EXCLUSIVE | Three Gay Days: Barcelona Part Three
DAY 2: MARKETS AND MODERNISM
Begin your day at -- you guessed it -- Pla?a de Catalunya, and stroll up the Passeig de Gr?cia through the Eixample, enjoying some of the finest window shopping anywhere. Even with the stronger dollar, Spain can still be expensive, especially for clothes. Here you'll find upscale boutiques as well as in the chic mall Bulevard Rosa (Passeig de Gr?cia 53-55), an arcade with men's and women's fashions, shoes, leather goods, jewelry, and gifts. Nearby Rambla de Catalunya is also a paradise for shoppers (or window shoppers, depending on your budget); designer Antonio Mir?'s showcase, Groc (Rambla Catalunya 100), features trendy fashions; his outlet (Carrer Consell de Cent 349-351) has a great selection for women.
The Eixample is also home to a myriad of Modernist buildings, most notably those by the city's greatest architect, Antonio Gaud?. You'll first encounter Casa Batll? (Passeig de Gr?cia 43), with its fishscale-like roof tiles. The $16.50 entrance ticket to Gaud?'s La Pedrera (Passeig de Gr?cia 92) includes a tour, but the highlight is the rooftop of abstract chimneys, like an alien landscape, from which you can steal views of the Sagrada Familia (Pla?a Sagrada Familia; +34-93-455-0247), Gaud?'s unfinished church. A trip to the church is recommended, but as it is a work in progress, there is little to see inside.
For lunch, grab a quick bite to go at the Catalan version of McDonald's: Pans & Co., scattered throughout the city. Hip and spotless, they serve sandwiches, salads, and gazpacho. Take your sandwich and a cab up to Parc G?ell (Carrer Olot, up the giant escalator from Av. Hospital Militar;, Gaud?'s crowning creation, with its own phantasmagoric plaza (with a great view) and a spectacular entrance. Stroll the grounds, or just hang out and people-watch for the afternoon.
At 8 p.m., it's back to Punto BCN to put your finger on the pulse of the night's activities. Pop in for dinner at Castro Restaurant (C/ Casanova 85; +34-93-323-6784; 14-20 EUR) and enjoy fine food in a leather-bar atmosphere. While a popular hangout for locals in the gayborhood, the proprietor and staff are friendly to all. By now you've already met your circle of friends at Punto, so follow them to the event of the night wherever that may be.
Barring that, magazines with listings of gay bars, restaurants and other businesses, such as Shanguide and Nois, can often be found in bars and caf?s around town. A hip alternative is Atame (Consell de Cent, 257) on the Red Line, L3, a small-modern bar whose name translates to "Tie me up!" Located in the heart of Eixample, it draws mostly men, but everyone really is welcome.
DAY 3: GET HIGH!
For a change, do not start your day on the Pla?a de Catalunya (unless you're staying there); rather, hail a cab and get to Montju?c, a hill above the city with great views of the port. There you will find two parks, the Jardins Moss?n Costa i Llobera, with a large cactus and succulent collection, and Jardins Moss?n Cinto Verdaguer, with over 100,000 plants year-round. Don't miss the Fundaci? Joan Mir? (Parc de Montju?c; +34-93-329-1908), housing over 200 paintings and nearly as many sculptures by the 20th-century Catalan abstractionist. A highlight is Calder's "Fountain of Mercury" (1937) which recirculates five-and-a-half tons of mercury.
Lunch options are few in Montju?c, though the caf? at the Fundaci? Joan Mir? is not bad and fairly reasonably priced. You may want to pack in another sandwich from Pans & Co. Take the funicular up to the Castell de Montj?ic, the fortress perched atop the hill, for sweeping vistas of Barcelona and the coast. If you're still hankering for an outdoor ramble, descend to the Parc de la Ciutadella, the largest in the city, with tree-lined paths, an enormous fountain, a lake, and the Barcelona Zoo. Not within walking distance, but well worth a taxi ride or a trip on public transportation is Tibidabo, a mountain that offers the best view of the city.
If you're looking for a more strenuous workout than strolls in the park, Barcelona does offer some facilities. The two most popular gay gyms are Casanova (C/ Casanova 57; +34-93-323-7860), which many say is the city's best equipped, and Condal (C/ Espolsasacs 1; +34-93-301-9680) -- though the line between workout facility and bathhouse is a little thin, with Casanova now a full-on bathhouse with gym facilities.
Evening falls, and it's back to Punto for the nightly fix of drinks and party planning. For dinner, Citrus (El Passeig de Gracia 44; +34-93-487-2345; $8-18) is right down the street from La Pedrera and still within easy reach of the activities in the Gaixample. Situated on the second floor and boasting large windows, Citrus offers great views of the main street.
For a twist on the usual nightlife scene, take in the outr? drag shows at the glam, gold-encrusted caf?/theater Caf? Dietrich (C/ Consell de Cent 255; +34-93-451-7707). Shows are not regularly scheduled; call ahead or check local gay guides for information. Or, for something a little more down and dirty, check out Levi/leather bars New Chaps (Avinguda Diagonal 365; +34-93-215-5365), with porno and a sling area, and Balmes88 (C/Balmes 88; free entrance), a more recent competitor.
Another option is provided courtesy of Sweet Caf? (Casanova, 75; closed Mondays), a new addition to the Eixample area that's large, but still cozy, with live DJs, a dance floor, exhibitions from new artists, and film festivals. It's a hip place to visit before leaving this cultural yet very modern metropolis.