Feeling At Home In Barcelona
“Albóndigas, por favor,” I said to the woman behind the counter.
I watched her face light up as she nodded with approval. Apparently the meatballs were a good choice.
Back in April when Andy and I were in Assisi for a travel blogging conference, I won a trip to Barcelona from HouseTrip. So when we started planning our summer travel, Andy and I decided to combine a few places with our trip to Brussels in August. Barcelona seemed like the perfect place to end our trip.
Relaxing in our apartment
After a fun weekend in Brussels filled with beer tasting, humor, and peeing statues, we spent some time in Carcassonne, France and Andorra followed by four days in Barcelona. By this time we were exhausted from traveling a bit too quickly, so we were very happy to be staying in an apartment instead of a cramped hotel room.
It was also extremely hot, so we didn’t really want to spend our days doing endless sightseeing in 100F (38C) temperatures. Somehow Andy and I have managed to go to the Catalunya region of Spain two years in a row during the extremely hot month of August. This time, we decided to just relax in the air conditioned apartment during the day, and wait for the sun to start setting before venturing out into the city.
The best meatballs besides my mom’s
Staying in an apartment meant we were in a more residential area, so we wandered around until we found the grocery store. Attached to the grocery store was an area that felt more like a market or a butcher, with counters selling fruits and vegetables, meats and fish, or freshly prepared food. We thought this was a gold mine, so we found a counter where we could buy a few things for lunch. Pasta, a couple kinds of croquettes, and some of the meatballs the woman was so happy about became our midday meal. Those meatballs were so good we went back the next day for more.
Seeing a more local side of Barcelona
We did go see the Sagrada Familia cathedral, Gaudi’s famous unfinished masterpiece, and his Guell Park. Both were beautiful as you can see from the photos in this post, but those are not the memories I most enjoyed from our time in Barcelona.
I remember those delicious meatballs and the woman who sold them to us. I remember how, after dinner in the super touristy Barcelonetta area, we found a small bakery a few blocks away that doubled as a bar. There were just a handful of locals sitting at small tables outside, but we sat inside at the bar. We ended up talking to the bartender for a few hours, which allowed me to practice my Spanish. I also remember eating lots of gazpacho. And spilling it in my lap once.
I enjoyed exploring the Gothic Quarter and finding this weird art sculpture nearby. It was really tall and appeared to be made out of a giant fence.
Andy and I enjoyed connecting with a few locals, including a convenience store employee who we shared a laugh with when I couldn’t remember how to say “toilet paper” and Andy mimed wiping himself. We found areas a little outside of the touristy sections where we could get one step closer to seeing the Barcelona the locals live in. We didn’t rush around to see every single tourist attraction in the city. It was wonderful to just be somewhere different, have a change of scenery, and have enough space to spread out and relax.
This was definitely our kind of travel.
Thank you to HouseTrip for providing our winnings of an apartment in Barcelona and a flight home. All opinions are my own.
You might also enjoy:
- Unconventional Barcelona Guidebook: 10 Locals Tell You Where to Go, What to Eat, and How to Fit In
- 23 Photos That Will Make You Want to Visit Sevilla, Spain
- How Much We Spent Living in Sevilla for a Month
- Lisbon – Love at First Sight
October 18, 2012 @ 8:47 PM
I missed so many of the Gaudi sites when I was in Barcelona – must go back!
October 18, 2012 @ 10:07 PM
The park and the cathedral were the only two we saw I think. I know the city is loaded with Gaudi, we just didn’t have the energy to run around playing tourist while we were there.
October 18, 2012 @ 8:56 PM
How long did you stay for? I would love to go there and was looking at some travel options? Do you think 2 full days would be enough? I don’t want to rush through, just want to take the city in slowly.
October 18, 2012 @ 10:14 PM
We were in Barcelona for about 4 days. There is a LOT to see, so it really depends on what your interests are. 2 days doesn’t sound slow to me, but if you just want to see a few things it might be ok. The more I travel, the slower I like to go. Research the things you want to do, and remember that it’s a big city with a lot to offer. If you want some more detailed advice, send me an email and I’ll help you out.
Caanan @ No Vacation Required
October 19, 2012 @ 12:18 AM
We have been to Barcelona several times, but only really feel in love with it on our last visit (and I mean full on open-mouth-kiss, bring-it-home-to-mom in love). Like you, we’ve yet to have enough time to really explore.
October 19, 2012 @ 5:56 PM
I’m glad you finally fell in love with Barcelona! I could see myself staying there for a month or 2, it has a great vibe.
October 19, 2012 @ 5:59 AM
Love, love, love staying in apartments for all the reasons that you and Andy do. Barcelona – on my list!!
