The best part of the year abroad is the new people you meet, but nothing beats reuniting with someone you’ve known for years on the other side of the globe. I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend with better company, here’s all the gossip from my latest adventure to BARCELONA!
‘New adventures, old friends.’
So, my gorgeous friend from Sixth Form, Chloe, has been studying in Barcelona and seeing as we only get to see each other once a year nowadays, I just couldn’t turn down an opportunity to visit. After much deliberation (and budgeting and endless google searches), I decided to take the bus from Madrid. Definitely the most economic option but not necessarily the most practical. First things first, it took 7 hours! I know I’m no stranger to 24 hour trains in Russia and overnight buses in Latin America but I’d been getting so used to my luxurious, cosmopolitan life in Madrid I’d actually forgotten about the hassles of long distance travel. Luckily, the universe was in my favour and I was greeted to unlimited water, sweets, a personal TV, reclining chairs, plug sockets and even a mini iPad style tablet with games on! All for under 30 euros… 7 hours couldn’t have been more blissful! That said, I still wasted half a day travelling and ‘time is money’ and all, so maybe take that into account if you’re planning a journey between two Spanish cities.
Anyway, let’s get to the good stuff. BARCELONA, baby. Here’s the highlights of what we got up to:
- The food
We ate ridiculously well (it wouldn’t be normal if we didn’t), from a variety of eggs for breakfast, traditional tapas, japanese and brazilian fusions, insane salads, street food and ice cream galore. I have come back to Madrid half a stone heavier and half a stone happier. I have to admit that Barcelona has every type of food available but the only problem is that it’s noticeably more expensive. Despite Madrid being the capital city, Barcelona is much more tourist-oriented meaning that they can drive the prices up 😭… but hey, sometimes you’ve gotta spoil yourself. My top three favourite places to check out if you’re ever in Barcelona are ‘La Boqueria’ market, ‘Maka Maka‘ down by the beach and ‘Ikibana‘ near the Plaza de España.
- Biking and Rollerblading
A spontaneous decision to hire rollerblades and bikes for the day turned out to be one of the best decisions of the whole weekend. Not only is it a ridiculously fun way to see the city, but it’s quicker than walking and great exercise. After literally FALLING out of the skate shop, I managed to stay un-injured for the rest of the day… (just kidding, I crashed my bike and rollerbladed into a lamppost). It was worth it for the friends I made along the way though, mainly due to people being concerned for my safety but shushhhhhh. Don’t think I could have pictured a better way to spend the day, I am the happiest on wheels!
- Brunch Electronik
Hidden behind Montjuic in a castle, there were hundreds of people drinking and raving from midday to midnight and I would never have known about it if it weren’t for Chloe. The atmosphere was sick and we met some really fun people. Big shout out to the guys from Bristol, UK. It’s amazing how you can live 20 minutes from someone but only meet in a different country! There were DJ’s, food stalls, jewellery stalls, rollerbladers, rock climbing… you name it. I don’t usually enjoy drum and bass music cause I don’t think you can dance to it at all (side stepping and head bobbing is not dancing… 😡) but we found a spot to chill out and soak up the vibes, the sunshine and some Red Bull (in good company, you don’t even need alcohol to feel drunk on life). CHEERS, Brunch.
- The really-mainstream-tourist stuff
I decided to save Chloe the pain of showing her guests around the ‘must see’ Barcelon-ian sights and decided to explore the city alone on the Monday. Now, I’ve been to Barcelona before and I’ve pretty much seen everything that the tour books insist you ‘need’ to see, but the problem was that I didn’t remember anything about my experiences and I certainly wasn’t a cultured enough 12 year old to appreciate anything that didn’t involve ice cream or theme parks.
I made sure to admire Las Ramblas, the main street, and wander around the main plazas but there were still some key sights to see. So off I trotted to the Sagrada Familia equipped with a selfie stick and a pre-booked ticket (works out cheaper). Due to a problem on the metro I missed my time slot, but it was swiftly sorted and before I knew it I was admiring Gaudí’s architecture up close and personal. It’s not finished yet (will it EVER be? Classic Spain) but it’s still pretty breathtaking and the inside definitely makes up for it. The colours of the stained glass against the crisp white pillars makes for beautiful photos and I spent more time in there than I expected to! There’s a museum below the Basilica which is great for information about the design and motivation behind it… don’t forget to check that out.
Next, I headed off to Park Güell to truly fulfil my Gaudí quota. The park is free to enter but if you want to enter the mosaic gardens (which is definitely the best part) then you have to pay about 7 euros. It was a really sunny day which really made a difference – views are 10x better with a blue sky. There’s actually quite a lot to see, so make sure you budget enough time!
- The not-so-tourist stuff
Although Park de Ciutadella may be a tourist hotspot, it’s a bit different when you’re there with a group of students who’ve been living in Barcelona for half a year. A million blankets and balloons later we had the perfect set up for a surprise birthday party and despite not even knowing the birthday girl, I had such a good time. There are so many benefits of visiting someone who actually lives in the city you want to see, because you get to experience a side to it that you may not be able to when staying in a hostel and following a guide book. The nights out, the street wanderings, the trips to grocery stores, the morning cups of tea in bed – all of these things make you feel like more of a local and less of a tourist, which I think is super important to embrace when travelling.
- The Bunker, El Carmel
As always, I’ve saved the best for last. What do most people do on a saturday night in Barcelona? Go out clubbing, right? WRONG. How about, hike outside of the city to a run-down bunker on top of a mountain to watch the sun set and rise again, with blankets, picnics, beers, friends, guitars and even some woodwind instruments for good measure? In my whole 20 years of travelling, I have seen some incredible things but very few have captivated me as much as the view on top of El Carmel. Being able to see the whole city lit up like that, standing on top of it all and realising how beautifully insignificant you are amongst all the chaos is a feeling that I will never be able to express in words. My phone also died, which was kind of a blessing in disguise – you don’t always need to take pictures and have communication with the outside world… it’s best just to BE. The vibe was electric and I was so happy to snuggle up and just soak it all in an absolute must see if you want to break away from the touristy-side of Barcelona, plus it’s just one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ kinda experiences that you know will stay with you forever. Jeeez, life is sweet.
So that’s that. Hope I’ve inspired you all to add Barcelona to your travel wish list or even just inspired you to take a hike out of your hometown and see what magic there is to be found… Oh and thanks for having me Chlo! Until our next adventure… 😘