The distinctive regional culture of Barcelona is largely due to geography and a plentitude of national pride and elitism. Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, one of Spain’s 17 semi-autonomous states. The regional language is Catalan, along with the national language of Castilian Spanish. There has long been pressure from the Catalonian government and nationalists to earn complete autonomy from Spain. Consequently, the exclusive culture can be difficult to adjust to and there is significant animosity towards foreigners around the main tourist street of Las Ramblas. To thoroughly enjoy the sweet life and gentle hospitality of Barcelona, leave this busy area and explore the many diverse districts, endless with possibility.
Café Life and Nightlife for the Night Owl
Barcelona is truly a city that never sleeps, particularly during the warm Mediterranean summers. Avoid standing out like a sore thumb by eating dinner when the locals do: after 10 p.m. It is common to see children, grandparents and the family dog gathering at the outdoor cafes at these hours when the day’s work is finished and time for friends and family has commenced. Since Barcelona hosted the Olympics in 1992, the city has been revamped with visitor friendly attractions such as the massive Olympic Village, a string of swanky restaurants, state-of-the-art nightclubs and boutiques along the beach. Most nightclubs do not get going until after 1 a.m. and club-goers typically wander out onto the beach around 5:30 to watch the sunrise over the Mediterranean.
A Modernista Mecca
The architectural wonders of Barcelona will keep even the most novice eye bewildered and intrigued. Antoni Gaudi decorated Barcelona with his treasures of modernism as a painter on a canvas. The grand boulevard of Passeig de Gracia is lined with elaborately adorned Casa Batllo and Casa Mila, both with the most intricate rooftops known to modern architecture. Arguably the most stunning of Gaudi’s work is the Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia. Each of the church’s facades are meticulously designed with different themes and styles combining nature with religion and the soaring towers topped with mosaic grapes are built around a conch-like coiled staircase that visitors may choose to take instead of the elevator. Another tribute to Barcelona’s artistic heritage is the Palau da la Musica Catalana. A view of the glass and mosaic inverted chandelier on the ceiling of the theater is alone worth the visit. Daily tours are offered in addition to the regularly held musical performances. Afterward, get lost in the tiny twisting passages of the surrounding historic Gothic Quarter.
Traveling Barcelona Right Not Your Weekend Visit
It is best to avoid traveling to Spain in August, when most of the locals (and most of Mediterranean Europe) take their vacations. Chances are that the restaurant you wanted to visit will be closed and museums will have extremely curtailed hours. August can also be uncomfortably hot.
Barcelona should be traveled with care and patience. The only disappointment visitors have is the inability to see all of the city’s landmarks and hidden corners in a realistic amount of time.
Costa Rica literally translates into “Rich Coast,” so named by Columbus for the gold necklaces worn by the native people when he arrived in the early 16th century. However misleading the name might have been for gold hunters, it appropriately describes Costa Rica’s copious coastline, which is an endless paradise for surfers, scuba divers and those in need of tranquil relaxation.
Costa Rica is also a bastion of political tranquility, which has historically marked the country as an attractive destination for Central and South American travelers. Not a single gun-shot was fired when Costa Rica earned its independence from the Spanish Empire in 1821. Democratic development progressed after independence and in 1949 Costa Rica become the first country in the world to abolish its army, setting a historic precedent for other democratic nations in the region.
Spider Monkey Around
Without a military budget, Costa Rica has had the luxury of allocating a considerable sum toward systems of wilderness conservation and cultural preservation. Over 25 percent of the nation’s territory, rich with biodiversity, is protected by national parks. While basking on the Caribbean shores, visit Tortuguero National Park to witness the most important nesting site of the endangered green turtle. If you are lucky, you may also get to see the giant leatherback turtle (the largest known turtle at an adult weight of 1,500 pounds!) nesting in the park’s sand. Gain some elevation and venture through temperate forests until you come to Chirripó National Park, which protects Costa Rica’s tallest peak. Scale the winding trails of mysterious cloud forests while spider monkeys swing from the trees and sloth lurk in the undergrowth as you get closer to the rainforests of Corcovado National Park along the Pacific Ocean. Observe jaguar roaming along the waters’ edge while over 360 species of bird rustle overhead. Nature surrounds you when you travel to Costa Rica.
If you’ve had your fill of all things wild, Costa Rica’s cities and towns will not relent on mesmerizing their visitors either. The capital city of San Jose is a fast-paced cosmopolitan playground and the beating heart of Costa Rican life. The remains of coffee baron mansions have been transformed into a splendid backdrop for boutique hotels and restaurants. The National Museum has a few of the nation’s mysterious stone spheres on display, the origin of which is still up for debate today. For an unbeatable resort experience, visit the Gulf of Papagayo along the northwest coast. From intimate hotels and cabanas to luxury resorts, these beautiful beaches are a prize view from any perspective when you travel to Costa Rica.
You should need no other reason to travel to Central America other than the quintessential natural beauty of Costa Rica. The backdrop of peace and all-around serenity make Costa Rica a true gem among the countries of this tropical region. For more information, visit www.cfares.com, your source for cheap airfare on the web.