Hola From Barcelona: Settling in (in Gracia)

Over a week in Barcelona, we settled in like a “local.” Though we’ll never be considered Spaniards, it’s nice to immerse ourselves, which is why we’ve done a whole lot of playing instead of working during the first week. Our new flat sits on a pedestrian street near the famous big clock tower of a Catalan-speaking neighborhood, Gracia. With orange trees lining the sidewalk, brushed up against shops, it is obvious we are in a sunnier place. Though it’s raining at the moment — and it sure does pour fat, heavy droplets when it does — the streets are abnormally quiet. It’s clear when rain takes over people don’t like it and stay inside. Some brave enough to go outside, latch onto huge umbrellas as though rain could melt them away like the Wicked Witch of the West. I don’t blame them. Who wants to get drenched? Lucky for us, our host provided us with one enormous umbrella that comes in handy for these rainy days.

Gracia and Barcelona

In the 1800s, Gracia and Barcelona used to be divided cities with nothing in between them. Now combined, the whole city of Barcelona is still a small place. Gracia is a district of Barcelona, and it is one of the most popular and sought out neighborhoods. Unlike the touristy sections like La Rambla and El Gotic, Gracia is populated with locals more than tourists. The last time we visited we only sampled a sliver of this neighborhood. Now that we’re living in it, we realize we like it better than the other areas of town.

What we appreciate is the fact that Barcelona is pedestrian-friendly. It is such a small city that it’s easy to walk everywhere. There is no need for us to take metro here. We literally walk everywhere. From Gracia to the beach, it’s 2.5 miles. That’s the longest we have to walk anywhere. From our neighborhood to the main city center, it’s only 1 mile. Otherwise, Gracia has all the shopping, restaurants, groceries, and essentials we need within a closer distance.

The “old men club” playing bocce, or bocci.
We played this game before many years back with a good friend Nate, and it’s pretty fun.

La Torre del Reloj

The clock tower looms over Plaça de la Vila de Gracia. On a sunny day, the charming square is lively. You’ll find mostly locals sitting around sipping wine or espressos in front of cafes. It gathers the neighborhood together, where you’ll witness even the local kids playing. As for the clock tower, the bell rings mechanically all day long. It rings once for quarter past, twice at half past and so on.

Vegan and Grocery in Gracia

Our flat is in the best spot for us. We live less than a 5-minute walk from an all organic store, Veritas, which has everything for us. They have a great selection of organic produce that’s fresh and stocked daily. Spain leads Europe in organic farming, so most of what is available are local. If you have a chance to try the local produce here during a visit, do so. I don’t know why, probably because of the soil conditions, but you’ll notice everything tastes different. The kale, broccoli, strawberries, and oranges all taste drastically different than local produce from elsewhere.

Across the street from Veritas is a smaller organic health shop we visit for specialties. And not too far are two other small organic shops and the public market, Mercat de L’abaceria Central. This local market is like the famous Boqueria in La Rambla where meat, seafood, nuts, and produce are sold, though it’s stationed with more meat than produce. Unlike Boqueria, L’abaceria has one organic produce stand, but we still prefer shopping at Veritas instead.

As for vegan eats and dining, Gracia has plenty for us. When we don’t want to venture out to city center, we have some of our favorites in the neighborhood: Quinoa Bar Vegetaria, La Besneta and Dolce Pizza and Los Veganos. And there are still a couple of other options we have not yet tried.

Quinoa Bar Vegetaria

The Quinoa Bar is not new to us. We ate here on our first visit and enjoyed it. We had no idea we would be living so close to it and were pleasantly surprised on our arrival. This little, vegetarian/vegan restaurant has low prices, but good quality food. It is a favorite of ours for their burgers. They make quinoa based patties that change frequently. One day we went and got quinoa and black beans. Another day it was quinoa and beetroot. Whatever it is, the burger is simple and delicious. It’s just the quinoa patty, topped with greens, mustard, pickle, and ketchup. The sesame buns are pretty delicious as well.

La Besneta

La Besneta means the great-grandchildren in Catalan. This cute, organic and all vegan bakery is run by a young couple. They are the great-grandchildren of Argentinan immigrants, and the baked goods are family recipes that turned vegan. Newly opened for a year and a half, it’s the first vegan bakery in all of Barcelona. Living so close to this bakery brings out the naughtiness in us. We can’t resist the yummy treats. Already with four visits, we decided to take a break for a few days. However, I intend to try every single item before we leave Barcelona!

Binge Outs at La Besneta

Nick and I shared all of these goodies below. His favorite is the small, round chocolate cake with frosting. Mine is the same, as well as the red velvet cupcake. I look forward to trying a slice of the red velvet cake later on.

Top Picture: First visit — red velvet cupcakes and chocolate muffin
Bottom Picture: Second visit — Top, gluten-free chocolate orange cookie; Bottom left, an Argentinian cookie; Bottom right, round chocolate cake

Top Picture: Third visit — Top, orange muffin; Bottom left, another round chocolate cake; Bottom right, chocolate cupcake
Bottom Picture: Fourth visit — Top, classic chocolate chip cookie; Bottom left, lemon cake; Bottom right, dark forest cake

As you can see, we binged a bit!

