2. Barcelona

Published on 30 July 2022 at 10:24

As mentioned in a previous blog, jet lag is one of my least favorite parts of traveling. Feeling like I’m drugged - my body clock turned upside down, wanting to sleep through the day and then not being able to sleep at night – is not a pleasant experience. However, I have learned to manage the symptoms and shorten their affect by forcing my body to adjust to the new rhythms of my environment as quickly as possible. This means that when I arrive in a new place (exhausted from hours on a plane), and all I want to do is fall into bed and sleep the day away, I only allow myself a short power nap (no more than 30 min).

By the time we checked into our hotel it was early afternoon. After a nap and a swim, Rachael and I decided to take a stroll down Las Ramblas to La Boqueria to shop for our dinner. La Boqueria (Place Where Goat is Sold), is Barcelona’s most famous market. When it was established in 1836 it was open air with farmers selling their goods directly to the public. It has subsequently been covered in a huge glass and steel structure and has morphed into a truly amazing indoor market with over 300 stalls selling everything from fruit smoothies, vegetables, fish, meat, nuts, candy, and artisan cheeses to specialty foods like offal  (I kid you not – I even saw bulls privates for sale – yuck!).

Las Ramblas is a wide pedestrian boulevard which runs through the heart of the city center from Port Vell at the Southernmost end (where you will find the statue of Christopher Columbus pointing across the ocean towards the New World), to Placa de Catalunya at the northernmost end. It is famous for its flower sellers, street performers, and human statues, and there are dozens of shops and restaurants that line the boulevard. It is one of my favorite places to walk in Barcelona because it is such a feast for the senses. But fair warning, don’t be tempted to stop at one of the picturesque outdoor cafés that line the boulevard, they are tourist traps with very inflated prices.

Instead I suggest doing what we did and buying supplies for a picnic dinner or eating at one of the stalls in La Boqueria. We bought fat green olives stuffed with garlic, creamy goats’ cheese rolled in herbs, empanadas (a delicious crescent shaped pastry filled with spicy chicken or beef), plump juicy cherries and figs, and a bottle of wine to wash it all down. We also stopped at the bakery next to our hotel to buy a fresh baguette. After taking it all back to our hotel room, we sat on our tiny balcony, enjoying our picnic, and watching the world pass us by on the street below.

The Spanish keep very late hours - well in comparison to my normal 9pm bedtime (okay, in my defense I am usually up feeding horses at 5am) - and it’s normal to go out for dinner at 9 or 10pm. The city comes alive at night, so after dinner we decided to explore the streets that branch off from Las Ramblas in search of some gelato for dessert.

One of my favorite things about Europe, is that you can wonder the streets and suddenly come upon a beautiful old church or spectacular mosaic fountain that will never be mentioned in a visitor’s guide. We wound our way through a rabbit warren of cobbled back alleys, tiny boutiques, and picturesque plaza’s, scored our gelato and then headed back to bed - a little travel weary but excited for what the new day would bring.

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