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My friends Theresa and Jesse were in Barcelona, Jesse for work and Theresa for vacation. Since Barcelona is a three-hour, relatively inexpensive train ride away from Valencia, I got a chance to visit them for a couple of days. Barcelona is an order of magnitude larger than Valencia, and is smaller than Madrid. Before this becomes a crazy word problem, let me lay it out like this: Madrid > Barcelona > Valencia. However, the feel of each of these cities is entirely different.

Madrid is like many other big cities in Europe, with apartments and busy hubs of activity throughout the city. Barcelona shares many of these same characteristics, but there is a pace in Barcelona that tends to make me feel a little frazzled. The number of cars and scooters, the number of tourist sites, and the sheer number of tourists themselves give me a sensation of a boiling pot within the city. Add the heat of Spain and the humidity of France, and you just have to be prepared to be sweaty during the summer.

Barcelona definitely has its own charms, though. Some of the plazas and the Sagrada Familia cathedral are all spectacular. We had a great time seeing the inside of the cathedral, which is stunningly different than any other European church I have visited. Like Valencia, much of life is lived outside, and it’s easy to leave the “tourist track” to find a much more local atmosphere. And sangria. Lots of sangria.

We were able to climb up to Parc de Montjuïc, which provides a great view of the city, as well as serving as the entrance to the National Museum of Catalunya. No, we did not go in at that time, but it was a real treat to see the surroundings from a long-distance perspective!

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That’s right, gentle readers: a HAM CONE. Thanks, Theresa, for looking as excited as I imagine some people are about this pork-laden treat.DSCN5438 copy