What a whirlwind! I arrived in Toulon, France on Friday night after 2 days in Barcelona. Is 2 days enough to do that city justice? Absolutely not. Did I give it a good go? Hell yes. Would I ever want to go back to Barcelona? Are you crazy for asking such a silly question?? Ok, I guess I asked that question - but anyway, of course I would! Here's how I spent my 48 hours in Catalonia. Arrival
After leaving Alicante at 12pm on Wednesday I drove with several Spaniards via BlaBla Car (another post on that method of transport coming soon) to the Barcelonian suburb of Sant Joan Despi. I had written instructions via Google on how to take the regional train from there to my hostel and so I didn't think it would be a problem. I was incredibly grateful to a fellow passenger who just happened to be going to the exact same metro stop as me (coincidence or did I really seem like I wasn't going to make it??) and helped me buy my ticket because none of the train numbers matched the directions I had. Thank you kind stranger!
I found my hostel easily after that and checked in. I looked forward to staying in a hostel because, despite the lack of sleep I knew I'd get, I wanted to meet some fellow travelers. The lady at the desk asked me if I was "going to the festival" and I said, "Sure. What is that?" "Every neighborhood in Barcelona has a street festival. This one is in the Gracia neighborhood, we're leaving at 10:30." Cool, I had some time to ditch the bag, relax and meet my roommies.
Ok, so my hostel was kinda dirty and the AC in our room didn't work but it is SO awesome that they led a group of guests to the Gracia festival for free. We were about 15 people - Americans, Germans, a Canadian, 2 Kiwis, some British guys and a Polish guide from the hostel. Fun. Although they had said it was a street fair with "lights hanging in the streets," that was a completely lame explanation for what it really was. Dozens of small streets throughout the neighborhood were themed and decorated, some completely covered, with hanging lanterns, sculptures, lights and art. There were stages with live music - each a different kind of music - and bars and food carts selling drinks, empanadas and sandwiches. Every bar in between had it's doors open offering take-away cocktails and snacks. Basically this was a giant neighborhood movable feast. It was incredible.
In the plazas between the streets, the city had erected tents and dance areas. In one square the band played swing music, in another there was a DJ. In a lot of ways it reminded me of the atmosphere during New Year's eve in Brugges - unbelievably happy people celebrating just to celebrate out and about - one hundred percent happy positive goodness. This plus the artsy element to it made it an all-trip highlight. The big thing that was missing was my hubby!!
A 13-mile walk
The next day I woke up leisurely ready to explore the city. You already know from my last post that I intended on visiting the Joan Miro Park - which was mildly, well ok, not really that successful. After my 'experience' I wandered up past the Placa Espanya to the 'magic fountain' which wasn't so magic as it was turned off, and up to the Museo de Arte de Catalanya. This impressive, palatial museum overlooks Barcelona with incredible fountains, sculptures dotted about and a grandeur that's humbling. I was even more excited to see the interior until I learned it was a hefty 12 euro ticket. So much for the free museums of the UK! They do offer a free day on Saturdays from 3pm-9pm, but being a Thursday that didn't work for me. So I grudgingly skipped the art museum and continued up Mont Juic towards the Olympic Park.
I'm getting closer to having visited all the olympic cities from the 1990's. Although Nagano probably won't be on this trip's agenda. The stadium and park was impressive - I love the Olympics. I continued my walk in search of Joan Miro's actual museum, only to find that after waiting in a very long line, the entry to that museum was 11 euro. Being on a meager 25 euro/per day budget makes these things difficult! So I moved on but was delighted to find myself descending Mont Juic in the incredible tiered gardens of Laribal. What a beautiful and romantic place to have so close to the center of the city.
Deciding that I needed a snack, I made my way back to the Metro and hopped off at the Placa Catayluna, right in the thick of downtown and at the top of the famous La Rambla. I didn't really have it in me to walk La Rambla, but I did head through part of the old city to the Cathedral and had a nice sandwich whilst watching throngs of tourist pay the 5 euros to enter the church (which I also skipped - although apparently there are gardens inside the cathedral - that's cool). Feeling like my 10 miles of walking before 3pm was taking it's toll, I headed back to the hostel for a proper siesta.
The remaining miles for the day took place during the evening, while enjoying the company of my roommates, the unbelievable artistry, and art of the city, the balmy coastal air, tapas, sangria and the lively vibe that Barcelona has to offer. 13 miles is a lot - and I was certainly ready for a good night's sleep.
The remaining few hours
In the morning I decided that I better check out the Rambla, the Mercato Boqueria - the famous indoor/outdoor food market - and catch a bit of the Gothic Quarter. Most gratefully I had already seen the Gaudi houses and Picasso Museum while in Barcelona with my family in 2001 - otherwise this post - and my 2 days- would be a lot different. I will say that if in Barcelona and you haven't seen the museums, the tourist card, which includes 6 museums for 30 euro is a great deal. But beware, that line out of the Picasso Museum was HUGE. It's August, what can you expect.
My day-2 walk took me through the old city and up to the lively market - which was a bit too crowded for me given the number of tourists. It was still an enticing sensory experience - the presentation of the fruits and fish in particular were really amazing. This would be the place I'd hang out in May or October - and definitely with a bit more cash so as to sit at one of the market tapas bars and enjoy the fresh food and great atmosphere.
I headed all the way down La Rambla, through the Gothic Quarter (which is stunning) and up to the Arc de Triomf. A really lovely circuit. My 4pm departure loomed so I decided to check on the progress of the Sagrada Familia and made a quick trip on the metro for a photo op. It's looking good! I think the 2026 completion date is on track (since of course I clearly know about such things). Hmm, perhaps that's a celebration to take part in! After admiring such an interesting architectural feat, I sped back to the hostel, grabbed my bag and raced to meet my next BlaBla Car ride to Toulon. Sound quick - yeah I'm still tired.
My 2 days in Barcelona were fabulous, albeit exhausting. I didn't have a great impression the last time, but I think now that's because I was simply too enamored with Sevilla to really see Barcelona's advantages. It's nice to be back in France - especially because now I can talk to people! It has been strange to be solo, after being with Jon for so long. We'll be back together soon and I'm looking forward to it! Hasta Luego!