Barcelona. I don’t even know where to begin. Have you been to this city before? It is vibrant and beautiful and unique, and whether you spend the whole time at the beach, tour all of Gaudi’s famous works, or just eat your way through the city, there are many ways to pass the time in Barcelona.
Going in, I knew that Catalonia was a distinct region of Spain, and I’ve even heard it said that “Barcelona isn’t Spain.” Most storefronts are labeled in Catalan (I quickly figured out that “rebaixes” means “We’re having a sale!”) and public signs are usually written in Catalan and Spanish (or “Castellano” as I think we’re supposed to say, right?) and sometimes in English as well.
I had expected to hear mainly Catalan, which is the primary local language (so I thought), but in fact Spanish (erm, Castellano) was much more prevalent than I expected. I wish I had brushed up on my high school Spanish (my high school Castellano?) a little more instead of trying to memorize Catalan phrases!
[One weird thing I did notice – it seems the most common greeting was “Hola” but the most common way to say goodbye was “Adéu,” which is Catalan. What’s up with that?]
Local pride is evident: Catalan flags hang off balconies on every street.
In some neighborhoods, political messages are pasted onto walls, proclaiming that Catalonia should be independent from Spain and the E.U. That’s a can of worms I’m not inclined to crack open.
Tourism is thriving in Barcelona (to the chagrin of many locals – see above), and I loved hearing a swirl of languages everywhere I went. English, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, German, Danish, French – good lord were there a lot of French people in Barcelona! (Geographically, it makes sense – I suppose the French are the only people who can easily drive to Barcelona. Besides the Spanish, that is.)
Not everyone’s a fan of Barcelona – have you heard that too? I didn’t know how I would like it, and it wasn’t even at the top of my European destinations list (Lisbon was, and then Italy. Yes, ALL OF ITALY.) But despite all these rumors about cheap European airfare (where? WHERE?!) the only place I could fly for under 100 euros with a couple weeks notice was Barcelona. So off I went.
And if you haven’t guessed by now, I loved it.
I loved the beautiful streets and alleyways and the architecture…
I loved the street art…
I loved the beach. Yes, it was crowded! Yes, everyone was half-naked (or all naked) and yes, you’d better not turn your back on your stuff if you want to keep it. But the Mediterranean – is there anything like it? The water was perfect.
I loved Barcelona’s own Arc de Triomphe (how many cities have one of these things?)
And I looooved indulging in sweet treats.
Of course, you can’t go to Barcelona without seeing a little Gaudi… (Seriously, you can’t. Even if you don’t want to. He’s unavoidable.)
And Montjuic and its nighttime fountain show were favorites of mine.
But as is often the case with me, my very favorite thing to do was just wander the streets.
In fact, on my first day, I walked about eight or nine kilometers, and on the second, I logged another six or seven. That’s between nine or ten miles in two days, in sandals (and not those fancy sandals with arch support. Mom was right – I need better shoes.) It may not sound like a lot to you athletic people, but for un-athletic me in improper footwear, it was a bad, bad idea. I was in pain for the rest of the week. I think Barcelona has exceptionally hard sidewalks or something. I don’t know why I didn’t just take the metro!
Here are a few more snapshots from my wanderings in this lovely city:
Watch out, Barcelona. I’ll be back.
Have you been to Barcelona? Did you love it or hate it?