travel

Barcelona in photos

In Barcelona, on our way up to the top of the famous Montserrat.

This is part one of two posts, on my recent trip to Europe. I went to New York for 10 hours (layover), Barcelona for six days, and Dublin for four days. 

So. Long time, no write, am I right? The last piece I wrote for the Minimalist was an “In retrospect” back in MARCH. I have a good reason for not writing, though. I promise: I’ve been off adventuring in Europe. Granted, that was only for two weeks, but we’ll pretend that two weeks of adventure ballooned to the point where I couldn’t possibly write a lick for the last two months. Cool? Cool.

Our adventure started off with a 10-hour layover in New York. We arrived at JFK airport at 7 a.m., shuffled our way through a long and winding customs line-up, and emerged for a quick jaunt into the city. Now, TBH, we’d originally gone out in search of bagels. The bagelry we had planned on was packed, though, and a plan B was in order. We popped over to the Smith for brunch, instead, and it was delicious. Sitting down for coffee and perfectly poached eggs on crispy ciabatta after an overnight flight was wonderful and much-needed. I think I audibly sighed upon taking that first sip of coffee. I would definitely go back to New York in search of some top-notch bagels (and pizza, of course). That brunch hit the spot for two such exhausted travellers, though.

We explored a lil’ corner of New York, and felt like such country bumpkins as we wandered the massive city. I always think of Vancouver as being immense, but one glimpse at NYC’s metro map and it was clear we’re small potatoes. We didn’t venture too far, but even so we managed to see Radio City Music Hall, 30 Rock, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Central Park — so many landmarks condensed into one area! When we were too tired to keep going, we took the train back to JFK.

We arrived in Barcelona at 7 a.m. on a Sunday. It was drizzling rain. A silent city, sleepily, slowly awakening. Walking deserted streets in the neighbourhood of our AirBnB, I felt like I was in another world. This drizzling rain was positively balmy compared with Vancouver’s torrential downpours. Birds chirping atop tall, pastel-coloured buildings had us swinging our heads from side-to-side. Only a few shops — mostly bakeries — were open that early on Sunday. The warm, enveloping aroma of bread spilled out of gaping doors. I made a note of where we could get piles of fresh baguette and croissants for later.

The view from the balcony at our AirBnB in Barcelona.

Our AirBnB was up a narrow stairwell — no elevator — on the fourth floor. Well, technically fifth floor, by North American counting. I felt every single flight of stairs, as we trundled up behind our gracious AirBnB host. Getting to the the apartment was a huge relief after hours of travel. We hadn’t brushed our teeth or showered since late Friday in Vancouver. My body was desperate for an allover scrub, followed by a hearty nap.

Even on an overcast day, even on the fourth (fifth) floor, our balcony gave us an incredible view. Many a morning, afternoon, and evening was spent snacking on that balcony. Drinking coffee and reading in the morning; sipping vermouth, or wine with Coke, at night. It was such a dream starting our days gazing out over the city. We would relax, and plan our expeditions for that day.

Our good friend, Maria, joined us on the second day. She’s been in Berlin since autumn of last year, and it was such a treat to visit with her. We would walk around the city for hours, semi-aimlessly, always open to whatever tapas, Estrella Damm, and art presented itself.

Montjuïc Castle in Barcelona.

Beaches of Barcelona

We didn’t visit a ton of monuments in Barcelona. We would usually choose one main activity for the day, and would take our time meandering at a relaxed pace. We did see Montjuïc Castle, Park Güell, La Sagrada Familia, and the Arc de Triomphe. The one destination that I made sure we booked a tour for ahead of time was Montserrat. Montserrat is an ancient monastery, topped with a mountain. You drive about an hour outside of the city, and take a wee gondola/train to the tippy-top. It is so removed from everything. A massive space, saturated with history and religious significance.

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

On our final day, we went to the Arc de Triomphe and the massive park it leads into. We went with no real plans (apart from a mission to eat good paella), and it ended up being the perfect cap to our stay in Barcelona. We rowed a boat around the park’s lake, drank delicious mojitos, ate incredible churros, and just lazed about. There was nowhere we needed to be, nothing we needed to do. Just a day full of time and possibility. Evening came, and we tracked down some BOMB paella, gorging ourselves on olives, cheese, seafood, and pitchers of sangria.

Barcelona, Spain

That’s it for my trip to Barcelona! Read about my tales from Dublin, Ireland

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