served with a rich, thick, delicious chocolate dip.
After the touristy stuff for a couple of days within Barcelona, we then embarked on several day trips outside Barcelona.
The mountain Montserrat with the Benedictine Monastery Santa Maria de Montserrat was a short, 45-minute drive from Barcelona with impressive architecture, a multitude of rock formations, and magnificent views. [“Montserrat” means “saw mountain”.
The Atrium of the Basilica – an open-roofed courtyard area directly in front of the Basilica.
The next day saw us passing through charming mountain villages into the Spanish hills up to the spectacular Pyrenees mountains.
Passing through the old market town of Vic, we came upon this beautiful cathedral.
We also meandered through the stunning stone-built village of Queralbs.
And then into the Pyrenees Mountains, on Spain’s side – riding a rack railway to the gorgeous Nuria Valley with its green pastures and peaks overlooking a jewel-like lake and incredible mountain views.
Another fine day and it was on to historic Girona, a calmer and slow-moving city. The views from the several footbridges that cross it are wonderful and the reflections of the colorful buildings on both sides of the river are quite a sight.
Girona’s Placa de la Independencia is a lovely square with restaurants and bars on all sides.
Perched on top of a hill, the medieval Girona cathedral with its imposing long staircase is a scenic popular tourist attraction.
Girona’s maze of narrow, winding, cobblestoned lanes.
and its ancient architecture all transport us back to wondering how life was in the medieval age.
There was much to do in and around Barcelona so we stuck around north-western Spain. But Madrid and its surroundings will make for a beautiful next trip – whether it will be with the hubby or with the sisters, remains to be seen.