Culture shock - that's what I remember most about arriving in Barcelona. Emerging from the Metro station at Passeig de Gracia, it's the architecture that hits you first, followed by the remarkably wide roads and the rows of high end retail outlets. Having gotten used to being able to cover central Madrid comfortably on foot, being presented with a map of Barcelona left us feeling as if we were a bit out of our league. With that said, we grew to love the liveliness and spirit that was Barcelona - the luxury that dotted Passeig de Gracia, the gorgeous beaches, the quirky works of Gaudi, the beautiful marina and the hustle and bustle of La Ramblas. Unfortunately, I also made my biggest charitable donation to date in Barcelona which is why again, the memories have to be relived through Hanad's photographs.
The first thing that came to mind as we entered the famous market just off La Ramblas was that it would be exactly the type of place that my dad would love to visit, I can imagine him soaking in the atmosphere just being amidst the huge variety of food that ranged from ice cream to fresh seafood.
The market not only served as a tourist spot but also as a centre for the locals to get their fresh produce. Our friend here was clearly having a bad day.
Go on an empty stomach and giving in to temptations would be guaranteed - and how not to with such lovely colours!
While ham was still clearly a feature in Barcelona, it played a much smaller role in the cuisine. While Madrid had large outlets dedicated to ham, this was the only ham stall we could spot at the market.
Nothing like an ice cream break on a sunny day.
Having been forewarned that food in Barcelona would be on the pricey side, we made value-for-money our main goal in terms of meals. The all-you-can-eat buffet concept is an extremely popular one, and with good reason as the local restaurants and food outlets were indeed on the expensive side. We quickly found a favourite, Lactuca, which offered a lunch buffet for 8.95 Euros and dinner for slightly more. By the third day, we'd had almost every meal there and were most comfortable passing time there talking about everything under the sun after a day at the beach. Although nothing particularly fancy, the food left us feeling sufficiently content - an extensive salad bar (which we were particularly grateful for, after the amount of tapas that we'd had in Madrid), a small selection of main courses, dessert, ice cream, fruits and coffee.
By that time, a refreshing bowl of gazpacho with a generous helping of croutons had become a must-have to start the meal.
The beach, and all that goes along with it
I have bittersweet memories of Barceloneta - it was easy to fall head-over-heels with the stretch of soft sand that led on to the cool Mediterranean sea but absolutely heartbreaking to have your favourite things taken from you right by such breathtaking beauty as well. Despite it all, my memories of Barceloneta as mostly of lying on the sand for hours on end just soaking up the sun, taking dips in the sea to cool off and enjoying the breeze as the evening came. It's an atmosphere like no other, being part of the crowd of happy beach-goers, hearing occasional cheering from the football fans that were gathered in front of TV screens.
The boardwalk, with it's line of fancy restaurants on one side and the marina on the other is just the place to take a stroll along as you slowly make your way towards the beach.
"Cola, Fanta, agua!"
"Cerveza, cold beer!"
The beach seems to be a popular spot for pedlars, most of which illegal, who take advantage of the easy-going beach setting and the heat to sell cold drinks and snacks. While we generally did not want to be part of the clientele, we just couldn't resist the ice-cold Mojitos that this pair was making - and they were, truly, the best Mojitos any of us had ever had.
It's difficult to put to words, my Spanish holiday but as I reminisce, only good things come to mind - sunshine, great food, fiery spirit and the most fantastic of friends.