One of the best things about living in Lyon is how easy it is to travel on the weekends. Lyon airport serves several major cities around Europe, so if you plan ahead and keep an eye out for cheap flights, you can become quite the little frequent flyer.
The weekend just gone was spent in beautiful Barcelona. Justine, Zoe and I stayed in a hostel just off Las Ramblas, one of the main drags, so we were right in the heart of the city. Barcelona is vibrant and colourful, but at the same time intensely traditional, with a lot of religious history. Modernity is merging with the old, as new buildings go up on the waterfront - contrasting highly with the rest of the city's architecture. To use a cliche phrase, it was a veritable melting pot!
The highlight of Spain was definitely the food. While food in France is rather rich, laden with butter and cream, in Spain we found it to be fresh. There was a stronger focus on fruits and vegetables, and plenty of seafood and light meats. It made a nice change from restaurant menus in Lyon, where pork knuckle and beef cheeks are regular features.
We also loved the Gaudi architecture - I've never seen anything like it. In New Zealand we may have houses with big gardens and beaches on our doorsteps, but our buildings do not have the cultural history and richness you can find in Europe.
That said, although Barcelona fit the 'Europe' stereotype, with old - buildings and sweeping history, it did feel newer. The scale of the city is huge, and only growing. There are skyscrapers and modern buildings, an odd juxtaposition between past and future. Some of the changes can be put down to Barcelona hosting the Olympics in the 90s, such as the man-made beach with imported sand and palm trees.
If, like us, you have limited time in Barcelona, I'd recommend to make a checklist of all the places you want to see. The city is vast and sprawling - you won't just stumble upon all of the tourist sites. You will need to know where you are going. Be prepared to do a lot of walking!
Our checklist was reasonably typical of a short trip to Barcelona:
- Gaudi Architecture, in particular La Sagrada Familia
- Las Ramblas
- La Bouqeria (famous Spanish food market)
- Guell Park
This may not seem like a lot, but we truly felt we got a feel for the city in the short time we were there. Everyone seemed to be buzzing - you couldn't escape the bright colours and delicious foods of the Spanish. I'll be back!