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Barcelona is the largest and most exciting port city in the Mediterranean. It basks in a
nest of hills in the northeast corner of Spain, with its back to Madrid and its eyes on the sea that gave it, in parts, a glorious past. Formal, mercantile, medieval - the city's past reverberates in the dark canyons of the old town and in the vast dockyards that today form the maritime museum. Add to this a creativity of spirit that was responsible for some of the finest Romanesque art in the world as well as the great 19th-century modernista buildings of Gaudí and others, and you arrive at a dazzling mix of old and new, a place that never lacks the courage of its convictions. Reticence and shyness are strangers here.