Being a tour guide was never something I imagined for myself. But this week, that’ what I have been doing. My parents are visiting from New Jersey, and I have (gladly) taken my free time to show them the ropes in Barcelona.
I had a teacher in the eighth grade who told her students that you only know the material when you can teach it to someone else. Thanks, Mrs. Sorenson, that’s exactly how I feel about Barcelona. Showing my parents around has showed me how well I have come to know this city in only two short months.
When they arrived, I took my parents down to Plaça Catalunya via Passeig de Gracia. I was able to point out a good number of landmarks along the way – Casa Mila (La Pedrera), Casa Batllo, Casa Lleo Morera, Casa Amatller, among others. I walk along this route very often, but I hadn’t realized how much of the scenery had actually materialized itself in my memory.
From Plaça Catalunya, I took them to La Rambla.
Now, La Rambla is quite easy to navigate – it is only one long street, with directional signs pointing the route to other major sights. But something about showing other people around La Rambla makes you feel like you really know it. I mean, anyone can follow a sign, or walk straight down a street, but I was able to point out specific landmarks, and not only name them, but talk a little about them. Like the Font de Canaletes at the top of the street, which will guarantee a person’s return to Barcelona if he or she drinks from it. Or that Plaça Reial is not only a plaza, but one of the most popular in the area, featuring lamp posts designed by Antoni Gaudi.
Along La Rambla we made our way though the labyrinth that is La Boqueria, and visited Plaça Reial for lunch.
We stopped in for a tour of Palau Güell, the awesome house with its notable fantastical chimneys, designed by Gaudi for the Güell family.
After Palau Guell, we walked down to the water (the Mediterranean) to check out the statue of Columbus pointing outward toward the sea. Walking back up from the bottom of La Rambla, we went for a visit in Plaça del Pi, a small plaza with constant farmers’ markets in its center. Attempting to navigate the route back to Plaça Catalunya we walked through Plaça de Josep Oriol, which houses a small art market.
That was it for Saturday sightseeing – but not it for Saturday in general. After resting a bit at the hotel, we went for dinner at a nearby tapas restaurant – La Cerveseria Catalana. Everything was a delicious. It was a fantastic end to the day.
Sunday I walked the eight or so blocks to my parents’ hotel from my apartment early in the morning. Once everyone was ready to go we walked down Rambla Catalunya – stopping for breakfast along the way – to Plaça Catalunya. (Those of you who read this blog and have never been to Barcelona – I assume you are getting the sense the Plaça Catalunya is in the middle of everything. It sort of is.). From there, instead of taking La Rambla down into the Old City, we took Avinguda de Portal l’Angel, a pedestrian street that runs parallel to La Rambla. The first stop was Plaça de Sant Jaume and the Ajuntament de Barcelona – that is, City Hall. I have already described City Hall in a previous post, so I won’t go into the descriptions here.
After the Ajuntament, we walked out to La Rambla to try and check out the Gran Teatre del Liceu. Unfortunately, it was closed. This turned out to be a theme of the day. The next stop was to return to Plaça del Pi to check out the Esglesia de Santa Maria del Pi. After the church, we walked to Avinguda de la Catedral. I’m sure you all can guess what is there – the Cathedral. We walked into la Catedral, but mass was going on so we could not visit the entire building. (I informed the parents that they certainly had to return because this is a beautiful building, and the geese in the cloister are great.)
After La Catedral we walked to Plaça del Rei. At Plaça del Rei I pointed out the Museu d’Historia de la Ciutat – an interesting museum about the history of Barcelona set on top of the ruins of Barcino, the Roman settlement on which Barcelona was built. We walked into Palau del Lloctinent, the Viceroy’s Palace, which houses the Archives of the Crown of Aragon and the letter permitting Columbus’s voyage.
From there, we walked down into La Ribera. In La Ribera, I took my parents to the Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar.
We also walked down Carrer de Montcada, a popular street in the area. After all that, we stopped for lunch. Reenergized, we went to the El Born Centro Cultural, an old market-turned-historic site. After the cultural center, I took the parents to Parc de la Ciutadella. The parc is pretty, but the exciting part about it is the Parlament de Catalunya located near the back, as well as a waterfall fountain co-designed by Antoni Gaudi. Right outside the park on one of the sides is the Arc de Triomf. We visited that, and then took the metro back to Plaça de Catalunya.
My Mom had read that the Sinagoga Major was open until 7:00pm, so from Plaça de Catalunya, we walked to the winding streets of El Call, the old Jewish Quarter. Unfortunately the synagogue was closed. We stopped for a snack and headed back to the hotel to rest a bit.
I wanted to take my parents to see la Font Magica, a fountain between Plaça d’Espanya and Montjuïc that puts on a show with lights and colors all choreographed to music. We got to the fountain just in time for the show, however it turned out that I had read the times for the summer, not the winter season. That was okay. We walked up to the Palau Nacional, a beautiful building behind the fountain that houses the Museu Nacional d’Arte de Catalunya, and took in the the view of the city. After that we went back to Rambla de Catalunya where we stopped for a late night snack and some Cava (Catalan sparkling wine) Sangria.
Monday I went to work. The parents took in a day of Gaudi (with a few other places tossed in). They started the day by going to la Sinagoga Major and Gran Teatre del Liceu.
I have never seen the theater, and I had planned to go some day, but according to my Mom, it’s not quite worth it. But anyway, their next stops were Casa Batllo (Gaudi), la Pedrera/Casa Mila (also Gaudi), and La Sagrada Familia (definitely also Gaudi). I met them outside La Sagrada Familia after work and we went for dinner. I pointed out a couple major buildings after dinner on the walk back to the hotel.
Tuesday and Wednesday I went to work as usual, and the parents went to Girona (see previous posts to learn about Girona), and Figueres, a small city up the Costa Brava with a fantastic Dali museum. Wednesday night they returned in the early evening. I met up with them and helped pick out some things they should check out the next day. We had a small Chanukkah celebration in their hotel room and lit candles in a space far enough from the room’s smoke detector. After the Chanukkah candles burned down, it was time for dinner. We went to La Barceloneta, the seafood, fish, and paella capital of Barcelona. To get back to the metro station, we walked along the beach (Barceloneta is the beach section of the city) and saw some awesome sand castles. We said goodnight and I left my parents at the Passieg de Gracia metro station.
In the weeks before my parents came I was feeling as if I only saw the same things in the city over and over, but knowing that I can show people around a decent amount of the city, I’m realizing how much I have really seen.