I came into Barcelona with rather high hopes. Not exactly sure why. Heard mostly good things about it I guess? But my initial impression is underwhelming. The fundamental reason, I think, is that I just don’t get it. I’ll say it: tapas are just overpriced tiny foods. And I don’t understand the appeal of all these outdoor eateries – just because you put an umbrella up doesn’t change the fact that you’re just eating on the street.
I should also note that I actually started this trip with a train ride through NYC. In probably the busiest part of Penn Station, there was a guy passed out on a toilet without a door on it at 4 in the afternoon. It doesn’t get more NYC than that, so I decided I didn’t even need to leave the station.
Barcelona does appear to be the Mecca of pretty girls on vacation though, which is considerably better than the actual Mecca.
SandwiChez – Cafe chain with lots of space, good WiFi, and allows you to buy things and then leaves you alone. Those are my 3 most crucial requirements for places I like. The name, for whatever reason, reminds me of that “I can haz cheezburger” cat meme – which I realize isn’t an entirely fluid association but it works for me and makes me happy.
Sagrada Família – One of the nicest scaffold-covered buildings I’ve seen. With an average visit time of an hour and a half, I defeated it by over an hour and ten minutes. But I took a couple pictures of it.
I wandered up to Park Güell, which people have told me is ok but not a must-do, and of course there was an entrance fee and you had to buy tickets beforehand. So I didn’t go into the actual little park there, but I walked around and had a nice view of the city and water.
So, as I typically do, I continued to wander around for a few days. I stopped by most of the Antoni Gaudí architecture, which is pretty cool. Certainly more interesting than a normal building, but the other buildings in Barcelona are old and pretty as well.
I’m probably the only tourist to have walked around Barcelona for a week without having a tapa or sangria, which is something I guess. I’ve had Sangria before and don’t particularly care for it, plus I have a policy where I never pay 8 euros for things that can be made nearly as well in a prison toilet.
I saw the Arc de Trimof, walked to the beach, wandered the Gothic Quarter, saw some plazas, and got some helado on Las Ramblas (two days before the bus attack).
The intersections here are extremely annoying. They have 12 sides instead of 4, making 45 degree angles at each corner and making pedestrians take the angle away and back to the street you’re walking down, making the walk a lot farther than it should be.
And then I went to Madrid. Had a nice little AirBnb in a neighborhood near the center of the city – the exactly kind of thing that people complain about because it’s killing these communities. While I’m content to be part of that slow death, it didn’t have WiFi, which is, of course, a nightmare, like I was living on a farm in the 18th century. Angel’s Ashes was on the bookshelf, and I read it in like 3 days, drawing lots of comparisons between being in an apartment without WiFi and life in Limerick during the depression.
But, I was able to go grocery shopping and do some cooking for myself, which was nice for a change. I drank about $12 of wine over the course of 10 days, which is a more reasonable-sounding way of saying 4 bottles (decent wine is plentiful and cheap here).
Anyways, despite this, I preferred Madrid to Barcelona. But they’re both so hot. Why is the sun everywhere?
The architecture is very nice everywhere you walk, and roaming around these tiny streets was more enjoyable than roaming around other tiny streets I’ve roamed around in the past.
This was my crossing on the Gran Via, one of the main tourist roads, so I snapped this picture because I thought it looked cool. It’s on my way to my favorite Starbucks, which is in a smaller neighborhood and has an entire downstairs to work in. The lady started remembering my coffee order on my third visit, so I started changing things up because I didn’t want her to feel like she knew me and get attached.
Out of necessity, I joined a Co-working space where I could spend my days and get some things done. The people there seemed very nice, the limited amount I was forced to talk to them of course, and I was able to hide downstairs and limit my interactions to getting my pass stamped each day.
As I did in Barcelona, I wandered around a lot. Determined to at least do one thing tourists were supposed to do, I went to San Ginés Chocolateria and had the chocolate con churros con. They tasted fine.
Spent plenty of time wandering around Plaza Major. Wandered into Mercado de San Miguel, which was a bustling and interesting tapas market, where I did not buy any tapas. Palace of Madrid, Parque de El Retiro, was going to go to the Museo National del Prado but the line was ridiculous so I just walked by it and then Googled some of the famous art inside it instead.
On Sunday, I went to the El Rastro flea market, which had a lot of trinkets and tourist things I didn’t buy. Lots of old-looking things I wouldn’t mind having if I had a place to put them, though. Then I tried to go to Toledo for the afternoon, but I missed my train and got angry so I didn’t both getting another ticket.
I realize I probably could have taken pictures of a lot of these things, but I did not. So, too bad, but this post doesn’t look very interesting. I’ll try to do better with the next one.