by Michael J. Meese
Contributing writer

Each year, thousands of Americans comb the tree-lined boulevards of Spain’s burgeoning seaside metropolis – Barcelona.

Joann Missey is one of the city’s countless visitors who enjoyed an intimate taste of Barcelona’s way of life from its national hotspots to its vivacious citizenry.

“I wanted my vacation to be somewhere tropical but which also had a city that could offer me some culture and entertainment,” Ms. Missey said about her first impression of the city. “It was a pleasant surprise to find Barcelona so rich in architecture and art.”

Barcelona is a city of pleasant contrasts. Aside from a flourishing industry, the city is acclaimed for being a lucrative center for art, architecture, history and education all maintained by an amiable population.

Barcelona’s neighborhoods nurture these qualities and the convictions that ensured their success. Neighborhoods, such as the Barri Gotic, reflect an affluent medieval past as a port of call reaching its influence throughout the Mediterranean; others, such as its business, education and shopping districts, wield their impressive modern architecture.

However, of all the city’s sights, it’s what runs through the heart of Barcelona that takes center stage – the Ramblas.

This colorful pedestrian thoroughfare is comprised of street artists and entertainers from petty to professional, as well as an assortment of animals for sale on the street from parakeets to lizards.

“My favorite place was the gothic section,” Ms. Missey said. “Walking through the dark, narrow cobblestone alleys literally transports you back in time as you look up at the medieval buildings and spires that loom overhead.”

Barcelona is the capitol of the region called Catalonia in northeastern Spain. It’s close to being a country within a country having its own identity set apart from that of the Spanish interior, and most importantly, its own language.

“I found the people to be extremely helpful but still a little more on the reserved side. Although some speak English, it is not as common as you would think,” Ms. Missey said. “Bringing a language book is a must.”

Barcelona is a center for arts, and that is no more apparent than the collection of museums highlighting the works of some of the world’s most spectacular artists to take to the canvas, such as Picasso and Dali.

But the city’s artistic side is not only confined to canvas, but is also seen in much of the city’s stunning architecture.

“Barcelona is alive with art — the people, museums and architecture,” Ms. Missey said. “I had the pleasure of seeing Picasso’s masterpieces, which he started at the mere age of 7 years.”

One of Barcelona’s star residents is the early 20th century architect Antoni Gaudi.
Many of his architectural feats can be seen in Barcelona. All are of a futuristic and colorful design, and some are more outrageous than others.

“His famous church, the Sagrada Familia, seemed to be a cross between a space station and sand castle. Many of his other buildings looked like melted boxes of colored wax giving the mortar a wavy design with odd shaped windows and balconies,” Ms. Missey said. “Even in all their oddity, these designs are quite beautiful.”

Barcelona is indeed a city of disparities, which makes it one of the prettiest cities in the European community.

Barcelona’s charismatic feats of urban renewal and industrial prominence coupled with a flair for ingenuity in its thinking and building stole the spotlight from metropolitan rivals that parade down Europe’s catwalk.

“In the days I was able to spend in Barcelona, I was enriched with things I already knew I loved, such as the warm and tropical climate and inexpensive food and drink,” Ms. Missey said. “However, I also walked away with a newfound love for art, architecture and the knowledge that I would be welcome again someday.”