Barcelona, Spain is like Vancouver, British Columbia –millions of tourists pour into each city every year. After four days, we still had not exhausted its rich treasure chest of sights and experiences. Inevitably visitors end up crossing or on its main pedestrian street, La Rambla.
It was my first time in Spain whereas for Jack, it was his fourth time. We arrived just a few days before Catalan’s national holiday. La Rambla was the first street I strolled about in Barcelona.
La Rambla only has one lane of cars are allowed on either side of a very wide pedestrian boulevard. It is one of several long street spines which cuts diagonally across downtown Barcelona through different architectural layers of the city’s long, proud history and neighbourhoods.
Like most tourists and locals who work downtown, you often end up on or crossing the Rambla enroute to your destination. The pedestrian thoroughfare has mini-plazas with street vendors, buskers with shops and services. It is always milling with people all the time during the day, any day and into the evening. There is a subway stop or two along the Rambla, as well as major transit bus stops at intersections.
Part of Barcelona’s identity is tied to the La Rambla. It is not like the Champs des L’Elysses in Paris, where still a large part is devoted to fast car lanes. Instead, imagine taking a downtown major street for Yonge St. in Toronto (which actually extends 20 km. north into the suburbs from Lake Ontario), or Robson St. for several kilometres in Vancouver and make all of it car-free to allow streams of people to overtake the pavement.
La Rambla might be annoying to folks who hate crowds and tourism, but such key streets in a major city, are part of daily economic and human dynamic. There were many different visual sensations of art, architecture, history, food and social interaction. Our hotel was 1 block away from La Ramblas. Daily we wandered into the Rambla not just to see layers of
history, but to literally get to other places just a few blocks away –Boqueria Market, major cathedrals of medieval vintage, other historic plazas with fantastic cafes and restaurants where red wine and coffee was ubiquitous.
Barcelona city as part of the Catalan province, has seen violence over centuries and struggle for independence from Spain. The Rambla was one of the featured areas in 2017, where there were local protests for Catalan independence –later quashed.
So let me give you a flavour of what we saw during our brief sojourn in Barcelona, on the Ramblas and near by. We gave up on cycling in this area because there was so much to see and absorb slowly on foot the vitality of history, culture and people. Our bikes were left in our hotel room.
So we went merged even for a short time, into the life, craziness and passion of Barcelona.