Exploring… Barcelona!

This blog has been stagnant for far too long, which I feel pretty bad about. I had a lot of work on over the past couple of months, but now that that’s out of the way, I can finally get back to posting! It just means I have a lot to catch up on… especially my Semana Santa break which I’ll begin with here.

Semana Santa is the one-week break from school where everywhere in Spain they hold huge Easter celebrations, no more so than in Andalucía (more on this in a later post)! Although I wanted to experience to festivities in my town, I also wanted to make the most of the time off to tick some more cities off my travel list, so I decided to meet up with a friend in Barcelona for the weekend.

I once again used HostelWorld to hunt down a really nice, cheap hostel in the centre of the city. It’s called St. Christopher’s and I would recommend it to anyone travelling to the city on a budget; you get breakfast included and it’s right next to the main street and the bus stop to and from the airport.

Before my friend arrived, I spent the first day exploring the city a bit, wandering the old town, the food markets and the port. Barcelona is such a vibrant city with a really cool, dynamic vibe; there are lots of strange hidden boutiques and winding little streets. There was a caravan street food fair next to the harbour and a random dance display/ celebration of some kind on the main street. Not to mention Gaudi, the architecture of the city in general is also really beautiful.

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I also came across quite a strong progressive political presence while I was there, which I have to admit was refreshing compared to the slightly more traditional views of the south. In Cataluña they have completely banned tauromaquia (bullfighting) and I met an awesome man who was protesting against the torture of animals for the sake of this ‘national’ culture, something which (although views may be shifting among the younger generations) people are much less vocal about where I live. There were also a number of demonstrations around the city over the weekend in favour of welcoming refugees.

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I spent the evening watching a flamenco show in a small tavern in the old town, which brought a more ‘authentic’ atmosphere to what was an impressive and yet intimate performance. The mojitos weren’t too bad either.

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The next day I decided to get my Gaudi fix and, despite the rain, headed a little further out in search of the Casa Batlló and La Pedrera, among others. Although I didn’t get the chance to go inside either of the buildings (due to money and time restraints!) the exteriors alone were enough to provide the necessary wow factor.

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When my friend arrived the weather had eased up a little so we decided to wander back through to town to grab some tapas and to visit a really cool vintage market, which is held weekly in the big old train station. And of course I couldn’t resist snapping up a dress or two. We then took a walk though the park and had an interesting time trying to get a picture on a giant plastic mammoth (…) before heading out for evening cocktails. For anyone in the city I would recommend looking up the best cocktail places before you head out as there are plenty of really cool little bars hidden away from the main streets, and with much better drinks!

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The next day we had planned to visit the all important Parc Güell before heading on to the Sagrada Familia (yet more Gaudi) and then the beach. Well things did not go to plan, as it turns out you should book in advance for the park on busy days or you will have hours to wait for a time slot, which we had not; don’t make this mistake! We bought tickets anyway but decided to try and squeeze in the Sagrada Familia before our slot, which turned out to be a pretty long walk away. So, although we got to see the outside we ended up not having time to go inside at all 😦 . But we stopped for lunch (and ended up paying 16 euros each for a cava sangria because we were stupid enough not to check the price…) before realising we were not late for our park slot. This is where I have to pull out my foreigner faking ignorance act (it’s bad, I know) and pretended not to understand that we were late so luckily they let us in anyway.

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The park was beautiful, although not as big as I had expected. Although I must say it’s a great spot for picture taking with beautiful backdrops of the mosaicked architecture and the sunset over the city! Needless to say we didn’t make it to the beach though… nightmare.

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Despite the ups and downs of the day (and French and Spanish transport leaving us both stranded before/ after our respective flights home…) we still had a really amazing weekend and managed to squeeze in just about everything we wanted to see, including a quick catch up for me with another friend the next morning, so overall we didn’t do too badly! I’ll definitely be heading back though to see more of the city and hopefully enjoy the beach too next time…

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More to come on my Semana Santa travels in my next posts…!

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