Spain – Barcelona

Barcelona is one of those places where time, at some point or another, becomes meaningless. Days turn into nights and nights into days, all blending together to create a swirl of memories. At least, that was my experience as a traveler in the city.

I arrived at Barcelona airport, and to my surprise, was literally able to grab my luggage and walk out the door. No customs. No immigration. Just me and all of the the other tourists waiting to become mesmerized by the city. Hola Spain!

It was mid-day on a Thursday, so I made my way to my hostel and was able to settle in. Hostel Sant Jordi Alberg couldn’t have been in a more perfect location, near Plaza Catalunya and Passeig de Gracia, one of the nicest shopping and restaurant districts in town. Not to mention, it was within walking distance to almost every major must-see site in the city.

That evening, I followed in typical Spanish fashion and made my way to a tapas bar to enjoy a handful of goodies off of the menu. After ordering a few items and a half liter of Sangria de Cava I was well on my way to getting the evening started right.

I joined my fellow hostelers for a night on the town. First, a local bar and then a beachfront club. We pre-partied with drinking games in one of the community rooms and then went out as a pretty large group as we joined one of the other nearby hostels and almost 40 of us or so were able to get into the club free of charge, without waiting. Now this I can handle. After too much drinking and jet lag catching up with me, I made my way home for an early evening.

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I woke up completely ill the next morning and spent the next few hours trying to nurse myself back to normalcy and catch up on some much needed rest. At 2pm, I decided it was time to get out and see some of Barca.

That afternoon, I wandered La Rambla, the pedestrian street catering to tourists, with everything from trinket vendors, street performers, bird/pet suppliers, artists, florists, and more. After walking along the infamous street, I made my way to the marina at the end and then found myself wandering into the Barri Gòtic and got lost in its maze of narrow streets, plazas, shops and restaurants. The sun had just set, so everything was dimly lit by overhead lamps, transforming you to another place, another time. A number of occasions, I turned a corner only to find an empty alleyway with a musician playing some haunting melody. It was beautiful and surreal.

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Evening, of course, followed and it was yet again time to enjoy the Barcelona nightlife and we made our way to a great little bar called Foc and then to a different club on the beach. After a dark subway ride and an entertaining time with the locals singing and shouting “Barca, Barca, Barca” on the train, we made our way to the club. Friday night was much better as it was a fairly packed place with great music, almost entirely American as is most pop/hip-hop music you hear throughout the city.

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As we wrapped up the night, I joined some Aussies for a trip to Macca’s (McDonald’s) near Porto Olympico. The cabby was happy to take us and it was well worth the trip just to listen to some of his stories. This old Spanish guy talked about the month he had spent in the US after his divorce and how he went crazy with his buddies overseas. He told us about prostitutes in Atlantic City and how he sent his ex a postcard from every city he went to, basically only to say F*** you to her. Then he ordered all of our food for us as the cashier at McDonalds basically had no idea what we wanted. Classic! That night was a late one and we stayed up until almost 6 am eating, drinking and laughing.

The following day, around 3pm, I felt the need once again to try to experience some of the city, so David, from Sydney, and I went to see La Sagrada Familia, the infamous church built, or at least begun, by Antoni Gaudí. (Gaudí never finished his masterpiece and his finished vision is expected to be complete by 2030).

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The gothic church is one of the most beautiful I have seen. It is eery and somewhat tortured architecture. Yet inside, it has a beauty unlike any church I have ever seen. Modern and historical at the same time. The stark white columns and winding staircases are extraordinarily beautiful and the church is absolutely massive.

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We were able to climb towards the tops of some of the bell towers and achieve some amazing views of Barcelona. The narrow passages and winding stairwells were not easy to navigate, but worth the effort.

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Once again, the evening was upon us and it was off to enjoy the nightlife of Barca.

