Barcelona, Spain: Day 2

Day 2 in Spain began with Tenshi and I heading to Park Güell at 7:00 am to meet our 8:00 am ticket time slot! We hopped on the metro and hiked up to the park only to find out that admission to the park is free before 8:00 am…so, if you plan to visit Barcelona and Park Güell, go before 8:00 am to beat the crowds and save yourself 10 euros!

Now, the majority of Park Güell is free to tourists. The only portion you pay to enter is where Gaudí’s mosaic work is found. When I went, part of the bench and other areas were under restoration/repair due to the amount of tourist traffic (I assume).

I felt slightly disappointed by Park Güell if I am completely honest with you, friends. Perhaps the three tourists taking a zillion photos who wouldn’t give anyone else a turn got to me? Don’t get me wrong, Gaudí’s artwork at the park is fantastic! I am flabbergasted this man dreamt up La Sagrada Familia AND Park Güell. What did his brain look like on a daily basis? However, I thought the iconic bench where every tourist takes their photo did not live up to the hype. I thought the bench would be taller in person! BUT, despite enduring frustrations with tourists, Tenshi and I found some other great places in Park Güell where there were less tourists and I think photo opportunities were better. It’s all about perspective!

After taking a bunch of photos, Tenshi and I hopped back on the metro to go to the hostel to grab some breakfast. Then, we took some pictures at some murals nearby.

After an impromptu photo shoot, Tenshi and I got back onto the metro. We hopped off at the same stop as Park Güell. Instead of going to the park again, we hiked up to the bunkers where a panoramic view of Barcelona awaited us.

Once we had our fill of the gorgeous view, Tenshi and I hiked back down and decided to explore the area of Barcelona near the bunkers. For me, this will stick out as one of my favorite portions of this trip because I finally felt like I was not in a touristy part of the city. Locals were out and about doing their shopping at the bakery and fruit market. I was able to practice my Spanish when ordering my bread, which made me feel SO happy. FINALLY, I was experiencing the Spain I had imagined.

When I had purchased my bread and fruit, Tenshi and I hopped onto the metro to go to Dona i Ocell, a sculpture by Joan Miro. Once again, an area free of tourists! This park was empty and the statue was really beautiful!

Dona i Ocell by Joan Miró

Afterwards, the plan was to go to the Olympic Park. However, I noticed some amazing murals. Since I am a sucker for street art, Tenshi and I decided to go over and check them out. Absolutely worth the detour!

Then, next to the murals happened to be the biggest street market I had ever seen. Food, artisans, and music galore! As Tenshi and I walked the length of the market, a band was really working the crowd. Onlookers were dancing and singing in Spanish and I ate up every moment! Tenshi and I were about to continue on when the band started to play ACDC’s “Highway to Hell.” When the song started playing, I whipped out my camera to videotape the moment and to sing along. Music, friends, is such a powerful way to bring people together!

At one of the food booths, a GIANT cast iron skillet contained paella. Eating REAL Spanish paella was one my bucket list for the weekend. After using some broken Spanish, the cooks told Tenshi and I to come back in 20 minutes and it would be ready. We walked around some more before heading back to the same booth. The man we had spoken with immediately remembered us and said “you came back!” For 8 euros, this paella did not disappoint!

Street paella. Delicious!

Once we ate our paella, Tenshi and I went back to the hostel where we reunited with Miriam. The three of us headed to an Italian restaurant a local had suggested to us the previous day. Where the restaurant was located did not even seem like Barcelona. Only locals were in the area and the architecture had the Spanish feel I had been anticipating seeing in person.

At Bellillo, I had a pizza with a fried base. Sounds gross, but absolutely delicious! Afterwards, we headed over to the ice cream shop the same woman had recommended, DeLaCrem. In her words, “GREAT ice cream you cannot see, it is in a canister. Ice cream on display with bright colors is bad ice cream.” Friends, canister ice cream is the best. I am still thinking about my dulce de leche ice cream.

Once we ate dessert, Tenshi headed off to her soccer game and Miriam and I walked around exploring the area. Eventually, we made our way to Magic Fountain of Montjuïc. During the summer, this fountain puts on a 30-minute show timed to music and lights. Fortunately for us, we happened to be there the first weekend the show occurred for the season. I have seen the Bellagio fountains in person in Las Vegas. In my opinion, the Magic Fountain put the Bellagio to shame. I was impressed!

After the show, Miriam and I made our way back to the hostel. There, we “napped” until 2:45 am and hopped on the metro and then bus to get to the airport.

I enjoyed Barcelona, but I would not go back. For me, I found Barcelona to be too touristy and as a traveler, that is just not my style. By far, this was my least favorite city I visited this semester. Sorry Barcelona friends!

Perhaps, I did not do and see the right things? I would love to go back to Spain, though, and visit other cities!

Have you been to Barcelona? What are your thoughts?

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Barcelona, Spain: Day 1

Hello and happy Monday! Today I am recapping my last out of country weekend for a couple of weeks. Fear not, I have some in-country trips planned!

Now, I really had no intention of going to Spain at all this semester. This is not because I did not want to go to Spain (I am minoring in Spanish). Rather, there were other European countries and cities higher on my bucket list for my semester abroad in England and I figured I could go to Spain later on in my life. However, my friend Miriam REALLY wanted to go on a trip together and REALLY wanted to go to Barcelona to see La Sagrada Familia. With that being said, we booked this trip together months ago. Tenshi, another friend, happened to be on the same train and flight as Miriam and I even though we had not booked anything together. As a result, the three of us ended up booking a hostel together and traveling together during the weekend!

