Barcelona is one of my favorite cities in the world. I first went to the Catalunyan capital when I was 16 on a summer high school program. It was my very first trip without my parents and my first time in Europe. The travel bug bit me and I’ve been hooked ever since. I went for a second time on my post-college Eurotrip (the one that kicked off this very blog!) That trip was bittersweet. I was on a solo trip, which was in turns invigorating and isolating, and my Nana had just passed. Still, I managed to soak in the magic of the city and even happened to spend time with two college friends who were there at the same time. Serendipity!
This June, nearly a decade after my first voyage across the Atlantic, I returned with two of my best friends for what turned out to be my favorite trip yet. We spent five days in Barcelona and three in Ibiza beaching, eating, exploring, and drinking a whole lot of sangria. Here are a few highlights:
Translating to “jagged mountain” in Catalan, Montserrat is an idyllic region one hour outside of Barcelona and is home to a monastery, an art museum, a vocal school for boys, and the stunning basilica that houses the 800-year-old Black Madonna or La Moreneta, one of the most sacred Catholic relics in Catalunya. The area is also home to beautiful wineries, and we were able to taste some of Catlunya’s signature varietals at Oller del Mas. Fun fact: they also have donkeys as large as horses there.
Our street art tour
El Raval is an incredibly diverse neighborhood and our guide gave us an awesome and thorough overview of the history of the barri and of street art in Barcelona in general.
Comida y Bebidas
I love variety, so y’all know I was in heaven with the bounty of tapas. Our first night in Barcelona, we hit up Blai Street for a pintxos crawl. Pintxos are little “bites,” skewered on a toothpick and usually served on a piece of bread, that cost 1-2 euros each. You just peruse the bar, grab what you like, and drop the toothpicks in a provided glass for the server to count at the end of the meal. Other favorites were the paella at La Barca de Salamanca and the best tapas I’ve ever had in my life at 45 Millas in Ibiza. They were so good that we didn’t get any photos.
Beach Days in Ibiza
The water is so clear in Ibiza that it is like glass. We could see little silver fish swimming near the shore – no snorkel necessary. And on our last day we sat at the slightly hippy-dippy Asian fusion spot called Sunset Ashram and watched the most beautiful sunset I’ve seen in my life. Plus, they have amazing mojitos.
Dancing in Barcelona and Ibiza
The only thing I love more than sleep is dancing. Give me a few cocktails, some fun music, and a couple of wonderful friends, and I’m as happy as a clam. The Spanish don’t play with their partying. Since they start dinner at 9pm at the earliest, it’s only fitting that they stay out dancing until at least 5am. We had a blast club hopping in Barceloneta and saw David Guetta in Ibiza. I probably would have had more fun at the latter if I hadn’t overdone it at a pool party earlier that day, but anyway, it was quite the experience.
I would be remiss to travel and not see a show, so we went to the National Theatre of Catalunya and saw El Gran Mercado Del Mundo. I am ashamed to say A) I didn’t really understand what was happening and B) I nodded off for part of the play. I thought my friends didn’t notice but they called me out on it later. Such is life. Anyway, I’ll tell you about what I saw and then the information I gleaned by doing additional research and reading (some of) the play.
El Gran Mercado Del Mundo (which you can read here) is a 16th Century sacramental play by Pedro Calderón de la Barca. This adaptation opens with a golden winged woman swinging from side to side of the stage and occasionally kicking the onstage pianist in the head (for comedic effect, not due to poor stagecraft). The play centers on two brothers and their quest to prove their worthiness to their father. The other parts I caught on my own: they were vying for the love of a fair maiden, there was an awesome reveal mid-play of a beautiful spinning carnival set piece, there was a gorgeous drag queen, and some beautiful singing. One brother won the girl and his father’s love, and the other was cast out of the kingdom. Also, Jesus was there.
Here’s what I learned after the fact.
First of all, my Spanish is not strong enough to either watch or read Renaissance-era Spanish plays. In high school, I wrote essays in Spanish. Ahora, no seria posible. It would not be possible. One of my confirmed suspicions was that the play is written in verse. Beautiful? Sí. More difficult than prose? Claro que sí.
The bird lady turns out to be Fama, which directly translates to Fame but is closer to Pride in this case, it being a religious play and all. The two brothers are Buen Genio and Mal Genio. Genio can mean a variety of things, but I take it to mean “humor” or “temperament” rather than “genius” or “genie.” Good Humor and Bad Humor. Guess which one wins the day?
It shakes out to be a fairly cut-and-dry parable about good and evil, godliness and sinfulness, and good old Catholic guilt. The elements that made this production stand out to me were the ethereal music, the elaborate costuming, and the stunning set. Do we need a play like this in 2019? I’m not sure I can answer that. But it widened my horizons just a little bit more, which is what both travel and the arts are meant to do. I’m admittedly disappointed in my experience, but I got up, dusted the sleep from my eyes, and kept moving forward. There are more places and more plays.
And I can’t wait to plan my next trip.
Love and theatre,