Nearby Landmarks

Barcelona is known for having a decent amount of Antonio Gaudí’s work. Two of his famous designs are La Sagrada Familia and Casa Mila, which happens to be close to us. We had the opportunity to visit both places previously but seeing these buildings again is still astonishing. We love Gaudí’s work, and I think it is one of the main draws to Barcelona.

Casa Mila

La Sagrada Familia is magnificent in size and looks, but it’s still a work-in-progress since 1882, estimating to be finished in 2026. We last visited in 2013, but on a more recent visit, we noticed the new additions to the structure.

This dark brown section is the older section of the structure.

They were still working on this 3 years ago. It seems the ones uncovered are the completed ones.

This whole section is completely new to us.

Perhaps in 10 years when La Sagrada is completed, we may make a special visit just to see the finished structure.

Park Guell is another one of Gaudí’s creation that is nearby, which we will visit when it’s sunny again and share soon.

Culture: People and Language

The culture in Garcia (and all of Barcelona) is very laid-back. People enjoy their wine, tapas, and cured meats. And they love having a big lunch break during the day. Shops don’t open too early, and owners close their shops down during the day from 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm. Gracia is pretty quiet during these hours. And if you’re walking around, you’ll notice a lot of shops are indeed closed.

Dinner also starts later here. The earliest people eat at is 8 pm. Typical dinner hours are from 8:30 pm to 11:30 pm. Restaurants in city center start dinner earlier for tourists, and you can find some restaurants that open all day as well.

As for language, both Spanish and Catalan are spoken. In Gracia, Catalan is spoken more than Spanish; however, Spanish is excepted and understood. I’ve taken Spanish six years in school, and I’m glad to put it to use here, even though I’m not that great. Currently, I’m over 40% fluent in Duolingo, and I seem to pick up words easily. My communication is better than our time in France. I have an easier time with Spanish, but I clearly have an American accent. I guess it’s okay since people seem to understand what I’m saying. For some reason when I spoke French, my pronunciation was good (according to several French locals), but I lacked in fluency. Before our leave in April, I plan on being more fluent as I’m enjoying my daily Spanish lessons.

The Flat

So far our flat in Gracia is our favorite home abroad in terms of design, space, comfort, privacy, and location. We love it. Our host is great, and the amenities of our place are superb. We love everything about the space, except for our front door that stands right next to the street. We love that our front entrance is private, but the doors to homes here are iron doors which don’t seal up completely. This is a problem for us because the pollution of cigarettes and exhaust seeps in. Luckily, we fixed this problem by using tape to seal up the door while we’re home. And we’re grateful this works.

Entrance and Living Room (and Nick’s workspace)

The kitchen, a small patio, and my workspace.

Upstairs: Bedroom and main bathroom

Upstairs: Gym, or workout area

We appreciate the laid-back vibe in Barcelona. The pace is much nicer than London, and we love the architecture here. Because we’ve seen most of Barcelona on our last visit, our goal is to visit all the places we haven’t yet seen, which aren’t too many. Our main goal is to simply blend in and get outside of Barcelona to explore other parts of Spain.

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7 thoughts on “Hola From Barcelona: Settling in (in Gracia)

  1. Hola Angie and Nick!
    Glad to hear that you settle in Barcelona. So many places to observe and to appreciate the architecture work from Antoni Gaudí! Magnificent La Sagrada and Park Guell were two of our favorite when visited in summer 2013. And the scrumptious pastry, the delicious prosciutto (sorry!) available in every corner store…

    We look forward to seeing more photos from you. Attend a professional soccer game if you can.
    Gracias!

  2. Hi Tony! Good to hear from you! We saw most of Barcelona on our first visit in 2013 as well. We’re just looking for a local experience this time, and we’re hoping to outside of Barcelona. Glad you guys enjoyed your time here. We’ll definitely watch a game if it’s available while we’re here, but I don’t think it will be.
    Hope all is well!

  3. Pingback: Escalivada, a Traditional Catalan Dish | LivingOutsideTheBox

  4. wow…your place looks great…and so does your new neighborhood…and all the vegan and organic spots…looking forward to more of your barcelona posts…you are inspiring me to go back to that great city which i have not been to since the 1992 summer olympics…and i’m certain that you and nick are happy with the warmer, sunnier weather…enjoy!

      • i really appreciate the invite…but my 2017 travel plans to japan, the u.k. and nyc have already been made so i won’t be going to barcelona til 2018…your posts have totally inspired me to go back to barcelona (keep the posts coming!)and i think i will add warsaw and krakow to a 2018 european adventure….i just got back from a 10 day trip to havana, cuba…which is now on my top 10 favorite international cities list…

      • Ooh, Japan! We’re interested in visiting Warsaw and Krakow too. Maybe we’ll meet you there if we’re in the area of the time of your visit. Cuba sounds great!

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