City Trip - Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia 05/2023
In 2015, I visited the Catalan capital on the Mediterranean Sea for the first time and was already very impressed by Barcelona back then. The mix of beach, city, culture and food was quite unique. However, I hadn't taken a photographic look at the extraordinary buildings by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí i Cornet here, and I certainly didn't get to know many other things in the city.
I also saw on Instagram that there are seahorses on the Costa Brava. Because I'd never been diving in the Mediterranean before, I looked for a diving school in Barcelona https://www.barcelona-diving.com/en/ , got in touch with them and booked myself a place.
On top of that, Tim, a travel photographer I met in 2019 on my winning MERIAN trip, lives there.
So I decided to book another flight ticket to the Mediterranean coast to meet Tim again after four years, to let him show me the city as a photographer and to rediscover it photographically and also to take a closer look at the underwater world in the Mediterranean.
After work, I took the S-Bahn to the airport as usual. I went straight to the security check, as I had again only booked hand luggage, and then to the gate. It was very busy, probably because many people wanted to take advantage of the public holiday and bridge day.
We took off 30 minutes late and landed on Spanish soil almost two hours later. At the airport, I looked for the aerobus to the city centre. I booked a return ticket on the homepage https://www.barcelona-aerobus-tickets.com/de/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIyoCqos7-_gIVw4VoCR0JVAFSEAAYASAAEgJfsPD_BwE and about 20 minutes later I got off at "Plaça de Catalunya". Here, memories of my visit in 2015 came flooding back. I briefly orientated myself, looked at MapsMe and followed the route to my small hostal https://www.hostalexcellence.com, which is located in a narrow and quiet side street, but I didn't find the entrance at first because it was so inconspicuous. But after turning around in circles three times, I finally saw it. After the check-in was done, I moved into my room, took a quick look at my small balcony and then fell into bed, tired.
Tomorrow I start my photo tour through Barcelona and meet Tim. I'm really looking forward to that.
Day 1 Streetlife, Sightseeing and Reunion
Although the hostel is right in the centre, the night was very quiet and I woke up well rested. Unfortunately, there is only coffee, tea and water, but no breakfast. So I googled for a good café and set off. A few streets away I found the "Cafe Ciitizen" https://citizencafe.es, stopped in and had breakfast in peace.
I coordinated our meeting for today with Tim, and then went to the "Arc de Triomf", the main entrance gate for the 1888 World's Fair in Barcelona. Luckily, it wasn't too busy yet, so I was able to let off some steam and try my hand at photography. For example, I played with the sun and the shadow, but also tried out different perspectives.
After I had a few photos in the box, I looked for the next point I had already saved in MapsMe and came to the "Mercat de Santa Catalina", https://www.mercatdesantacatalina.com, a small covered market with fresh fish and fresh food.
But there wasn't too much going on here yet, so I decided to look around the Gothic quarter.
Among other things, I passed the "Placa de Sanrt Jaume", a square in the centre of the old town.
Every now and then I left one or the other shopping street and strolled through the small alleys until I stood on the "Plaça Reial" (Catalan for "Royal Square").
I continued along the famous "La Rambla", normally overcrowded with people, but on this morning it was really pleasant. Nevertheless, I didn't stay here long and went to another covered market, the "Mercat de Sant Joseph La BVoqueria" https://www.boqueria.barcelona. This one has an area of 2,588 square metres and the building is made of steel and glass. There was a lot going on here. I bought myself a delicious smoothie, strolled through the small streets and caught some beautiful perspectives and situations.
Via the "Plaça de Catalunya", my walk led me to the famous buildings of the architect Antoni Gaudí i Cornet. First I marvelled at the "Casa Batlló" and tried to capture it somehow photographically, which was not so easy. A little further on, I saw the Casa Milà, which was a little easier for me to photograph. Both very impressive buildings and exceptional, great architecture.
To meet Tim, I bought a metro ticket and went to the "Poblenou" district. This is a sprawling neighbourhood of converted factories, IT offices, studios and hip cafés and tapas bars along the Rambla. Tim picked me up at the arranged metro stop and showed me his studio nearby first. It's on the third floor, very bright and it was interesting to see where he works when he's not on a photo tour.
For lunch he invited me to his friend's place who runs a small portuguese restaurant. We also used the time to exchange ideas and talk about the past years. After lunch, he showed me his neighbourhood, told me something about it and we strolled along the Rambla towards the sea. Once there, I enjoyed the sea air and we walked along the promenade for a while until it was time for me to say goodbye, because I had booked a ticket for the "Sagrada Família" in advance.
Since it took too long by metro, Tim suggested I take a taxi, which is not expensive. So I arrived on time. There I had to go through a small security check. When I finally stood in the large, unique church, my breath caught for a moment. How beautiful it is! The ceilings, the light, the walls, no matter where I looked, it was just great.
