Barcelona! Where to Stay.
"You have to go to Spain."
"Go to Spain."
"Barcelona is amazing in the summer."
I've been hearing this all summer, people urged me to travel to Spain after my time in France concluded. I have never heard a city more colorfully depicted or highly praised for being such a culturally prolific European country with a breezy mediterranean approach to life.
I tried to tell all of the Catalan enthusiasts, that a trip to Barcelona's beaches, tapas and Gaudi architecture was already in the works. My friend, Isabel and I left our beloved France and TGV'd it to the heart of Catalunya. Thus far, Barcelona has surpassed the hype, by a long shot.
First off, I have to praise our Airbnb. Posted by the hosts who call themselves 'My Friends House' it's admittedly the most expensive place that we've stayed all summer. Though, the rose and gold-hued tiled room with two twin beds and a balcony overlooking the Baroque style architecture right off La Rambla (or Las Ramblas), in a spacious and artsy mansion of a flat was worth every dollar. (Or euro!)
If you are unfamiliar with the neighborhood dubbed Las Ramblas, it is a long stretch of tree-lined walkable street that beckons people form all walks of life. It's both a tourist haven and a veritable peek in to the Catalan culture's energy.
Every day the street is pulsating with souvenir hawkers, knockoff merchants, street artists, food carts, mimes and living statues. The name Las Ramblas comes from the Arabic word for stream, raml, named for a seasonal that once ran through the area and around the city. Ironically, it was known as the 'Stream of Shit.' These days, Las Ramblas is everything but. It's a cascade of sight and color and sound that stuns the senses. It is also centrally located, meaning all the Gaudi, Picasso and paella you could ask for, isn't far.
After a five hour train ride, a 20 minute taxi from the station and dumping our cumbersome suitcases at our elegant digs, it was 11 p.m. and dinner time in Barcelona.
It only took a two-block promenade down La Rambla to stumble upon Plaça Reial (or Royal Plaza), a beautifully stone-tiled portico square with palm trees and fountains, brimming with bars and restaurants. We later discovered that Plaça Reial is in fact one of the most populated spots for late night tapas and drinks. Not too shabby for our first foray into la vida nocturna Barcelona!
It was almost midnight on a Monday in Barcelona and Plaça Reial was packed. Every restaurant in the square sounded more scrumptious than the previous, so we felt no need to be picky. Ushered to a patio table at Les Quinze Nits, we sipped Cava and sangria and grazed on gazpacho and croquetas, while overlooking the pulsating merriment of Monday night in Barcelona.
Dinner may have ended around midnight, but the evening had just begun, and I guess that's life in Spain. We wandered around the Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter), and found our way in to the warm, welcoming arms of the Temple Bar; a red and gold gilded and copper accented Irish pub in the heart of Barcelona.
What started as a couple quiet beers, turned in to new friends, rounds of drinks and a change of scenery. We moved on to the Boulevard Culture Club, a multi-floored, flashy monolith of a nightclub right off Las Ramblas. There, we enjoyed several hours worth of gin & tonics, danced in and out of the three separate club rooms within, playing EDM, hip-hop or pop.
I'm not a big "nightclub" person, but until the very end I had one of the most fun and carefree nights of my entire life. By 6 a.m., Boulevard was winding down. We were sweaty from our dance floor domination and exhausted, ready to pass out in rose-emroidered twin beds.
It was then that Isabel realized her phone had been stolen at some point between the gin & tonics and shaking it the hip-hop room. She had set her phone on the bar during the night and forgot to pick it up again. We searched for it everywhere, asked every Boulevard staff member about it and even used the "Find My iPhone" app. It was already long gone, making its way another part of the city.
Wandering home at 7:30 a.m. we were contemplative and grumpy, now fully cognizant that pick-pocketing and petty thievery in Europe is very real and something that everyone needs to be cautious of.
At least we both agreed on something; that night in Barcelona one for the books.