Barcelona Diary

i’ll be honest, weeks leading to my trip to Barcelona in fall 17, i was quite nervous as in what to expect on the streets due to catalonian referendum and the upheaval that followed. i imagined being caught in the midst of molotov cocktails being thrown around, buses lit on fire or military tanks rolling by to intimidate protesters – yes, i admit i blame my OD imagination on years of hollywood indoctrination of my mind with war movies and political dramas and i’m happy to write that during my short stay in this super chill city,  i simply witnessed a group of protesters singing beautifully to free prisoners from Madrid government in the shopping district of las ramblas. & that is my cue to rant a little; unless you are a shopaholic, it is safe to not include las ramblas in your itinerary — that hood reminded me of retail nightmare that is 34th street – herald square. there is nothing catalonian about this entire commercial district, most brands are american, most stores here including restaurants are either playing elvis presley or american top 40. like excuse me if i don’t like seeing american shit on my travels abroad, i hail from new york city, i travel so i can escape the normalcy.

IMG_9673protestors singing peacefully at las ramblas

it was quite a smooth journey from the airport to greater el born neighborhood where i stayed. i hopped onto the aerobus/shuttle bus towards plaza catalunya and got off there to walk a scenic 15 minutes towards ronda sant pere. the landmark arc de triomf, some good cafes, restaurants and 24hour deli made up the radius so all necessities i needed was a walking distance away. past couple of years in my limited travels, i have learned that it is key to choose a neighborhood that compliments a traveler’s character.

 

 

chic dining area & me chilling at the balcony

 

 

night stroll around arc de triomf

as a passionate foodie traveler, i hunt for good food wherever i go. barcelona didn’t disappoint – well with the exception of that one time when i ordered soft tortillas and there was a mix-up. i tried catalonian tapas at a joint called granja la catalana — had prawns (weird aftertaste) with lemon+mayo and tiny lamb chops (very flavorful & juicy). i feasted on meat+seafood paella at bontapa and tried stuffed potatoes for tapas — the latter tasted like alu’r chops, a popular delicacy in the bangali cuisine. i ordered soft tortillas one time choosing the option of a ‘platter’ and not a wrap, but was served the saddest-looking fried egg instead. that was quite a bummer but i was so drunk on estrellas that i didn’t even care to complain to the waiting staff.

 

 

barcelona eats

as a person with deep interest in history, architecture and art, visiting antoni gaudi’s creations were clearly on my itinerary. i started off the gaudi-journey with a visit to park guell first and then to the magnificent la sagrada familia; the latter being one of those peak experiences of my life. to reach park guell from las ramblas, i hopped onto green line L3 metro towards trinitat nova and got off at vallcarca stop. the walk to the high altitude entrance to passatge de sant josep de la muntanya in park guell was an interesting, long one with many short breaths.

 

 

two escalators to reach the top & view of the long steep walk 

upon entry to park guell, i was expecting artistic brilliance and grandeur of sorts but walking around the sandy path, i was accosted by whimsical, playful creations. the intricate mosaic tile work and stonework at the terrace were my favorites and the rest of the park seemed more like walking around alice in wonderland.

 

 

IMGP0328

the terrace walls

 

 

mosaic tile work

 

 

me & el drac

i’m still kinda on a rut on how to process my experience at park guell other than feeling that the overall architecture was underwhelming and highly overrated. i know i need phd in gothic art and modernista to criticize gaudi’s work but hey, calling it like it is – i wasn’t feeling the whole hoopla. oooopsie! anyways, i couldn’t wait to get out of park guell fast enough and head towards la sagrada familia since i was slated for 430pm visiting time slot. walking to metro station from park guell is a solid 20 minutes at normal pace and the train ride is another 10 minutes. i’d also recommend getting an audio guide to know the history and background of gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece and spain’s most revered cathedral.

 

 

 

 

exterior – the intricate artwork & statues are magnificent

 

 

interior – when all our senses & emotions are engulfed in awe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“the sun is the finest painter” – antoni gaudi

 

 

 

 

the sacrifice of christ

when i walked into la sagrada familia, i was enthralled. i wanted to get rid of my bag, my gadgets & sit on the floor, stare up into the arch and dome while taking it all in. the art, the genius, the seriousness of gaudi’s devotion to his faith is absolutely infinite. christianity and all the noble deeds and sacrifices of christ seemed to be the guiding light and inspiration behind every nook of storytelling here and one does not need to be religious or secular to feel the power displayed all over. i was here for a good few hours because i was in barcelona primarily to visit the grand unfinished finale of gaudi’s life as an artist. To quote the narrator on my audio guide, la sagrada familia is the “unique expression of christian faith rendered in stone.”

