Heading to Barcelona
Preparation & Friday
The trip was a long time coming. How can I proudly say that I’ve lived in Spain for six months and then say that I’ve never been to Barcelona. Sure everyone knows about Madrid, but it just isn’t the same… not really the massive tourist destination people have in mind. When most people (from North America at least) say that they are taking a vacation in Spain, they undoubtedly mean Barcelona. Ironically, a lot of the people in Barcelona don’t even consider themselves Spanish, and their first language isn’t Spanish either, but that is another matter entirely. What does matter is that we wanted to get to Barcelona.
Pablo had been to Barcelona before during the summer and so he had some notions of what needed to be done and because of his Spanish mother tongue, we gratefully looked to him to make arrangements on our behalf. I guess I should also take the time to explain who ‘we’ are in this document. Besides myself, this trip was taken by Nenad, Pablo and Emy. Emy is the cousin of Pablo’s girlfriend. She is visiting from Guatemala for about a month I believe and this trip was timed so that she would be able to join us. It worked out quite well, as it is easier to travel with four people instead of three — at least in this case.
So while we had talked about this trip for a while, it really didn’t start to materialize until a little over a week week before we left, when we made a reservation online to book a relatively cheap hotel near the downtown area. Then we took a trip up to Avenida de America which is where the bus terminal is for going to Barcelona. We purchased four round trip tickets on the bus for the dates corresponding to when we were booked to stay in Barcelona. Our timing was flexible, since we aren’t in classes this wasn’t a problem, and the 6th and 8th of December were national holidays in Spain regardless. However, we were restricted by the arrival of Emy from Guatemala on the 6th and the departure of Pablo and Emy to the UK on the 12th… so in that sense we only had a short window of Barcelona-visiting opportunity. The problem with taking a bus from Madrid to Barcelona however, is that you are on a bus. For over seven hours. On the bright side it was cheaper and safer than taking the notorious Spanish trains. (Notorious for having your belonging stolen.) Of course not everything works out all the time, and we learned that the hotel rooms we ‘reserved’ weren’t actually reserved and the online agency we went through gave us a couple of options to choose from as alternatives. These choices were mostly hostels, but at this point it really didn’t matter. So we booked two rooms, one with a double bed and one with two twins. We had a sink, but shower and toilet were shared.
On this trip instead of traveling through the night and arriving exhausted in the morning, we opted to leave Madrid at 10:00 on Friday which would put us in Barcelona around 17:30 if all went well. We had thought that since we had the hostel Friday night we would check-in, rest a while and then head back out to explore a bit. The nice thing about our location is that we were central, only about three or four minutes walk from Las Ramblas — the primary tourist street downtown. The actual bus trip went relatively quickly, although the bus was far too warm for any of us (and we weren’t alone on this). I had brought a novel which I pretty much finished on the outgoing trip and that made things move faster. The bus stops for about 20-30 minutes in Zaragoza which offers some relief from the tiny amount of leg room provided by the bus. When we arrived, we took the Metro down to the station Paral-lel which was closest to our hostel. After getting slightly turned around out of the station, we found our way to the proper streets and checked in at the hostel. The rooms were small but nice, and they even provided us with towels — something none of us expected. We decided to take a bit of a siesta and to shower after the long ride and head out that evening for dinner and a bit of site seeing.
Once ready, we headed to Las Ramblas and headed away from the water towards Plaza Catalunya. We wandered around and took some photos, saw the largest El Corte Ingles store I’ve ever seen and continued up in to the more modern part of the city. We saw two different buildings designed by Gaudi that night and enjoyed the cool night air. Despite the time of year, there were still a lot of tourists there, although the crowds tapered off considerably once we left Las Ramblas. I’m not really sure how long we walked for, but it was a while, when finished we were hungry and we looked for some place relatively cheap that satisfied Nenad’s need for serious substance. He ended up back in Plaza Catalunya, visiting a Burger King. Having seen more of the sights that night than we originally expected, we were content and tired and decided to turn in to have a early start in the morning. We had made preliminary plans about where we needed to go and which order we would visit them. We planned to be ready to leave by 9:15 Saturday morning.