Travel Writing: The Hills Have Gingerbread Houses in Barcelona, Spain.

 On our first day in Barcelona, my travel companion, Jackie, and I enjoyed coffee al fresco. We were seated in the shadow of an almost incomprehensively grand basilica known as the Sagrada Familia. Jackie was the first to explain to me that the scaffolding looming around the towers was actually the continuation of construction that had begun over a century ago. “It’s like watching the Great Pyramids while they’re being built,” she said in awe.

On our second day in Barcelona, Jackie and I hiked away from the massive monument in search of a viewpoint near the center of the sprawling city. The weather was exquisite, and the views were unheard of. I was shocked that there weren’t many tourists roaming here; but this was probably because the route to reach this mountaintop was through near-unmarked side streets. Spray-painted walls and dirt roads wound to the top, making the excursion even more of an adventure.

From our mountaintop, we ventured to a separate, more tourist-heavy location. Park Guell is an area seen on Pintrest boards and guidebooks when searching for “Barcelona.” This park was originally designed to be a residential area, erected by the famed Antoni Gaudi in the late 1800s. Gaudi’s architecture is all over the city, and it gave the most magical air to our four-day stay. The structures are like life-sized gingerbread houses. Walls of caramel-colored plaster appear to be drizzled with white icing by the hand of a giant, and carefully adorned with colorful ceramic mosaic tiles.

Due to excessive crowds, we were forced to buy tickets to Park Guell a few hours in advance. With the extra time, we roamed the side-streets into an area marked on the map as “Grazia.” A friend in Glasgow recommended this area to me; however we soon encountered just how seriously the city takes public holidays. Friday and Monday of Easter weekend is recognized as a public holiday in Spain and most of Europe. We walked around the Grazia area and found shop after shop closed up tight.

Cold and sunburned, we ducked into the first shop we found: a café/bar about the size of a bedroom. My mind whizzed through the scores of lucky instances over the past 48 hours that all culminated to this moment in a coffee bar, with the gaunt, dark haired barista with reading glasses and sharp features paired with a slight hunch most likely gained from the very reading he was doing at his place at the bar.

The city was massive, and what better way to see as much as possible than to rent bikes? A friendly shop owner that seemed to better fit a travel agency gave us everything we needed to follow the marked bike paths through the city towards the beach. I’m still patting myself on the back for not running over a single person in the streets- there were times when no matter how loudly we rang our little bike bells, the swarms of people seemed thicker than the chocolate crepe I ate that morning.

The luck flowed that day, as smoothly as our bikes wound around the city traffic. The streets were wide and accommodating to bikes, cars, and those on the footpaths. Trees lined every bike path in a canopy, their leaves glowing from the loyal rays of sunshine. We paused at the boardwalk after hours of exploring the 1992 Olympic arena. Jackie reached to pull out her wallet and I saw an expression that I knew all too well. Her heart dropped to the pit of her stomach. During the middle of our biking expedition, Jackie had taken off all of her rings to apply sunscreen. The rings must have fallen to the ground without her noticing. They were irreplaceable, she said- souvenirs from years of traveling.

Without blinking, we resolved to take the quickest route back to where we had paused hours before. A large road with a bike path right down the middle led us directly to the spot, and every single ring was waiting among the pigeons on the ground.

We thanked the pigeons for taking care of her rings while we were gone, and had a much-deserved lunch on the beach. It was the best paella dish that I had ever eaten, and whatever cuttlefish is, it’s now my favorite cozy-sounding fish.

[Michelle Rosinski – @its_michelle29]

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