Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona started out pretty badly actually. We descended onto Las Ramblas without quite realising that we had hit the heavily trodden tourist trail and that we would be charged 18% “commission” when we exchanged our pounds into euros. So we both felt pretty depressed because we’re supposedly seasoned travellers who should, by now, be able to see right through those sort of scams…but I guess every now and then you forget your place as a tourist. (We got our revenge by warning the American couple behind us.)

Luckily, my bad impression of Barcelona left as soon we had a look at all the modernista architecture – of which Gaudi is the master, followed by a lazy evening spent hanging out with the locals in El Raval and having red wine with patatas bravas.

Palau de la Musica Catalana.

Tilework by Gaudi’s assistant Josep Maria Jujol at Park Guell which was really very beautiful and deserving of all the tourists it gets.

The Casa Terrades – a fantasy house neo-Gothic style.

Aside from amazingly beautiful Park Guell which is a real tourist attraction, Barcelona felt especially fantastic away from the tourist trail. We wandered the backstreets to look at lesser known modernist buildings while eating the most delicious pastry ever invented; and by the end of our weekend there I was eating offal and chickpeas in a low-key Spanish diner which felt pretty damn authentic (though admittedly it was far from being the most edible meal I’ve ever had – I would stick up a photo but it would look pretty gross).

Orange trees inside the Antic Hospital de Santa Creu.

Knocking on Casa Calvet, a lesser-known house by Gaudi.

Churros and chocolate – joining my long list of favourite breakfasts.

A street performer on La Rambla.

Guess what this is? A mailbox!

The highlight of our trip came about because we did something really intrepid and looked for a park in the northern suburbs of Barcelona that foreign tourists don’t usually get to. The guidebook gave bad directions which was why we got totally lost for an hour – and the fact that we got three different sets of directions from passers-by didn’t help either. Finally, we met an amiable and knowledgeable old Spanish couple who told us how to find the Parc del Laberint…so when we finally got there it felt very much like we had arrived at the heart of the labyrinth. And from that point on it only got better.

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