Way back in 2006, Abby was living and working for an Architect in Barcelona right around the time I was finishing up school in Prague. Having already been to Prague together, we were both eager to get back to her old stomping grounds. Upon our long and overdue arrival at the port, we were greeted with a beautiful view of the entire city.

Barcelona is one of the great cities of the world and commanded our attention immediately. The first thing to strike us was the importance the city planners place on pedestrian travel. There is no need for a car in Barcelona. A moped, maybe. Bikes, rollerblades, longboard skateboards – most definitely! In fact, we found this place to be one giant playground for pedestrian travelers.

One way they accomplish this is beginning with a well laid out metro system. Most developed cities have these, but Barcelona has gone much further by concealing the automobile traffic by introducing wide walkways in the middle of the streets or hiding the car traffic altogether by sending it underground. This allows for trees to be planted everywhere. The result is so peaceful and certainly not what one expects from a big city. Car traffic while existent, seems to disappear. This effect cannot be overstated and all cities should adopt this principle of pedestrians first. Barcelona is an enormous city that feels like a park. I’m no city boy, but this is the first one I’d be happy to live in. We both would!

We stayed in a residential district and avoided many of the tourist spots to get a better feel of the city. (both of us had seen the main sites anyway) During our first night as we were walking home from dinner, we discovered the “La Festa de Gracia” in full effect in the neighborhoods. This is an annual tradition that brings different streets together and they decorate like you wouldn’t believe! At the culmination of the week, they have a big dinner for each street where all of the families come together at one table. Man o man, the decorations! Unbelievable creativity. Notice how they’re all made with recyclable materials.

The second night, we lucked out big time and scored some tickets to the Barcelona/Naples futbol match. A few things should be mentioned here. Abby and I both have been to many a sporting event, but nothing like this. The city descends upon their enormous stadium in force and by foot (no parking lots to speak of). Big deal, right? Well it creates a certain feeling as you head into the stadium and definitely when you leave that the city is truly coming together for something. The excitement surrounds the game before it even begins and well after it ends. Another thing is the game itself. Watching a futbol match in Barlenona is watching a nation’s greatest athletes at play. They have one sport and it’s easy to see why. I’ll be the first to say we have nothing like this back home and I’ve never been a big fan of soccer, until now. In fact, we anxiously watched every second of a 5-0 blowout just waiting for the next series of moves between the players. Messi (their star player and considered one of the best in the world) scored 2 goals and 1 assist in the first 20 minutes he was in. He may as well be the president of Barcelona. This event was awesome and definitely one of the highlights of our entire trip!

Speaking of trip, at this point our good friend reality has begun to settle in. The trip funds are drawing to a close and we are trying to figure out how to stretch every dollar as far as we can. Hmm.

Barcelona, we absolutely love you and will be back one day. For now, we must move on to less expensive pastures. To help, we found Rick Steves again in a book store. This one is on Spain and he’s got some great recommendations all along the Costa del Sol. Time to hop another train down south to Granada. This one’s an overnight train! Woohoo!