IMGP0314what’s the difference between arc de triomf in barcelona & paris?

other observations of this chic city – catalonians are soo damn beautiful! street fashion there is really off the charts. women and men of all ages are dressed impeccably from head to toe. i seriously could have easily people watched for hours & i’d bet my kidneys that not one single ensemble would have been a disappointment. barcelona was the first city i visited in spain and i learnt pretty quick that spaniards have a staring problem – whether i was riding in the metro, or shopping at some store or walking around aimlessly, people there stare at you, checks out your outfit and to my surprise, usually smiles at you. so yeah, i learnt to respond with ‘hola’ numerous times just because i felt like it was the nice thing to do & i don’t mind adhering to different etiquette.

one of the mishaps i did have was i couldn’t find my way to gothic quarters, my GPS failed me. i took the train to universitad zone and after walking back & forth next to a highway, i had to take the train back to el born because i was just confused & really lost. also, i didn’t want to be walking around at nighttime with a perplexed look on my face so yeah, i kinda chickened out and returned to my safety zone. but one day, i do plan to return to barcelona to visit monteserrat and gothic quarters, preferably at daytime. until next time, gracias barcelona for introducing me to estrellas & shout-out to the 24hr delis for making a girl from queens feel at home.

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Charleston’s Allure

Charleston, I fell in love with you, at first sight.

Every city has her own character. When traveling, you identify instinctively or simply wait longer to resonate. I was instantly taken by the warmth of the sunshine, the color of the bricks downtown, the architecturally beautiful churches, the occasional cobblestone paths, the fountains, the easy-going attitude of the people and the food.

Charleston Four Corners of Law 

Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist – Brownstone Cathedral built in 1854

I had the most satisfying meal of southern barbecue at Cumberland Smokehouse; beef brisket, collard greens — you name it. My friends and I came across this gem of a spot almost by accident. We yelped hard and waited on a line or two to very happening restaurants in downtown but eventually lost patience and started driving elsewhere when we passed this cabin-looking venue. It was the best decision made, thank the food lords in heaven.

DSC00149Beef brisket with pickles and white bread

My favorite among the sides were the baked beans, mac & cheese. For dessert, there was banana pudding with a secret recipe that the kind waiter indulged us with. Service here was super courteous, quick and the food was absolutely orgasmic. Instead of relying on yelpers reviews and stars, sometimes it’s all about keeping an eye open and making a spontaneous decision.

DSC00148Mac & cheese, collard greens, mashed potatoes & baked beans

Banana pudding

For quick brunch, Sweetwater Cafe in James Island is a cute spot. Menu has a nice selection of eggs benedict and ordering a side of hash with crabmeat totally hits the spot too.

Spinach and green tomatoes egg benedict

Hash with crabmeat

When in Charleston, one must also have oysters. Pearlz Oyster Bar in downtown is a cool, hip spot serving the most delicious fresh oysters. Order a beer, savor the taste of these shelled babies and just live the moment.

    Oysters with horseradish

When doing quick research on what to do in Charleston, a lot of locals and travelers suggested Angel Oak Park that is the home of an ages old live oak tree. The exact age is disputed to be between 500-1,500 years old.

Road to Angel Oak Park

DSC00245Angel Oak Tree

Magnificent bark

I had a splendid time looking acutely at the variety of colors and texture of this ancient tree. Touching these beautiful barks gave out a sense of serenity and calmness momentarily; almost felt like touching a part of history.

Pier at Bowen’s Island

Since Charleston is filled with warm and kind people, one of the locals at a store suggested we head to Bowen’s Island. As evident in the pictures, it was a drive worth it.

Bowen’s Island Restaurant

Green meadows & oyster shells

I couldn’t make time to go on one of the historic gullah tour this trip and I’d like to go back again and again to explore more. Charleston is that perfect picturesque city dripping in history and beauty and a short weekend just doesn’t cut it.

Arthur Ravenal Jr. Bridge