Part 1 Of R29's Mystery Adventure: A Barcelona Photo Diary

So… we're off! We're deep in the middle of our very own mystery adventure courtesy of NEXTPEDITION from American Express Travel. True to form, the trip has been a complete surprise so far (we found out about our first destination — Barcelona! — just two days before we left). After scrambling to pack for the trip (as well stuffing a few miscellaneous pieces for our still-unknown second destination), we hopped onto a jet, threw back a few Bloody Marys, and found ourselves in Spain before sunrise. The following photo diary of the trip so far (featuring our global editor, Connie Wang) and our recommendations about where to eat, where to shop, and what to expect if you're gearing up for a NEXTPEDITION trip from American Express as well.
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Before leaving, we (Connie and her boyfriend and co-jet setter) received a travel console, which included sealed and dated envelopes containing transportation procedures for the following day and an electronic device outfitted with an interactive map, spot recommendations, and sight-seeing information. Here we are at the JFK airport for a little R&R before boarding.
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When we arrived, it was still early morning on a Sunday. Our hotel (the Barceló Raval) is located in El Raval district of Barcelona, smack dab in the middle of the medieval Barri Gòtic and the super-touristy La Rambla. The hotel itself looked like a gigantic, glowing coffee can!

Hotel Barceló Raval, Rambla Raval, 17, Barcelona, Spain; +34 933 20 14 90.
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Inside, it was purple (courtesy of colored rope lights that you couldn't turn off without plunging the room into darkness). Yes, this photo was taken without any filters.
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It turned out that our device was faulty, and we couldn't get the signal to work in Barcelona. After two replacement phones, a few headaches, and massive in-hotel Google mapping and screengrabbing, we finally got ours to work on the last day in Barcelona. American Express travel's customer service is ace though, so what could have been the Worst Thing, Ever, turned out to be just an inconvenient hiccup (that they promise was a fluke, and not a regular occurrence!). Here's a map we took of an afternoon we had planned out.
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But of course, nothing could really bum us out since we were in Barcelona.
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The first stop: Sagrada Familia. You wouldn't visit Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower or New York without at least glimpsing the Statue of Liberty, right? Gaudi's cathedral is a 100+-year work in progress, and looks like if Dr. Seuss turned Catholic and made a 500-foot-tall sandcastle. Basically, you have to go.

La Sagrada Familia; C/ Mallorca, 401, Barcelona, Spain; +34 932 07 30 31.
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This photo just begged for a filter. Indulge us, please.
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Food break. We stopped by tapas joint Quimet y Quimet for a bite. There are over 100 different tapas served here, all hand assembled by the savant behind the counter. Their specialties is the montadito – a sort of open-faced toast sandwich on which everything from foie gras, to canned clams, to truffles and cheeses is piled on. Vegetarians, look away — but for those of you with a taste for preserved, salty nibbles, this is a Mecca. The best part is that after eating and drinking more than your fill, your bill will end up being half of what you thought. We split a seafood plate, a mushroom plate, and a salmon montadito (along with a couple beers each) for 30 euros.

Quimet y Quimet, C/ Poeta Cabanyes, 25, Barcelona, Spain; ‪+34 934 42 31 42.‬
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The salmon, honey, and yogurt-topped montadito.
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As for shopping, Barcelona is slim pickin's. This is where high-street Spanish shops like Mango and Zara dominate, but boutiques are a little harder to come by. Though, we did fall in love with this little hole-in-the-wall by the Picasso museum, Doshaburi. Stocked with vintage Levi's, Jeremy Scott, Bernhard Wilhelm, as well as tons of Japanese and Belgian designers, this place is definitely worth visiting, even though it might take you awhile to find the entrance (Hint: It's an unmarked door next to the large store windows. Hit the buzzer, and a shopgirl will come a fetch you!)

Doshaburi, C/ Lledó, 4, Barcelona, Spain; ‪+34 933 19 96 29.‬
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A rad shirt with Anna, Karl, Alber, and more re-imagined as superheroes.
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For the sweater enthusiast, check out On Land for nubby knits in every pattern.

On Land, C/ Princesa, 25, Barcelona, Spain; +34 933 10 02 11.
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And those that love that wrinkly, droopy Euro look should find something to fall in love with at Miriam Ponsa.

Miriam Ponsa, C/ Princesa, 14, Barcelona, Spain; +34 932 95 55 62.
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Food break #2: Cal Pep. Get there early and stand in the queue, because the food will change your life. Once in, chat with the guys behind the counter about what you're into (in our case: seafood, seafood, and more seafood), and he'll whip up a meal of smaller plates that'll bowl you over. The ingredients are simple, the presentation is even simpler, and the price is way more affordable than the Michelin-rated restaurant down the street serving the same food.

Cal Pep, Plaça de les Olles, 8 (at Carrer del Bonaire) 08003 Barcelona, Spain; +34 933 10 79 61.
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We're bigger fans of digestible, smaller-scale museums (chalk it up to short attention spans), and Barcelona is perfect for just that. Miró, Picasso, and Dalí (with a museum just a short train ride away) each have their own spaces, and each is worth visiting.

Fundació Joan Miró, Parc de Montjuïc (at Avinguda de Miramar), Barcelona, Spain; +34 934 43 94 70.

Museo Picasso, Plaza de Picasso, 1 (at Calle de la Tahona), Barcelona, Spain; ‪+34 918 68 00 56.‬

Dalí Theatre and Museum, Pujada Castell, 28 (at Carrer de Canigó), 17600 Figueres, +34 972 67 75 00.
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On the last day, we made a pilgrimage to La Boqueria, a massive food market in the Ciutat Vella disctrict. The thing to do there is grab one of their freshly squeezed fruit juices. Do not, however, attempt to order a "green juice," as a fellow American tourist did. They'll give a kiwi juice instead and then make you feel crazy for asking them to blend some kale.

La Boqueria, Placa de Sant Josep (between Carrer de Jerusalem and La Rambla), Barcelona, Spain; ‪+34 934 12 64 62.‬
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After a few days of ham snacking in Barcelona, I swear I'm naming my firstborn Jamón.
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Said to be the oldest bar in Barcelona, Bar Marsella's specialty is absinthe, a favorite of regular patrons including Hemingway, Dali, Picasso, and Gaudi. Today, its clientele is a little touristy, but we couldn't resist. The fact that the only photo of the evening was this one of the ceiling should give you an idea of the time we had. Now, it's time to nurse our hangovers and head to our next destination... TO BE CONTINUED!

Bar Marsella, C/ Sant Pau, 65 (at Avinguda de la Catedral); ‪+34 934 42 72 63‬.