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October, 2004

Yes, it is possible to reach Barcelona from anywhere in Europe by train. If you are short on time however and would like a longer stay in this Gaudi-rich city by the sea, find a faster way to get there, because the time spent in the city Las Ramblas in Barcelonafar outweighs the money saved in transit. Trust me, after a 15 hour train ride, I know.

Finally pulling into legendary Barcelona, we headed directly from the Girona International Airport to our hostel smack in the center of Las Ramblas. Cutting a vertiable vein through an otherwise packed city center, Las Ramblas is the main pedestrian thoroughfare leading into the heart of the city. Noisy vehicle traffic is replaced by vocal merchants and outdoor cafes boasting a subtle Catalan charm. For anyone with an afternoon or early evening to kill, a stroll down Las Ramblas makes for a quintessentially Barcelonan experience.

For anyone who is not already familiar, Barcelona is synonymous with the architecture of the one and only Antonio Gaudi. A native of the Catalan region, Gaudi is renowned for his creatively flowing and overwhelmingly exuberant architecture. While Gaudi sites are sprinkled all over the city, my favorites of all of his most popular work are undeniably Parc Guell and La Sagrada Familia BarcelonaSagrada Familia.

While touristy, La Sagrada Familia (albeit incessantly under construction) is obviously recognizable as a glorious achievement from the moment you get off of the bus or metro. Massive spires shoot straight to the sky, while Banyan-esque roots stretch twisting down to the concrete Earth, seemingly holding the rocket-like structure from launching into the Spanish stratosphere. While climbing the twisting staircase inside is an adventure in itself, the views afforded once inside are really not worth the somewhat pricey cost of entry. Like I said, touristy. More to my liking was the expansive and fantastically funky Parc Geull.  Enjoyably spacious and littered with classic Gaudi works, the focal point is most likely the serpent-like park bench that colorfully twists its way along the top of the park, and is considered to be the longest park bench in the world. Aside from the trippy architecture, the view from the top of the park is absolutely stunning. Definitely a day to bring your camera.

Continuing with the usual tourist sites, another popular attraction is the Camp Nou Stadium, the home of the beloved FC Barcelona futbol club, and more notably the largest stadium of its kind in all of Europe, with a capacity of The Vagabond at Parc Guell, Barcelonajust under 100,000 spectators. While there was no game currently scheduled, there is a museum displaying all of the pertinent history and awards bestowed upon the storied club.

While many people think of Barcelona as such a fantastic beach destination set along the shores of the Mediterranean, the reality is that the beaches in Barcelona proper are average at best, and for real Mediterranean serenity your best bet is to  either head north or south out towards  either Sitges or Roses, where true Spanish sands and surf will leave you sun-kissed and hopelessly relaxed.

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