Inner Circle

A weekend in Barcelona

Yeoh Siew Hoon on wiling away the hours Spanish-style

A weekend in Barcelona
The weather was kind. The sun shone, the air was cool and dry and there was always a fresh breeze, reminding us that we were in one of Europe’s great port cities.

I had some time to kill in between business commitments in Berlin and Madrid and I thought why not Barcelona?

Yes, why not Barcelona indeed? My recollections of this city, which I had visited twice before, are of a place where it’s easy to pass the time – so much to see, do, eat and drink – all the prerequisites for a great experience.

The weather was kind. The sun shone, the air was cool and dry and there was always a fresh breeze, reminding us that we were in one of Europe’s great port cities.

We picked up our rented car at the airport. It came with portable GPS – these gadgets have made it so easy to drive anywhere, particularly in Europe. We thought having our own set of wheels would give us the freedom and flexibility to get around the city over the two days.

But what was the first thing we did the Friday evening we arrived? We took a taxi into the city. We wanted to have a good night and not worry about listening to some machine instructing us to turn left, 250 metres, or re-calculate every wrong turn, which was inevitable.

We headed to a restaurant called 4Cats in the El Barri Gotic area. It’s quite a cute place. The bar is more relaxed, serving tapas and sangrias, while the restaurant is like a theatre, bursting with sunny colours, flowers and chandeliers.

It puts you in the mood to eat, drink and be merry, which we did. Lots. I recall in particular the ham (of course) and my grilled fish, which came with a sauce of onions and white wine. The food was passable, but the ambience more than made up for it.

After the must-have dessert of crèma catalana, we needed a walk. Barcelona is a great walking city with narrow streets and interesting nooks and crannies. We strolled along La Rambla, as every tourist should, which was cleaner and more orderly than the last time I visited. The streets were cleaned and workers cleared debris even after midnight.

The full moon capped a perfect first night in Barcelona.

 We took it easy the next day – a late breakfast and a slow drive through the city. It was surprisingly easy to drive around, thanks to Carlotta, our navigator, and the traffic was mostly light.

We took in Antoni Gaudi’s masterpieces. The one he didn’t complete, Sagrada Familia, was packed with tourists. We explored Park Guell, which he built to honour nature.

While guided tours were available, I preferred rambling on my own. I imagined what it would be like walking through a Stone Age park. The only thing missing are dinosaurs, but there’s always the Gaudi dragon guarding the entrance.

From the park, we drove down to the port area of Barceloneta. The shining sun brought many people to the beach, though only the wetsuit-clad surfers braved the water. Winter meant even the sturdy Spaniards gave it a miss, opting for the cafes and restaurants instead.

I like a culture that has its priorities right. We found a restaurant on the beach and sat on the patio, eating and drinking for at least four hours, mindful that our plans for the rest of the day were wrecked, yet completely indifferent. After all, travel is about being in the moment and enjoying every moment no matter what it brings.

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