October 19, 2012 @ 5:57 PM
We loved your video of one of the apartments you stayed in while you were in Japan. Staying in an apartment is such a great alternative. You’ll love Barcelona!
October 19, 2012 @ 8:51 AM
Food markets are a great place to grab lunch when you’re in a new city. We 100% support the idea of exploring a new city for the first time through its markets!
So great to hear that the woman who sold you the meatballs in the market was memorable. That’s the best kind of travel experience!
October 19, 2012 @ 11:41 AM
Thanks Kenny! It’s definitely the type of travel we enjoy and try to do whenever possible.
October 19, 2012 @ 6:08 PM
I love that you guys decided not to rush around and see everything. Sometimes I have to remind Scott that it’s okay to relax on vacation. 🙂 Glad you enjoyed your trip!
October 20, 2012 @ 12:16 PM
Thanks Christy! I’m finding that as I travel with Andy, I want to travel more slowly and just enjoy where we are instead of feeling pressured to rush around to see every single sight.
October 19, 2012 @ 7:12 PM
I’m a big fan of meatballs too. They’re the prime ingredient in my favorite Subway foot long sub along with double Swiss cheese. Barcelona sounds and looks like a beautiful place. My impression of it had always been a busy place that people had claimed was the pickpocket capital of the world. Is any of what I had assumed of Barcelona happen to be true?
October 20, 2012 @ 12:19 PM
It is definitely a big, busy city, but it has its own relaxed feel to it. People in Spain definitely know the importance of enjoying life. I heard pickpocketing was a big problem too, but I never once felt unsafe. Like anywhere, you have to be aware of your surroundings and make sure your money is in a secure place, but we took the subway all the time without any problems. I’m sure it does happen for the city to have that reputation, but maybe there are easier targets than me and Andy.
October 19, 2012 @ 9:30 PM
I’m not usually a big city person but I love Barcelona, the architecture is incredible and I could eat tapas all day long.
October 20, 2012 @ 12:19 PM
Barcelona is a great city for food and architecture! I’m much more of a city person, so I love places like this.
October 20, 2012 @ 12:49 PM
I’ve flown through Barcelona countless times now, but I have yet to actually visit the city. After spending nearly two weeks on the Costa Brava, I am definitely ready to check Barcelona off my list.
October 21, 2012 @ 11:00 PM
It’s a great city to just BE in. Great food, great atmosphere, love it! I hope you make it there soon!
October 20, 2012 @ 1:25 PM
I have been to Barcelona a number of times. Like it fine, but for some reason, just haven’t loved it. Nothing wrong with it at all (though I am NOT a Gaudi fan), but it just hasn’t fully clicked with me yet.
October 21, 2012 @ 11:02 PM
I think I like that it’s a big city, so it doesn’t revolve around tourism, even though tourism does play a big part in the economy. I remember loving southern Spain (Sevilla and Granada) but I haven’t been there in over 12 years. I just love Spain in general though!
Kieu ~ GQ trippin
October 21, 2012 @ 5:16 PM
Gerard’s had the luxury of visiting twice but I’ve only been there once. That last shot is pretty. I must come back, I missed so much the first time around.
October 21, 2012 @ 11:05 PM
Thanks Kieu! I’m sure we missed a lot too, but we really enjoyed what we did see. Barcelona is a great city to wander around in.
October 25, 2012 @ 8:28 AM
I liked the aspect of the trip of being in a big city. Freiburg is wonderful as a home, small and cozy as cities go, but it was nice for a bit to be in a big place again. Unlimited choices spread out before us and all that.
I would like to go back in more humane weather though. 100F is too hot to enjoy.
October 25, 2012 @ 4:00 PM
I liked being in a big city too. I also liked just having a change of scenery. And I agree, 100F was way too hot. No more trips to Spain in August!
November 2, 2012 @ 6:47 PM
Haha the bot about forgetting how to say toilet paper made me laugh!
November 2, 2012 @ 11:28 PM
Thanks Adela! I still laugh about that now, months later!
November 8, 2012 @ 5:32 PM
Really enjoyed reading this post. I was in Barcelona a few times this summer and although each time I was there my time was limited, its such a beautiful and cool city. It was nice reading your experience of Barcelona as someone renting an aparment vs. staying in a hotel or hostel. I like staying in hostels myself, but I feel like renting or doing some sort of home stay (couchsurfing) makes for a richer and memorable experience.
November 8, 2012 @ 10:18 PM
Thanks Lisa! I like hostels too, but sometimes it’s really great to stay in an apartment because you have more home comforts, and they’re usually located away from the touristy areas which gives you a different perspective.
Mary @Green Global Travel
November 10, 2012 @ 4:42 PM
Love the Guell Park shot!
November 10, 2012 @ 5:09 PM