Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Day 39-42: Barcelona: English speakers, La Rambla, sunglasses and sleeping on the bench

I arrived in Barcelona after 4 hours of sleep in Paris (boy, am I always sleep-deprived or what?) and a slight hangover… after having half a bottle of moderately expensive French wine? That sounds weird to me as well, but maybe it was just something in the air.

In Paris I had my first Ryanair flight delay (by about 30 minutes only) as well as a carry-on size check. Luckily, I was somehow overlooked in the queue and safely got away with carrying my huge DSL in my hands (or rather… stuffed into my winter coat), but having to hide it was far from pleasant.

My little “project” of not reading anything on any destination backfired a little bit as I landed in Barcelona and wanted to go to the center with train only, even though bus was right out there and seemed like a good option. So I had to walk a long way to the train and finally hop on it at the last minute (not without some confusion with the ticket machine beforehand). I knew the airport is not far from the city itself and I saw people massively exiting the train at several stops, but I only realized that Barcelona had been left behind as the train entered some fields... I had to exist in the middle of nowhere and take the train back to town. Which brings me to my next point.

What you don’t hear about Barcelona is that nobody speaks English there (and don't expect to see many signs or hear announcements in English either); it is a fact that the French have a hard time dealing with the world’s most convenient for use language, but you don’t hear that about the Catalans or the Spanish. Well, I am here to break to news to you and wish you good luck in finding English-speaking people. Even on the most tourist-studded places like La Rambla street the only people who can master English are tourists. Horrendous, honestly. Maybe you’ll get a little bit lucky in a bar, but it won’t go further than your order (using international words like coffee and croissant anyway). Ok, my CS host speaks excellent English, but he’s Turkish (and we all know Turks can effortlessly master several languages) and the one person besides him was a young woman who steered me in the right direction on my first night there. Learn some Spanish before you set off, peeps!

Also, I would definitely recommend visiting Barcelona in the winter because it’s still quite warm (although it depends what you compare it to of course). Tourists are still plentiful, but obviously there aren't as many as in the peak season which is something I wouldn’t want to experience. In general, I have immensely enjoyed my trip so far, so I am ready to argue with anyone thinks winter travel in Europe is not worth it.

Be prepared for a very bright sun, bringing sunglasses is a must or like myself you’ll have to squint all day long. However, you can choose to fall asleep on a lovely bench in Parc de la Ciutadella like I did. Or you can choose to close your eyes whilst sitting down to chill somewhere in Parc Güell. Beware of the hills of Barcelona as well, I easily covered at least 10km every day, but the hills were a bit much even for me – by the way, I would recommend using the escalators at the side street (namely Baixada de la Gloria) to get to Parc Güell, they’re available after you already climb up quite a steep hill, but the view from the escalator is very much worth it.

Barcelona contradicts itself in terms of prices, for example a small slice of pizza off the tourist pathway will ring up to 3.6EUR while a cappuccino can amount up to only 1.5EUR in a very touristic place. Entrance to Sagrada de Familia will cost you 12EUR while 10 public transportation trips just over 8EUR.

Nevertheless, it’s completely possible to pull off budget travel in Barcelona. Inexpensive fruits and vegetables are plentiful and supermarkets offer good prices as well, I particularly recommend Carrefour on La Rambla and Dia anywhere.

Barcelona seems to have a lot of hip or pretending-to-be-hip stores of locally known brands that are interesting to look at and even purchase if you have room in your carry-on. Most are located around the area between the University and Barceloneta, naturally this is also the place where you’re not recommended to sit down for a meal.

I personally would recommend walking from the coastline up Avinguda del Paralel all the way to Place d’Espanya and then back by using the labyrinths of small pretty Mediterranean streets. Try not to wander between La Rambla and Avinguda del Parallel though as you might stumble upon the Prostitute Quarter, where, you guessed, women for sale mingle with policemen and some dudes from local stores... It was a weird experience. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

One of the other things that might impress you is that in February you’ll see people wearing anything from shorts and T-shirts to winter coats, it’s very common to jog in tank tops and shorts as well. But I understand them, weather up to 18C in this winter month can be confusing...


Barcelona Budget said...

Great post! Thanks you so much for the share. I am very grateful to read your blog. Tourist Attractions In Barcelona | Transport In Barcelona Spain

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