It’s far too easy to revel in Gaudí’s masterpieces or get sucked into the partying crowds of 20-something tourists who swarm Barcelona in the summer. Short and sweet: it’s a fantastic city with everything to offer. My thoughts on a few restaurants, clubs and tours you might try yourself (or avoid) if you’re in the area:
Simple title, simple concept. The food, service, and ambiance could not have been better. Even the steeply priced pitcher of freshly made organic sangria was worth it. Our waiter happened to be the owner’s son, a gentleman and a charmer who spoke at least five languages and entertained us from the moment we walked in the door. Vegan buffet (all you can eat – the gazpacho stole the show), an indescribable zucchini and rice dish with a delicately tangy orange-squash sauce and fried tofu were perfect compliments to an unappealingly grey blob that turned out to be my favorite part of the meal, a surprisingly good eggplant puree. Added comical bonus? Seeing the elderly chef wearing an “organic is orgasmic” shirt.
“Clubbing for beginners” is the first thing that came to mind as I entered the venue. 20€ did not seem like an appropriate cover for the quality of the DJ and clientele. (We flashed the keys from the hostel we resigned to staying in after an unsuccessful attempt to find a CouchSurfing host in the high season and got in without paying). Keeping in mind that this was a club that made deals with hostels, I was expecting something uninspiring. The playlist consisted of chart hits from the past two years played in direct succession with little remixing. What’s worse, the 5€ shots and (hold your breath…) 15€ mojitos assured that the area directly outside of the club – right next to the beach – was littered with beer cans and handles of vodka from hundreds of pregamers. The outdoor lounge areas overlooking the beach were overcrowded, but redeemed themselves with their sense of sleek style. Looking at their lineup online it seems as though we happened to go on an inopportune day…Tiesto, Bob Sinclair and Kaskade make me want to give Opium a second go.
Live salsa music, no cover (one drink minimum), plenty of fans blowing from each corner, good lighting, friendly staff and decently good dancers made Antilla a nice, low-budget night of fun exercise. The dance floor was full but not overcrowded, and everyone on it was in a good mood. If you’re a salsero, it’s a good time guaranteed!
RunnerBean’s Gaudí tour lasted 2 ½ hours and could not have been better. Led in English by an effervescent redhead, we traipsed around various areas marked by the LSD-addict Gaudí, whose architectural genius gained him a devoted fan (me!) within seconds of seeing the first building on the tour. Being his ‘unfinished masterpiece’, Sagrada Familia was, of course, well worth looking at, but was not the most impressive of his works. (My lowly opinion, yes, but you’re the one reading my blog, aren’t you? ;-)) The concept of the free walking tour worked out well; those of you unfamiliar with the system will be happy to know that the amount you donate to your guide at the end of the tour is truly up to you. The guides will have worked extra hard to earn that money from you, making it an excellently informative time.
Park Guell free walking tour (website link to come when I’ve sorted through notes from the trip)
Much smaller than the RunnerBean tours, our tour guide spoke only Spanish to the three people on our guided walk and provided us with even more detailed background information about all of the levels and installments in Park Guell than the Gaudí tour had about his commissioned buildings. The 1 ½-hour tour worked on the same donation principle, and made our group feel slightly elitist with all the information we had access to compared to the hundreds of people around us. The only thing that could have been better? At times, I felt rushed to move onto the next area when I really wanted to get a shot of this or that at the perfect moment when the tourists in front of me finally decided to move an inch to the right…otherwise, it was another fun time learning new things in a surrealistic setting.
Another one offered by RunnerBean, we turned this into our own little adventure by missing the start of the actual tour and creating our own legitimately free tour of the old part of the city behind übertouristy La Rambla. Photographing graffiti-covered doors and ordering a caña from an in inconspicuous corner bar made for a relaxing afternoon away from the hubbub of La Rambla.
A few last thoughts: Catalan is beautiful. I took too many pictures. I love the ocean. The end ^_^