We left Nice very early on Thursday morning. It was a super quick drive to the airport, a fairly easy check in process, and a painless, hour-long flight with Iberia. We usually take taxis from airports, but we had read so much about the Aerobus…how quick and easy it is and how economical compared to a taxi. It was fairly easy to find t the airport (lots of signage) and we waited no time for a spot on the bus…and sure enough it dropped us right at Plaça de Catalunya in the center of the city…we were able to walk to our hotel. I will say that we took a taxi back to the airport on our way back to the US and it was less than 20 Euros…so compared to New York or Milan or Paris, the taxi fees are not particularly high.
Our hotel is really quite beautiful….a very stunning atrium-like lobby, cool and chic color schemes, friendly staff, and our room on the 5th floor is bright and well-appointed. Lena allowed little time before she wanted to swim in the (very tiny) plunge pool on the roof of the hotel.
The plunge pool is minuscule, but we were the only ones on the roof besides a bar tender….so I had a nice drink and Lena got to cool off. We were then ready to explore the city. We are only a short distance from the oldest part of the city, the Gothic quarter. This is the area built in the Middle Ages, with narrow little streets that twist and turn and open on to squares, typically with a church or some other building of significance.
One of the first squares we can upon housed the beautiful Cathedral of Barcelona. Unlike the soaring, vertical cathedrals of France that we’ve visited, this cathedral is a bit more squat and like an ornamented block. No flying buttresses or dramatic structural side supports. However, very gothic ornamentation on the facade and towers richly decorated. The core cathedral was built around 1300 and construction continued on for centuries.
The official name of the church is the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia and is dedicated to St. Eulalia, one of the patron saints of Barcelona. According to her legendary story of martyrdom, she was a young Christian virgin living in Barcelona during Roman times and was punished for her religion. The Romans stripped her clothes off and made her walk nude down the streets. Out of nowhere, a snowstorm descended on the city and she was made modest by the snowflakes. The Romans were angry that their punishment was ruined so they stuffed her in a barrel and then jammed their knives into the barrel while they rolled it down the streets.
There is a lovely cloister built in 1448 that is the home of 13 white geese who live there in honor of St. Eulalia, who was 13 when she was killed by the Romans.
We were given the option to climb the church tower and go to the roof….and of course the Jones Trio never says no to a tower climb. This was fairly easy compared to many of the taller towers we’ve visited.
As in many European cities, you can find Roman remains scattered about. Here, near the Cathedral is the remnant of the original Roman wall that surrounded Barcelona.
Walking around Barcelona, there are times when it reminds you of Paris, definitely sprinkles of Florence and Rome…and even Milan…but it has it’s own very distinct feeling, as well. It’s very beautiful, very walkable and there is food everywhere!
Speaking of which, our first dinner in Barcelona was at La Plassohla and the food was delicious, but we didn’t necessarily want our first introduction to tapas in Spain to be so upscale…they were more like a take on tapas, but the place received great reviews on Trip Advisor and which was a 10 minute walk from our hotel. Here’s a sampling of what we had:
A shrimp ceviche with corn and melon:
A potato croquette (simple but good):
Very traditional fried potatoes with spicy aioli (we found versions of them all over Barcelona. :
Mussels and tomatoes (I was the only one that ate this–it was great):
A beef and guacamole:bun
An an onion/egg/bread crumb dish that was our favorite:
And Desserts followed:
P.S. That evening we were tired from our early flight and long day of sight seeing, so we were in bed by 10PM. Sometime in the middle of the night, my phone started to beep and ding and vibrate. I picked it up to see text messages, emails, Facebook posts all filled with worry that we were still in Nice. We were totally unaware of the tragedy that had taken place that evening. I sent out a Facebook message that we were safe in Barcelona, but obviously it was very hard to go back to sleep. I kept thinking that we had only been standing on our terrace overlooking the Promenade des Anglais hours earlier…just feet from where the first two victims were hit. It was all so surreal. We were so fond of our time in Nice and loved spending time on the beach watching all of the local families swim, the retired couples relaxing in the sun, people of all colors, ethnicities, religions and ages enjoying the lovely Mediterranean Sea. It’s all so senseless and tragic. We sent our thoughts and prayers to the people of Nice.