Paella for one: Barcelona daz­zles when you’re trav­el­ing solo

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Valley Life - By COURT­NEY BONNELL

BARCELONA, Spain — They were on girls’ trips, guys’ trips, fam­ily va­ca­tions and hon­ey­moons.

They were on the train, shar­ing mas­sive plat­ters of seafood paella and packed into An­ton Gaudí’s mind-bend­ing ar­chi­tec­tural jew­els.

And then there was me. The solo fe­male trav­eler in Barcelona.

If you’re tak­ing a solo trip for the first time, a Euro­pean city like Barcelona is a good place to start. The city is dy­namic, the streets and cafes are al­ways packed, it’s safe to walk around at night and peo­ple mostly speak English.

Barcelona on your own means me­an­der­ing the Gothic Quar­ter’s nar­row streets or the Eix­am­ple neigh­bor­hood’s high-end stores and 19th cen­tury ar­chi­tec­ture at your speed. And no judg­ment when you stop for gelato or chur­ros and choco­late twice a day.

If you’re plan­ning a trip, be aware of the po­lit­i­cal con­flict that’s turned vi­o­lent at times in Cat­alo­nia’s cap­i­tal. Spain’s high­est court sen­tenced lead­ers of a Cat­alo­nian in­de­pen­dence move­ment to prison last month, set­ting off waves of protests. I was in the city the day the rul­ing came down and luck­ily only saw peace­ful pro­test­ers block­ing roads and ral­ly­ing with flags.

In roughly four days in Barcelona, here are some must-dos and need-to-knows for nav­i­gat­ing the city solo.

Eat­ing alone

The tough­est part about on-your-own jour­neys can be meal­time. Sit at the bar, where you can chat with the bar­tender and get tips from lo­cals or other tourists.

But don’t be scared away from Barcelona’s pa­tios and plazas. Cafés and bars — not the thump­ing-mu­sic, cruis­ing-for-sin­gles bars, but where most peo­ple grab tapas and wine — are ev­ery­where and bustling.

While tapas let you sam­ple del­i­ca­cies like cod cro­quettes and cala­mari, you don’t have to miss out on the paella that’s usu­ally for two or more: Chefs would make a solo serv­ing of the rice dish.

Save most of your ap­petite for Spain’s tra­di­tion­ally large lunch. The menú del día will give you three cour­ses and beer or wine for 10 to 20 euro.

Walk it out

You’ll now have plenty of fuel to hoof it 12 miles a day and truly breathe in the city. I took a train just once in Barcelona.

Many sights are blocks apart, in­clud­ing An­ton Gaudi’s iconic Casa Batlló and Casa Milà — his wavy, mo­saic-en­crusted mod­ernist build­ings on the bustling Pas­seig de Grà­cia shop­ping street.

It only takes 10 min­utes be­tween his mas­ter­piece, the un­fin­ished Basílica de Sagrada Família, and the un­miss­able Sant Pau Recinte Modernista, a work­ing hos­pi­tal un­til a decade ago that was de­signed by Gaudí’s teacher, Lluís Domènech I Mon­taner.

Break­ing down sight­see­ing

First, grab a SIM card at the air­port so you can Google the names of tapas and walk­ing in­struc­tions.

One day, start at Gaudí’s Park Güell and get ready to climb a hill. Part of the park is free — you can see his viaducts and gar­dens — but don’t skip the paid area. It has a large square lined with a col­or­ful smashed-tile bench and boasts views of the whole city.

As­so­ci­ated Press

A re­quired tour of the Palau de la Música Cata­lana’s Barcelona crescendo of col­or­ful stained glass and mo­saics is pricey but worth it, and you may even catch mu­si­cians prac­tic­ing.

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