Watch Your Shit.
Spain is in the Top 5.
I find that most Travelers have a Top 5, their must-do’s, and Spain has always been in mine. It is my second check off on this journey, Iceland being the first. I have already been to Australia and so that just leaves Egypt and South Africa to complete mine and start a new list.
Like many of my interests I have no idea why I have always dreamed of going to Spain. I guess I have always been attracted to the Spanish language and the cultures attached to them. I have never heard a single person curse Spain and well, I love Paella.
Despite this it is important to note that Barcelona is not really Spanish, at least not to the local Catalans and their language is quite different from Spanish, but none the less the city resides in Spain and so it counts.
In some cities couchsurfing comes easy, you list the city and dates on your itinerary and offers come flooding in, easy. Then, there’s Barcelona. I heard it was difficult, and truth be told couchsurfing in the bigger cities surprisingly is the most difficult, these are generally the people who are inundated with requests, so many that they can’t possibly respond to all and often are burnt out on surfers in general. I could tell Barcelona wasn’t going to be an easy city when I put out the notice a week before and only came up with a few not so stable offers. Being that I wouldn’t get in until around 10 in the evening anyway, I decided to book a hostel, but just for one night. That night turned into 2 nights, then 3…4…5…and then it was the weekend and they were sold out.
Luckily I think they liked me and rather than kick me out, they put me up on a mattress on the floor for half the price. Backpackers dream! I had had hosts lined up, but one by one they surely flaked out or creeped me out. One alluding to the notion that I would have to share his bed with him accompanied by a winky face and the other ranting on about how many times he’s been stood up by AMERICANS (yes, every time he would capitalize ‘Americans’). So rather than stand him up, I politely declined his offer. I’ve learned in couchsurfing you can generally decipher the freaks from the travelers long before you even arrive. It’s important to trust your instincts about someone and read between the lines when discussing the arrangement.
Kabul, rated one of the best hostels in Europe and also notoriously known for being a party hostel, turned out to be exactly where I wanted to be anyway. My first night there I met Gen and Jarrod, two students from Cal State Long Beach (close to my town of Huntington Beach) finishing up their semester abroad in Florence with a trip to Spain before heading home. We quickly made plans to meet up for the hostels sponsored club night the next evening and from there spent the whole week partying and touring Barcelona together. Two of my most favorite people I have met on this trip! Clubbing in Barcelona is like none other. You don’t even leave for the club until 2 a.m., where I am from that’s about the time you start heading home. We got drunk at Kabul’s happy hour featuring 2/1 beers and headed out for a night of dancing and lord knows what else because I surely don’t remember. Actually I only have faint memories of Jarrod and I arguing whilst attempting to navigate our way back to Kabul through the dark abandoned streets of Barcelona sometime around 6, or was it 7 a.m.? After sleeping in till after noon the next day, Gen, who recently celebrated her 21st birthday (a ’hem, bitch) was eager to go out again that night. I had to remind her I am too old for this, for which she quickly replied:
“But you have a young soul!”
Now you see why she is one of my favorites :). After long negotiations we agreed on a less wild night of checking out some of the cities more renowned bars and secret hideaways. We strolled the streets in search of Spanish guitarist, hit up Chupito, the famed shot bar, known for shots like the Boy Scout for which you roast marshmallows over the bar and the Monica Lewinski for which I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
We discovered the old haunt, Bar Marsella where great artists such as Dali, Picasso, Gaudi, and Hemingway were known to kick back with a glass of absinthe. What is intriguing about this bar is that nothing had changed since the good ol’ days, straight down to the dust building up on the chandeliers and the tattered wall paper. Just imagine, you could be inhaling the same dust as Picasso.
A few other recommendations for Barcelona include:
The Gaudi Houses: These houses are worth visiting even if you don’t want to wait in the 2 hour lines to get inside. The outsides are extraordinary enough.
Park Guell: City park meets Willy Wonka. This whimsical land, another one of Gaudi’s great works, sits high in the hills over Barcelona and provides one of the best views you will find. With multiple paths, surprises at every turn, and musicians and street performers adding to the ambiance you could surely spend an entire day exploring this wonderland. The park can be reached by taking the metro to Lesseps and walking from there, a bit of a hike up the hill, but you’ll want to wear your tennis shoes anyway.
Gaudi Fountain: I’m sure as you’ve already guessed I am a true Gaudi lover after my visit to Barcelona. On my last day I was roaming the city by foot making sure I hadn’t missed any sites. I wandered into a lazy park, Parc de la Ciutadella, seemingly no more special than any other city park when low and behold I stumbled right into an oasis. The most beautiful fountain I have ever seen (including the beloved Trevi Fountain in Rome). My pictures do not do it justice. The Gaudi Fountain must be seen in person to truly appreciate its splendor.
The Montjuïc Magic Founatin: Be sure to check the schedule for operating hours.
Bo de B: My most favored recommendation! On that night out with Gen, in search of food, we stumbled upon this little gem tucked away in a corner off a side street. Bo de Be creates the most deliciously fresh sandwiches or plated dishes. It features an open kitchen and a friendly staff. All of the food is laid out behind glass and for less than 4 euro you can get a grilled chicken sandwich stuffed to the brim with all the fresh veggies, lentils, and sauces you can imagine on freshly baked rustic bread, big enough to share. The plate dishes are quite exceptional too and fall under 8 euro. Be sure to try the Potatoes Brava’s as well, you won’t be disappointed. Oh hell, just eat every meal here!
- Watch your shit! Some low life was in pursuit of cutting my bag right off my back when Jarrod saw him and starred him down. Fortunately the coward scurried off and after that I wore my jacket or sweater over the strap. Barcelona is relatively safe, but you are well advised to research some of the local scams and pick pocketry before arriving.
- If they have to lure you into their restaurant than you know it’s a touristy place. Aim for local food. If business is good, they won’t be outside searching for patrons.
- Couchsurfing is amazing, but hostels can be quite fun too. Be flexible.
*From Basel to Barcelona I flew EasyJet.