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Winter is cold and rainy in Paris, but Barcelona is only a 2 hour flight away and about 10 F warmer, so I decided to finally go see all the Gaudi buildings and try the food I’ve heard so much about in person:) I have friends who go to Barcelona as often as Los Angelenos go to Las Vegas, so they suggested I stay in the Gothic area or Barri Gòtic, which is the old town and literally a few blocks from Port Vell, the Ramblas, and the beach. I found a great place on Air BnB with a marvelous host, but whether you prefer a five star hotel or a youth hostel, there are plenty of options in all price ranges.

This statue of Columbus marks the waterfront at one end of Port Vell and one end of the Las Ramblas, the famous walking promenade similar to Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade.

Since I arrived around midnight, I asked my host where to go for coffee and croissant the next morning (you can take me out of Paris, but I still need my French breakfast)! He couldn’t remember which corner café of two nearby was the best so I tried the closest one on Carrer Ample.

Café au lait with a perfect flakey sugar topped croissant on the terrace was only 2.50  or $3 USD, which would not even buy an espresso in Paris, and if you add a friendly smiling waitress, you have a priceless breakfast:)

I was the lone person on the terrace at 9 AM, but I walked by later and saw it filled around 11 AM.

The café sits on the square with the Basilica de la Mercè

Carrer de la Mercè borders the other side of the church and has some of the best tapas bars.

Having had breakfast, my first stop was Park Güell. I knew it was a huge place so I wore flats, but if you are going, I recommend you wear hiking shoes or boots because the trails are steep, rocky and uneven. I saw several people with canes and admired their sheer perseverance. You could easily spend all day here.

The lines at the ticket offices at the site were long, so if you are coming by metro, buy your tickets at the station or better yet buy them online. If you are coming by metro, keep in mind it is at least a 10 minute climb uphill to the park, even if you use the escalators on the streets.

This is just part of the walk uphill from the metro, yes you must go to the top of the picture to get to the park entrance!

These are some of the groomed stairs in the park, but the steps are uneven stones, so use the handrails!

Once you make the trek up, you are rewarded with views like this of the Sagrada Familia

and Tibidabo on the other side.

The natural landscaping is functional as toilets are now built into the rock formation:)

The lookout point

with mosaics of different colors and shapes

at every curve is one of the most popular spots.

There are several other attractions at Park Güell and you can buy a ticket for the Gaudi House Museum separately or with the entry into the Monumental Zone. The rest of the park is free:)

Some people have left locks on fences here like they do in Paris, hopefully the weight will not cause the same problems it does in Paris….

Palau Güell is the first house Gaudi designed and you can see how he created coach entries in his soon to be famous curved stye

although the straighter top portion belies the hold of conventional form on him 🙂

I went to Barcelona to see Gaudi‘s buildings in person, but I also went for the food 🙂 La Boqueria is the main market in the middle of Las Ramblas (Metro: Liceu) and it was one of the highlights of my trip. It’s the equivalent of Pike’s Place in Seattle, if you are in Barcelona, go!

There’s a map at the entrance in case you want to figure out where you want to go, but simply wandering around is the most fun.

Fruit greets you at the entrance

along with candy, saffron

nuts, and dried fruit.

Many stands offer fresh juice, but some add sugar

so if you want no sugar added, look for “Sucs Naturals” which cost the same as the ones with added sugar at about $2 USD

and get an exotic one like I did, dragon fruit and coconut:)

Since Spain is known for pork products, you will find all variations here

including the famous acorn fed Iberico for the equally famous price of 395 Euros or $450 USD.

I got a cone of Iberico for 5 Euros and it was so big that I saved half of it for a snack later.

Barcelona is on the coast so seafood abounds in all shapes,

sizes,

and prices.

If you don’t want to cook, there are plenty of places to serve you whatever you would like to eat.

You can stock up on dried mushrooms,

dried salted cod, a specialty of the region,

olives,

or local meat.

Many places offered ready made boxes of food to go,

or cones of meat and potatoes,

or skewers of shrimps and calamari

or a combination of all three plus rotisserie chicken to go.

I was thrilled to find a stand specializing in peppers of all sizes and heat:)

Yes there is even an organic stand, but I saw no one buying anything there…

There was a line at the bakery

which also sold sweet treats like muffins and pastries.

You can even go nuts 🙂

After my juice and cone of Iberico, I wanted lunch, so I went to El Quim in the back of the market. It was packed but I managed to find a seat between two American tourists and three locals, all of whom were friendly and shared with me their favorite dishes to order at this landmark eatery inside La Boqueria.

Since it was 11 AM I ordered the BocaQUIM even though my seat mates were eating everything from fish and eggs with beer, to chocolate desserts with coffee and cognac! It’s wonderful to eat with people who will eat and drink anything they like at 11 AM 🙂

The BocaQUIM may be the best hot sandwich I have ever eaten! It’s the perfect brunch combination of toasted bread, caramelized onion with Modena balsamic, asparagus, egg, and pork loin. I’m craving it again just looking at the picture!

For only 6.50 Euros or about $7.50, it was quite large and I only finished this because it was so good,

and also because I had a wonderful glass of natural cava with it for under 4 Euros or $5 USD. I had already devoured half the sandwich by the time they delivered my glass:)

Time to take the metro back to take a nap,

nice that the metro has animated screens to keep me awake!

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