30 March 2014

Final Boarding Call for Barcelona 2013

If you missed the previous story, I invite you to read it: Oktoberfest - 2013 (check)

Still in Munich....the plan was to create an itinerary for our Spanish adventures while we were all together in Germany. So, with just a couple of ideas and only a few days before departure, we visited an internet cafe. where we found flights for Sunday October 06 and a place to stay for the first three nights in Barcelona (Central Station Hostel on calle Hospital near La Rambla found on booking.comIf you need a place to start in BCN, this hostel is clean, fairly priced, in an excellent location and the staff are friendly). It was during our search that I discovered Vueling airlines, the cheap Spanish airline similar to Ryanair or Easy Jet. YAY 2 sleeps and one last night at Oktoberfest ...

I wouldn't necessarily recommend partying 'like rock stars' the night before departure. Especially when you have to clean the apartment, lug suitcases that contain your life for the next 8 months and hike yourself first to the fines then to the train and finally, through the largest airport terminal. But some of us never learn haha and I became very angry at my 'shut it down at sunrise' decision more and more as our travel adventures apres Oktoberfest progressed that day :P (while at the same time, I wouldn't have changed a thing about that experience).

And when booking your flights it's imperative that you check baggage allowances and clearly understand what it is you're allowed to bring with you. This flight was no longer 'international', but domestic, and I was nearly 20 kg's over on a bag I wasn't permitted to bring (OUCH ... 250 euros later, it boarded the plane with us but I strongly contemplated sorting and tossing some items, but honestly, what?, what would I leave behind? I had just packed and sorted for a month and refined it into these two well-stuffed cases. 

When we arrived in Barcelona, we took the Aeroport Bus from the Airport to Catalunya (city centre). The Bus was easy, take A1, or A2, numbered according to what terminal you arrive at, stops are equally the same regardless of bus as they make their way from the airport to town. From there we decided that we'd take the metro to La Rambla and ask for directions on the closest stop to Calle Hospital. As for directions thereafter, I've learned directions should always be asked to 3 different people, but I decided to ask two and then make a decision.  This resulted in a metro stop at the other end of the La Rambla and nearly 2 hours of being lost in street madness, asking for help from lots of strangers as daylight faded to darkness...but we eventually found the street. Tired, warm and hungry .... but WE MADE IT :) :)

**Everyone warns of pick pockets in Barcelona (it is a frequent thing) but I must say that during our first few hours here, we only met the most friendly and helpful people of this city, assisting us with directions, helping lug bags up and down the subways and lots of smiles and nods.

¡Hola Barcelona! ¿Que Tal?

Check-in, shower, change and OUT. La Rambla is the busiest walkway in the city. No matter the hour, you will meet thousands of people strolling between Catalunya and Drassanes metro stops (or I guess I should say it's between Catalunya centre and the Columbus Statue, funny I would use metro stops to define the area, because there is way more and it is sooo busy). Barcelona Tourism describes the area beautifully so I've attached the link for you to see for yourself.  Just remember it leaves out the number of promoters, prostitutes and pick pockets you can meet along the stretch at any given time lol. It's certainly a major tourist area but so central that locals wander there too. Las Ramblas (click here to check it out). 

**At first, I was directionally challenged in Barcelona (wait, I always am, but it was severe here for the first while), especially the Rambla. One  
way was the beach, the other the mountain / city centre and every time I would arrive on La Rambla from Calle Hospital I'd get it wrong....so I started to use the landmark of the 'dragon' across from Hospital Street, near the bank on La Rambla, as how I would know which way I needed to go. If I stand in front of it while on La Rambla, left is City Centre / Mountains and right will take me to the beach / port area. haha. Hooray for landmarks and maps .... maps?! ;) I have tons of 'getting lost' stories for you.

Stephanie, Connie and I found food. We also discovered Sangria that night, which is a typical beverage from Portugal and Spain, normally consisting of wine, chopped fruit, a sweetener, and a small amount of added brandy. We planned an early retirement the first night. A little bit recovery time was needed and a bit of time to review the tourist information we'd been collecting so that we could tentatively map out our time here. 

Along with the fun, touristy stuff, I had to find a place to live, register my existence here (or at least learn the process) and perhaps figure out the lay of the land so that I could make some friends, simply buy or order food and figure out some do's and don'ts. Grateful that the girlies could join me on this excursion ... that first week was incredible, emotional, exciting and entertaining; I am a very lucky lady to have friends to take their vacation time to experience all this with me.

