Helene’s Pick - Vive España!

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Barcelona is one of the largest cities in the Catalan Region of Spain, which consists of the counties of Lleida, Barcelona, Tarragona, and Girona. A jumping-off point to Zaragoza and Madrid, as well as the Balearic Islands, it offers direct connections by train to Paris.

It was Barcelona, this port city and the playground of Picasso, Miró, Gaudi, and many other artists, painters, writers, politicians and Olympians, that I first visited in September of 2014. I’d always been told that I was going to love everything about it, and this city certainly did not disappoint.

A stroll down Barcelona’s Las Ramblas, a tree-lined pedestrian area, can help one to savor the true flavors of this town. Find a restaurant that serves authentic paella, tapas and sangria, and watch the crowds of tourists and locals mingle together in an undulating wave up and down this street as you listen to the sounds of the culture.

Take a tour on a hop-on hop-off bus. This will give you the best introduction to the various districts of Barcelona. From the Cuitat Vella to Barceloneta and Montjuic, to name a few. You’ll be amazed at their individual identities. And don’t miss a chance to see the still-under-construction La Sagrada Familia!
Zaragoza, a town just west of Barcelona and halfway to Madrid by train, is much less traveled by non-Europeans despite its rich Roman, Moorish and Christian history. A stop to see the remnants of a 6,000 seat Roman theater in Zaragoza’s city center is a must. Less-hurried and quaint, you really get the feeling you are in Spain when you visit this town.

Continue to Madrid by rail to soak in the Puerta del Sol, Mayor Square and the Royal Palace. Don’t forget to enjoy some food and drink at the Mercado de San Miguel. This place is always busy and you’ll find a number of tasty treats!

A rail journey back to Barcelona will leave you with a number of choices. Trains such as the France-Spain High Speed can travel from Barcelona to Paris in approximately six hours, less time than it takes to travel out to the Barcelona airport, board a flight, arrive and make your way into Paris’ city center. Plus, passing the Spanish/French boarder, I saw wild flamingos! The countryside is beautiful and there’s no easier way to travel between Barcelona and Paris. But before you leave Barcelona, consider visiting a few of the Balearic Islands! The ferries leave the Barcelona port and offer discounted service to those holding a Eurail pass covering Spain. These islands, Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza, and Formetera, are mostly visited by the Germans and the Brits. They boast a Mediterranean climate and a fusion of Catalan, Spanish and Mediterranean cuisines.

Take the time to enjoy the culture and the history of the mainland, while combining the relaxation and excitement of the islands! Vive España!

Helene, USA