Besides being a great actress, Elena is a good friend with whom we have lived beautiful and also tough moments. Although she was born in Barcelona, her heart has been spread over different parts of the world. However, she always returns to her hometown, which now rests in front of her. When she realizes of our presence, Elena deploys her most childish side, that one only known by her friends, opening her arms almost as Barcelona has already done. The reunion, surrounded by green trees and blue sea, extends into several minutes of emotions, laughter and memories.
From this moment, Elena becomes our guide and decides to continue the Gaudí route showing us the most universal example of the genius of the artist: the Sagrada Familia. Before leaving the park, however, she points with her finger a place for us undetermined in the mountain. There, among the vegetation, extends Mount Tibidabo, the highest peak crowned by a statue of Christ and an amusement park. If the views from Park Guell are stunning, from the roller coasters of that park they must be at least more fun.
And from one representative point to another. Through the underground of the city we get to the Rambla de Santa Monica, which culminates in a majestic statue of Christopher Columbus presiding over the Port of Barcelona. The term 'rambla' is the way that in Catalan (language spoken in this part of Spain) they translate the Arab 'ramla', which means a path of sand. This walk links the port, located next to Maremágnum and Barceloneta Beach, with the central Plaza Catalunya.
The real life of the city can be seen clearly in the Rambla, where thousands of people walk every day between flower and jewelry stalls, mimes and façades as beautiful as the one of the Liceo Theatre. This walk also marks the boundary between two of the most popular districts of Barcelona: Ciutat Vella and the Gothic Quarter. In the first one, on the left walking towards the Plaza de Catalunya, important places are located such as the Palacio Güell, one of the first examples of the architecture of Gaudi in the city, the Museum of Contemporary Art or the Boqueria Market, located in the same Rambla. La Boqueria and its fresh and colorful products have become a tourist attraction of the city. On that side is also El Raval, the multicultural area where different nationalities live together and where the famous Catalan rumba (music style) emerged. Passing the Raval, the streets continue to Montjuic neighborhood, where the 1992 Olympics were held next to the Plaza of Spain, with a fountain that offers shows with lights and colors at night at the foot of Las Arenas, a former bullring converted into a shopping center.
The Gothic Quarter is the historic center of Barcelona, its oldest part and the one that probably retains more charm within its narrow stone streets. Our route through this area starts at Sant Jaume Square taking Bisbe Street, which after a few minutes leave us between the beautiful San Felipe Neri Square on the left and the imposing Cathedral of Barcelona on the right. The temple was built during the 13th to 15th century on an old Romanesque cathedral. The impressive facade, however, was finished much later, in 1929. Behind the Cathedral, the almost imperceptible Paradis street hides a secret of the Gothic Quarter that goes unnoticed for many: the columns of what once was the Temple of Augustus in Roman times. Back to the Plaza Nueva where the Cathedral is located and walking a few steps we find the Santa Caterina Market, whose modernist and colorful ceiling keeps a hundred of food stalls, bars and trendy restaurants.
The streets behind Santa Caterina lead directly to the Picasso Museum, which houses, among other works of the great painter, Las Meninas. That area is also known as El Borne, with the Old Market, converted into a cultural center with archaeological sites and the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar, the beautiful Gothic church that inspired writer Ildefonso Falcones in his novel Cathedral of the Sea.
With the sweet taste of Catalan cream still on our lips, we go back to the streets and we continue through quick shortcuts that lead us to the gates of the Palau de la Música (Music Palace), designed by the architect Domènech i Montaner, representative of Catalan Modernism. Built between 1905 and 1908, its large glass walls, mosaics and stained glass make it flashy and showy. This is one Elena's favorite spots and, again with her hat, she takes a few minutes to admire the pink color of the building before going back to reality. A few steps from here, the Via Laietana ends at the well-known Plaza de Catalunya. This is where one of the most important avenues of the city starts, the Paseo de Gracia. In it, shops, boutiques, and large luxury brands share the spotlight with two new representatives of the Gaudi universe: Casa Batllo, with its colorful, curves and balconies shaped Carnival Venetian mask; and a little further the Casa Mila or La Pedrera, with a roof that represents those dream worlds in which we all lose ourselves sometimes. The most surreal Barcelona appears once again.
The rays of the sun that has accompanied us throughout the day seem to be slowly dying and its last shine reflects in the golden color of the horses that decorate the monumental fountain of the Ciudatella Park. This enclosure of centenary vegetation, lakes and beauty inspired by the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris shelters us as if it was an oasis from the noise of traffic and the asphalt of the city. It seems that the night is knocking at the door of Barcelona and with it so does the time to say goodbye. Forgetting the hat, Elena seems to pick up those few rays of light that the sun drops trying to illuminate again the city with a look that seems to us like a farewell. Finally, those memories that we will keep in our hearts will be pictures of our friend leading us across one of the most charming cities in the world.
Illustration: Aaron Mora (Aaron Mora Illustration), Espresso Fiorentino's illustrator.