Buzzing Barcelona: Fly Vueling from Cardiff.Posted: January 4, 2012
Buzzing Barcelona: The Catalan city which will leave you in a spin
People will take more photos of you than of Barcelona,’ said the blurb for GoCar, a talking vehicle that can be rented either by the day or by the hour.
Perhaps. Certainly, this Postman Pat lookalike vehicle is an ingenious idea – but in Barcelona’s hectic traffic, I was nervous. But I need not have worried – guided by a trusty satnav, my friend and I were soon pootling along with the wind in our hair.
Not only does GoCar transport you around the city for £24 an hour, it provides a running commentary about the historic sites along the way. Boris take note.
Our route included going up the Montjuïc hill, to the Palau Nacional (National Palace), the site of the 1992 Olympics, and back down with magnificent views of the international port.
We were photographed a great deal. Crawling along past Las Ramblas, the city’s bustling boulevard, a portly American leapt out ferociously clicking. But where was this enthusiastic snapper later in the day when a man tried to steal my handbag?
I’d found a smart square to enjoy my lunch, and sitting on a bench, mouth full, I looked down to see a hand on my bag. The intrepid scoundrel had crawled under the bench to attempt his snatch. When I thwarted his efforts he just brushed the dust off his jeans and sauntered away.
We took peaceful refuge from the thieves and the afternoon sun in the wonderful Picasso Museum.
Opened in 1963, on Picasso’s request, the art is set out chronologically, showcasing the artist’s work from his ‘Training Years’ through to his ‘Last Years’.
I’m no Picasso expert but the museum was easy to navigate and the art unfailingly accessible.
Picasso lived in an edgy fin-de-siecle Barcelona and today the city retains an avant-garde feel.
It was George Orwell who, while working as a journalist in Barcelona reporting on the Civil War, wrote of Antoni Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia cathedral that the anarchists showed ‘bad taste in not blowing it up when they had the chance’.
Orwell might not have been a fan of Gaudi’s style, but the Sagrada epitomises Barcelona’s pioneering attitude to architecture.
To avoid the swarming tourists, Gaudi’s Parc Guell is best seen early in the morning or in the early evening. It’s a little way out of the centre, but well worth the effort and free to get in, too.
The Sagrada Familia and Casa Batllo have long queues and steep admission prices, so if you’re on a budget, you might want to choose to go inside one or the other.But both are impressive from the outside.
Admiring the Casa Batllo from the street (the chic boulevard, Passeig de Gracia) cross the road to see the mosaic roof in full — it’s shaped like a dragon’s back.
Shopping on the Passeig de Gracia is hard to resist and you’ll find all the familiar High Street names. Force yourself away from the chainstores and you’ll be rewarded with streets such as Riera Baixa, an engaging strip of vintage shops. Head down there on Saturday mornings for the market.
Lullaby is great for garish belts and statement sunglasses, while the neighbouring Lailo is a maze of Twenties dresses, theatrical costumes and original Fifities swimwear.
The famous La Boqueria, near the hotspot of Las Ramblas, is food emporium heaven. Glossy fruit is arranged in meticulous pyramids, and there’s every possible variety of cured ham. The further you burrow, the better the prices.
At night, nothing much happens until after 10pm. We began in the hip, artistic area of El Borne with huge strawberry daiquiris at buzzing bar La Luna.
In Barcelona, people do not stay in on a Friday evening. We danced the night away in Jamboree. Situated in Placa Reial, Jamboree is more tacky than flashy. Head upstairs for swing and jazz classics.
After three days in Catalonia’s vibrant capital, I was left feeling buoyant and inspired by the renowned architecture. How could Orwell have got it so wrong?