Like Paris, it was love at first sight with Barcelona. This city has so much energy! When we arrived, we could hardly wait to get out to check out the scene. Everywhere you looked, people were drinking on patios, chatting, laughing and generally having a good time. We noticed right away that the locals were quite a beautiful people. Olive skin, dark hair and striking blue or green eyes.
While not as extravagant as Paris, Barcelona certainly has lots of great architecture. We stayed in an area called the Gothic Quarter which had lots of of narrow walkways, big stone walls and tiny little spaces converted to tapas bars.
This part of Barcelona, aside from being a big tourist area, is also highly residential. We learned that there is quite a struggle going on within this neighbourhood to find balance between those that live there and the businesses who draw lots of noise and chaos. This is something that we can certainly empathize with living in the West End of Vancouver. We saw lots of banners stating 'we want to live in a neighbourhood of dignity' as well as signs meant to chase away the folks who sell beer after hours and allow the rowdy's to keep everyone up all night by partying in their hood.
We took a walking tour and learned alot about the history of Barcelona. The folks who live in this area are called Catalonians and they are a very proud people. They consider themselves separate from the rest of Spain (they wish to separate like Quebec does in Canada) and speak their own dialect of Spanish.
The city has lots to see and we spent as much time as we could checking the place out.
The harbour was beautiful and housed many a fancy yacht.
We learned about the dark side of Barcelona's history and how a dictator called Franco had hurt these people for many years before finally dying. After his death, democracy was restored but there are still many scars on the city from his reign. We were told that while Franco was in power, any Catalonian who would speak their own language or practice their own beliefs were rounded up and shot. Pretty powerful stuff....
On a lighter note, Barcelona is also known as a city of artists. We visited a cafe called the 4 Cats which is known for having a history of being a hangout for great artists such as Picasso. It was fun to know that the place where we were enjoying dinner and drinks had been shared with great men such as these.
And of course, Barcelona has beaches! Although, it has to be noted that these beaches are artificial. Apparently, when the city won their bid for the Olympics, they re-developed their waterfront and imported sand to create the beaches that grace the city today. As these beaches are not meant to be there, they wash away every year and the city digs up the sand offshore every year and puts it back where it thinks it belongs. That said, the beaches were lovely..
Another quirk of Barcelona that we discovered is something we called 'lunchbox birds'. Many locals carried these small cages around with them that held finches. They doted on these little birds and carried them with them everywhere. Many of the cafes had hooks on the outside that you could hang your 'lunchbox bird' on to sun and sing while you went inside to drink and eat tapas. Kind of bizarre and charming at the same time.
All in all, our experience of Barcelona was awesome. We would happily come back to visit this amazing city again.