Anxious to get out of bed, but still a bit sleepy, we headed across town to join the Runner Bean Barcelona Old City Walking Tour in the morning. It was great, but it was also very similar to other ‘old city walking tours’ that we’ve been on lately, and my attention wavered more than it should have. I tried to focus on what pretty pictures I could take of Barcelona Old City, and tried to forget that I was still a bit sleep deprived, but I wasn’t always so successful. After the tour, we meandered down by the seaport and walked around to some different eateries in hopes that our friend, Nat would be game to hopping around to a few for tapas at night. She was! We were all thrilled to see each other again (we met in Tanzania a few months ago) and spent a good deal of time trying to sort out where our respective travels have taken us since Arusha!
We met in Plaça Reial by the water fountain and soon we were winding our way through the little streets of the old town towards another square with a big church, and this beautiful still-intact building façade. While everyone couldn’t get enough of the facade and the church, I couldn’t get enough of the scissors and knife shop below.
We walked by a shrine to a young woman who refused to renounce her Catholic faith, then through the Jewish district and finally to one of the more major squares with political buildings on either side. Despite the tour being wonderful and our guide being very knowledgeable, I think Andrew and I were more keen on finding coffee.
We were told this is the most photographed bridge in Barcelona. A pedestrian one at that, the Carrer del Bisbe Irurita is between two buildings in a narrow alleyway in the Gothic Quarter of the Old City. It was beautiful and I could see why it is so popular to photograph. I’m always blown away by such intricate marble and wood carving and how they have survived over the years.
An interesting thing I noticed throughout our tour: all graffiti seemed to be contained to the doors. The beautiful stone buildings were left virtually untouched, but the doors would be COVERED with paint. If I hadn’t been to Greece, I would think it was a shame, but after seeing how everything was covered in Greece, I thought it was somewhat respectful that the walls weren’t covered with tags on top of the doors.
We made our way outside of the Barcelona Cathedral. I’m still working with one lens and knew I didn’t have a chance to fit the whole façade in using it, so I tried to get as much in as possible from where we were standing, looking up. It was immense. There were a lot of people. Instead of fighting our way through, we walked on, past another church, past several mouth-watering tapas restaurants and learned a little bit more about Barcelona Old City, but wasn’t able to retain it over my hunger and need for caffeine. (Sorry, friends)
One stop that I would have not known had it not been for this tour, was inside a small courtyard featuring three old Roman columns. Everyone filtered in, stopped to take them in, mostly in awe of them still being so well preserved, snapped a few pictures, and then we made our way out. One family still lives in one of the apartments surrounding the courtyard. I bet that’s fun dealing with a steady stream of visitors everyday… Afterwards, we made our way to Plaça del Rei (King’s Square) which is most well known for the steps where it is believed that Ferdinand and Isabella welcomed Columbus when he arrived home from his first voyage. Our guide didn’t seem to take a lot of stock in this story, insisting somewhat that it was more likely he was received at sea instead. But who knows! The steps were pretty and grand, so it makes for a good story regardless. Our tour ended not long after and we wandered through the backstreets in a similar direction from where we started. Of course, I was drawn to the street art and then this massive art installation in the middle of a side square. Unfortunately there wasn’t any information (that I saw) about it!
I couldn’t stop taking in the beauty of the apartment buildings. Someone somewhere said that ‘Barcelona knows how to do laundry’ or something similar, and I couldn’t agree more. Laundry, plants, even colorful plastic chairs… It all looks prettier in Barcelona! Close to the port, another modern sculpture dominated a square, otherwise surrounded by traffic. Getting a close up of the colors against the bright blue sky made crossing the street worth it.
Passing the time to meet our friend, we walked through more streets, and looked for suggested tapas restaurants to check out later. When we met Nat, we knew exactly where to go and which places we wanted to try out! We started at Bodega Biarritz for sangria and tapas and then hopped in and out of places we liked the looks of as we walked around the Born and Gothic neighborhoods. Nat told us that the pinchos were tapas put on bread so patrons could cover their drinks so flies wouldn’t get in! So clever! Some of the restaurants were so busy, we couldn’t even get an order in- at one, we actually gave up and went elsewhere because after fifteen minutes or so of trying to get to the counter, we didn’t have any luck! Even though eating so late could take some getting used to, I love the idea of tapas and getting to sample so many different tastes in one sitting. Restaurant hopping to try even more settings and sangria made the evening even better!