Armed with a laundry list of recommendations and fewer than 36 hours, my friend Rima and I set out on our glorious Ryanair flight to Barcelona. For the record (and to my dismay) no one clapped once we landed.
It’s important to know good places to visit when you’re going to a new city, but sometimes too many recommendations can cause problems. Maybe it’s just because we weren’t in Barcelona for very long (and some would argue not enough), but we had a huge list of places to visit but not enough time to see them.
It’s also worth mentioning that international travel is kind of a drag on three hours of sleep and a chesty cough (the pharmacist’s words, not mine).
Once we made it to the hostel and I used conversational Spanish for the first time in years, we did as the locals did: siesta-ed. Hard. For those unfamiliar, the Spanish basically take a break every afternoon to eat and nap and it’s called a siesta.
Post-siesta, we took the train towards Sagrada Familia and Park Güell. Both of these are pieces of architecture designed by Gaudi — his artwork is all over the city of Barcelona (which I learned in my Spanish class senior year of high school. At least I paid attention in class at some point in my life).
On the way to these landmarks, we decided to stop at this highly recommended paella place in a relatively quiet, residential neighborhood. It was a gorgeous walk, especially since there wasn’t a tour bus or fanny pack in sight, but it was out of the way of most everything we wanted to see. Plus, it turned out the restaurant didn’t start serving their paella until 8 p.m., so we detoured even further by getting tapas and sangria elsewhere.
Despite Barcelona’s size — its population is only 1.6M, the city’s got remarkably good infrastructure, including a transit system that puts the MBTA to shame. We used the train to get most everywhere in the city, though we did cab it back to the hostel after we didn’t leave our paella dinner until midnight.
We figured it would save us time to get ready to go out to Barcelona’s famed clubs (as every single person and their mother who has ever visited the city will tell you), but that wasn’t the case. We laid down for a siesta round two because everyone knows they don’t go out in Barcelona until 2 a.m… but then we forgot to wake up. We did actually wake up at 3:30 a.m. and realize what happened, but it was too late (so to speak).
This morning, we were determined to make up for lost time, going from Park Güell to Las Ramblas and La Boqueria, this food market that is my friend’s favorite place in the entire world (and she’s been a lot of places in this world, so I really trust her judgement).
We were absolutely GUTTED to realize that La Boqueria is CLOSED on Sundays. Strike two. We got over it as best we could with Kinder Bueno gelato and headed up the glorified ski lift to Montjuïc castle before popping down to the sea-side area called “Barceloneta.” A few pictures of the sunset later and back to London we went.
While I experienced so many other aspects of Barcelona and saw a city with much more depth and culture than I ever could have imagined, I can’t help but feel like something’s missing. But I guess that’s travel. You really have to take advantage of the time you have somewhere and carpe every diem, even if that means you’ll need a couple double espressos to do it.
As published on the Daily Free Now abroad blog Nov. 10, 2013