10th February 2016
The surprise English sun today is making me feel quite at home, as just last night I landed back in a rather rainy Manchester from the winding streets and winter sun of Barcelona! The city was relatively quiet and cool, which was perfect for me to go exploring, taking photos and trying out the local food.
As ever, I decided to start off my exploration of the city by taking a free tour, but having gotten a little over-enthusiastic with the free breakfast buffet, I ended up rocking up too late and there were no spaces left – so I decided to get lost in the city and then return a couple of hours later, having reserved my space on the next one.
I ended up on the main artery from the centre of the city down to the sea, La Rambla, where I joined the masses of heads bobbing up and down and keeping their eyes on their bags, wary of the professional pickpockets who scour the area. I soon darted off the street into an area just by my hotel, where I found Barcelona’s most famous market: La Boqueria.
To say that the market was heaving would be a gross understatement – there were people buying, selling, bargaining, arguing, pushing, shouting, clapping and yelling everywhere you went. Holding onto my camera and my backpack for dear life, I began to slalom my way through the crowds and pour over all the wonderfully vibrant stalls, snapping the odd photo here and there where I could.
As my one-star hotel (not surprisingly) didn’t offer any cooking facilities, I decided to skip the raw fish and meat sections and grabbed myself a freshly pressed mango juice to keep my energy levels up as I shouted my way through the groups of people gawking at the displays. I eventually found myself a quiet corner, where I chilled out and ate my little cone of jamón iberico – which was delicious!
I then headed back to the square where the tour was to begin, and sooner or later I was off being guided around the city. We visited the church, some of the most famous squares, and learned about the wild and varied history of the now-booming city, before I took the chance to buy some tickets for three more tours: a bike tour, a tapas tour and a Gaudí/Modernism tour.
After the tour, and a huge portion of tapas, I was understandably weary and headed back to bed – where I stayed for quite a while to build up some energy for the next day’s shenanigans – the bike tour.
This began with somewhat of a hitch – I was the only English-speaking person booked onto the tour for that Sunday, and the next one was on Thursday, which was after my departure. I was offered a refund or the chance to latch onto the Spanish language tour – and seeing as I’m moving out to Madrid on Saturday for half a year, I thought I should probably opt for the latter!
Before I could say anticonstitucionalmente (a real Spanish word, check this video for proof), I was mounted on a bike and we were off around the gothic quarter of the city, rattling over the uneven streets and learning (as much as I could translate) about the history of the winding alleys – all before we headed back to smoother ground towards the coast, where we enjoyed the views over the sea – well, I say enjoy, just look what the salty winds did to my face…
During the tour me and another girl seemed constantly stuck at the back, and so we got chatting and I met her friend, both of whom were living in Cataluña having moved over from Mexico! We had a good old laugh for the remainder of the tour, where we ended up half-losing the rest of the group and almost mowing some innocent pedestrians down – oops!
After the tour had finished, we decided to stick together and I joined them for lunch, where we were joined by one of their other friends, and so I had to do my best to keep speaking in Spanish for the duration – a challenge I think I just about managed to conquer!
We then proceeded up the huge hill at Montjuïc to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Olympic Village (which were held in the city in 1992), however once we’d arrived at the top it turned out that it was closed! The dry fountains should have given us a clue – however the panoramic views provided great selfie opportunities and made the climb worth the effort.
As I said, the museum was unfortunately closed, but after a quick nosey around the gift shop we headed around the museum’s grand exterior and worked our way up to the Olympic Stadia and the area around them. By this time the sun was setting, and it made for some truly breathtaking views over the area…
After that it was time to say my goodbyes, and get some rest in ready to tour the breathtaking works of Gaudí. The next morning I was once again trapping the city’s streets, finding out about the mathematical genius and crazy mind of one of my favourite thinkers, Señor Gaudí himself…
Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get any decent photos of Gaudí’s buildings, however I did capture this one by one of his competitors… Once we’d progressed further, however, we soon arrived at one of the most famous buildings in the world: the Sagrada Familia – Gaudí’s unfinished masterpiece!
What caught me most by surprise, after studying Gaudí and Barcelona during my A2 Level Spanish, was the sheer monstrous size of the thing. Rising higher than any stone building I have ever laid eyes on before, it’s spires dominate the skyline, and the new 10 (yes, 10) that they’re currently hoping to build are sure to further add to it’s beautifully overbearing presence in the city.
The other side of the monolithic cathedral was as eery as the first side was dramatic, with drooping stone stalactites inspired by the root canal of human teeth – spooky. I noted that it looked like it’d suffered a bad bout of acid rain, and some of my companions agreed, one girl adding “¡que feo!” (how ugly). Ugly, maybe, but impressive…
Unfortunately, though, I didn’t have time to go inside before my tapas tour of the city that evening, which was delicious and hilarious! We tried out lots of the traditional tapas, including pinchos, and learned how to drink wine like the old women of Barcelona… It’s difficult, trust me.
On my final day I was too heavily burdened with bags to even get to the Sagrada Familia – so I just waltzed down to the airport and jumped on my plane home, ready for my crazy few days of packing ready to fly back out to Spain, but this time to Madrid!
The plane home, however, reminded me why I really do hate flying, with turbulence in horrific abundance. A shout out is due here to Val and Sarah who were lodged with me on the back row of the plane – we all got chatting and managed to dose ourselves up enough on Rescue Remedy and sleeping pills to survive the ride! Cheers guys!
Once I am settled in Madrid, however, I will be sure to take the comfy (and less turbulent) 3 hour journey back up to Cataluña to give this beautiful city a visit once more! Until then, Barcelona, until then…