At some point, my neck started to hurt from looking up all the time, so I slowly but leisurely made my way back to the hostel.Back in my room, I packed my dive gear, secured the photos and enjoyed a beer on my balcony.
I walked a good 18 km this first day in the city.
Day 2 Diving day and Raining Strettlife
Today there was no leisurely breakfast, only a cappuccino and a croissant "to go", because I was picked up punctually at 7.30 am by Antonio.
Shirina and Uki got in with me. Both are from China, but are currently studying in Glasgow. Anastassia was already sitting in the van. I started talking to her and she told me that she is actually from Odessa in the Ukraine, but has been living in Poland for a year. Luckily, she had found a job right away and her family is doing well.
We were a great group of girls. In contrast to the girls, I was the old, experienced rabbit today, because it was the first time for all three of us to dive.
After about an hour, we arrived in the town of Tossa de Mar on the Costa Brava. There we had a small breakfast and filled out a few forms.
Afterwards, Antonia handed me over to Sebastian, my dive guide for the day. Together we looked for the equipment. There were two diving suits for me: a 5mm thick one with a bonnet and a 3mm diving suit, my diving socks and diving shoes and gloves. When I asked if they were really serious, one of the dive centre staff answered: "Yes, of course, we only have a water temperature of 16 degrees at the moment". I understood and then listened obediently to the briefing.
There were two men in my group, Daniel and Sebastian. Again, I was the most experienced today with my 105 dives. I had never done that before. With another group, who were doing their open water course, we drove to the beach.
Once there, we all got ready and ran into the water with our heavy equipment. And yes, it was really cold and reminded me of diving in the Algarve.
The dive spot is called "Mar Menuda". The first five minutes I had to get used to the cool water, but then it was even pleasant in parts. Then, at about eight metres, I saw it: the seahorse. It was well camouflaged and not easy to spot, but the dive guides here know where to find which animals, at least most of the time.
And this is where my old OM-D E-M5 Mark II with the Olympus Digital 12-50 mm lens came into play. It was not an easy change for me, but I hoped for better quality photos. But after a few tries I got the hang of it and managed to get a few good shots of the seahorse.
We continued along the rocks until we reached 22 metres. Unfortunately, the visibility was only about eight metres today, but we saw two moray eels, a lobster, two crabs, a scopion fish and two plaice on our dive.
After a good 52 minutes we resurfaced. Almost at the top, there was a really strong current, so Sebastian, the dive guide, took me by the hand and pulled me along to the shore.
The way to the bank was long, because with equipment, wet clothes and the wind, it just felt heavy. It was actually only 150 metres.
The girls were beaming at me from afar, but they were also shivering. They loved their first dive. That made me very happy.
We all took a break together, drank water and ate some snacks. For a short while I thought about doing a second dive at all, as I was also really cold, but I really wanted to see the seahorses again.
So I jumped over my shadow and was lucky enough to have Marina, another instructor, all to myself. So off we went again into the cold water and down to the seahorses. We spent almost a quarter of an hour there. Unfortunately, at some point the switch from normal to macro didn't change, so I gave a signal and we dived some more. But after about 33 minutes we resurfaced.
Back at the dive centre we were all looking forward to a hot shower. When we were warm and clean again, I wrote my logbook, paid and Antonia drove us to a neighbouring village where we had a delicious three-course meal (salad, paella, chocolate cake).
On the way back to Barcelona we all slept and once there we said goodbye to each other and thanked Antonio.
After hanging up my wet clothes to dry, I saw that it was raining outside. I immediately decided to head out, because street photography in the rain is especially great. The reflections, the people with umbrellas.... I already had some great pictures in my head. But what I hadn't thought about: I only had white sneakers with me and no umbrella. But that didn't stop me from going out anyway. At a small stall I bought a peck for 5 €. It was quiet on La Rambla, hardly any people.
I went down to the harbour anyway. But there were only construction sites and the grey weather didn't exactly invite me to stroll along the promenade, so I walked through the small streets again.
Then I saw a stylish man with an umbrella from behind. As I walked past, I turned around and asked him if I could take his picture. We got to talking and spontaneously a small shooting took place in and in front of the boutique. I promised him I would send him the photos as soon as I had edited them and said goodbye.
At some point, my shoes looked so terrible that I considered just buying new ones. And as luck would have it: I saw some in a shop window that I liked straight away. I tried them on and the shoes were already bought.
Actually, I wanted to take photos until it got dark, but I felt a bit weak and also noticed a scratchy throat, so I went to the pharmacy to get some lozenges and then went to my room.
I reviewed my photos, thought about my route for tomorrow and went to bed early.