We decided that we would walk instead of take the metro's for the week. The more things we could experience above ground, the better it would be for me after the girls went home. We did take the Hop Off / Hop On bus for 2 days. It was worth it for the two days, there's no way you can discover everything on the bus in just the one day, especially if you wish to get out to explore at all: Olympic Stadium, Parc Guell, Montjuïc (castle and magic fountain area), Barceloneta, Port Olympic, Camp Nou, Poble Espanyol, Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló or any of the many amazing museums and other major attractions.

As for night life, Barcelona has tons and in many areas of the city. It truly depends on you and where you feel like being. Aribau, University, Port Olympic, La Rambla, Parell-el, Plaza Rieal or Gòtic Area...etc. There's the famous places like Razzmatazz, Opium Mar, Shoko, Catwalk, Apollo, Club Sutton, etc. There are places that offer you drinks and shots plus free entrance, there are bar crawls that you can learn of as you walk La Rambla that allow you free drinks, a tour guide and entrance into a night club for free at the end of the crawl. Our first place dancing was at Rey del Copas in Plaza Reial. AWESOME. I think I've been back to this place more often than any other establishment during my stay here (or a close second to the Port Olympic night clubs near the marina). 

Spanish isn't the first language of Barcelona, locals speak Catalan here (a mix of Spanish, Italian and French, but definitely it's very own) and as such, all street signs and public signs are and most stores advertise in Catalan. It makes it a bit difficult to practice and learn Spanish (or castellano, as they refer to the Spanish Language here) but you're still exposed to it.

The girls and I tried Paella (my favourite is with the Fideo noodles and not so much with rice) and we experienced many tapas (tapas are essentially snacks and most places offer you a free one when you order a cerveza, but not always. Tapas are best described here for you). All I've tried have been delicious! There are so many restaurants and bars here. Nearly every block you'll find one or two places to eat, offering cuisine from all over the world. Most popular items here: bread, pastries, seafood and Jamón ibérico (I'll leave it Wikipedia to explain what Jamón ibérico is).  One outstanding thing about Spain is that the food here is almost always fresh and relatively inexpensive but they seem to love salt.  

Jamón Ibérico

Wine's very inexpensive, as is beer here (nice bottle of red for 1.90 euros or beer for 50 cents). You can drink on the street / beach in public until 11pm I believe (the rules here aren't clear but I have heard that fines exist). You can't buy or sell beer on the street even though it happens (foreigners with green bags along the streets will ask as you pass "cerveza, aqua, cold beer, marijuana, hashish, cocaine, girls" ...etc. usually they stop at "beer, cold beer". For only 1 euro you can get a very cold beverage, open it and drink it as you walk ... just be aware that you might be required to pay a fine (although I never have). 

The beaches are wonderful. The water was warm, as was the air back early October. Be wary of the persons selling coconut, they offer you the treat, even take photos of you and your friends and then tell you that they're charging you 4 euros each. What? lol Stephanie was the best .... she asked the guy to stay there and she was going to get the police HAHAHHA. We paid only what change Connie had in her hand. That moment was priceless. The sand sculptures were very nice, loads of treasures to be found along the waters edge. Public washrooms aren't abundant, you have to pay to use them (which keeps them clean and safe) and tops for both guys and girls alike are optional (just as they are on nearly every public beach in Europe).

The girls and I spent four nights at the hostel. We explored many areas of the City (mind you there's lots we weren't able to fit in). Some of the highlights were Poble Espanyol, Olympic Stadium, Markets; including Encants (which is only open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday). I did find a flat to move into (thankfully). A lovely fully furnished studio all to myself in a residential neighbourhood on a quiet one-way street, everything included (even has a balcony, full size fridge and a washer/dryer). Bed and sofa included and on that note, I think it's siesta time (which honestly still occurs here daily from 2-5pm).

A week with my pals here wasn't long enough.  Next post I'll share their departure and the 'what next's' of this adventure.  Perhaps some details of the excursions and facilities I've visited.  

¡Hasta Luego Amgios!

To review all the stories, including this one related to Spain - An Extended Adventure (click here). For ALL the vicarious vacations shared so far, your Adventure Map awaits (click here). Please leave your comments, your stories, your travel advice etc. in the section below (comments or reaction section) and give your answer to the weekly survey (top right of the blog page). No sign up necessary, just a simple click :) A little shy?! Why not send me an email instead: holidayheidi@hotmail.ca

~ Holiday Heidi


  1. Lovely pictures! I miss Barcelona a lot! I lived there for 6 months to attend a  spanish course in Barcelona, in a small flat in Gracia. The beaches are quite nice, and the best are the "chiringuitos"!

    1. Oh Sandra, I can imagine how much you miss it here. What months were you here? I'll have to investigate the Chiringuitos beach area, so far I've fallen in love with Castelldefels (a little south but available on the same metreo card). Where are you now? And how is your Spanish these days?