Travel Tips Part 15: Barcelona, Spain

You’re travelling to Spain; a land of culture, food, music and wonderful architecture. On the train from the peak of Spain to Barcelona, you are stuck for one hour and a half with an Australian family from Queensland. You begin by chatting with the husband and wife, before their hellish 3 year old son pipes up. What starts out to be adorable banter between you three, soon turns into an hour and a half of loud, piercing chats with a spoilt child. Whenever his parents ask him to kindly keep his voice down, the little brute resembling Damien from The Omen, would lash out his fists at his parents, and tell them to be quiet. The experience further reinforces your objection to motherhood.

Having opted to not explore the South of France, you and Mik are both excited to finally be in Spain. The weather is a sunny 20 degrees, the sky is blue, and you finally feel like you’re on a real holiday. First of all; Barcelona’s central train station is open, clean and cool – a stark contrast to the dark, stinking train station at Paris. You buy a 3-day ticket for the underground and begin your journey to your hostel – once you arrive you feel instantly at home in a large youth hostel equipped with friendly staff, computers, and a common room covered in beanbags. You are shown to your room before you spend a penny. You’re gone not a minute and Mik has managed to start talking to someone – his name is Nick from Sydney and is traveling to Spain on exchange – he also conveniently speaks Spanish. You decide to exploit this talent by spending the rest of the day tearing up Barcelona.

You take a breezy 10 minute walk to the breath-taking Sagrada Familia, but before you enter the cathedral you stop for homemade gelato. You order a triple scoop (in a pot – gotta watch ya weight) of berries, honey and coconut. Afterwards, you walk around the enormous building taking photos and getting lost in the astounding sculpture and architecture. You buy you tickets for inside and walk in to find tall, skewed pillars holding up a roof of mosaics of saints. A coloured light spills into the hall illuminated by the cubist stain-glassed windows, and a chandelier of candles holds a hanging cross of Christ in the centre. Not being in anyway religious yourself, you feel overwhelmed that so much love has been put into this faith, but conflicted with the idea that a lot of taxpayers money has been poured into something religious, rather than hospitals or schools, or anything else you deem more important than blind faith. Regardless of this; the cathedral is a magnificent piece of art, created by the working mind of pure genius.

After taking more geeky photos, you begin a stroll through Barcelona, before you take the metro to Gaudi Park for sunset. You take a side entrance to the park and in doing so you have to walk up a 90 degree angle hill and about 10,000 steps. There was the option of taking the much easier escalator, but you have to balance the amount of ice cream you ate previously. Once you get to the park, the sun is setting and the day is turning into night. You walk up some uneasy steps until you reach the peak of the hill, standing on top of a rock monument holding yet more crosses. The view is unbelievable, and the sun setting over the landscape covers the city in a plume of red and purple. Sitting on top of the monument, you feel a mixture of nerves (slight vertigo) and happiness; the dark cloud from the past couple of days has been lifted, as you feel more comfortable and at ease in Spain. You take a stroll through Gaudi Park, before returning to the Metro in search for tapas. On the metro stop of your hostel, you all casually stand about on the escalators having a chat, before Mik alarmingly flinches away from a greasy looking man standing on the step below. She tells you both that he had tried to slip his fingers inside her jacket pocket, in reach for her wallet. Barcelona is notably one of the cities where tourists get pickpocketed, and poor Mikayla managed to be the first one of the group to get targeted. She was rightfully pissed off as you walk in the direction of your hostel in search of a tapas restaurant.

That afternoon prior, you’d bought tickets for a Sangria night organised by the hostel, so you don’t have a lot of time to wander about town in search for a decent restaurant, which therefore brought you to a greasy café run by a Chinese couple. After much struggling trying to explain to the waitress that you don’t eat meat, (i)

(i)                  W- “Chicken?”
M- “No – I don’t eat meat.”
W- “Fish?”
M- “No…”
W- “Okay…ham?”
M- *sigh*

you eventually order eggs, cheese and something potatoey. Your first meal arrives; a plate with a single fried egg on it, followed by a larger plate holding a mountain of cubed cheese, and finally a plate with fried potatoes drizzled in mayonnaise. Que aproveche! After taking a good 4 bites of this delicious feast, you resolve to give up on dinner, and instead opt for a hot shower and sangria. At the sangria night, you meet a couple more lovely people, but are disappointed with the droning Latin hip-hop, and lack of people around. You decide to call it a night, and fall asleep giggling to more episodes of Community.

The next day you meet yet more people in the hostel, and set out as a group for the free walking tour of Barcelona. When you get there 10 minutes late, the guide tells you that the group has already reached maximum capacity and that you cannot join them on the tour – stuff her then. You decide to walk down La Rambla and take photos, before you reach the delicious food markets. The markets are jam-packed with people buying all kinds of fruits, vegetables, seafood, meat, and sweets. You buy a coconut fruit juice and walk down the aisles with your collective stomachs rumbling. You buy a tub of fresh vegetable pasta, then 2 bags of exceedingly expensive yet delicious nuts. You take a walk along the coast before the group splits up to do separate things. You, Mik and your new Canadian friend Marie, take a stroll along La Rambla before meeting with Marie’s friend Jess. You four girls decide to go back to the food markets, where you buy fresh fruit and a berry waffle, and then head back to Gaudi Park for a mini picnic. The park is all the more beautiful during the day, as you’re able to see the intricate detail of the sculptures and mosaics lining the walls and covering the seats. Unfortunately, you don’t have time to walk around the whole of the park, as the sun is beginning to set, and you want to watch it from the top of the castle.

As you walk to the train station for the castle, you run into the family from Queensland from the train. You politely say hello before hurriedly running off – you then have nightmares about running into them for the rest of the trip, with their son become more of a drooling demon child each time. You reach the top of the castle and watch the sunset over the darkening city. Barcelona is turning out to be one of the best cities you’ve visited so far.

After sunset, you take the long walk back down to civilisation, before running around town in search for a particular Spanish restaurant. You eventually find the restaurant, and order a bottle of wine to accompany fish paella and tapas – you figured you could just eat around the fish and seafood, however, when the meal comes out the rice was cooked in fish stock, so it tastes – to you – awful. You order a pasta dish instead and relax among the girly chatter.

The next morning, you meet Nick in town and you walk around the old gothic centre, as well as searching for Gaudi architecture. That afternoon, you buy your tickets to Sevilla and Milano, before doing your washing and packing your bags for the following morning. That evening, you meet yet more people at the hostel, and spend the evening drinking red wine and eating homemade pizza. You also start smoking again – breaking your New Years resolution by 4 days: useless. By the insistence of those around you, you eventually head out with the group in search for a bar – when you finally find the party organised by the hostel, the bar is full to the brim of Australians and Americans. You swiftly leave, and opt for sleep, as you once again have to wake up early for the train to Sevilla.


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