“Everyone agreed to this, and that was how the adventure began.” C.S. Lewis
“Fancy a SoulStrolling journey with me?” I asked my eldest 25 year old daughter about 7 months ago. “Absolutely,” was her reply. Spain was her request: Barcelona, our first destination. I adore travel (not so much the jet-lag) the planning, packing, wandering, exploring, savoring new and different cultures and language, food, museum discoveries, even the ups and downs of occasionally getting lost, unexpected weather shifts…
In Barcelona we ate well, got drenched in an unexpected morning downpour, celebrated mother’s day in sunshine on the beach, navigated and explored the city on bikes with Fat Tire Bike Tours, climbed the hill to Parc Güell, visited Museu Picasso and watched in awe as late afternoon sunlight flooded the interior of the Sagrada Familia.
Jet-lag can be rough flying from Seattle, WA to Europe. Through my travels abroad I have discovered that immediately getting myself out for a stroll is helpful for resetting my internal clock.
Phil Cousineau writes, in The Art of Pilgrimage, “Unless you are feeling shattered or ill, try not to rest too soon, as it can throw your rhythm off for several days. Instead, take a brief walk. … It allows time for your ‘soul to catch up.’ It helps you get your bearings…”
It also helps when the sun is shining, which it was, so off we strolled. Our apartment (airbnb.com) was in a great location, El Born neighborhood: narrow streets, abundant coffee shops and restaurants, Santa Caterina Market, Jaume 1 metro line, and a 15 – 20 minute walk to La Rambla, Plaça Reial, and Port Vell.
Even with the sunshine, jet-lag hit us both pretty hard around 4 pm Barcelona time. A nap was required. I have discovered that sometimes, even with my best set intentions of staying up until a ‘normal’ bed time, I’ve just got to get some sleep. The difficult part, forcing myself to get up after an hour. My alarm clanged into my dreaming state – must get up rolled through my brain. After a shower and change of clothes, I was off.
I explored the neighborhood some more: turning down cobbled streets, meandering my way past churches, statues, taking note of fun looking shops, opening my senses to the variety of languages, street musicians, art, fragrant smells and sun light on my face.
Being the first night of our Spain adventure, we dined earlier than the ‘usual’ Barcelona time of 10 pm. Hungry and tired we walked to Flax and Kale (my daughter is vegan) around 8 pm. Crunchy fresh salads was what our stomachs craved. So many delicious choices.
One SoulStrolling practice is to approach travel in a non-frantic way. I set an intention of what I’d like to see/visit/explore but then allow my soul to ponder and guide my path.
Some of this unfolds with the rhythm that we decided worked for us: waking around 8:30 – 9 am, heading out for coffee and breakfast (or breakfast in), walking and wandering for the morning (our first morning we scheduled a bike tour at 11 am), lunch when we got hungry (around 1 pm), exploring and wandering some more (sometimes this involved a museum visit, stopping in at shops that called our name) then back to our apartment by 4 pm to rest, reflect, slow down.
We would then head out again around 7 – 8 pm to explore some more, stop for tapas, sip cava and eventually savor dinner. My favorite part of all of this: one on one time with my daughter. I loved having time to ask her questions, listen, laugh, linger over meals, stop for hot chocolate and churros (just because), sip Sangria, wander into shops…
Trying new foods, exploring restaurants and not cooking, are part of why I enjoy traveling. It was fun discovering places in Barcelona that fit our culinary desires:
El Xampanyet– this fast paced, hopping tapas bar has some great vegetarian and vegan options. Doors open at 7 pm and there’s usually a line. Staff was super friendly and helpful.
Santa Caterina Market – lovely covered market space with all kinds of produce, fish, bread and a couple of different restaurants and cafe spaces that have vegetarian options.
La Fábrica Empanadas – super tasty empanadas with vegan, vegetarian, meat, poultry and fish options. Eat in or take out. Delicious!
Cat Bar – vegan burger bar with craft brews and super tasty spicy patates braves.
Satan’s Coffee Corner – excellent coffee as well as vegan breakfast options: chia pudding and oatmeal. Also non vegan tasty breakfast and pastry choices.
Black Lab Brewery – by Port Vell, great outdoor seating, fun people watching, tasty craft brews as well as vegan, vegetarian, fish and meat options.
Vegetalia Born – Vegetarian and vegan restaurant bordering the square. Open windows which provide enjoyable people watching. Excellent salads and other menu options. Desserts looked beautiful but we were too full.
Bubó Born – Known for their exquisite and tasty desserts, they also serve tapas outdoors by Santa Maria church. We savored tapas, sangria, cava, and shared dessert. Fun people watching, good service.
Rasoterra – Favorite and best meal in Barcelona. Exquisite presentation, delicious food, vegan and vegetarian, friendly service.
Barcelona surprised me with her: art, beauty, quiet amidst the busy city, people’s kindness, history and open space.
“When you travel, you find yourself alone in a different way, more attentive now to the self you bring along…” John O’Donahue, To Bless the Space Between Us, For the Traveler.
What do you notice about yourself when you travel?