Tour of Spain stop 2 – Barcelona. We took the high speed train (Renfe Ave) from Madrid to Barcelona, only about a three hour trip. Lodging was found using Tournights which offers apartments for rent. There is a huge amount of things to see, do and eat here. Lodging is just about the last thing to be concerned with.
Immediately upon arriving in Barcelona you are immersed in architecture. The Gothic style Cathedral of Barcelona is astounding in size and detail. Numerous works of Antoni Gaudi such as Casa Batllo, Casa Amatller and La Pedrera draw the eye with their unique exterior facades. The over-arching feature (literally, no building is allowed to eclipse it in height) is another Gaudi design, the Sagrada Familia. This is one impressive church. Amazingly, after over 130 years of construction it still isn’t finished. The detail carved into each façade and the sheer size could elicit a religious experience. I suppose that might be the point.
Also home to Barcelona is one of the most famous markets in the entire world – La Boqueria. The colors, variety and action could inspire just about every amateur photographer. Sadly I turned into just another tourist taking pictures of fish and meat, but for some reason you just have to do it. Fresh seafood can be had in the corner of the market for lunch or dinner at Kiosko Universal. Highly recommended.
We did two tours while in Barcelona. A free walking tour and a bike tour to several wineries in the Penedes region. These two tours were probably the two most enjoyable travel tours I’ve experienced so far. First the walking tour. The tour guide (Chris G.) was knowledgeable and engaging – even several years later I still recall many of the highlights of this tour which is rare for me, usually in one ear and out the other. We also stuck around for a paella demonstration dinner. Fresh ingredients from La Boqueria, cooked and into the belly. Paella can’t and won’t be any better than that.
The bike tour was almost a requirement after all of the eating and drinking. At least some exercise was needed to continue to eat and drink. We chose a tour of Penedes run by Spanish Trails. Albert was the friendliest and most excited tour guide of all time. Biking was easy but fun through some beautiful country. The wineries specialized in Rioja, Tempranillo and an even more unique dry sparkling wine called Cava. We purchased several bottles which the tour loads up in a van for you so you don’t have to carry it while biking. The highlight of this tour and perhaps our entire trip to Spain was the meal following the tour, hosted by Albert and his family. Traditional simple Catalan dishes were served family style and more wine was served, including a dessert wine from the porron. Each took a turn trying to pour wine like a fountain held high at arms length straight to the face. Later in the trip we went to two of the top restaurants in the world, both amazing and unforgettable in their own right, but this was also a meal to be remembered.
Next post: Spanish Pyrenees – Ordesa