Our final day dawned and so we thought it was only prudent to treat ourselves to a lie-in – at least until 10! The night before while walking back in exhaustion we had done rock, paper scissors for the poor sole who would be responsible for the bakery run to pick up breakfast and fortunately for Maeve and I Ruairidh lost! So after putting in my order for a sandwich and green tea he was off while we indulged in an extra 30 minutes in bed before getting ready. After demolishing our salami sandwiches and tea from Pannus we took the 5 minute stroll to Parc Guell which was the only thing our apartment was close to. Given that this was our second major Gaudi work of the weekend we had sensibly pre-booked our tickets and so at 11.15 on the dot we were allowed to wander in and start exploring. The queueing was made more enjoyable by views out to the city through the tree canopy and a tree full of parakeets to keep any budding photographer happy. The animal life only increased a we walked down the wavy ramp into the first section of the park when we caught a glimpse of a cat stalking birds along the wall. He was quite a big cat and so had to have goat-like balance as he stalked along. He didn’t seem to be put off his target by the gathering crowd but perhaps the noise gave the game away for him and the unsuspecting bird flew off just before he was able to pounce.
As we rounded the corner to the Casa Larrard a stone balcony structure made up on tree-like columns supporting the balcony above. All of Gaudi’s architecture has strong nature symbolism and these strange curved columns are no exception. We wandered around through the columns until we got the some stairs which, after alighting, brought us into Nature Square. Here the quintessential image of Gaudi is found and interestingly enough is not actually Gaudi! One of the famous Gaudi sights is the mosaic seats around the square however, the mosaics were actually the work of Josep Maria Jujol, one of Gaudi’s collaborators. We spent quite some time appreciating the intricacies of the different mosaics as well as admiring the fantastic views of the whole of Barcelona right down to the sea. It was a lovely sunny day which was great since the weather of the previous two days had been cloudy and rainy. After we descended the stairs on the opposite side we were again met with huge stone columns but in a much less naturalistic style. The Hypostyle Room was made using the smooth stone that featured so heavily in the Passion Façade of the Sagrada Familia, a direct contrast to the rough tree like stone that had been used in the columns we had just seen. The smooth stone lead up to some spectacular circular roses on the ceiling of the open air room and would make for an excellent hide and seek venue for those seeking a bit of excitement amongst the vast towering columns. As you step out from under the balcony you are met with some fantastically shaped houses – the park was originally commissioned as part of a commercially unsuccessful housing site and when you look at the whacky houses – one of which you can go inside if you want to wait over an hour, the other of which is a gift shop. As we took our final steps down the stairs we were met by a cool mosaic lizard and the most spectacular views back up to the mosaic balcony. It really is the most whacky but beautiful place. Maeve and I left Ruairidh in the house queue while we explored the gift shop TIP: there is a sign saying do not enter on the stairwell which being the conscientious Brits we are, we obviously observed. However, there is actually a second floor of Gaudi stuff if you only ignore the sign and it is staffed and everything (why is it the one sign we find in Spain is actually wrong???). After a good 20 minute browse Ruairidh’s location had yet to budge a millimetre and so we opted to leave the house and leave the ticketed section of the park for a bit of a hike around the back and away from the crowds – a lovely option for those who may not want to stump up the entry fee (although given it is only €7 it’s good value and worth seeing). You can see parts of the monument area, although obviously not as well as the ticket paying guests, but the hike was nice and gave some fab Barcelona views.
We headed back to the apartment for Maeve and Ruairidh to pick up their things and decided to check out the beautiful building directly across from our apartment that we had been intrigued by for some time.- the Real Santuario San Jose de la Montana, a shrine for Saint Joseph. The brick work on the building was beautiful and it was of course frequented by nuns and other religious folks – a lovely building to see up close with a nice garden to sit and contemplate life in. Free also! After out short pit-stop we picked up the pace and given the sunny weather decided a trip to the beach was in order. As I mentioned, our apartment was really far away from everything and so we had a 20 minute walk to Joanic where we caught the metro to Barceloneta. Given the perfectly sunny weather with only a slight breeze, it was the perfect day for wandering along the waterfront, staring at beautiful yachts (one day maybe) and generally enjoying the laidback Sunday vibe. As we walked along and round the pier we came to the beach and our first stop – a beach bar with sun-loungers called La Deliciosa. We were ready to eat by this point but decided to grab a drink and decide on somewhere nice and the lure of Cava Sangria was enough for us to pay the eye-wateringly expensive €28 for it. Every single Euro was well spent, I LOVE Cava Sangria and while we had to wait almost 35 minutes before actually getting it, even in Spain that is pretty poor, when it did arrive the waiter made a huge show of popping the Cava and pouring a massive jug of it for us to enjoy. Delicious!
By this point we were beyond starving, being almost 4p.m and we hadn’t eaten since breakfast. We therefore, set out to find some food, with a tiny stop at Burger King for some lifesaving chicken nuggets to keep us going. Given our excellent cava-filled afternoon we tried to check out the bar we had went to when we were running late the night before – La Xampaneria but alas, Sunday results in around 50% of establishments closing in Spain and this was one of the ones. The whole of the Barceloneta area was actually very quiet with a lot of places closed so we were lucky to stumble across Zurito, a small bar serving tapas. Here we enjoyed a venison stew, a bulls tail stew, bread with tomato and garlic, potato bomb, salmon ceviche with avocado, calamari, potatas bravas, boquerones and olives. It was a feast fit for a king and really tasty. This was all washed down with you guessed it – yet more cava! After our hectic morning it was nice to stop and relax and enjoy some great food.
After our feast we made our way back to Cathedral de Barcelona, given Maeve’s religious persuasions and my love of animals (how many cathedrals have resident geese I ask you?). It was late enough for us to qualify for free entry and therefore pretty busy. We wandered around taking in the beauty before I made my way to the cloisters to check out those dazzlingly white geese. They were locked in a cage with a pond and such but seemed to be enjoying the attention and posing for the many tourists that were as excited as me at the sight of them. Given our relative lack success with cathedrals I was surprised by my luck when just after I finished the geese visit I ended up slap bang in the middle of a sermon. I sat down to enjoy this before realising that Maeve and Ruairidh were nowhere to be seen and we seemed to have been cordoned off from the rest of the building. I went off to find them and since we couldn’t get back in we headed out just in time to meet Kathleen for a beverage. We headed to a rooftop bar just across from the cathedral. It was lovely to sit and have a nice glass of red but a bit chilly now that the sun had went down.
It was finally time to wave goodbye to Maeve and Ruairidh, unfortunately they had to head back to Madrid knowing the next time I would see Maeve was Christmas. Luckily for me Kathleen was keen to grab some dinner and so we walked to La Monroe from Placa de Catalunya where we had dropped Maeve and Ruairidh off at the airport bus. The restaurant was modern and luckily we managed to snag a high table near to the door. We ordered some lovely red wine and started the meal with a gorgeous venison cured meat with bread and oil. It was delicious and never something I would have picked. For main, we both choose seafood delights, Kathleen a creamy squid stew which was phenomenal and I the sea bass ceviche. It was a perfect end to a great weekend of food, wine and company. I headed back to the apartment and the next morning went back into town to catch the airport bus, the cheapest and quickest way to the airport. A massive thank you to Kathleen for showing us the best eating and drinking haunts in town and to Maeve and Ruairidh for going with the flow all weekend. You all contributed to making Barcelona fab! Until next year Spain….
Oh, and the views of the Pyrenees on the way home weren’t too bad either!