One of our friends has just had a Big Birthday and we all decided to enjoy it in Barcelona. As well as providing a couple of days of much needed sunshine and warmth, it was a lovely way to celebrate the special day.

We spent the night before the flight at the airport hotel in Liverpool, avoiding the usual anxious rush down the M6. Next morning, a stroll across the road and we were ready to board.

Barcelona is a beautiful, funky city with something for everyone. Fans of Gaudi can see his work everywhere - not just the famous buildings but even lamp posts that he designed.
One of Gaudi's street lamps, in Pla├ža Reial
Not one of Gaudi's designs but still very beautiful

But there's a lot more to Barcelona than Gaudi and street lamps. The ancient churches - cavernous but surprisingly plain inside - didn't disappoint. One of the oddest was Sant Agusti's which after almost 300 years is still incomplete, largely due to Spain's turbulent history. It was set alight at least once and the cloisters were demolished before they were even finished.
Sant Agusti Church, still a work in progress

But today, what can be more relaxing than strolling around the gothic old town, enjoying little shops, architecture and street performers? We lost ourselves for several hours yet felt we had only scratched the surface.

We were somewhere with a different climate and there were reminders everywhere. Narrow streets with sheltered squares; plenty of palm trees, many with parakeets nesting in them; and beautiful orange trees, loaded with plump, ripe fruit. The locals might have still been wearing their winter jackets but for us 22 degrees was like a lovely summer's day!
Signs of a warmer climate: narrow streets...
sheltered squares ...

palm trees ...
 and ripe oranges, ready for picking
We found a great bar, 'Schilling' which served cold Estrella, good Rioja and superb tapas. What more do you need?
Schilling, Barcelona to a tee
Our hotel, on Rambla del Raval, was comfortable and overlooked a peaceful square with more palm trees and parakeets. Just five minutes away from the hubub of the more touristy areas, it was a perfect place to unwind and cool off.

All in all, a perfect couple of days and we definitely returned (to heavy rain and 8 degrees) with a spring in our step.