by Maureen M. Byrne
I’m losing weight in Barcelona.
It’s not for lack of good food…gosh no! In a city of fresh market vegetables and sweet, juicy fresh fruit? Of seafood that was wiggling half an hour before you brought it to your mouth? Of tempting tapas and sangrias at happy hour? Streets where every third shop window tantalizes with delicate pastries, cream-filled or chocolate-smothered?
No, it’s not the food.
After hours hunched at the computer, stringing words together, it’s a physical need and pleasure to stride out in afternoon sunshine along wide, tree-lined streets back dropped with blue Mediterranean sky.
I’m losing weight because this delectable city is all eye candy, and the best way to absorb it is walk, walk, walk. You can’t get the whole impression in photos—the trick is to keep moving, marveling, filling your sight with elaborate wrought iron gates and fences and balconies, gothic arches, bigger than life statues and bejeweled buildings. Let hundreds of lovely images roll over your retina and tuck themselves into the Spanish shelf in your mental library. When you are back home, you can close your eyes, murmur “Barcelona…” over a glass of Sangre de Toro and run it all back on your personal memory screen.
Avinguda Diagonal starts in the north-west and bisects nearly the entire city at the angle you might suppose. It’s worth a few hours of your time to lace up good shoes and take it from top to bottom. Its entire length is an adrenaline-rich parade of rippling Spanish conversation, outdoor café tables, majestic architecture, splashing fountains, lush green gardens and everywhere homage paid to the satisfactions of elegant city living. Traffic roundabouts have sky-reaching structures of pillars, towers, columns and statues. Boulevards stay green, gardenias and cyclamen flaunt their blooms outside florist shops, and everywhere bend and arch those languorous palms that remind you you’re not in Kansas anymore.
This is Barcelona…in November, December, January.
Walking is respected in this city where the mild weather makes foot travel agreeable all year. Green pedestrian lights are generously long and walkers get as much space as vehicles. On the central, tourist-filled Ramblas, cars crawl through one lane each way, while pedestrians wander the wide marble lanes. How can you tire when each new street has more visual delights luring you on? Nearing the end of Diagonal, a right turn on any street will lead you to the ocean. Watch creamy waves stroke the beach as you enjoy fresh seafood and wine. You have a metro ticket in your wallet, and after dinner and a stroll on the sand, the busses and underground will bring you quickly back to your bed.
After many years living in the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, I have wonderful memories of day-long hikes to the tops of mountains, where 360 views of surrounding peaks were breathtaking. City walking offers a different kind of rich experience. You can’t get the cumulative impression by hopping off the underground at the main tourist attractions. Jump into your Nikes and walk yourself into a love affair with Barcelona.
If You Go
With a little help from patio heaters, many Barcelona restaurants offer year-round outdoor dining.
As you wander, fuel up indoors or out at any bar café on your route: have a beer or wine and a bocadillo: a fresh, crusty baguette rubbed with tomato and filled with your choice of sweet or salty Iberian ham, sausage, cheese or turkey.
For lingering over exquisite seafood and the great expanses of sea and sand, here are three places on the beach by the famous Barceloneta:
Shoko Restaurant and Lounge Club has two menus, Japanese and western.
36 Paseo Marítimo de la Barceloneta
93 225 92 00 34 605 92 39 58
Passseig Maítim de la Barceloneta
300 meters from the Hotel Arts.
Fresh seafood plates from 12.5 to 37.5 Euros
93 221 08 10
93 749 62 77
Paseo Maritima de la Barceloneta
200 m from Hospital del Mar
93 224 07 07
If you are enjoying the narrow cobbled streets of the old centre and don’t want to leave to eat, look for Taller de Tapas in Plaza Sant Josep. Inside you find an attractive stone ambiance and delectable seafood at tapa prices.
Plaza Sant Josep Oriol 9 (Plaza del Pi)
93 301 80 20
To view more of Jeff Nesanelis’s stunning photography, check out his Flickr page.
Maureen M. Byrne is currently living in Mataró, a gorgeous beach town in Catalunya, Spain. When she first came to Spain, she lived in Barcelona and spent much of her time seeing the city on foot. Now that she lives right on the ocean, she spends her time walking along the Mediterranean to the other beautiful beaches. She will be in Spain until June, then to England for the summer and on to Shanghai, China