Topher’s Trip To Barcelona

Cate’s team at work is spread out over the world, so when they decided to do a team meetup they decided on the relatively central location of Barcelona, Spain. Originally we were told that while i obviously could travel to Spain if I wanted to, it would be better if I didn’t stay with Cate, so that she could be more focused on team time. So while Cate is a character in this story for sure, it’s really my story of that trip.

The weird part is at the end, so make sure you get down there.

We flew together without event and landed in Barcelona. We got on a bus that took us to downtown where we met my friend Maja (pronounced My-uh), who was staying in Barcelona for several months. Cate grabbed her luggage and headed toward her hotel, and Maja and I started walking toward my Airbnb. I deliberately picked something in Barrio Gótico, the old part of town, because I love history. As it turns out Maja’s Airbnb was only 100 meters from mine, so it was easy for her to find my place. I stayed generally here.

A map with an arrow pointing at a place near the harbor.

Note the proximity to the water. I couldn’t see it, but it didn’t take long to walk there.

My Airbnb

I chose a place that was shared. I expected the host and her partner to be the people I was sharing with, and I turned out to be 25% correct. The host’s partner was her boyfriend, and he lived somewhere else. I found out there was a second room she was letting out also. As it turned out, none of this was even the slightest issue. My host was lovely, and several other people rotated through the other room while I was there, and they were all lovely as well.

I stayed down this street:

A four story building with a street going under it. The street is Pasage De La Paz

My room was small, but perfect for one person. It didn’t have a doorknob on the inside, only the lock, so I had to use the key as a doorknob every time I wanted to go out. It had a little balcony that I thought would be worthless, but in the end it was lovely to have the doors open and the air coming in.

Photo across my bed looking out the balcony

Barcelona Adventures

I won’t go into super detail on everything we did, because we did a LOT. I’ll show some pictures and highlights.

I typically met Maja someplace for breakfast around 9. Then we would walk the city and look at stuff. Here’s some of that stuff.

Barcelona street.  It's about 8 feet wide, enough for 1 car and 1 person walking next to it.
This is a pretty typical Barcelona street in the old quarter. It’s about wide enough for one car and one or maybe two people next to it. Typically when a car drove down it, the people just squished up against the walls.
An outdoor cafe with people sitting at tables.
Nearly every restaurant had outdoor seating, and very few people sat indoors. The streets and plazas were filled with places like this, and you could just walk up, sit down, and someone would come to take your order.
Ancient stone wall, with the base of a round tower.
The Romans founded Barcelona, and they built a wall around the city. The wall is still there, though it cuts through the middle of the city now. The image below is also part of the wall.
A brick wall with a large arch in it, connected to a large square tower.
This little walkway was on the third floor of my building. It simply connects the two buildings. I love how elaborate it is.

Barcelona Cathedral

Below are some images from inside the Barcelona Cathedral in Barrio Gótico. The top left is a grave that was right in the middle of the hall. There were seven or eight different graves under the hall.

St. Josep Market

We also visited St. Josep Market, which has basically everything. It’s roofed, but the sides are open, so it feels fresh like an open air market, but you don’t get wet on rainy days.

Antoni Gaudí is the most famous architect to come out of Barcelona, and he designed many things. Here’s a house he did (Casa Milá), as well as the boring house next to it.

Small, common street
The street between my place and Maja’s. There’s a GREAT breakfast place just around that corner on the left.
Small common street
This is just a random street. They’re pretty much all like this. Narrow, often green, weird turns. Cars and people share somehow.
Ancient stone tower lit up at night
This tower is part of the original Roman wall. It’s just right there in the street.

La Sagrada Familia

I also toured La Sagrada Familia, a cathedral begun in the 1800’s and still under construction. It should be done only two years from now! Here are some pictures I took:

Bars

We went to several bars and pubs, some of them very fancy. One was Dr Stravinsky, the first two images in the gallery below. That was maybe my favorite. The other two photos I can’t remember the name of the place, but the owner was the abr tender, and he hand crafted all the cocktail glasses as well as al lthe containers for ingredients.

Dr. Stravinsky also had a cool system of bubbling water in glass all through the bar.

Park Güell

We spent a large part of a day at Park Güell, a very cool, very large park on the big hill outside of town.

A Sobering Memory

As we walked through the city we came to a place where the street ended at a square, and it was blocked off. The square was relatively small, maybe 50 feet square, and there were maybe 20 kids playing in there. Some tables, balls, etc. The walls were quite old stone, maybe 1000 years old. One wall was very scarred, and Maja told me that during the Spanish civil war a bomb had fallen into this play yard during play time at the school. Dozens of children died.

We came back later when the kids were inside and the barriers had been removed, and it was simply a normal square in the street again. It was very moving to touch the shredded stone, and remember the voices of the children playing.

Cool Restaurant

About 50 feet from my AirBnB, and precisely between mine and Maja’s was this cool restaurant. As per normal, most of the seating was outside, but this place had some seating that was half in and half out. The front of the building had big garage style doors, and when they were open there was a bench, so people could sit facing each other with a small table between them. When it was time to close, they simply pulled them inside and closed the door. Here is a view of both used and unused.

You could sit facing each other, or inside, or outside.

This place had the very best pancakes I have ever had in my entire life.

Getting Home

So several days before it was time to leave I went to a WordPress meetup. Cate was there, Maja was there, a bunch of people were there. Many of the people there got Covid. Cate did. Maja and I did not. That meant I was free to keep seeing the city, but Cate couldn’t go home until she tested negative.

I also had to test negative from a government testing facility, but that was easy, since I didn’t have it.

So the day came, and away I went. The plan was to fly home to Grand Rapids, spend a night in my own bed, and the pick up the keys to our new apartment the next morning. That didn’t happen.

I flew from Barcelona to Atlanta, Georgia as my first leg. When I got there I get a text from the girls. They had been feeling pretty terrible for a few days so they tested and they had Covid too. I couldn’t go home.

I landed in Grand Rapids at midnight and got a ride to the hotel at the corner of 28th and Patterson, for those that know the area. I took of my clothes, climbed into bed, slept 8 hours, got out of bed, put my clothes on and checked out.

I went directly to the new apartment, got the keys and walked in. I loved it. It was great. It was EMPTY. You can see it here.

I went to the house and the girls had put some things in the driveway for me, like an air mattress and a sleeping bag. I had plenty of clothes already, and the apartment has a washer and dryer.

They stood on the deck, sick, lonely, stressed from caring for a new dog and I stood in the driveway and we cried together.

The IKEA fairy showed up the next day and with it came a bed and couch and some other stuff. I put that all together and started moving some stuff over from the house, as much as the girls could help me get to the driveway without contamination.

Cate spent an extra 9 days in Spain getting better. She stayed with her sick co-workers and her work was paying, so it wasn’t as painful as it could have been. I’ll let her tell her part of the story.

That’s my story.

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