Spain’s heaven of the outré
Barcelona is Spain’s misfit child. Your first taste of this sun-baked city’s waywardness will come upon you the first time you hear Catalan spoken instead of Castilian (Spanish). The city’s unfinished church, La Sagrada Família (the Sacred Family), is further proof, and resembles a drip castle made with wet sand. Its designer, the iconoclastic artist Antoni Gaudí, left other marks on the city, such as his phantasmagorical, highly photographed Parc Guell. But of course, Gaudí was not Barcelona’s only artist. Picasso’s work can be found here too, from his art student sketches to his final works. Yet in a twist that is quintessentially Barcelonan, the inventive spirit of the city has most recently manifested itself in the highly creative cuisine bubbling out of the kitchens of Barcelona’s cutting-edge chefs. Enter these food laboratories and prepare to ingest foams, mousses, and delicious concoctions of every variety. Siestas are widely observed (stores being closed), and typical evenings begin in traditional fashion, which used to be a sunset stroll down La Rambla (which nowadays became more of a tourist activity). Meals are taken late, and the nightlife pounds on until sunrise. Barcelona’s unconventional vitality will test your conceptions of Spanish culture, which may be the best reason to go.