Barcelona in a Heat Wave.

In Barcelona, I got peed on. I mean this 100% literally. I got peed on by a little girl who apparently was NOT COOL with waiting in line for the bathroom. So while I was patiently waiting my turn, the tiny child behind me let loose. Her father stared as I reeled and nearly lost my spot in line, sprinting to the ocean to cleanse myself. I truly hope he was paralyzed by embarrassment rather than indifference to his daughter’s you-know-what on the back of some stranger’s legs.

That set the tone for our entire stay in Barcelona [city #2]. That, and the heat. It was hot. Heat-wave hot. Like, messages over intercoms telling people to “stay off the beach” because it was too hot, hot.* We spent whatever time I wasn’t getting peed on sweating all over ourselves and through our clothing. Coupled with the fact that water is stupidly expensive in Europe and our fifth-floor walk-up hostel had no air conditioning, we were in a rough spot. There were a few things that shined despite the heat, but I think it’s safe to say Barcelona isn’t at the top of our “cities we loved” list, nor is it a place I am in a hurry to return to.

Barcelona is the capital of the Catalonian region of Spain – a region that is a melting pot of Basque, French, and Spanish culture [and language]. It’s situated pretty close to the French/Spanish border and right along the water. It shares some similarities with Madrid, but boasts its own language [Catalan], one of the greatest architects of all time, and a really fun style of eating that Shaun and I got down with.

First, la playa. The beaches in Barcelona are actually situated in an area of the city called La Barceloneta, which used to be the fisherman’s quarter. Shaun and I trekked to the beaches twice during our stay. If I had to describe them in a way that would get my point across succinctly, it would be “MTV Bpring Break.” Very young, very tan, very loud, very dirty,** few families. Men climbing onto your towel to try to sell you mojitos or cold beer or peanuts or henna tattoos, women waving you awake to ask if you want a massage, people blasting Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” on repeat, no chance of relaxation.*** BUT… it’s pretty! And salty.

Although the heat-wave haze makes it look kind of creepy.

The gorgeous, perfectly-located W Hotel.

Then, there’s Antoni Gaudí, Catalonian architect extraordinaire, whose work is peppered all over the town [including the enormous Park Guell which you must climb a freaking mountain in order to get to]. Shaun and I did very few “touristy” things during our trip, but Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia was one of them, and it was the most stunning cathedral I have ever set foot in. It’s impossible to capture in a photo, but Elvis tried [I’ll explain him at some point].

la sagrada familia.

It’s still under construction because he died before its completion [which is part of the reason it costs a freaking fortune to get into]. It’s Gothic meets Art Nouveau meets Gaudí, and it’s truly unique.

Then, there’s the markets. They’re everywhere. We started at La Boqueria, the most popular market along the most popular street [Las Ramblas]. It’s like Reading Terminal Market on crack. We picked up gorgeous figs [OH MY GOD THE FIGS] and other novel fruits and veggies for our beach trip, but almost died in the process. It was so packed with tourists you could barely breathe. It’s worth a visit just to see, but if you want cheaper, better curated food in a less crowded environment, try Mercat Santa Caterina, instead. We had a blast there, and the architecture is an added plus. If you can’t tell, Shaun and I are the anti-tourists when it comes to travel. We avoid crowds and the spots in “the books” like the plague, and do our best to seek out a less-traveled, more authentic [if possible] experience. I think that’s why Barcelona is on our least-favorites list – it was near impossible to get away from the crowds.

Finally: the food. We enjoyed the pintxos style of eating [Basque tapas], which generally involves standing at a bar, ordering drinks, and choosing from a buffet of small, toothpicked snacks laid out along the bar. At the end of the night, you pay by how many toothpicks you have. The seafood on these toasts was to die for – we had some great swordfish, tuna, and anchovy dishes. I highly recommend Irati to anyone heading over there.

But the star of our Barcelona food experience was the vegan and vegetarian fare. We found two places that I wish I could pick up and move to the U.S. because I legitimately miss them. The first was Teresa Carles, a vegetarian restaurant that’s been around since 1979. How awesome. We had breakfast there every morning and chose from an assortment of toasts with Spanish cheeses and vegetables, fresh juices [I became quickly addicted to apple/fennel/orange juice], soy yogurt parfaits, and coffees. We wished we had eaten every meal there [the dinner menu looks bomb]; but we have zero regrets about our dinner at Cat Bar, a vegan restaurant that does Spanish classics…only vegan. We had gazpacho and vegan patatas bravas, a classic tapas dish of potatoes served in a creamy tomato sauce. Must. Learn. How. To make this. At home.

oh my god.

Those potatoes disappeared as quickly as our stomachs would allow. It didn’t hurt that Cat Bar boasted a craft beer list and awesome decor constructed from a collection of cat paraphernalia and beer bottle labels, either. It’s a bit of a trek, but worth every step.

We were happy to leave Barcelona, though [after one last breakfast at Teresa Carles]. Perhaps August just isn’t the time to appreciate your surroundings there. Unfortunately, the insane heat would follow us for three more cities, but the crowds relented in the next.

* A warning which Shaun not only ignored, but drank wine while ignoring it, as well, dehydrated himself, and got gnarly sun poisoning. I DARE you to find anything over SPF 15 without asking a pharmacist for children’s lotion down there.

** Have you forgotten I got peed on?

*** In other news, everyone from every place in the entire world knows the words to that song. By the end of our trip, I did, too.


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Categories: Travel, Wedding


Courtney grew up in Reading, PA, and has lived in New York City (where she earned a bachelor's degree at NYU), Prague, Philadelphia, and Charlottesville (where she received a J.D. from UVa Law). Courtney and her new husband will settle in Philadelphia following a six-week Euro-trip extravaganza in September of 2012. Courtney's interests include music, writing, criticism, fitness, travel, cooking, and sports. Please enjoy the blog. LinkedIn: Tumblr:


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