Flying solo, 26 hours in Barcelona
I got of the ship to an overcast Barcelona. In a fairness, the sun was trying to rise, being just after 7.30am and all. I prepared myself to go through customs, went through the twists and turns of the terminal, eventually opening out to a great expanse that was where the customs area was. But it was empty! So straight through we all went.
I went to the taxis (like I knew what I was doing) and told the driver where I was going, (Chic & Basic Tallers). He looked confused, but fortunately I had a map with it marked on, that I had prepared at home. (*Handy hint, especially in countries where you don’t speak their language, a map with your destination marked makes life so much easier). When he grabbed my case to put in the boot he exclaimed ‘mumma mia’, funny, I thought that was Italian, not Spanish or indeed Catalonian.
(Also, tip for Australians travelling in Europe; when using an taxi always sit in the back seat……. if you go to sit in the front seat and forget the driver sits on the wrong side of the car, you look like you are trying to steal the cab!)
We found C&B Tallers. In a very anonymous looking building with only a small name beside one of the buttons on the intercom/security panel beside the locked door. After some ringing to no avail, the taxi driver came back to me to make sure I could get it. (Nice bloke, I hope he understood that I was thanking him….. a lot). After only a minute or two, a small Spanish lady came up to us and started talking animatedly to taxi driver. Then they both tried to explain to me that the C&B reception wasn’t open until 9am. But lovely Spanish lady let me into the building, showed me how to use the lift and took me to the breakfast area of C&B where I met a polish man who spoke English. He explained it all to me, including the wifi and the password so I pulled out the lappy and blogged away! Reception bloke arrived at around 9am. Check in wasn’t until 3pm but they were happy to lock my bags away. So it was time for an adventure.
I went to the end of the narrow road which happened to be opposite the University of Barcelona. (A lot easier if you have a landmark close to your accommodation, tall ones are super good). I walked a couple of minutes and came across a magazine/souvenir stand on the side of the road, I saw they had a sign for a hop on hop off tourist bus. I got a ticket and directions to the nearest stop, less than five minutes.
I opted for the green, or east side route. This route took us firstly down towards the coast, then along the diagonal, up to the north and back to the start. There were about 19 stops. I really wanted to see the Basilica La Sagrada Familia, and there was a stop there, but with that amount of people, and I didn’t have a pre ordered ticket, I contented myself with the view from the bus. The other sight I really wanted to see was Park Gruell. For that, I had to get off the bus a walk about 10 minutes seemingly straight up hill. Once in the entry, I found you could pay for a tour of the buildings, although the next was in over two hours, or just walk the park for free. I wandered.
I followed the maze of steps and paths, dodging people who had set up impromptu souvenir sales points by arranging their wares on a white sheet on the ground. At first they were quite plentiful, but the higher in the park you climbed, thankfully the fewer there were. You get spurred on by glimpses of the views of the city way below. These views become more expansive with every vantage point. It was worth the climb! By that stage, Barcelona’s humidity had kicked in even if the sun wasn’t yet out. After a good wander around the park, I made my way back to the bus stop, thankfully all down hill. Luck shone down on me and there was a bus waiting as I got to the stop. There were so many great sights to see, you get a set of headphones to plug into the multi language/channel panel beside your seat, so you get a good commentary as well.
When I got back on board, my head started hurting, no breakfast, not enough water and no hat…. Winning! Fortunately I had some Panadol in my bag. I got back into the heart of Barcelona, (where they were setting up for the biggest festival of the year, 24th September) and looked for somewhere to sit down and have a very quick lunch and wait for the Panadol to do it’s work.
McDonalds Espanol! Actually, I have to say, there were plenty of seats, I had a square CBO (I’m not sure, but I think that was Chicken Bacon & Onion; I recognised the chicken and bacon, I think the little crunchy bits were onion and there was lettuce). It was nice and by the time I left so had the headache.
I wandered the streets looking out for La Rambla. I figured it couldn’t be that difficult to find seeing as it’s a pedestrian and market area that stretches a kilometre long from near the central square of the city to the water front. I found it, it is actually in the middle of the road, having a one direction, one lane on each side of it. There is a lot of repetition in what folk sell on the end toward the city, although further toward the water, there were artists and craftspeople selling their creations. La Rambla has the rep for being up there with Naples as Europe’s most troublesome Gypsy locations.
About half way down on the west side there is a food market. A market full of wonders. If you want fresh tripe, tongue, lambs heads, handmade chocolate, freshly squeezed juice, Jamon sliced off the leg (in front of you), any type of seafood, this place is for you!
After my wanderings around La Rambla, I decided to to the orange or west route of the tourist bus. This went down towards the water then eastward before going up the hill to the Barcelona Olympic stadium and past the Barcelona soccer team stadium. As I said, plenty of places of interest pointed out and the opportunity to explore and get another bus later.
Back to the hotel at around 5pm, only two hours later than I had said I would be back to check in. After checking in I collected my bags and went up another floor to my room. As the name implies, it is so cool it is almost hipster. The whole place is white, except for the ‘burst of colour’ smeg fridge in the breakfast room. The corridors as expected are white, white and white with the only lights set under the white frame around the doors. You walk in to your room and you are taken by the coloured light set in to the bedhead, giving the room a disco like glow. You can turn off your coloured light (in my case, blue), but I actually liked the rather calming feeling it gave me. It actually contrasted the loud electrical storm that took hold of Barcelona last night.
I figured I should get myself some food, so off I went again. The difference 30 minutes made was amazing. The streets were full of people, having finished the working week. I don’t know if there were more than usual because of today’s festival, but it was packed. I had a quick look in some shops and found a noodle bar to get my takeaway and retreated to my basic and chic room as the first drops of rain fell and the rumble of thunder commenced..
Now as I said, the room is predominantly white. Mine was a single room, small, although less squashed than I expected. Pop art was on the wall above the bed. At the other end of the bed was the shower / toilet area with privacy protected by the one high pink glass door that either slide to hide the toilet, or to the other side to enclose the toilet. It had air conditioning, a wall mounted tv and a window to allow fresh air. It was perfect for me, location was spot on.
After a good sleep…. I have to admit, I left the blue light on overnight, because it was cool…. I had to squash everything back in my bag and see what I could do about getting transport to Barcelona Sants, the railway station that my train to Montpellier left from. I did some research last night and apparently there was a taxi rank in front of the University. I didn’t have to go that far. I was waiting to cross the road and a couple of taxis approached. I did my best impersonation of a New Yorker and hailed the taxi! Go, me!
So I got to the station with plenty of time to spare, had breakfast, again McDonalds, but hey, it was hot Nesquick (yum, Australia so needs to do this) and a croissant, ordered on boards like the ‘create your meal’ at home, but these ones are the straight menu but you firstly choose your language, sort the order and pay with a card and then just go to the counter to collect your order. Quite a plus if you don’t speak the language. I did mine before I realised there was in fact an option of English.
So, at the moment, I am on my way to my next stop, Montpellier, France.