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VOL. 132 | NO. 133 | Thursday, July 6, 2017

Wiedower

Lance Wiedower

Friendliness Drives Barcelona’s Attraction

LANCE WIEDOWER, Special to The Daily News

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Friendly. That’s my lasting impression of Barcelona. This northeastern Spain city, perched between the foothills of the Pyrenees and Mediterranean Sea a couple hours south of the French border, goes to the beat of its own Catalan drum. But every beat I encountered was a friendly one, and only cemented my love of this city.

The friendly vibe began with the first man we met, the customs agent who – as he stamped our passports – only wanted to talk about the Memphis Grizzlies.

Then, as our taxi driver was patient with my failed attempts to converse in Spanish, he maneuvered the car down a pedestrian-only street to get us as close as possible to the front door of our apartment tucked into the beautiful El Born neighborhood. I love New York, but I don’t see the cabbie doing that in Brooklyn.

Encountering friendly locals from the start always sets the right tone, especially when in a foreign destination.

So off we went to explore this capital of architectural achievement, made famous in part by the fantastic designs by the renowned Antoni Gaudi and his contemporaries. But it’s also the childhood home of Pablo Picasso, and we found the museum dedicated to his early and late years one of the best we’ve visited in Europe that’s focused on one artist.

Tapas bars are everywhere, and we stopped in our share as we walked the streets of El Born and the ancient Barri Gotic districts in the city center. It’s possible to research the best restaurants in a city before visiting, but there’s no need in Barcelona. Just head to El Born and pop in any of the spots that look inviting.

Tapas bars are affordable and easy; grab a plate and pick up whichever pintxos open-faced sandwiches or other items look appealing. Eat a few or a dozen, just remember to keep the toothpick. That’s how they know how much to charge at the end of your evening.

Barcelona is an easy city to walk. It has a metro, but we decided to just hail taxis when we wanted to go to farther-out neighborhoods.

Many of the larger streets and boulevards have pedestrian/cycle pathways that are well-marked and separated from traffic. We rented bikes and enjoyed a Sunday afternoon cycling several of the neighborhoods.

Barcelona has its share of museums, but we only visited the Picasso. In many ways, the streets are museums. That’s in large part thanks to Gaudi. It’s evident on the Block of Discord – a city block in the Eixample district that contains the most famous collection of modernist buildings.

And not to be missed is La Sagrada Familia, the Gaudi-designed church that has been in construction since 1892 and is expected to be finished over the next 15 years or so. The city is filled with architectural monuments, many of which are available for tour or can be marveled at from the outside.

If I ever return to Barcelona I think I’ll just live in a few tapas bars, enjoying amazing food, a cold glass of cava in hand and simply watch the day go by.

Lance Wiedower can be reached at tripsbylance.com.

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