August 31, 2013
Welcome back to my touristic (mis)adventures in Barcelona! Tomorrow I’ll be moving in with Cristina and I’m quite sure this whole ‘I-am-a-foreigner-isn’t-it-obvious’ feeling will fade away pretty quick. Up until now, I’ve just been doing my own thing. I have visited all of the sights that attract tourists like moths to a bright light, even though I have seen some of them already, some even more than once. But you know what, it never gets old! As soon as October comes knocking on the door and the tourist season is more or less over, I might get lost again in the winding streets of Parque Guëll and maybe I’ll even go inside of the Sagrada Familia – finally!
The day we arrived at our rental appartment in Barcelona, we had dinner at Ciutat Comtal, a well-known tapas bar on the Rambla de Catalunya. We skipped the (very long) line, because the others that were waiting were just gaping around at the scenery. The waiter brought us to one of the rare, unoccupied tables. I enjoyed the opportunity to devour my first patatas bravas! That’s my favorite Spanish tapa. You should definitely try some if you haven’t already!
On the way back to the apartment I bought a drink at Starbucks – which is a lot cheaper here than in Belgium, too. My mom went to get me a ‘grande latte, extra shot’ every morning on the corner of the street. Mi mama me mima mucho!* I noticed that, since the last time I was in Barcelona, the number of Starbucks shops has trippled, give or take. Because we were quite tired from the long drive, we went to bed early.
At the start of day two, after our breakfast, we bought metro tickets to get around the city more easily and comfortably. I immediately got a T-Joven ticket, which is a ticket that’s valid for 3 months and is only used by students (joven means ‘young’). We went to the Paralel station. There you can take the funicular up the mountain to Montjuïc. There is a lot to do in this giant park (it measures no less 2 million square meters!).
The thing I liked the most (and which is totally worth the entrance fee of €7.5), was the artificially constructed town called Poble Español. Built for the world exhibition of 1929, all the regions of Spain are represented here in the form of restaurants, artisanal shops etc. It is a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon. In the summer, you should definitely check the evening schedule online as well – think music concerts, cozy terraces, discotecas… The entrance is €1 cheaper, because the shops are closed at that time.
That evening, we strolled around in the narrow, dim streets of Barri Gotic, my favorite neighborhood in Barcelona. More particularly, we walked around in the Jewish part, where a highly protected synagogue is located. From far away you can already spot the metal detectors and security cameras.
After that we took the metro to Barceloneta. At the Tapas Club I had my first paella ever – with meat of course, since I don’t eat sea food. Since they had mojitos at a reasonable prize here, I had one… although I regretted it immediately. Whatever you do, don’t ever have a mojito with paella! Yuk!
Day three. Taking the metro again, we arrived at Port Olimpic, one of Barcelona’s three harbors. There are so many spots to eat or go clubbing here, and all with sea view. For our lunch we went to Bestial. The reviews say that the staff is not very friendly – which is kind of true – but the food is de-li-cious and the setting is perfecto. I highly recommend this one! Especially at night it is necessary to make a reservation. If you go for lunch, you should arrive at 1pm sharp if you would like a table outside.
Early in the evening, we visited the former bullring at Plaça Espanya. Bullfighting has been forbidden in Catalunya for a while now, but I admit this particular arena was too beautiful to tear down. So even though it is not a surprising idea – and maybe even a good one – to make a shopping centre out of it, I don’t particularly like the Centro Comercial that’s now housed inside the arena. What I also don’t like is that you have to pay to get acces to the roof. Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll pass. Not because I’m a miser, but because it’s bullshit. The main reason we went here, is because I needed a phone number and because we had some time to kill before we’d attend the fountain show. Now listen carefully: if you ever go to Barcelona, you simply have to visit the Magical Fountains. It is an amazing spectacle of dancing fountains, complete with light show and Disney music (in the first part at least). The whole show lasts about half an hour and attracts hundreds of spectators every day. There are four up to six shows every night, depending on the season. There’s no denying it: I will probably go to the show more than once!
We didn’t stay for the second part, which just isn’t as interesting as the first. We also tried to leave before the rest of the mass. We got off in Drassanes, the metro stop closest to Port Vell. This is also the metro stop closest to Belgious, the place to get Belgian waffles in Barcelona. Actually, it is an ice cream shop chain that is currently conquering Spain. How do they do that, you ask? Besides the perfectly made waffles, they also have special kinds of ice cream flavors: maybe you should try the cannabis or mojito flavor? The opening hours are the worst and the music is a tiny bit weird, but oh my gosh those waffles… Mouthwatering!
Eventually, it was our last day together in Barcelona. We took a taxi to Parque Guëll (€10 from Plaça Catalunya). I don’t recommend going by metro (to Lesseps) in the summer. You have quite a walk ahead of you, of which half is up a pretty steep street. If you really really want to, make sure you buy some water before. The higher you go up the hill, the more expensive the drinks get. And believe me, by the time you’re up there, you’ll be very very thirsty. If you’re on a budget, the best solution is to take bus 24. It takes about 15 minutes from Plaça Catalunya and you arrive at the back entrance, which is a lot less crowded than the front side (which is my version of hell in the summer). Just like the metro, the buses of Barcelona are very clean and are equipped with decent air-conditioning. You can use your metro ticket on the bus as well.
Personally, I really do believe Parque Guëll is Gaudí’s masterpiece. The park in itself is truly a maze. You only see the next cross street when you’re standing right in front of it. This way, of course, you keep discovering new routes, which take you along some of Gaudí’s buildings. If you don’t know where you are anymore (which is not impossible), you could always ask directions from one of the vendors selling Gaudí-inspired figurines by the side of the pathways. O, and don’t forget to enjoy the views of the Mediterranean. The higher you climb, the more beautiful the view gets. I’ll share another little secret with you: if you don’t take a picture on the terrace, like mine right here, you have absolutely no proof that you’ve been in Barcelona. That’s a rule!
After our stroll through this beautiful, enchanting park, we took a cab towards El Born. This neighborhood is best accessible through the Jaume I station – don’t worry, no one who’s not a local knows how to pronounce this name. In El Born, we enjoyed some Italian tapas at Gravin in Passeig del Born. I’ve heard this street is particularly lively at night, but I’ll have to experience that for myself to be sure.
Tonight we had our aperitifs at the rooftop bar of the Pulitzer Hotel, Visit Up, close to our apartment. It’s worth a visit. The prizes for cocktails are reasonable for a rooftop bar. We went when it was still light outside, but I think it’s nicer when the sun has set – although chancer are you won’t get any of the nicer seats.
Afterwards, we discovered the neighborhood called El Raval, (in)famous for its alternative and vintage stores. It’s comparable with Camden Town in London. During our walk, we ended up in En Ville. I definitely recommend this restaurant! We arrived here by coincidence, but you really have to make a reservation if you want a table at the better parts of the restaurant. At En Ville, you are allowed to prepare your Spanish bruscettas (pan con tomate) according to your own preferences. Fun! I already ate my dessert at the rooftop bar – a brownie with vanilla ice cream, yummie! – so I stuck to one tapa.
Tomorrow my Erasmus adventure officially starts. I’ll keep in touch to let you know how it all goes!
Love from sunny Barcelona!
* In case you were wondering ‘what is she mumbling about?’ and are too lazy to put the sentence into Google Translate, the correct translation for ‘mi mama me mima mucho’ is ‘My mom spoils me a lot’. I suppose I’ll miss this in the next few months…