After our crazy holiday travel schedule, we returned to cold and grey Luxembourg from Icelend and resumed our normal schedule. After three weeks of braving the chilly, wet weather, we decided to head to sunny Barcelona for a 5-day respite. We flew out of Luxembourg on a Wednesday afternoon, and arrived at our apartment in the Eixample district in the early evening.
Because we were spending an extended time in the city, we opted for an apartment with an outdoor deck, full kitchen and rooftop pool, all of which proved valuable on our trip. Since we've visited Barcelona before, we decided to take it easy this trip and experience the city more like locals, mixing visiting tourist sites with workouts and chilling with takeout at our place rather than exhausting ourselves by constantly scouting.
Gaudi's Casa Batllo
On our first night we took advantage of the variety of food in Barcelona compared to Luxembourg and ordered in some delicious vegan pizza. We woke up early the following morning and booked pre-opening tickets to Gaudi's Casa Batllo, a modern, art nouveau house remodeled by the great master in the early 1900s. Because we got the early bird tickets, we were able to explore the house - including its rooftop deck with views across Barcelona - all to ourselves. By the time we were ready to exit, the building was flooded with tourists trying to separate from the crowds to get the perfect photo in the famous curved, surrealistic windows looking over the busy boulevard below.
Brunch & Cake
We headed to brunch at Erin's new favorite spot called Brunch & Cake, where we enjoyed Nutella pancakes, acai bowls, matcha lattes and green smoothies, presented beautifully with layers of seeds, pineapple tops and Instagram-worthy flair. We headed back after breakfast, traipsing through massive squares and along grand shopping streets to spend the afternoon working.
Health and Wellness
Dave took a work timeout and headed to the rooftop pool (which was freezing and unheated) for a cold plunge in accordance with Wim Hof's teachings. Following along the pattern of wellness on the road, in the evening, we tried a Jivamukti yoga class, which was novel and felt a bit like a cult when the teacher instructed us to get out our chant books and sing along with ancient yogic sayings. After, we kept it low-key again and ordered in veggie Indian food.
The following morning, we woke up early and did a long walk to the most famous site in the city, Gaudi's Sagrada Familia basilica. We first visited in 2008, and we were surprised to see that the construction advanced significantly in the past decade. We started our visit with a quick elevator trip up the tower of the church. From the elevator, we had to take a narrow staircase which overlooked the cavernous interiors of the church on one side and the open grounds on the other. Erin doesn't enjoy ledges, so she was sweating and running super quickly to get through the confined area. Last time we visited, she couldn't handle it either, and ran away from Dave, who enlisted help of strangers to find his "novia rubia" (blonde girlfriend).
After the stress-inducing trip to the top, we spent the next hour or so exploring the structure, which began construction in 1882 and still has decades of work to be completed to Gaudi's vision. We both love the combination of nature with the more traditional religious interiors and facades, especially the tree-like interior pillars and animals illuminated in stained glass. After getting our fill, Erin insisted we head back to Brunch and Cake for another brunch, so this time we mixed it up and ordered what became the best pancake either of us had after had, topped with granola and tropical fruit salad. Repeating the pattern, we headed back to our apartment to work and had a chill night in Eixample.
For day 4, we woke up early to a sunny sky and headed to the Barceloneta beach district of town. On the way, we stopped at the famous Boqueria Market. When we visited 10 years ago, we had a delicious breakfast at a tiny tapas stall in the market, and were served by a sweet elderly man wearing a crisp white shirt and bow-tie. The market was much more crowded and touristy than we remembered, but we managed to push through to find the same tapas bar, and the sweet old man was there, serving breakfast with a smile - Erin almost cried seeing him all these years later.
We then headed to a rambling walk through the Barrio Gotico on our way to Barceloneta. Erin shopped in La Manual Alpagatera, the famous espadrille store. Last time, she tripped over a stool and fell in the classic Spanish institution, so she needed to go in and redeem herself. After a successful shopping trip amidst the narrow, winding streets of the Gothic quarter, we walked along the coast, past some giant yachts (including the fourth largest private yacht in the world, which looked more like a cruise ship) to the beachy Barceloneta neighborhood.
We picked up some empanadas and had a beach picnic. We sat along a beach-side paved path, and every so often, a tourist on rented rollerblades would screech by. The path was gently sloped, so we enjoyed watching these newbs stumble, wipe out and attempt to use their breaks - good lunchtime entertainment.
We headed down to the water's edge and dipped our feet in the water. Every few minutes, we were approached by Asian women offering us massages with very aggressive sales tactics. They didn't want to take no for an answer, and would begin rubbing us as their sales pitch, so we ended up spending a lot of time saying "no thank you" in every language we could think of. Dave continued his tradition of winter swims and took a dip in the 55 degree sea. Just down the beach, a few senior ladies clad in bathrobes stripped naked and took a dip, so Dave wasn't alone in his craziness.
We headed back to Eixample and spent the rest of the time hanging out locally. The food, style and people-watching in Barcelona was such a nice contrast from Lux, where everything feels bland and dreary, especially in winter. We fly out the following morning after a quick trip to the opera house, and landed back in Lux Sunday evening.
Check out our Barcelona Travel Edit
The Adventure Continues to Madrid
Expat Adventure Blog