We arrived in Barcelona and found our Airbnb in the Gracia neighborhood. Gracia is outside of the Gothic quarter and full of locals – it was a nice area with tons of people out in the park enjoying the weather and playing with their kids or dogs or both. Unfortunately, our Airbnb was a bit of a disappointment but after the place we stayed at in Sevilla I guess anywhere would have been. It took some effort but we finally let the subway noises lull us to sleep. The next day we took a Free Walking Tour of the Gothic Quarter. Our tour guide was quite funny and provided us with lots of colorful anecdotes of Barcelona.
As we read before arriving, Barcelona very much wants to separate from Spain. In fact, there was a vote about 10 years ago which won the popular vote to separate. This is because Barcelona speaks a different language (Catalonian), contributes more to the GDP of Spain than the rest of Spain combined and has different beliefs or at least a different flag. Basically they are the Montreal of Spain 😉 What we were surprised about is the intense anti-tourism sentiment there. Apparently in less than 10 years tourism has exploded in Barcelona going from 1 million visitors a year to 15 million. This has driven all the locals out of the old or Gothic part of the city and into the suburbs. It has also caused a lot of noise, trash, and public indecency issues. Don’t worry we were in bed before 10 pm every night so we didn’t contribute to these problems!
In addition to learning all about politics and tourism on our tour we also got to see some cool sites including an ancient Roman cemetery, the Gothic chocolate row, Las Ramblas (a huge street that used to be the local meeting place), the Barcelona cathedral, and much more.
But I think the most enjoyable part of the tour was learning about the Catalonian Christmas traditions. As our tour guide put it (who was Italian by the way), ‘because Spain was being led by a dictator during the time when Coca-Cola was spreading Santa Clause around the world, kids in Barcelona remain ignorant to that Christmastime tradition’. So the Catalonians came up with their own fables and traditions. One of these is the caganer which is a figurine that is pooping – literally no joke – we saw tons of stores with them and according to our tour guide you are supposed to put one with your nativity otherwise you will not have a good year – Drew took some photos of one of the shops we saw selling these, including rivals of ‘El Clasico’ Messi and Ronaldo.
So instead of a tree and Santa Clause apparently Catalonians actually get a log and put a blanket over it and paint a face on the end in the beginning of December. They then call the log ‘Uncle Poop’ or at least that’s the PG version. Then as the month goes on their parents put presents under the blanket which make Uncle Poop grow fatter and fatter. On Christmas Day the kids take a stick and hit Uncle Poop and sing a song ‘uncle poop please poop out some treats for us’ before they get to open their presents. If you don’t believe me go check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caganer – trust me I had to verify it too!
After hearing all the interesting Christmas traditions we decided we needed to experience some Catalonian food so we headed to the Mercat St. Josep which is off of Las Ramblas – it is a large and mostly touristy market but it had some amazing food! We had bread rubbed with tomato (a very popular appetizer), olives, shishito peppers, and burrata with pesto and tomato – it was delicious!
After lunch we headed to Park Guell which is what this post is named after. Park Guell was originally supposed to be a housing development for the wealthy that started in 1900 however it was never completed. We read conflicting reports as to why it was not completed one said that Gaudi (the architect) decided to devote all his time to La Sagrada Familia and another that the benefactor Eusebi Guell found it to be an unprofitable venture. Either way, luckily for us, when both Gaudi and Guell died, the unfinished project that has an aqueduct, large square, market area, porter’s house, and guest house all became the property of the city of Barcelona. Personally, the aqueduct and portico reminded me of the Flintstones while the Porter’s House and Guest House reminded me of a gingerbread house – Gaudi definitely had an interesting style – what do you think is it Gaudi or Gaudy?
In the evening we went to Sensi Mezzanine (a recommendation from Darcie) and it was absolutely amazing! We had tuna tartare, a warm goat cheese and berry salad, mussels, and according to Drew the best scallops he’s EVER had! Afterwards we walked along the marina – it was beautiful out and Drew thoroughly enjoyed the artwork and all the yachts (including one from Below Deck!)