Barcelona. (and a bite of Paris)
Quick tour of Paris:
I've been there a few times before and so asked a friend what else I needed to see.
Recommendation: Ramen near the Opera House-- I went to Kintaro, but there are plenty around.
You'll also find bakeries (Patisseries/Boulongeries) along the way
Good route to walk is from the Opera house down to the Seine river (walk as far as time allows) and back. (Catch sights like the Jardin du Palais Royal, the Louvre, the Musee d'Orsay, Jardin des Tuleries, and if time allows, Ile de la Cite (Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle). It's quite pleasant to walk along the river, either along the water's edge or above.)
Thoughts on Charles de Gaulle: You want to budget time in for getting in and out of this place if you don't have an EU passport-- both times I saw they only had 1 or 2 guards processing hundreds of passports....
I spent the night in the transit hotel, Yotel, which was nice after spending 7 days in a hostel but after wandering and seeing the chaise lounges around the airport as well as the free airport lounge, I think I could have gotten by with sleeping in the airport. Do note that the terminal closes at 11pm, so you need to clear passport control before then if you want/need to spend the night at CDG.
On to Barcelona. Impressions of the city:
- Every neighborhood has its own unique identity
- Great weather, walkable, easy public transit system
- Reminded me of LA in terms of weather, mountains, and beaches (also, relaxed vibe in general)
- Culture very much revolves around socializing (so, food and drinks are important-- tapas/pinxtos is like a religion in itself)
I came here thinking I was going to explore Southern Spain (Andalucia). But then I realized that La Merce (festival for the patron saint of the city-- Virgin of Mercy) was happening the week I planned to be in Barcelona, so I stayed.
Things to note:
- Unless in a touristy area, most stores do close in the afternoon for siesta
- The farther away you are from the city center the fewer tourists you'll see (except for any Gaudi attractions)
- There are lots of tourists, especially in areas like Las Ramblas, Passig de Gracia, and the Gothic Quarter
- Highly recommend getting a T-10 pass, which is roughly a 10 ride bus/metro pass that comes out to roughly a little less than an Euro per ride. The tourist passes don't make much sense unless you know you'll be riding in excess of 4 rides/day.
Neighborhoods to Explore/Wander:
- El Carmel
- Carrer de Verdi (my favorite street), mostly for the Bonpreu supermarket and the boutiques
- Poble Sec
- Lots of great food here, particularly Galacian seafood places (more details below), as well as some more famous restaurants
- More natives than tourists here
- Sant Antoni - Not touristy
- Lots of little shops worth wandering through (hardware store = ferreteria)
- Eventually, their market (which is HUGE) will open back up again!
Attractions worth seeing:
- Montjuic Castle: Great for the view, and if you're 29 and younger you can get in for 3 euro. Don't miss the slides, which can be found on the zig-zaggy path to the castle. You can get here by the underground tram from Parallel station which is covered by the metro ticket, and walk 15 min up the road, or take the cable car (which isn't as budget friendly).
- Various Gaudi houses (they're all around, I'm not convinced you need to go inside)
- Sagrada Familia (from the outside, and or you can see the inside for free if you go to Sunday mass)
- I didn't go here, but if you go to Girona, take the bus to Palamos (and then you can walk by the shore of the Costa Brava.
- Close to the city: try Bogatell
- Maritime Museum: Has a neat interactive exhibit and is located in the original shipyard for the city from hundreds of years ago.
- If you like cars, there's a classic car museum (I belive it's on Carrer de Roger de Lluria) that costs 8 euro
- If you like motorcycles (I didn't go here but now I wish I did): Museu Moto Barcelona
Places to Eat:
$ (15 euro or less per person meals)
- Supermarkets like Esclat Bonpreu
- Escriba: Amazing baked goods but they're a little pricey. Try the Cremadet.
- Xurreria Trebol: Churros with piping hot melted dark chocolate, or stuffed with custard/nutella/caramel. You can't go wrong with whichever one you try.
- Bar Restaurant Delicias: If you're already hiking up to Bunkers, it's worth a visit. Everything is good, particularly the fried tiny fish (pescaditos fritos), and the potatoes (patatas bravas). They also serve real morcilla (blood sausage).
$$-$$$ (20 euro per person meals)
- Pulperia a Gudina: Fairly cheap for tapas, and they have great authentic dishes like Mondongo (tripe stew) and Pulpa (octopus) **Make sure your Spanish is decent**
-Euskal Etxea: Pricey (~ 2 euro/stick (tapa)) but excellent quality food. I particularly enjoyed the anchovy on bread with sprouts, and the chorizo sausage. They also have a neat way of pouring cider. English speaking staff.
If you're here for La Merce (Sept 25):
- There are events everywhere from concerts to dance lessons to human towers. Every major monument and park seemed to have something going on.
- If you're not scared of potentially being lit on fire, highly recommended you go see Correfoc. It runs on Via Laietana and has sparkler/sprinker things that are kind of frightening. Make sure you wear long pants, closed toe shoes, long sleeves, and have your hair protected. Saw the audience get burned because sparks were bouncing off the floor or onto their heads, etc. It's crazy, but you'll never see something like this anywhere else, so I think it's worth going to.