Home, back at work and SHATTERED. Barcelona was mental. We were there for the Barcelona v. Manchester United game and when Barcelona won (phew) it spawned a wild street party the likes of which I had never seen before. AND I WAS THERE! For once, I was in THE place where IT was happening. People were dancing in the roads until about 5am, and the noise was just incredible. Boyfriend and I just wandered about for hours, swigging from a 2 Euro carton of sangria and trying not to get robbed.
Barcelona is dirty, dangerous and intoxicating. The tiny little alleys housed by ancient and decaying palaces, the senselessly teeming roads, the gloriously urban beach…I could rant for hours. Just don’t try to use the Metro, eh? Trying to get the train back to Girona was pretty mental, and we spent about 15 minutes at several stations just shouting ‘I DON’T KNOW!’ and ‘WELL I DON’T KNOW EITHER!’ at each other. The journey home was extremely fraught and tarnished our memories a bit I think. Especially as we got home at 2.30am and I had to get up for work at 5.30, which is just a lovely prelude to a two hour commute and a frantic day at the office.
Top Things to do in Barcelona:
1) Before you even GET to Barcelona, make sure you fly to Girona airport and make the journey south by train, stopping at some of the tiny coastal towns. We randomly picked Malgrat de Mar, and we had such a lovely time. It was the perfect place to relax after our travels. We sat at a little bar where no one spoke English and drank very strong gin and tonics. Then we went out onto the empty beach which is right next to the tiny station platform. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. The whole town is made up of the ancient two-platform station, a little cobbled square, one crumbling hotel and about three streets of shops and houses. VERY large contrast between Malgrat de Mar and Barcelona…
2) Wherever you’re staying, make sure you go for a wander around the Arc de Triomf. The Arc itself is magnificent, with a huge collonade ending in Barcelona’s finest park. This park is like a secret garden, with hidden treasures everywhere, including an orangery, a castle, a Gaudi fountain…and a huge mammoth. The area surrounding the Arc de Triomf is made up of dark alleys and tiny shops, restaurants and bars. We stayed in this area and it was beautiful. Dingy, decaying and dirty, but just so representative of Barcelona. Each tiny community is based around a small square, many of which have allotments and play areas in them. Somehow, in such a huge city, Barcelona residents manage to maintain a rural way of living.
3) Eat xocolata amb xurros in a dark old man cafe. You will get no smiles and many stares from the old men drinking brandy at the bar, but the atmosphere is great. Just don’t plan on doing anything strenuous after: a whole cup of thick melted chocolate with fried pastry twists does not bode well for exercise! Xocolate amb xurros is pronounced ‘shocolata am shurros’ to clear up any confusion. Catalan is HARD to speak.
4) Go down to the sea front and I guarantee there will be something crazy going on. We innocently stumbled upon an African festival and stopped for most of the evening to dance to a ska band and drink very strong mojitos in the sun. Everyone dances in Barcelona. I’ve never seen an audience react so unselfconsciously in England!
5) Go to a food market. We went to the Mercat de Santa Caterina and it’s AMAZING. Everything is so fresh and vibrant and oddly shaped because it’s all organic. We struggled through the language barrier to ask for cherries, crusty bread, a piece of chorizo rioja, slices of Gouda and Brie, and some plum tomatoes. It was difficult, but so worth it. The chorizo in particular was fantastic, the best I’ve ever had. Hacked off a huge stick of it and wrapped in greased paper. Mmmmm.
6) Walk EVERYWHERE. The amount of street art and performers doing crazy things is unbelievable. We were sitting outside a bar in a little square and a girl started firedancing. Everyone around us was local and were certainly not giving her money, so I can only guess that she was doing it for fun. Everywhere you go you will see pavement art, amazing graffiti, sculptures and unexplained curiosities. Barcelona isn’t keen on spelling things out. You don’t see signs giving information on the city’s treasures, they’re just THERE.