El Casal and Park Guell

Since the weather today was slightly sunny and warm, we decided to start the day at a park in the same town as our hostel, Horta.  Horta is actually about a 15 minute metro ride outside of Barcelona, and it’s a nice area if you want to stay in a quieter area.  One of the town’s major attractions is El Parc del Laberint d’Horta, Labyrinth Park of Horta, which is free every Wednesday and Sunday.  This park is actually a bit far from the main part of town, and we needed to take a bus plus walk another mile in order to get there.  Nonetheless, I would still recommend visiting if you have spare time on one of the free days.  Plus, it’s a great way to take a break from all the busy streets of Barcelona.

The foremost reason why we wanted to go to El Parc del Laberint was, well, to see the labyrinth.  We were afraid the labyrinth would be small, but it was actually decently sized.  There were lots of children running around and yelling to each other, but there were plenty of adults as well.  Seeing people of all ages navigate through and becoming frustrated made the experience more authentic.


The rest of the park is full of lush plants, bubbling streams, and gentle waterfalls.  There are plenty of places to picnic and just enjoy nature.


With plenty of time still left before lunch, we next went to Park Guell.  As with all the architectural marvels in Barcelona, Park Guell was constructed by Gaudí.  He incorporated a lot of Catalan and religious motifs into his design.  The park is a bit tedious to get to and I would highly suggest going up from the back.  The back side has escalators along the way – which save a lot of time – while the front path towards the main entrance is just a painful, uphill walk.  The park opens at 8 AM, and I would also suggest going early to avoid the major crowds.


The seats on the terrace also have beautiful mosaic tiling.  They’re unique because the tiles are broken pieces, creating a mix of colors and patterns.  You can also see a panoramic view of the city from the terrace.


One of the most famous parts of the park is the mosaic salamander.  You’ll see pictures and paintings of this guy in all the Barcelona souvenir shops, and my friend absolutely wanted a picture with it.  “No problem, I thought.”  What I didn’t know was that getting a picture would be a fierce battle.  You have to claim a seat next to the salamander and ignore all the other 20 tourists trying to get a good spot as well.  I tried starting a queue, but everyone just goes at it, unafraid to step into other people’s pictures.  You have to be quite shameless with the salamander.  Who knew that a mosaic reptile would create such a hostile environment?


After Park Guell, we went to to have lunch at El Casal, located near the Santa Maria del Mar church.  The restaurant has an inexpensive three-course lunch menu with a fancy flair.  Because we arrived at around 3 PM, though, a lot of the options were gone because they were running out of food.  I ordered from the lunch menu (€10), but my friend ended up just ordering á la carte.  For starters, I got the Vietnamese salad.  Bright and crisp, the salad was one of the few healthy things I had eaten in Barcelona.  Actually, was it the only healthy thing?  The sauce was good enough to mask the rocket, which is usually always too spicy for me to eat.


My friend ordered a tortilla española, which came with a side of bread with tomato sauce.  The tortilla was decent, nothing amazing, but the tomato bread was nice because it was toasted.


For the main, I got the steak, because it was the only option left.  The steak came with a casserole make with squashes and cheese as well as steamed pumpkin.  The meat was well-cooked, but I felt like it didn’t pair as well with the sides.  The pumpkin was unseasoned, and because the casserole was mushy as well, I felt like there were too many soft textures on the plate.  The presentation was pretty, though, and separately the components tasted good.


My friend ordered a sun-dried tomato, cheese, and spinach sandwich.  The combination isn’t anything revolutionary, but my friend appreciated the fact that a sharp cheese had been used.


For dessert, I opted for the banana pudding with raisins.  This resembled a warm bread pudding, and it was absolutely delicious.  The raisins added sweetness without making the dish overly sugary.


My friend ordered, as usual, a cappuccino to finish her meal.  She thought that the cappuccino at El Casal was the best of all the ones she tried in Barcelona.  This is no small feat, considering how many she tried.  Presentation wise, it certainly did look better than the rest.


After our meal, we headed over to the Barcelona Cathedral, which is free after 5 PM every day.  We had tried to go in once before but were denied because my friend had been wearing shorts.  We completely forgot that visitors to all religious institutions should be properly covered.

Inside the cathedral is the tomb of the patron saint of Barcelona, Saint Eulalia.  She was a young virgin who was tortured 13 different ways by the Romans because she refused to convert.  Each time, she survived, so in the end they decapitated her.  Further representing her purity, a dove flew out of her neck.


While walking through the Gothic neighborhood, we saw a man in a window of a gelato shop making what appeared to be a pancake.  Our eyes then widened when we saw him sandwich gelato inside.  It didn’t take us long to decide to get what he was making.  Upon entering the store, the employee immediately offered us a sample of a random flavor.  He let us try a few – even eating a few spoonfuls himself – before we decided to get the rice gelato.  For €3.50, we got the gelato-stuffed brioche; the method of making it reminded me of how taiyaki is made.  There’s nothing like a sweet treat to end our stay in Barcelona!


El Casal
Plaza Victor Balaguer 5
08003 Barcelona, Spain

Monday to Friday from 07:00 to 19:00

Gelaaati! Di Marco
Carrer de la Llibreteria, 7
08002 Barcelona, Spain

Mon-Sun 10:00 – 0:00


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s