Barcelona! The last stop on our European summer tour. We arrived into the city late at night after travelling all day from Italy by train and plane. Needless to say we were exhausted and very hungry, so after checking in to our Airbnb we aimlessly wandered down the streets looking for something to eat, hoping to find anything open at 1 AM. We were only mildly surprised to find quite a few shops and restaurants open because let’s be real–this is Spain. The country famous for eating late and staying up late (which maybe is why the Spanish like to sleep in and take afternoon siesta!). There was one restaurant near the waterfront that was pretty lively and appeared to have a good menu, so we went in and had a seat.
And that is when I was first introduced to one the things that I would love about Spain–the food. I have always heard about the paella in Spain, so ordered myself a steamy plate of seafood and rice goodness. Paella is a traditional Spanish dish, originating from Valencia, that includes cooked rice, veggies, and spices that can be cooked with seafood or meats. It’s amazing–definitely a must try when in Spain!
Aside from paella, we also snacked on the large variety of tapas that you can get at a lot of small restaurants and bars throughout Spain. Gazpacho was another favorite, which we normally just bought from the store. While I’m not a big fan of tomato juice, this refreshing blend of tomatoes and veggies, garlic, and spices is just the thing to cool off on a hot summer day. I think it’s actually meant to be a kind of soup, but we would just drink it from the glass. The following day we headed out and walked around the city to see some of the sights, went to the beach for a bit, and walked through the huge park located across the street from where we were staying. But really, the most we ever did besides walking around was eating. All the time. Because Spanish food is just so freaking good. Out of all the places I went in Europe, I thought Spain had the best food (move aside France and Italy!)
On another evening we headed out to the neighborhood of Vila de Gracia for a night out to see a street festival. Our Airbnb host said there was going to be a parade and I was expecting a typical parade with floats and people dressed up in costumes throwing candy. But that’s not how they do it in Barcelona. In fact, they take parades to a whole new level. As we got out of the subway station, we didn’t really know where we were going so we just followed everyone else heading off down through the streets. Soon enough we could hear drums playing off the distance, their resonating beats rumbling off the buildings. Eventually we got to where the festivity was taking place and right away I knew it wasn’t going to be just a “parade”. It was La Festa Major de Gràcia, one of the biggest events of the year in Barcelona. And we had stumbled right into the middle of the correfoc, a popular tradition in Catalonia meaning “fire run”. There were groups of people dressed up as devils running through the streets brandishing sticks that would shoot out fireworks, often times chasing people down the street and showering sparks over the crowd. There were also a few floats resembling things like donkeys and lizards that could be carried around and had fixings on them so they could be lit up with fireworks. So imagine, you’re running down the street being chased by a diablo, fireworks going off over your head all along with the powerful sound of the drummers playing. It was deafening. It was chaos. But the energy that filled the streets was incredible. People were dancing and having a good time.
All of this went on for a while, I think we were there for two hours following the spectacle until it reached its end at a small plaza. There they had the grand finale where they lit up every last bit of fireworks they had. It was phenomenal.
We were very lucky to happen to be there at the time of year when they have this event, but it’s just one of many festivals and events that take place in Barcelona annually. That’s what I loved about this city–it’s such a lively city and full of energy. Everywhere you go there seems to be something going on. And of course there’s the great food! Even though it was a short stay, my experience in Barcelona really makes me want to come back again and see more of Spain.