Posted on September 10th, 2016
Spain has always been one of my absolute dream destinations. So you can imagine the extent of my anticipation as we got onto our train from Montpellier to Barcelona. I was beyond excited! We got there 3 hours later and proceeded to try to find our hostel using saved google map directions on our phones. We had got to Plaça Catalunya where we knew our hostel was close to. But then we just went around and around that stupid plaza I don’t even know how many times, trying to figure out where to go. We were lugging heavy bags and the Spanish heat was relentless. Both Jodi and I were well on our way to having sense of humor failures when we went into one hostel which turned out to be the wrong hostel but there was a backpacker going to St Christopher’s Inn and would happily show us the way. We were so relieved to finally arrive and once we’d checked in and flopped down on our beds, looked at our watches and realised our train had arrived in Barcelona two hours earlier. We were ratty, hungry and hot: never a good combination when going out to try to find food. Nothing was appealing and we were both just snapping at each other and we eventually decided on a spot which was selling 1€ tapas. They definitely weren’t the best but it tamed the hungry monsters in our tummies enough to set out and try to see some of the city. We walked up the famous Passeig de Gracia and had our first experience of Gaudi’s crazy architecture in the form of Casa Ballitó. It was incredible and looked like gloopy scoops of ice cream.
That evening we shared a jug of sangria; a Spanish concoction of red wine, soda and fresh fruit and ate quesadillas at the bar in our hostel. We then went for a little walk along Les Rambles which was just 2 minutes away from our perfectly located hostel. We just had a little squizz before heading back and saving the real exploring for our first proper day in Barcelona.
And what an amazing day it was! We walked down to Les Rambles after breakfast, enjoying the loud and colourful nature of the Spanish city, so well expressed and represented in the pedestrianised walkway lined with street vendors, souvenirs stalls and ice cream stands.
We veered off into the famous Boqueria Mercat which is just the most vibrant, lively place filled with brightly coloured stalls selling fresh, exotic fruit and traditional Catalonian delicacies. We were still full from breakfast so decided to save ourselves for later and continued down to the Plaça Reial and past the Christopher Colombus statue.
We walked along the Port Vell and then down to the beach. It was SO hot and so the refreshingly cool sea water was a welcome relief, although the relentless heat left you dripping in sweat a few minutes later.
After we’d enjoyed the Spanish coastline for a few hours we went back to the market and delighted our palettes with flavours of juicy pomegranate, Catalonian croquettes, fried squid and jamón iberico, all for very affordable prices. We then found an adorable café, which was so hipster you could have sworn you were in Town somewhere, and had our first churros con chocolate. But really it was chocolate con churros. A beautiful glass of thick, melted chocolate into which you dipped the crispy, warm, sugar-coated churros. Absolutely DIVINE. We just sat for a few hours, chatting and journaling, just so content with where we were.
That evening we decided to join the free sangria meet and greet welcome that the hostel offered. It was an awesome way to meet all sorts of people. This hostel really was top-notch in terms of having a fun, social, party vibe.
Our final day in Barcelona was definitely my favourite. It really was a SUPER day, lasting 22 waking hours. We started by taking the metro to La Sagrada Familia, a massive cathedral that looks like it’s made of sand dribble castles, designed by Antoni Gaudi. It is so immense that construction still continues today, the final product not yet realised. We marveled at the grandeur of it all and could only begin to imagine what it might look like when it is finished and can stand in all of its glory.
We then walked up to Park Guëll, filled with anticipation for what would turn out to be my absolute highlight of Barcelona. (The monumental zone of the park used to be free but will now set you back 7€. It may seem a lot for a park but let me say that it is worth EVERY cent. An entrance fee to a tourist attraction has never been so worth it! So if you’re going to Barcelona soon, and are on a budget, be sure to not skimp on this one!)
We entered the park and just walked around in awe, admiring the beauty of the intricacies of the mosaic that covered curving wrap-around benches, houses, towers, pillars and a grand staircase with a Salamander fountain centerpiece. It truly was gorgeous and so cheerful and quirky.
We strolled back down through the Gracia district stopping at a local recommended tapas bar called L’Anxoveta. We knew we’d stumbled upon a gem when the owner spoke no English and so we tried our best hand at Spanish ending up with freshly cooked jamón ibér, squid and mushroom croquettes, and some spicy patatas bravas. That evening after our siesta (really getting into the Spanish rhythm of things!) we went out for another round of tapas, this time enjoying tortillas patatas (Spanish omelette) and suckling pig skewers. I was so blissfully happy, really feeling like I’d done tapas in Barcelona justice and ticking off many foods from my ‘must-eat in Spain’ list.
That night our hostel had organised a group to go to the famous club, Opium, along the Barcelona beach front. We decided to go along too and partied like the Spaniards, only falling asleep at 6:30 AM. We met so many wonderful people and had a really fun time.
Barcelona may have gotten off to a rocky start but that definitely didn’t dictate how the rest of our stay would pan out. I absolutely adore this colourful, expressive and vibrant city and we had such an enjoyable time here, making memories to last a lifetime. As I write this I am sitting on the three-and-a-half-hour train to Valencia, struggling to keep my eyes open, running on three hours of sleep. There we’re meeting up with someone we knew in high school, Giulio, who has been living there for the past year. We’re very excited to experience the city from a bit of a local’s perspective and of course catch up with an old friend. So far, Spain has not disappointed and I can’t wait to experience what else it has to offer!