My perfect day in Barcelona would be sunny, of course. Not too hot, but most definitely warm, and with a light breeze freshening the air.
It’s a Saturday, and I wake up early to take the opportunity to wander around the Gothic Quarter when most of the residents are still sleeping off their hangovers. Even walking up La Rambla at that time is pleasant, as before the stalls open and the restaurants are still closed you can really appreciate what it was like to take a stroll among the wealthy families of yesteryear. Early morning is also the best time to take photos of the streets around the cathedral; the faux Gothic arch, Plaça de Sant Felip Neri, and Plaça Reial are all peaceful and quiet.
I then make my way to the Boqueria Market – although usually full of tourists, and locals, if you get there early you get the best of the fresh produce before it gets busy. The market opens at 8am every day except Sunday, so the early bird catches the worm as they say. Grab breakfast at el Quim de la Boqueria if you can find a space at the bar, or buy some treats to take away – fresh juice, some jamón, cheese & bread with tomatoes. Satisfied with my stash, I cycle down past Port Vell, along the beach front to Barceloneta and to Vila Olímpica.
There I go to the port – just beyond the iconic Torre Mapfre & Arts Hotel, along the restaurant lined Moll de Gregal to the wave break at the end (the Escullera de Poblenou) and finally there is nothing before me but sea. Sitting on the wall, behind me I can hear the gentle creaking of the boats in the port, the two towers at Vila Olímpica reaching to the sky, and the Basilica on top of Tibidabo winks at me in the distance. To my right I see the stretching sands of Barceloneta, leading to the sail-shaped W Hotel. And here I just gaze out to sea, breathing in the shades of blue, the sunshine glittering on the waves and the occasional white sails of yachts sailing by. I munch my breakfast in peace, simply enjoying the warmth of the morning sunshine on my skin, the smell of fresh sea air and taste of good jamón. I can happily while away a couple of hours in this spot, just contemplating everything and nothing at the same time. So peaceful.
Once I’ve had my fill of the ocean air I return to Barceloneta, walking along the beachfront, which is now busier, and listen to the buskers, admire the sand sculptures, then wing my way through the narrow streets of the old Fishermen’s barrio, the smell of fried calamares and bombas mingling with the sea air.
It’s about time for lunch now (that is what weekends are made for after all), and there is no better place to spend a lazy Saturday than Can Paixano, aka the Xampaneria. I meet my friends at the entrance, we battle our way to the back of the bar – jostling among the bemused tourists and stalwart locals, all supping the sweet nectar that is cava. We wait our turn then the barman with a photographic memory takes our order, and hands over a bottle of rosé cava and 4 round glasses. We fill our glasses with glee, just having time to toast our luck, when the barman waves for us to collect our tapas. Plates of morcilla, cheese, croquetas, and more jamón are consumed with gusto, along with another bottle of the good stuff.
Tipsy and stuffed, we make our way back out into the sunshine. Needing to walk off our full bellies we wander through the Born, to Ciutadella Park to find a shady spot under the trees for a siesta. Dozing to the sound of parakeets squawking in the trees, I dream of cava and the ocean.
Awakening from our slumber, it’s time for something a little more active. Hopping on the metro we make our way to Park Güell, skipping the queues of tourists and ticket booths to walk through the park and beyond. Climbing up the steps at the back of the viewing platform, following the winding path past the white house on the hill, we finally reach a plateau where we drink in the views. Barcelona in all her glory; from the airport at the edge of the city where glistening steel birds shuttle visitors to and fro, to Montjuïc & the Olympic park, and along the waterfront we scan the horizon, picking out all the spots we visited earlier that day, and more besides. La Sagrada Família towers above the city, contrasting with the modern Torre Agbar and the Gothic Cathedral, each landmark standing tall and proud.
After what seems like a lifetime we wander back through the park, strolling down the hills through Gràcia to have a drink in one of the plaças there to catch the last of the evening sunshine. When it starts to get late, we hop on the metro back to my neighbourhood in the Gothic Quarter. We wind our way through the narrow streets to find my favourite restaurant La Viñatería del Call (c/ Sant Domènec del Call, 9), and enjoy some more delicious tapas – delicate octopus with paprika, more morcilla, a selection of rich cheeses and a heavenly chocolate dessert.
Stuffed once again, if there is room in our full bellies, we meander over to Rubi Bar (c/ Banys Vells, 6) in the Born for a strawberry mojito or two. And then finally I head home, to have a final nightcap on my terrace, gazing up at the stars from the hammock, and reflecting on just how perfect the day has been.
Claire Sturzaker lived in Barcelona for two and a half years, after returning to the city she fell in love with while studying as an ERASMUS student many years ago. She is now sharing her stories on Tales of a Backpacker, her personal blog about backpacking solo through South America and beyond. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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