It’s a slow six-hour train ride from Atlantic Bilbao to Mediterranean Barcelona. Things speed up a little once one has crossed the Cantabrian mountains out of the Basque Country and descended into the stunning green Ebro valley of La Rioja. Then there’s the strange grey-brown desert of the area around Zaragoza, and finally into the different, Mediterranean green of Catalunya.
We’d never been to Barcelona before – but we really fell in love with it, with its enticing combination of rich cultural life, extraordinary history, wonderful architectural heritage, Mediterranean climate (warm, warm, warm), fantastic setting (a seaside city with acres of beautiful beach, and mountains behind the city) and great food.
Not that we saw that much of the city, however. We stayed for one night only in a flat in the medieval old town (the ‘Ciutat Vella’) – in the area of Sant Pere, which is on the edge of the ‘Barri Gotic’, the very centre of the city. In a day and a half, we didn’t have time to do more than explore the (extensive) old town and the old port (‘Port Vell’), and wander along the nearby beaches of Barceloneta. But we saw enough to feel certain that this is a place we’d like to spend a lot more time in.
The Ciutat Vella has its touristy centre, of course, especially around the cathedral and the Picasso Museum, but Sant Pere, the area we were staying in, was a slice of authentic old town life, with its narrow medieval streets and a North African and Middle Eastern feel:
We will definitely be back.