On Thursday after my only class of the day, I headed to the train station with Miriam and Tenshi. After traveling on four different trains, we finally arrived at London Stansted. From there, we flew the two hours to Barcelona, Spain. By the time the three of us made our way through border control, the time was midnight.

Now, when flying into Barcelona El-Prat you have four options to get to the city:

  1. Take the metro. However, the metro lines only operates during select hours of the day. At midnight, this line does not run.
  2. Hop on the Aerobus, which drops off at two different stops in Barcelona and takes roughly 30 minutes. This is the cheapest, quickest, and most direct bus to the city. However, the bus stops running at 1:00 am.
  3. Take the city bus that stops 10+ times. If you have a public transport card, the pass can be used for this bus. The city bus is the most time-consuming.
  4. Hail a cab and pay anywhere from 30+ euros. Quick, but expensive!

Fortunately for us, the night bus that runs directly into the city happened to still be running. This meant we could each get into the city for 5.60 euros instead of splitting a cab for 30-35 euros. Woohoo! After getting to our hostel, HelloBCN, we finally managed to get some rest at 2:00 am.

Later that morning, Tenshi, Miriam, and I grabbed a quick breakfast at the hostel and looked at a map of the city to figure out our itinerary for the day. We decided to go to all the tourist hot-spots, which happened to be nearby our hostel.

With the help of Google maps, we made our way to the metro where we each retrieved our 48-hour public transport passes which allowed for unlimited use of the metro and city buses.

Barcelona, without a doubt, is best navigable by metro. A 48-hour pass cost around $15 USD and if purchased online results in a slight discount. Of course, if you have a longer stay in the city, passes for 72+ hours are available too. I cannot recommend purchasing a metro pass enough! If you plan on visiting museums and other attractions, the Barcelona Card may be the better option for you. This card is specifically for tourists and includes unlimited access to public transport and offers discounts for certain attractions and museums. For me, the 48-hour public transport pass made the most sense.

Now, with riding the metro, you MUST wear or hold any bag at the front of your body. Why? Pick pocketing is very common on the metro and on the streets. The Barcelona metro screens actually run advertisements in the metro cars to remind passengers to watch their belongings. This semester alone, four students from Harlaxton have had their phones stolen in Barcelona.

For the entirety of the weekend, I wore my backpack on my front as a precaution and kept my phone close to my chest when navigating our group from place to place. With my camera, I had my strap across my body as if I was wearing a cross body bag thinking this would make stealing the camera more difficult. However, a local actually told me when exiting the metro to watch my camera even closer.

This is not to say pick pocketing does not exist in other European cities or countries. However, in Barcelona, pick pocketing is common. Be on guard when traveling there.

Back to my day…

We rode for one stop and got out to see the Columbus Monument at Las Ramblas.

Hola, Christopher Columbus

Miriam, Tenshi, and I then made our way down Las Ramblas. This is a famous tourist street in Barcelona known for its tacky tourist stalls and street performers. As we made our way down the street, we came across the famous La Boqueria or food market. Of course, the three of us made our way inside to look at the fruits, candy, and fish (some of which were still moving) that were available for sale.

After La Boqueria, the three of us continued down Las Ramblas and eventually hopped on the metro again to see the Arco de Triunfo de Barcelona.

Arco de Triunfo de Barcelona

Then, we hopped back on the metro to see the Palau de la Música Catalana. Originally, I had wanted to see the famous mosaic columns at the concert hall. However, to get up close, you had to go on a tour. Miriam, Tenshi, and I decided to go on the next English tour to see the interior of the Palau. The 1-hour tour did not disappoint! Each tour begins with a short video of the history of the concert hall and then the guide takes you around the building.

Out of all of the paid landmarks I saw in Barcelona, the Palau de la Música Catalana was my favorite!

After our tour, we made our way to the Barcelona cathedral. Since you had to pay an entrance fee to go inside, Miriam, Tenshi, and I opted not to go inside since we would be going to see La Sagrada Familia later in the evening.

Barcelona Cathedral

For the duration of the afternoon, we wandered around Barcelona taking in the architecture, sights, and smells. Around 4:00 pm, we made our way by metro to La Sagrada Familia.

I cannot even begin to explain to you, friends, how crazy this church is to see in person. Pictures do not do La Sagrada Familia justice. This semester, I have been inside too many churches to count and La Sagrada Familia is by far the most wild of them all both structurally and artistically.

Antoni Gaudí designed this Catholic church and it has been under construction since 1882! With being under construction for so long, the older parts of the church have become dirty on the outside, while the newer parts are cleaner.

If you are interested in going inside, you MUST purchase your tickets in advance! Miriam and I purchased our tickets back in March and there were only evening time slots available. If we would have planned our trip earlier, I would have opted for tickets around 12:00 pm. Supposedly, the sunlight streaming in through the glass is best during that time of day. However, early evening is the second best time to be in the church light-wise.

Once we wrapped up inside the church, we headed to a tapas restaurant for dinner!

That’s all for day one! Stop back tomorrow for a day two recap!

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo