July 5, 2013 8:30am CEST – renfe train to San Sebastián (Donostia)

Only day three and I can tell that this is going to be one remarkable vacation. I am so in love with Barcelona. I want to live here forever!

Flying in over the Mediterranean was breathtaking – beautiful blue water, sand, lots of ships and an active shipping port.

The flight was short and uneventful. The Spaniard next to me was able to piece together that I was going to Pamplona for San Fermín when I said I was going to Basque Country. He seemed concerned but had a smile on his face. His parting words were to enjoy the party, watch this year and run the next one. Our current plan is to watch the first day and run the second day. Same concept right?

I nailed public transportation and street navigation this time! In London, I forgot about my handy dandy offline maps CityMaps2Go on my iPhone and this fixed my navigation issues! This is a killer app when you take the time to enter landmarks (hotel, metro and train stations, landmarks and pinning places you want to go), especially when coupled with something like TripAdvisor City Guides.

I was literally blown away getting off the bus (Aerobus #A1 from the airport) in Plaça Catalunya! The plaza, with its fountains and surrounding Art Deco buildings, is stunning and was my first glimpse at what Barcelona has to offer. After playing tourist, I hopped on the Metro (L3 Green Line) to Liceu and made my way to the hotel.

A quick word on Hotel Rialto, the location is fantastic, the rooms were clean but very small (mine had a lonely, frosted window that had a view of three walls). I wasn’t planning on spending too much time there so in all honestly it was perfect for the price.

I got myself situated in the hotel around 9:30 and ventured out. I was famished, so made a rookie mistake of “OTing” (Over Tapas) at a single, trendy, but unremarkable, restaurant by the hotel. It did the job but in hind site I should of just grabbed a quick one or two tapas and just nosh at targets of opportunity as I wondered the city.

I have to say that Barcelona is remarkable at night … cracking with energy and dripping with history.

My two hour walk started by heading north on la Rambla. I loved the tree lined boulevard which is perfect for people watching … a guy in a monkey suit surprising people on the street … vendors selling fluorescent toy helicopters and flinging them are flung into the air … sprinklings of historical buildings like the Baroque style Betlem church.

I then started heading east as I as drawn in by the stunning church tower of the Santa Maria del Pi. It is here I had my second “aha moment” as my history major senses started tingling. I plunged into the twists and turns of the remarkable historic Barri Gòtic. I saved the a cathedral for another day (when it would be open) and wandered in here for an hour. Words can’t explain how I felt seeing remnants of the actual Roman walls that used protect the city (I admit to being a history nerd).

After this I made my way further east into the hip and trendy el Born. It was here that my energy tapped out. I settled into a glass or two of Rioja, at La Vinya del Senyor, and flirted with my English bartender Julie.

Well there you have it … I made it through my first night in Barcelona and still have my cell phone and wallet thanks to the precautionary tale shared by my friend Pete! Time for a little siesta!

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