3. Day Last day
When I pushed aside the curtains in the morning and looked out, I saw blue sky and sunshine. Wonderful. I quickly got ready and walked to the café "Alsur Café" (insert homepage), which I had chosen for breakfast. There was a delicious selection. I decided on a fruit bowl and a cappuccino.
In the meantime, I looked on google to see if there was a spontaneous ticket for the "Park Guell", but unfortunately all tickets were sold out, even for tomorrow morning. I looked at the opening times, saw that it opens at 9.30 a.m., and decided to try my luck directly at the entrance. I took the metro for three stops and walked uphill for a quarter of an hour. Once there, there was nothing going on. The security said that there were no more tickets today, but I went to the counter anyway and asked. The gentleman behind the counter asked me for how many people, and when I said just for me, he said no problem. I paid €10 and showed my ticket at the entrance.
It was still quite empty and right at the beginning I saw the little green monk parakeets sitting relatively close in the trees at eye level. I took my 40-150 mm lens out of my backpack and photographed them.
But I was actually interested in the Gaudi architecture of the park. In the square called "The Greek Theatre", there were colourful, mosaic-decorated seats all around. There was also a great view of Barcelona and the "Casa del Guarda" as well as the "Laie Parc Güell".
Here I romped around photographically with different perspectives and also enjoyed the great view. To the side I went down to the "Pòrtic de la Bugadera" with an. impressive architecture. As there were hardly any crowds, I spent some time here taking nice pictures.
A little further down I came to the "Hypostyle Room". I couldn't get out of my amazement. Since the light and the sun's rays were particularly good at this time, I managed to take some great photos.
In the meantime, the crowds were pouring in, so that I could hardly make any progress on the dragon staircase and couldn't take any more photos.
Tim and I were supposed to meet at the Palo Alto market/festival around noon, but some things got in the way, so I walked to the Hospital de Sant Pau, which is one of the few places here in Barcelona that is not yet flooded with tourists. At least that's what I thought. Arriving there, there was nevertheless a very long queue in front of the entrance, and I decided to photograph it only from the outside. I'll save that for my next visit.
We continued on foot to the "Mercat dels Encants Vells", a very large flea market under a mirrored roof with stalls for furniture, clothes, antiques. I sent Tim my location and we spontaneously arranged to meet again, as he lives nearby.
He showed me two more small parks and in one of them we drank a beer and ate olives. Afterwards we walked to the "Parc de la Ciutadella" and spontaneously visited a child's birthday party. Well, rather his friend with whom Tim had studied photography in Barcelona. His daughter was celebrating today.
After I asked Tim for some photo and food tips, he spontaneously showed me his favourite district, "El Born", and also where I could eat delicious tapas tonight.
Afterwards, we said goodbye and I made my way back to the hostal. Because I was a bit tired and limp. But I will return to the neighbourhood tonight and spend my last evening there.
After I had rested a bit and packed everything for tomorrow's return flight, I set off again for the city centre. Tim recommended that I go to the "Unlimited Barcelona" https://www.unlimitedbarcelona.com. From there you have a 360-degree view of the city. I followed his advice. I paid 12 € on the spot, got a voucher for a drink and went up to the 20th floor. When I got to the top, I went straight to the bar and got a gin and tonic. Then I enjoyed the view and took a few photos. The only disadvantage is that you can only take photos through a pane of glass. During the day, that's certainly not a problem, but in the evening and at night it can be difficult because of the reflections.
For dinner, I followed Tim's second advice and went again to the "El Born" quarter and there to the "Euskal Etxea Taberna" tap bar https://www.euskaletxeataberna.com . There I got a table right at the entrance. I ordered a white wine "Txacoli", also recommended by Tim, and got some tapas from the bar. At the end of the meal, the skewers are added up and the bill is settled. All were delicious and fresh.
As I was about to pay, two Austrian couples from Vienna asked if there was still room. They sat down and I struck up a conversation with them. Well, paying and moving on didn't work out, because they invited me for two more glasses of wine. It was a great round and we told each other about our experiences in Barcelona. Sometimes you just have to put the camera away and enjoy the evening without taking pictures. It was great to spend the last evening like this.
I gave them a few more tips and later walked through the neighbourhood and then back to the hostal.
Before I left for the airport today, I took a short walk through the Barri Gòtic and El Born neighbourhoods to the Parc de la Ciutadella.
It was still quiet there, but I noticed all the tents and homeless people. When I arrived at the "Cascada del Parc de la Ciutadella", I was lucky not to find any people, so I could take pictures here in peace.
At some point my stomach growled and I looked for a small, fine breakfast café https://milkbarcelona.com in the Barri Gòtic district.
Strengthened, I strolled back up the streets, got my suitcase from the hostal and took the Aerobus back to the airport.
Once there, I got a message that my flight was delayed, so I found a comfortable place to sit, put my feet up and started sorting through my photos.
Goodbye Barcelona, see you next time!