Barcelona, Spain

After leaving Lisbon, I flew to Barcelona. Jeff has already been to Barcelona, so it was a chance for me to check off a city that he would be more reluctant to go to. Our friend from Zurich, Alex, was going to meet me so I would have a travel buddy, which always makes traveling better.

We stayed at the house of a frisbee player we knew named Roger, and the first night we went out to eat  with some of his teammates and his roommate Liam. It turned out that Liam went to school near Seattle and had lived in Seattle for awhile (and played frisbee) so we started chatting about the people that we both knew. As we slowly unraveled the mutual friend web, it turned out that he had lived with a coworker of mine. It was then that I realized how small the world was. Last summer when I visited Seattle, I had my old coworker hold onto keys to Jeff’s apartment for a few days, so we could pick them up when we landed around midnight. Our flight was delayed, so we arrived closer to 3am, and I had to hit the buzzer to my coworkers apartment several times trying to wake him up. Yet, instead of buzzing to the apartment, this buzzer rang one of the tenants phones. So I accidentally woke up the roommate of my coworker, who as it turned out, was Liam. And I just so happened to be staying at his new apartment, on the other side of the planet, where I knew his new roommate.

Arch de Triumph in Barcelona

Alex and I spent the first day walking around the downtown part of the city. I was really itching to see Gaudí architecture, but I’m going to write a second Barcelona post about that. Our first destination in Barcelona was La Rambla.

City Center end of La Rambla

La Rambla is 1.6 km pedestrian street that is lined with shopping kiosks, individuals selling cheap annoying toys, and several historically important restaurants and sites. This street is very popular among the tourists, which means it is also frequently visited by pick pockets. Many people chose to wear their backpacks on their fronts in order to feel more safe, but personally I think this makes you look silly and also makes you more of a target. As long as you are aware of your surroundings, especially when you’re standing still, you should be fine. Other tips: put your wallet in your front pocket, and if you’re carrying a back pack, put all valuables at the bottom, so no one can just unzip and grab valuables easily. Just as a sidenote, I’ve been told, in Spain if someone is caught stealing but the value of the item is less than some amount (300 or 400 euros) it is only a misdemeanor, and they may go to jail for the afternoon but they’ll be released later.

Pet shop on La Rambla

One thing that quite my eye as very strange was the outdoor kiosk selling live animals. There were turtles, birds, chipmunks, rabbits, hamsters, and gerbils all out in the open. It is something that one doesn’t see much anymore, because most pet shops are required by law to not have animals in the windows to avoid impulse buys. Several laws and organizations are very much against these kiosks , but hey, they’re in Spain, where “rules are more like guidelines.”

At the beginning of La Rambla is a fountain that has a myth associated with it, similar to the Trevi Fountain in Rome. The myth is that when someone drinks from this fountain, they are destined to return to Barcelona.

Mercat de St. Joseph

About halfway down La Rambla is the Mercat de St. Joseph, but also known as simply “La Boqueria.” The market has been around since either 1217 or 1820, depending on how technical you want to get with exact locations and purposes. Today, you can buy anything from candy to seafood, and it is a great place to eat lunch.

 

You can also purchase a variety of unique wares like cow tongue (bottom middle), some sort of stomach (far left), I think a sheeps head (bottom right), and cow nose (not pictured, but to the right of the sheep head). Makes you want to be a vegetarian for a few days…

After the market we walked down to the end of La Rambla, which spits you out by the Christopher Columbus monument, and by the water. I had honestly forgotten that any other country would celebrate Columbus, and I wonder if Spain ever feels guilty about the amount of bad that Columbus had caused to the Native populations in the Americas.

Bottom of Columbus Column

Next to the column is the port that Columbus landed in on his way to tell Queen Victoria I about the new world.

From here we meandered to the beach and enjoyed the ocean. We were worried about our stuff being stolen, so we could only swim one at a time. I cannot swim very well, so most of my enjoyment at water-locations is playing in the shallows, which when your all alone isn’t nearly as fun. The beach was nice none the less though. After the beach we went to a restaurant called Platja de la Barceloneta which was nearby, came highly recommended, and was reasonably priced. It was yummy.

After lunch, I think Alex and I were starting to wear out, and started to move a little more slowly. We managed to get back into the center of town, and went to check out the Picasso museum, which I would only recommend if you are familiar with Picasso and would be interested in his early work. Next we made our way to the Basilica de Santa Maria, which you can find in the next Barcelona post. I am only mentioning it, because I’m about to talk about another place we ate at, and I want people to know there were some events in between meals… Because otherwise people woud think we are fat.

Granja M. Viador

This place was recommended in Alex’s guidebook, and is basically a dairy product cafe. It has absurdly fresh and tasty cheesecake, yogurt, milk (duh), and coffees. It has a retro feel inside and made you feel that you found a place off the beaten track, as it is down an alley and wasn’t terribly crowded.

After the diary cafe Alex and I made our way to a bar to watch the European Soccer Cup semi finals. Which brought an end to our evening. The next day we took a blue tram up to Tibidabo, which may be one of the most fun names to say. The blue tram was a part of Barcelona’s original tram service, and has served for over 100 years. It is the only line left of the original transport system, and mostly exists for tourist historical reasons.

famous and old Blue Tram

Atop Tibidabo is a small amusement park, which according to our host had an accident a few years back which killed 5-8 of the park’s guest. So that is interesting. Right next to the amusement park is a church that looks like it fell straight out of the movie Dogma, with it’s slightly over the top Jesus on the top. It was the cleanest church I have ever seen, it looks like a lego building. We took a nap inside the church because sleeping looks close enough to praying, and no jerk will steal your stuff inside a church.

The next day Alex left really early in the morning, before I woke up, so I had the day to myself. I had been getting sick, and this day all I wanted to do was sit in a cool spot and read a book. I struggled with the feeling of needing to see as much of Barcelona as I can, and the desire to just chill out. The latter emotion won, because even though I was only in Barcelona for 72 hours, we saw a lot of it. I’m glad I decided to go to the park though, because I came across the coolest fountain I’ve seen in a long time.

Fountain in Parc de la Ciutadella

Which more or less concludes Part one of our Barcelona journey. Three days of fun-packed Hispanic exploration, where my four years of Spanish education came in handy barely ever. The next Barcelona post will be more about Gaudí and I suppose architecture in general.

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