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Anecdotes from Barcelona

Sunday, 13 July 2014 02:13AM Europe 2014

Hola, everyone! It's been a couple of days, for which I apologise. I am coming to you live-ish from a very ugly train halfway between Spain and France, which looks like this:

In truth, I would rather be literally anywhere else, because we got up kind of early and possibly because of that everyone is a little bit grouchy. Not me, of course. I'm never grouchy. But everyone else is.

This kind of sucks, because Barcelona is probably the most sheer fun I've had on this whole trip.


(Tuesday)

So we arrived in Barcelona at about 1pm, and after some grappling with the inexplicable and arcane Barcelona metro network, we rocked up at the hostel and rang the doorbell.

And then we rang it again.

And again.

For the next hour.

While sitting in the staircase.

Eventually the proprietor came and let us in, and once we got inside it was actually very nice. And on the upside, Morgan managed to guess the WiFi password, so we weren't entirely bored.

Still, it was a little longer than I had planned on spending in a Spanish staircase.


We dumped our stuff and went out for lunch, and without really thinking, basically sat down at the first place we found, and did that largely because someone came out and told us to take a seat.

That is the story of how I had Sangria for the second time, and also of how I decided that I didn't particularly like sangria.


(Wednesday)

Wednesday morning we grabbed another one of those free walking tours. This one was a tour of famous architecture - in particular, of one specific guy named Gaudi.

(I say 'another' walking tour because we did one on Madrid as well. This is what you get for being behind on your blogging.)

I'd never heard of Gaudi before this, but apparently he is quite famous. I can sort of see why. His buildings are very, very unique, even for today, and in their time they must have been totally and utterly out there. There's a lot of cool engineering stuff in there as well - the supporting pillars to hold up the floors and allow the interiors to be remodeled, for example. And I really like his dedication to letting air and light into his buildings, especially after so many hours sitting on various subways*.

I'm not actually sure I like them though. Like, if he had painted them on a canvas, I would think they're kickass. Some of my favourite stuff at the Reina Sofia (Madrid's art museum - we went there too, sorry) was sorta weird and distorted looking - that example doesn't really have anything in common with Gaudi, but I like it anyway. When it's in a building though, I just don't get it. It makes me want to attack it with a chisel and clean it up. I like my buildings looking less like organic hives.

Apparently I share this sentiment with Hitler. Take from that what you will.


After a brief siesta - oh man, do I love Spain - we wandered out for a look at the Gothic quarter. I am not sure why this quarter was gothic - there were neither eyeliner-clad music fans nor buttress-clad steeples particularly visible, but it's likely I just have a really poor understanding of what Gothic actually means. In either sense, really.

Anyway, we poked around for a bit. We posed with statues and bought really awful sunglasses and generally acted a bit like touristy idiots. And it was the most fun I've had so far, to be honest.

There's a lot of anti-tourist sentiment floating around, with people preferring to be called 'travellers' and trying to blend in with the locals and have to most authentic experience possible. Sometimes, though, it's okay to fall into tourist traps. It's okay to make a bit of an ass of yourself and take dumb photos and stumble through transactions in English. It's okay to just mess around in a city and not really care what the locals think because you're getting on a train tomorrow and never coming back.

I mean, that's not an excuse for behaving badly or anything. Just an admission that sometimes a relatively shallow and "superficial" experience is okay.


It was worth spending five euros on these sunglasses just for the look of utter disgust on Jess' face. She has since admitted that they are delightfully douchey, that they are not bad, that she quite likes them, and then requested that, should I die in the next few weeks, if she could have them in my will.

I consider this to be a victory.


It was at about this point that we all realised that we were burning through our money slightly faster than we intended. Well, I say this point. Actually it was at about 10pm, which was a little unfortunate because whilst we had a kitchen, we had nothing to cook.

Thus, spaghetti alla twentyfourhoursupermercat was created. If you'd like to try duplicating this at home... don't. If you're still insistent, you will need to mix some tomato puree, olives, pimientos and tinned tuna together, put it in a pot, heat it up, and serve it over pasta.

It actually wasn't that bad. Plus, despite being absurdly overpriced, it actually fed five of us for about ten euros, which made us all confident enough in our ability to not spend money that we were okay with spending money again. So I guess that's a win too.


So remember how we got slightly ripped off by sitting down at the first place we found? Well, in yet another bit of proof that it's worth it to find somewhere that's been recommended, Morgan, Ben and I tracked down an ice cream joint while the girls went out for cocktails. And it was amazing. We knew we were on to a winner when we were part of the following exchange:

Scooper: What flavours? Us: Wait, flavours? How many can we get? Scooper: (looks at us like we are idiots) As many as you like?

Bear in mind this is with a single cone.

They do this really neat thing where they start with one scoop in the middle and then layer little slices around the outside. It ends up looking like a flower. A beautiful, delicious flower.

Coconut and Nutella, in case you're wondering. I have no idea how the cocktails were.


(Thursday)

If I were British, and thus prone to describing things as A Grand Day Out, then I would describe Thursday as something of A Grand Day Out.

We started by getting a little bit lost, which meant that we had to walk up the beach. I complained a bit about this, but it was actually a really nice walk.

When we got to the pier at the end, we decided pretty much on a whim to go up the cable car to what was sort of the Barcleona version of King's Park. This ended up taking about an hour worth of queuing, and cost us about 15 euros each, and was almost certainly a gigantic tourist trap, but it was awesome fun.

Once we were at the top, we ate a pretty amazing packed lunch of ham, salami and cheese on whatever the Spanish word for baguette is, and walked our way back down towards the beach.


I can't imagine what life is like for most of the people at La Barcelonetta beach. They're overwhelmingly tourists from either Britain or inland Europe, and they are overwhelmingly having the time of their lives.

What must it be like to only have visited the beach a few times in your entire life?

It would be like Aussies with snow. "Yeah," they must brag casually to each other, "I've been to the beach. Twice."

And let's be honest, Barcelona is like a 6/10 at best. It's be a 7/10, except that the sand is full of cigarette butts and the water has plastic bags instead of jellyfish. And yet everyone is so damn chuffed to be there - and here we are, getting all dismissive.

I guess making you appreciate what you have is one of the reasons you travel.


Somehow we'd gone six days in Spain without having any Paella, and this was our last chance to rectify this. Once again the power of TripAdvisor and co came to the rescue, and took us to this slightly greasy looking chicken joint.

This is another one of those tourist vs traveller things - I feel like jumping online to find somewhere good kind of takes some of the spontaneity and discovery away. What replaces it is worth it, though: A computer generated map-and-compass orienteering track through what are invariably some of the most interesting parts of the city, with a prize at the end which requires all your courage and determination to claim.

Totally worth it.

Lyon, here we come...


*Seriously, if I never take an underground again in my life I will be perfectly happy. Efficient? Yes. Pleasant? No. Give me Transperth's above ground trains any day.

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