House of Bones
Bicycles, beaches and Gaudi’s House of Bones - Barcelona, Spain
My first real glance of Barcelona came at the end of a tall escalator ride out of Diagonal metro station and, even in the dark, there was no masking the fact that this city is exceptionally beautiful. Beyond the busy economic hub and bustling shopping streets, Barcelona is a maze of exquisite gothic buildings, jumbled market stalls and plush greenery, cocooned by twisting coastline and pretty sailboats.
And speaking of plush greenery, it’s not just the abundance of solar panels or the Bus d’Hidrogen that make Barcelona one of the most eco-friendly cities in Europe. They also have an impressive recycling structure and their beaches are pristine, thanks to a daily clean-up system in peak seasons. Barcelona even integrates a scheme similar to Boris Bikes called Bicing, although at the moment it’s only available for residents.
So, in my quest to embrace the sustainable side of Barcelona I visited Bike Rentals Barcelona and hired a bike. You can pick one up for the entire day for around €25-30, and there is a surprisingly wide choice of bikes from folding to fixed gear. But what I loved most about this company is that they will drop the bike off to wherever you are so you won’t waste half your day hunting for a rental shop.
Barcelona offers some of the most fantastic bike lanes I have ever experienced in Europe too, with wide cycle lanes divided from the roads by strips of shady trees.
I hopped on my bicycle, popped my bag in the basket and embarked upon my city tour. As it was my first visit to Barcelona, I did what most tourists do and attempted to cram as much Gaudi into my trip as possible. During his career Antonio Gaudi established a warped, almost dreamlike architectural style that set him aside from others designers as the frontrunner of the Spanish Art Nouveau movement.
I spent the day touring the many revamped Gothic creations of Gaudi, running my fingers along the magnificent interior walls of the Sagrada Familia and basking in the sunshine on the longest bench in the world at Park Guell. On the route home we took a few accidental wrong turns which resulted in arriving at Casa Batlo (The House of Bones) just as it was beginning to get dark. This was a blessing in disguise as the blushing pastel shade lights and twisting curves of the walls looked even better glowing against the muddy sky. If you’d feel slightly more confident cycling within a group, then try out one of the wonderful Barcelona Half-Day Bike Tours or the truly enchanting Sunset Bike Tour – both are fantastic ways to see this charming city without the fuss of finding your own way.
For food, I’d recommend Juicy Jones, but don’t be fooled by the garish hippy decor! Although the walls look like they’d be perfectly at home in children’s playground, it’s actually a wonderfully chilled restaurant. This vegan-friendly venue is open from early morning until midnight every single day so, whether it’s a morning smoothie or a late-night lasagne you’re after, Juicy Jones has you covered. Although many of your conversations can and most probably will eventually pertain to the walls, the sandwiches are too delicious to pass by. It’s also very reasonably priced, but make sure you bring cash, as there are no card machines inside.
One final thing that I will say of Barcelona (and actually largely everywhere I visit outside of the UK) is that always remember the pace of life is markedly slower. So instead of constantly fretting about a late train or moaning about how long your cappuccino is taking, just relax, float along and embrace the calm.
Emily Rycroft writes for Global Cool.