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El Born

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I could have walked around in these alleys all day. Coming from the flatlands of LA, I was completely fascinated by them, and no two were quite the same. I loved how old the buildings were, the cobblestone streets, the tiny restaurants and cafes that might be overlooked at first glance. I loved the way the light hit the ferns on people’s balconies, and the colorful Spanish flags hanging from so many of the windowsills. I loved seeing all the movement and people, and then turning a bend to suddenly find myself in a quiet corner.

These and so many other scenes are what I found and fell in love with in El Born.

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Cava y Absenta

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The evening started innocently enough. We picked up a bottle of cava, a locally produced Catalonian wine, and headed up to the rooftop of our hotel to catch the sunset. There was no one else up there and the streets below were quiet. We could see people hanging on their balconies and relaxing in the apartments across from us and, overall, it felt like it’d be a pretty low key evening. Jet-lag had us going to sleep at odd hours up to this point, so we were excited just to be out of the hotel room.

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Knowing that we tend to stick to ourselves while traveling,  I remember telling H while we were planning Europe that it would be cool to have a different kind of experience this time, at least once – whether it be by befriending locals or other travelers. Fast forward a few hours and we found ourselves sitting next to a pair of newlyweds at dinner – he from New Zealand and she from Australia, and coming to the group consensus that our failed attempt at trying absinthe earlier that week deserved another shot.

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And that’s how we ended up back at Marsella, the interior looking like it hadn’t changed a bit in the 200 some odd years it’s been open - wood paneled walls, peeling ceilings, and thick layers of cobwebs covering everything being proof of that.

And, for those of you who haven’t had absinthe before…

How to drink absinthe: 

  1. Pour 1 – 1.5 oz of absinthe into an absinthe glass or one that’s similarly stemmed
  2. Place a sugar cube on an absinthe spoon (a flat spoon with pierced holes, or in the case of Bar Marsella, a fork) and lay the spoon on top of the glass
  3. Slowly pour cold water over the sugar cube, allowing it to dissolve
  4. Keep pouring water until the sugar dissolves completely
  5. Stir the mixture and enjoy (in moderation)

Note: It’s 106 proof, so for heaven’s sake, don’t take shots of the stuff…

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Somehow we ended up in a Spanish nightclub after that, dancing (or in my case, flailing) to the beats of 90′s r&b and soul until the wee hours of the night. I am 100% sure that if we hadn’t serendipitously met that couple, we would have done our usual: had a chill dinner, maybe had a glass of wine somewhere and then gone back to the hotel room to sleep. But not this night…this night, the stars aligned and presented us the opportunity for a grand adventure, so we seized it.

At some point we left the club and said our goodbyes to our new friends without exchanging contact information, knowing that we wouldn’t keep in touch. It was nothing more or less than what it was – an epic night out in Barcelona together, not to be forgotten.

CASA BATLLÓ by Antonio Gaudi | Olympus OMD E-M5

Casa Batlló

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Casa Batlló is one of famed Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi’s masterpieces. His buildings were all over Barcelona and lucky for us, we had time enough to see three of his major works while we were there. Unusual colors and shapes define the architecture of this art nouveau building which is referred to by the locals as the House of Bones due to its visceral, skeletal appearance. My favorite things about this house were the serene white archways in the attic, and the gorgeous city views from the rooftop.

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Barcelona Cathedral | Olympus OMD E-M5

Barcelona Cathedral

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We walked by the Barcelona Cathedral every day and had no idea how beautiful the interior was. To think that we squeezed this in on one of our last days in Barcelona and almost didn’t see it is crazy to me. When we walked in, we were floored by the grandeur of everything, and that feeling that would return again and again throughout our travels in Europe (especially in Rome).

El Raval | Olympus OMD E-M5 + 20mm f1.7 Lens

Barcelona, Continued!

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My last post left off at our arrival in the Gothic Quarter, and this post is a visual mash-up of the days that followed. We rambled our way along Las Ramblas, snacked at the Mercado de la Boqueria, and people watched the afternoons away in the company of cava. These were beautiful days, indeed.

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In the heart of the Gothic Quarter is an ancient Jewish synagogue – the oldest in Europe – and you’d hardly know it was there if you weren’t specifically looking for it. It was originally built in the 3rd or 4th century but, after the massacre of the Jewish in Spain in 1391, was built over and forgotten about over the years. After centuries of use for other purposes, the synagogue was rediscovered in the 2000’s and re-opened as a museum. What’s left of it now is this tiny, two room basement space that you have to step down into from an alley. The museum plans to re-acquire and restore the entire building someday, but they’ll have to do it piece by piece, as they wait for the other tenants to move out.

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Then, it was off to El Raval. While researching things to do in Barcelona, I kept coming across recommendations for a little spot called Marsella – a 200-year-old bar famous for serving absinthe and being one of Hemingway’s regular haunts back in the day. When we got there, it was closed and there were prostitutes on every corner yelling out at people as they walked by, so we called it a bust and promptly shimmied on out of there.

We’d eventually make our way back to Marsella, but more on that later…

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More soon, but in the meantime, check out the rest of Barcelona posts here.