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Gaudi, Paella and A Little Bit of Messi Sums Up Barcelona

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The train from Paris to Béziers in the south of France continues to Barcelona on a two-hour journey. 

Upon disembarking you immediately smell the Catalonian air.  It’s warm and breezy carrying in scents of the sea nearby.

Barcelona seems different from an intimate Paris, which my friend and I leave behind, after being footloose in that city known to celebrate freedom and individuality. The eyes around me are more brown than blue, and Barcelona is a bit more classical and perhaps, complicated. At first glance, it is like any other modern European city. Yet, lurking behind its grand edifices, stately statues and sweeping well-paved roads and pavements is a history of strife, and culture, defined by art and architecture in a demonstration of grandeur and regality. 


Spain’s capital Barcelona, however, where tourists flock from all over the world to view the awe-inspiring Sagrada Família church and other landmarks designed by Antoni Gaudí and museums having works of artists like Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró and Salvadore Dali, has an universal appeal.  

My friend and I stayed at the Gothic Quarters in the La Rambla region, a happening area, which is also considered the most well-known street for tourists to hang out in central Barcelona. It is a beautiful tree-lined pedestrian street, stretching for nearly 1.2 kilometres connecting the Placa de Catalunya in its centre with the Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell.

Night Life
Night Life

Here, constant music plays to the tune of the light clinking of glasses and cutlery gently scraping plates from evening onwards. Diners are spread out under canopies in a stretch lined with shaded trees and old buildings converted into hotels. The interiors are mysterious, the balconies ornate. For instance, the dining hall of the hotel we stayed in had its breakfast room at the basement with stone walls.  

While walking the streets during the day, we make our way to the statue of Christopher Columbus who discovered a whole new continent leading to the European colonization of north and south America. Incidentally, Columbus was an Italian and since he reported to the Spanish Catholic monarchs in Catalonia after his voyage, there is a 197-foot tall monument to Columbus in the La Rambla region, to commemorate the event. 

As the day wears on, we are out into the sunshine as we walk towards the harbour area; the same from where Columbus embarked upon his voyage.  The wide well-paved roads are a pleasure to walk on. The grand statues speak of times Spain ruled the seas. Christopher Columbus’ statue is tall, imposing and sea-facing. He had, after all, an important mission to accomplish! We mortals could only photograph ourselves below his grand vestige. 

The harbour area is breezy but we must first have that ice lolly selling off a roadside cart. A small fair selling tiny antiques like miniature teapots and delicate   trinkets and jewellery make Gaudi wait!

Tapas Platter
Tapas Platter

We finally get up on that hop-on-hop-off bus on which we can ride the whole day (on a ticket booked online) getting off wherever we wish to. Thankfully the buses are air-conditioned and the bus is on its way to Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia Church which translated, means the church of the Sagrada Family.

It suddenly reveals itself in the midst of busy thoroughfare — a truly imposing spectacle. A mini basilica or cathedral of which some parts of it are always under construction we are told. Designed by Antoni Gaudi (1852–1926), who was like the Renaissance artist of the First Family, this is a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

If the exterior of the church blows you away with its tall minaret-like structures pointing up to the sky, the exterior is as beautiful with stained windows, and high ceilings. One can also take an elevator to visit the top floor. The other side opens up to a section showcasing church paraphernalia like chairs, benches, and crypts, again designed by Gaudi.  


Barcelona is a Gaudi city alright! The bus can be availed to see several other landmarks such as Barcelona University and other churches and stately edifices. But the pace picks up as we drive past the Barcelona Stadium. The Footboy Club Barcelona, (FC Barcelona) commonly referred to Barça, one cannot but think of its most famous player, the Argentine player Andrés Lionel Messi, better known as Leo Messi. We pick up the strains of the Club’s anthem on our earphones provided to listen to the running commentary of the city’s high spots.

We end the day with a sumptuous dinner with seafood paella – the most famous Spanish rice dish and a platter of tapas or finger food. Pronounced tapa, these small eats are more of an appetizer but can be mixed and matched to make up a full meal. Cheese, olives, potatoes and bit-sized seafood are part of the tapas fare.  

The remaining time was spent in drinking coffee, trying out Spanish desserts with Arabic influences and souvenir-hunting. Barcelona does offer a wide, colourful range apart from the usual. I loved Barcelona T-shirts, key chains and fridge magnets. There are small artworks, tiles, plates, shirts and local wines.

If one were to ask what is the main image that you took back from Barcelona? I would say the quaint balconies in the different old buildings. No one balcony were the same and yet the architecture of the city is one of beautiful lines and symmetry. 

All images by the author. 

A masters’ in Comparative Literature from Jadavpur University, Manjira Majumdar has dabbled in journalism, teaching and gender activism. She shares her love for cinema, books, art and four-legged creatures with her family consisting of a husband and two daughters.

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