Barrio Gótico of Barcelona, Spain

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Barrio Gótico, Barcelona, Spain

Spicy, salty, vibrant. Oranges and yellows light up this striking Spanish square in the heart of Barcelona’Barrio Gótico as the afternoon draws to a close. Though it may be a winter’s day far from beach season, this period is actually the ideal time to explore the famed city with your lover, and no place is more magical or romantic than Barrio Gótico (though Gaudi’s works such as Casa Batlló, Casa Mila, and the Sagrada Famillia give it a run for its money!) While parts of the Gothic Quarter date back to the Middle Ages, a controversial paper released in 2011 purports the idea that many of the ‘old’ buildings were elaborated or rebuilt at the turn of the century or in the early 1900s with the ambition of augmenting tourism dollars and making the city more exciting for the 1929 International Exhibition. This may or may not be true, but in any case, let’s leave the theorising to the scientists and simply enjoy this beautiful neighbourhood hand-in-hand with your spouse or lover, because authentic or not, the winding labyrinth that is the Barrio Gótico is one of Barcelona’s most alluring neighbourhoods! (One caveat: along with Las Ramblas, it is one of the top hot-spots for crime. Be very aware of your surroundings, leave unneeded personal belongings at the hotel, and do not talk to anyone on the street no matter how lost they claim to be. This is one of the biggest pickpocket hotspots in Europe. That said, don’t let that ruin your chance for an amble in this wonderfully beautiful place!)

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Madrid, Spain

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Street performer in Madrid, Spain

While actual trees are less-than-numerous in Madrid, street-performers are on every corner–and sometimes, they dress up like trees! Unlike many countries where the vast majority of those on the street sit on the corner with a pitiful sign that begs for money, the majority of the buskers in Madrid and other Spanish cities sell (knockoff) products, create a performance, play music, or merely dress up in insane costumes for tourist photo-ops. No where else can you find so many of active buskers. Not only that, but the creativity of some of them is mind-blowing! This tree-man here is one example of many, and while he doesn’t do a whole lot more than stand there, as one walks down the main street to Puerta del Sol, your neck starts to hurt from all the swinging back and forth to stare at the interesting and fascinating costumes these people have created. Madrid (alongside Barcelona’s Las Ramblas) is surely a Museum of Truly Spectacular Buskers. And quite often, one has to see them to believe them!