Barcelona: Beautiful, Strange, and Dangerous
My weekends always give me so much to write about that I end up spending all week trying to catch up. I started writing this while in a bus station waiting for my ride home. This weekend was longer than usual because in Castilla y Leon, Father’s Day (el dia de San Jose) is a school and public holiday. That means I had more time to travel and took full advantage of it – Barcelona. Barcelona is in a more southern autonomous community in Spain: Catalonia in Spanish and Catalunya in Catalan. Like Euskadi, it is a very independent-minded community that has two co-official languages. Their soccer team is one of the most popular in Spain. An important question is which team do you root for: Barcelona or Madrid?
Barcelona is one of the biggest tourist spots in Spain and I definitely felt the repercussions of that. Everywhere I went there were crowds and lines. I also watched a total of three run-ins with police (not including my own personal experience with a pickpocket).
My flight was out of Santander which was a quiet small airport. Flying Ryanair is great on my wallet (55 euros for my flight) but the customer service isn’t the best. The flight attendants are super picky about the size of your bag and you better not be carrying a small jacket or purse – you have to stuff it in your suitcase. Overall flying in Spain is a much better experience than flying in the US. Security is quick and simple. They are more likely to let liquids through and are less rude as they scan and search you. Also, a one hour flight is so much better than a seven and a half hour flight (although that isn’t the USA’s fault).
One nice thing about Spain is that there is always public transportation to take you to the city center from the airport but unfortunately it isn’t always as simple as a direct bus. In Santander it is simple. There is a bus that leaves from the bus station in the city every ten minutes and costs 2 euros that takes you directly to the airport. In Madrid there is a metro station in the airport and it is just a long metro ride to wherever you want to go in the city. In Barcelona there is no metro in the airport. Instead you can take a bus to the Plaza Catalunya and then catch a metro to wherever you want to go or you can take a commuter train and get off at one of its stops that are connected to a metro. The train is slower and thus much cheaper. In both Madrid and Barcelona you can choose to pay for each individual metro ride you take or you can buy ten trips which saves you some money if you will be using it often.
Our (Cassandra’s and my) hotel in Barcelona was hilarious. It was a tiny niche in a building that was two floors up and had hallways barely wider than me.
We were given three keys – one for the downstairs door, one for the door to the hotel and one for the door to our room. Our lock had been installed backwards and had to be turned the opposite way. There was no elevator but there was wifi. It was clean and charming despite its size. Like all of the hotels I have stayed in here in Spain it was hot. Very hot. It had a “charming” view of our neighbors but it was quiet and very safe.
We had lots of fun opening the door with the ancient looking key.
Our hotel was right next to a metro stop and also right next to the Arc de Triomf (yes, I know that the real one is in France).
Right by the Arc de Triomf was a huge beautiful park that had all sorts of interesting buildings in it.
The architecture in Barcelona was absolutely fascinating especially the stuff by Gaudi like the Sagrada Familia (picture above).
The Paseo de Gracia is a popular walking area in Barcelona and we did some shopping there. I also insisted that Cassandra join me in El Corte Ingles. I don’t particularly like shopping there but she had never been inside one before. Basically, it is one huge store that is a cross between Macy’s and Walmart but bigger and better. Somehow while walking along the Paseo de Gracia we ended up in a different famous walking area in Barcelona, Las Ramblas (explanation, we wandered and ended up somewhere completely different). We didn’t use our map very much. We kind of took the approach all weekend of walk and enjoy starting from a metro stop close to something we wanted to see. When we wanted to go back to our hotel or go to another specific spot, we found a metro and got there by metro. It was an interesting approach to exploring.
Sunday was one of the longest days I have had. We got up early and went to the International Church of Barcelona. Having not been to church in 2 ½ months – it was a wonderful experience. The church service was in English (they offered a Spanish translation through headphones). Cassandra and I had so much fun singing and listening to the message. We talked to some people at the church after. Turns out, one of the greeters, who was from Peru, has family in Sarasota and has visited Sarasota multiple times. Such a small world.
We spent the rest of Sunday exploring and meeting people. Barcelona is on the coast and the port was one of my favorite places that we saw.
Monday was simply a blur of me getting pickpocketed, getting to the airport, flying and then eating/resting in Santander. Cassandra and I did spend an awkward thirty minutes waiting for a train because we forgot that the trains don’t run as often as the metros but fortunately we had left in enough time to still arrive early to the airport. Chastidy, Heather and I walked around Santander a bit but we were too tired to really explore. I didn’t have the energy to figure out how to get to the beach and just sat in the bus station writing.
Overall, I loved Barcelona because it was beautiful and I met all sorts of strange interesting people (more on that later) BUT I didn’t like having to constantly worry about my possessions. The one time I wasn’t careful I got pickpocketed. I am glad I saw Barcelona but I didn’t leave a part of my heart there.