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Walking Barcelona

Posted by on April 16, 2023

Our first full day in Barcelona was devoted to orientation and walking tours. We woke fairly early and got ready to go out, rugged up because it can be chilly in the mornings and headed out. A brisk walk through nippy temperatures and lazy breezes saw us arrive at a brunch cafe. Jo opted for salmon and avo on toast, I had a Catalan breakfast which had tomato rubbed toast, scramble and Iberico ham (that is the special black skinned pigs that are fed acorns, very big here) – a good start to a big day.

Suitably breakfasted and toiletted, we then walked to Pl. Espanya and caught Metro L3 (towards Trinitat Nova) to Drassanes. We caught a brief glimpse of the Columbus Monument in the harsh morning sunlight, then side-tracked to view Palau Güell, one of many buildings built/styled by Antonio Gaudi. Sinuous flowing lines and soft organic shapes adorned the facade, the building was also topped with colourful ceramic encrusted shapes. The street was fairly narrow, quite difficult to get a good view of it, interesting nonetheless.

We wended our way to Placa Reial to await the start of our free walking tour of gothic quarter. The idea behind the tours is interesting; we have taken many in lots of different cities. Enthusiastic volunteers take small groups around well researched routes explaining geography, built features and cultural significance. At the end of the tour you are encouraged to leave a gratuity that measures your value of the tour. An interesting and entrepreneurial approach that encourages guides to get good at what they do.

We certainly walked, and saw a large collection of details we would otherwise not known about. Through narrow passageways, noting remnants of Barcelona’s past, through and last important royal, political and cultural landmarks – all well explained by an experienced guide who has lived in Barcelona for nearly 20 years, having come from Ireland originally.

The tour finished a good distance from where it started (useful to note, many do this), but via navigation we were able to send our way to a much recommended restaurant “The 4 Cats”, a wonderfully weird cafe with richly decorated rooms, a main salon with tags and balcony seating, so quirky. Here we had a light lunch, including Potatos Bravos, fried potatoes with a piquant and rich tomato sauce and aioli – a fairly famous and hearty Spanish Tapas staple.

Suitably refreshed, and with our feet and legs receiving the break they needed we headed off to Mercado de La Boqueria, a huge, hectic market. Here we walked through crowds of shoppers looking for specific pantry items, found most (and later supermarket bought the rest). We found these markets disorienting and way too busy for us, it would have been better earlier in the morning before the lunchtime crowd joined in the throng. Bulging shopping bag in hand we headed home via the Metro, to stow our bounty and have restorative beverages.

That evening, Jo had booked us on a “Tapas Crawl” – a Barcelonan food and drink tour – we have enjoyed many of these, usually a great way to taste local delicacies. We arrived on time at the rendezvous place, eventually our guide found us and another 3 diners arrived on time. We were missing 2 diners, so we waited until they arrived. They seemed non-plussed that it had caused a problem, but we got off schedule a bit and were consequently rushed though some of our tastings because the serving times were pre-set.

The tour consisted of visits to 4 bars, most cafés here are called bars, because they serve food and alcohol. This was not about 7:30, and, by local Barcelona standards not yet dinner time so we largely had the cafes to ourselves. Our guide was still learning his tour, so had some gaps in his knowledge about what we were eating, and what was in it or how it was prepared (something we think should be the first priority of a good guide). He also suggested we try something he called “Vermouth” as each bar made their own, and they all tasted the same. There was little Jo was interested in drinking (although she did try Sangria in one place and really liked it, but we were too rushed to finish it). I had Vermouth at 3 of the 4 places, and by the end was a little pickled. We had various plates, some delicious, some ok, Jo even tried a snail from one place, but we came away a little disappointed with the food on offer, and the small servings of some. It was interesting, and, with practice, the guide should improve also.

Exhausted after a long day we caught the Metro back to Espanya and rolled home from there, ready for bed.

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