So, I’ve been travelling again! This time solo. I had a weeks annual leave to take and no one else was off work so yeah… off I went! I decided as I’d done Barcelona before, but not for 8 years, I not only wanted to it revisit again (because I loved it the last time) but also visit somewhere I hadn’t before – Valencia. But more on Valencia in another post.
To be honest – My first impressions being back in Barcelona weren’t great.
Turning up at the Center Ramblas hostel in possibly the sketchiest street off La Ramblas (main shopping street in Barcelona). The hostel room I was allocated was so noisy (not due to travellers staying there – but room being right next to the elevator) and really stuffy and cramped. The bathroom was pretty grimy to say the least (6 rooms with 4-6 beds in each sharing 2 toilets and 2 showers) and the whole place itself just really lacked atmosphere. Like, I’ve stayed in a fair few hostels in my time and this has to be one of my least faves. I could have moved hostels – yes you’re right, but would have had to pay another nights stay, find somewhere else that isn’t miles away from everything and risk being in the same situation. So I stayed put.
Another thing – is that I totally forgot that I was visiting Spain, you know, where they speak Spanish – and all I know is thankyou. Bad prep on my part there.
So I was feeling a bit overwhelmed to say the least and as it was dinner time, I thought I’d get out there – venture out to find a nice little place to eat. Well, I got COMPLETELY ignored in first two places I went in to, sat down for 10-15 minutes and so left – thinking I MUST be wearing an invisible cape or something. Yes these places were a tad busy, but I mean waiters walking right past me and attending to others behind me. In the end I ended up settling for standard restaurant on La Ramblas where I probably got overcharged at €15 for prawn spaghetti and a Coke, but I’d given up at that point and felt pretty defeated on my first night there.
After thankfully I brought some ear-plugs with me, so I jammed these in my ears and prayed for a few at least a few hours sleep.
Woke up, took a shower and thought to myself, right, need to get back into the swing of solo travel malarkey and decided to do what I love to do when solo travelling – by joining a Sandemans Walking Tour! I’ve lost count of how many of these I’ve done now. They work buy providing free walking tours around the city – to which then you tip at the end what you feel it’s worth. Our guide was a cute little (I mean little like 4’8″) Aussie lass with infectious enthusiasm and had so much knowledge and history of Barcelona – it really opened me up to the beautiful and historical side of Barcelona and the initial first doubts slowly started melting away.
I then decided to head back to hostel to cool off #palegingerproblems and realised that for the Segrada Familia and Park Guell you now have to book time slots in advance. I don’t remember doing this last time in Barcelona (although that was 8 years ago) but in a way it makes sense seeing just how touristic Barcelona has become now. So I booked these for the next two days.
Determined not to waste the rest of the day, I headed on the Metro to Montjuic Castle (not so much of a tourist spot and no advance booking required). I would definitely recommend getting the Telerific cable car up – unless you’re a REALLY athletic person as it is a long slog uphill for a GOOD 30 minutes in 25 degree heat. Not my style. The castle itself is nothing to write about (literally just brick walls) but its the views from the castle that make it worth the visit – just breath taking. You can buy a return cable car ticket, but I (seeing as I had some time to kill) suggest walking back down from the castle to the metro as there are some beautiful gardens and when I visited the garden and flowers were in full bloom. Plus, it didn’t make me feel as lazy as getting cable car both ways..!
To avoid the awkwardness of solo dining again like the previous night, I went to Carrefour supermarket and bought a to-go meal which I ate back at the hostel. €4 instead of €15? Sorted. I know I’m on holiday and should be able to eat out, drink what I like etc etc, but seeing as I was away for the whole week, wanted to save money for the places that mattered or needed to see and if I had some spare to go home with then hey, bonus.
By the time I dragged my bottom out of bed (after a disturbed nights sleep) and went to book the Segrada Familia for today, the next available slot was 16:30. Hmm. No bother to me though, as I took these 5 hours to kill heading down to Barcelonetta Beach where I chilled with a book for a while before I got too hot and then walked along to the stunning area of Port Vell.
Port Vell, to me, just has such a relaxed vibe to it everywhere is so clean and I just happily say there for a good hour or so reading and taking in the views before getting the metro to the Segrada Familia.
Man I forgot how huge it was. Like, really huge. The construction of the Segrada Familia is still ongoing with a proposed end date of 2026 (100 years after the death of Antoni Gaudi) but who really knows.
The most magnificent part for me was the sense of openness and light that you get inside the cathedral with not only stained glass windows down each side, but also in contrasting warm and cool colours, giving a real sense of relaxation and ease. I mean the pictures here just don’t do it justice.
Of course, I did actually go up the tower too – just literally to take in the view and snap some pics. That’s all you really do up there. Was quite a hairy trip down the winding steep staircase (400 of them) though, but at least it was down and not up. If you’re a claustrophobic person, or scared of heights – this part may not be for you.
Again, booking the day before – I went using the Metro to visit Park Guell (a space where much of the area is designed by, again, Antoni Gaudi). The ticketing system is quite strict now compared to what I remember before in the park itself is now segregated and that in order to enter the Monumental Zone, you have a 30 minute time slot in which to enter, I guess to avoid overcrowding. I thought this seemed a bit extreme when I first booked it, but actually being there, makes total sense. It would be quite chaotic if it wasn’t segregated and ruin the ‘tranquil’ atmosphere the Park and Gardens are supposed to have. Again, Barcelona is so touristy now. May have been less busy going in March, April or May, but I guess like London – it can be just as busy all year round now.
The remainder of my last day in Barcelona was pretty relaxed after this. I took a stroll around the shops, ate out solo again to better success and got my things prepared for an early train journey to Valencia in the morning…
And that rounds up my stay to Barcelona in a nutshell! Managed to fit quite a fair amount in 4 days without ever feeling too rushed which was nice. Oh, and having ‘feel at home’ data roaming from 3 helped tonnes – google mapping pretty much everywhere I went (sometimes a paper map just don’t cut it) and booking online tickets with ease.
Stay tuned for part 2 where you can read about my new love – Valencia!
Till next time!