Verdict: Barça 10 Gaudí 10
Seeing Barcelona in two days with two teens was as much a challenge as an adventure, writes
It had been hectic: two days to discover Barcelona with two teenagers who had no idea about the city except Gaudí, soccer and pickpockets. It was not nearly enough time to see everything, but we gave it our best shot.
Travelling with teenagers is different. It means impulse. The hotel pool is never too cold. It’s never too late for anything, ever. It means ice cream at midnight, sleeping through sunrise and a high, jumpy energy that runs and runs. It’s zero tolerance for small, fact-based museums – “That’s just a 10-minute Wikipedia browse, Mam!” – but endless time to wander the labyrinth of childlike art in the Fundació Joan Miró.
It also means Miró ranks equally with the giant interactive Apple store on Catalunya Square, or the narrow gothic alleyways near the Picasso museum, full of little cake shops, goths and grannies. It’s high energy, indiscriminate and endless fun. And so is Barcelona, so they made a good match.
The random, modern street art and oranges growing on pavement trees amused the girl, while the boy kept busy staring at ludicrously expensive sports cars prowling the streets, hoping they contained Barça players.
A city centre walk is full of surprises: modernista buildings like hallucinations in the middle of a staid street, all colour, glass, and soft shapes. La Padrera is the famous one, Gaudí’s last residential project is a curvy and gorgeous apartment building in warm stone. It’s well worth a detour to admire its rippling balconies and melted metal railings, sitting there on a corner at the top of a designer shopping street like an afterthought. There are, however, hundreds of buildings around the city showing a Gaudí influence: mosaic dragon-skin roofs, twisted metal detail, care taken in the appearance of things.
As two-thirds of our travelling party were teenagers, architecture was not top of our list, it was but Camp Nou, home of Barcelona FC. The boy is a Real Madrid fan, making this enemy territory, but that didn’t deter him. The place is a temple, and the slogan, “more than a club”, seems true in the way it’s true of Munster, say.
I start a lecture on Catalan identity, but no, I’m told, it’s just about the fans. The place is single-minded. It even smells like a sports shop, rubbery and clean. There are unexpected touches such as the tiny chapel just off the players’ tunnel, which must be a drop of calm on intense match days.
Las Ramblas, the popular pedestrian street with tons of local colour, was another big hit. The human statues at the port end are creepily authentic in their dull metal paint. There are street artists and scam artists, vendors of crafts and fake designer gear. There are lots of cafes too, though it’s not really a good place to eat.
A better option if you’re feeling peckish is the big indoor market, Mercat St Josep de la Boqueria, half way along the street. It sells exotic juices, punnets of mixed berries, Iranian pistachios, artisanal chocolate, fried fish and chips.
In the afternoon, you can pick up raw prawns and take them to one of the tiny beer stalls where the bartender will grill them for you while you perch on a high stool with a cool drink and watch the world go by.