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After several hours out, the crew and I, mostly made up of Aussies, made our way out and had intended to grab some quick Macca’s and then drink at the hostel. This time, however, the cabby spoke no English and would not take us through the drive-thru. After arguing with him for several minutes, we were forced to leave the car and hope that we could find a cabby nearby, definitely a challenging task. I stood on the side of the rode for several minutes (actually more like a highway) trying to hail a cab to no avail. Eventually, the policia pulled up and asked me to get off the road. I made my way back, only to find the group was already going through the drive-thru with some Spaniards and didn’t order me anything as they thought I had left. The night was only getting worse.

About 30-40 minutes after we had been dropped, a empty cab finally pulled into the gas station next door and I went up to him and desperately tried to explain in Spanish how we were stuck and needed a cab back to Plaza Catalunya. Whatever I said worked, as he agreed to take us after filling up. In the meantime, the Spaniards had taken off and one of our friends, Luke, realized that he had left his wallet in the back of their car. Needless to say, the night did not end well. We finally made it back to the hostel and Luke proceeded to call to cancel all of his credit cards while I ate the McDonalds I ended up getting and went to bed.

Sunday morning, I was determined to get up before noon, which was slightly easier as several people were leaving that morning. I made my way to explore Barca.

My first stop was Gaudí’s La Pedrera. At first, I wasn’t expecting much of this place as they were charging more than La Sagrada Familia to enter and it was basically an apartment building, however, the rooftop ended up being one of my favorite sites. These twisted sculptures, some looking like helmeted birds, were placed randomly throughout the rooftop. The pieces, with the bright blue sky in the background, ended up creating some of the most amazing photos and I ended up spending a large amount of time just taking in the sculptures and the views of Barcelona and Passeig de Gracia below.

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Next, I made my way via subway to Casa Vicens, another Gaudí home built for a tile manufacturer. It was off the same subway stop at Parc Guell, so I figured I would make time for a little detour. Next, it was on to the park, Barcelona’s most enchanting and interesting and designed entirely by Gaudí. The entrance is flanked by homes that were apparently inspired by a Catalan production of Hansel and Gretel, which is obvious once you view them as they literally looking like full-sized gingerbread houses. Next, you climb a double staircase on your way up to the Hall of 100 Columns (Teatro Griego), more than likely stopping at the salamander fountain to get your photo with the colorful little guy and hundreds of other tourists clamoring to get a shot in. You then follow another staircase up to a large barren plaza with amazing views of Barcelona. The shots are fairly incredible if you’re willing to ward off the tourists to get them.

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I explored very little of the massive park, but felt like I had seen the highlights, so I made my way back to the hostel to prepare for the last night in Barca. On my way, I stopped by another Gaudí classic, Casa Batllo, which is said to be a depiction of the legend of a Catalan hero, St. Jordi battling a dragon.

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The hostel was a bit less rowdy as our group numbers dwindled and we made our way out to a local Irish/karaoke bar. The highlight of my night, was a small reunion with my friend Klaas from Amsterdam who I had met at the Mango Tree hostel in Rio de Janeiro. Klaas has been living and working in Barcelona and I couldn’t be more jealous. We left the Irish bar and made our way towards the Barri Gòtic, finding few places open. Eventually, we stumbled upon a Brazilian bar, appropriately enough, and had some caipirinhas to commemorate the night before they closed. We made our way over to one of the other possible areas for open bars, apparently Sunday nights in Barcelona are not popular going-out nights, and ended up in a horrendous club next to Kabul hostel. I think you would have to be 18-ish to enjoy this place or enjoy Kabul, which apparently is one of the more popular hostels in Barcelona. Regardless, they were serving drinks and we were buying. After about 4am, it was time to call it a night and I made my way back to St. Jordi for my last few hours in Barca.

Overall, I was sincerely entranced by this city. Such a beautiful place with unlimited things to see and do; a cutting-edge metropolis catering to those seeking nightlife, art, shopping, or whatever your heart desires. Barca, Barca, Barca, thank you for leaving me longing for more!

For more photos from this trip, visit: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2717836670588.2145486.1397137237&type=1&l=e5376ce8c2

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