When I woke up in morning, I was the only person in the room (I was pretty relieved to not have to be silent) and one of the beds had been stripped as if someone had left early. The hostel is pretty busy, there’s always someone new coming or someone else leaving – with the staff giving seemingly never-ending tours. I helped myself to some of the free mint tea (fresh mint, amazing!) and sat out on the terrace before realizing that my bloody adapter was broken (note to self, never borrow anything from your parents without checking if it works first). The lovely guy on reception managed to find a UK to Euro adapter going spare and so I was saved having to trail about trying to find somewhere to buy one.
I headed out in search of coffee and toiletries (the downside of only doing cabin luggage – you can’t take the usual essentials like shampoo and bodywash) and ended up wandering around Gràcia, which is the little area of Barcelona I’m staying in. It used to be a separate village and still has that kind of a feel to it with lots of winding streets and pretty squares.
No matter what anyone says about getting by on a smile, a little Spanish goes a long way here – especially in the less touristy areas like Gràcia. I ordered a coffee (in very poor Spanish) at Bracafé on Carrer de Girona and pulled out my Barcelona guide to make a plan for the day. The Sagrada Familia turned out to only be 15 minute walk away from the café so I headed in that direction. You can see the towers and cranes (it’s still under construction, despite being started in 1882) from a distance but up close, it’s incredible. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is part cathedral, part fairytale castle and part who-knows-what. Designed by Barcelona’s most famous architect, Antonio Gaudí, it’s insanely beautiful and really odd at the same time…which seems to be the running them with all of Gaudi’s buildings.
I knew it was Barcelona’s main tourist attraction but I had no idea the queue would be quite as big (tip: in Barcelona, book as much as many of the attractions as you can online in advance) so I decided to save going inside for another day and just take a walk around the outside and sit in Plaça de la Sagrada Família – the pretty square just next to it – for a little while.
After that, I started walking in the general direction of the sea – which, as it turns out, is a bloody long way away. By luck, I wandered into the beautiful Parc de la Ciutadella, and let my now blistered feet have a rest for a while. The Parliament building and the zoo are both within the park grounds but the highlight is the Cascada Monumental – a huge ornate waterfall – near the Carrer de Wellington entrance.
I headed for the waterfront after that, passing Museu Picasso (which I’m saving for a rainy day) and propped myself up at one of Barceloneta’s many beach bars for a much-needed pint of lemon beer. All of the beach bars are basically the same and relatively cheap (4 – 5 euros for a pint) but they’re predictably on the tacky, touristy side. From the beach, you can see The Port Vell Aerial Tramway ferrying people to and from Montjuïc hill, which is something else on my to-do list, as well as the Hotel Vela – the huge sail-shaped building in the port.
Despite my sore feet and now tired legs, I wanted to keep exploring. I walked past the Marina and then north into Barri Gotic – Barcelona’s oldest neighborhood, full of winding, tourist-packed streets. I somehow ended up Passeig de Sant Joan – which was also around the time that my phone died and I had to go back to using my actual map (technology fail!) Luckily, Passeig de Sant Joan is just a huge, straight street that goes all the way back up to Gràcia so I found the hostel again (relatively!) easily.
Back at the hostel, I started chatting to a Brazilian Dubliner named David who was heading out to a club by the beach later that night and said I was welcome to join him. The night life in Barcelona was something I really wanted to experience but wasn’t keep to go out clubbing by myself so meeting David was perfect. I made plans to catch up with him around 11pm and after a while of chilling out in the sun on the hostel’s terrace, I went in search of nearby food.
I had tapas at a really great little restaurant called Pirineus Bar &Cuina, on the corner of Travessera de Gracia and Carrer de Bailèn. Eating alone is something that I’m used to but ordering when you don’t speak the language and you’re by yourself is a bit different, although I managed in the end.
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