Barcelona is the first city on this trip’s itinerary that I’ve already seen before. I loved being back in Spain, especially because I could actually communicate with people again. Once we were in the country, it was very tempting to go back and visit my old stomping grounds in Sevilla, but we decided to spend more time in new countries.The main reason we went to Barcelona is because Brad hadn’t seen it. I was last there in 2007 with my friend Falafel. I remembered that I had loved the city, but I admit I had forgotten exactly why I loved it so much. As soon as I returned, it all came back to me. Barcelona has a beautiful location, right between the Mediterranean Sea and the mountains. There is fascinating architecture, including some of Gaudi’s most famous works. It has a vibrant culture with lots of art. There’s an easy-to-use public transportation system. And, of course, it’s home to one of the most famous sports teams in the world.
Brad and I had one of the most fun days of our trip here. We met up with Jordi and Tanit, two couchsurfers that Yoshiko in Tokyo highly recommended to us. They were both awesome people and they took us to the Gracia neighborhood for its annual block party. Each neighborhood has its own party during the summer, and from what I gathered, Gracia’s is the best. They have a contest for the best decorated street and the streets go all-out in their participation. We saw an elaborate wild west themed street, a beach, a winter scene, and a Star Wars one. (There were many more, but we didn’t see them all.) They were all creative and the residents were very resourceful with their materials. For example, the cacti in the wild west street were made with aluminum cans that had been painted green and covered with Tic-Tacs.
The parade was the best and most dangerous part. First, people threw candy from trucks, which is pretty standard, except that they were whipping the candy at us. Then groups came through doing an intricate dance with sticks that they hit together and against other people’s, switching partners and moving the whole time. Tanit, who used to do this dance, said that if you make a mistake, you could whack someone in the head. Following them, men with guns arrived. Their guns were so loud, we could feel the shockwave in our ears. After that, young people dressed like devils came through with gigantic sparklers that whirled around and shot sparks at the crowd. I’m not exaggerating. The spectators had to duck and run for cover. A few people got small holes burnt into their clothing. Our Spanish guides explained that the devils are supposed to act mischievously. Finally a dragon with sparklers shooting out of his mouth came through. His fireworks shot even further and started a tree on fire. Again, I’m not exaggerating. The tree burned for a few minutes, threatening to set the entire district ablaze, before someone brought a fire extinguisher over. Brad and I got a kick out of how hilariously dangerous this parade was. Only in Spain.
Top three experiences?
- Our time with Jordi and Tanit at the Festa Major de Gracia. So much fun!
- Seeing the Sagrada Familia for the second time. A lot has changed since I last saw it. Gaudi’s inspired cathedral is slowly coming together and the inside is now finished. The many pillars on the inside are supposed to resemble trees in a forest and the stained glass windows are beautiful. It’s an amazing work of art. I can’t wait until it’s finished around the year 2025!
- While strolling around aimlessly, we came across a neighborhood with a lot of small, artsy boutiques. We spent a long time browsing through the eclectic offerings.
- The parade in Gracia. It was a blast!
- Sagrada Familia. It’s an incredible mix of shapes from nature and geometry. I liked reading the exhibit on Gaudi’s inspirations, which include microscopic plants, tree trunks, crystals, hyperbolic paraboloids, and twisted planes. The inside is stunning, and considering its finished height will be far taller than it is now, I really want to come back when it’s done in 2028 or so.
- Parc G??ell. The view was amazing and so was Gaudi’s work.
Bottom three experiences?
- Our hostel was actually in Badalona, a little bit outside of downtown Barcelona. We were very close to the subway, but unfortunately that section of the subway was under construction, so we had to take slow buses into town.
- Camp Nou, the stadium where Barcelona FC plays, was doing some renovations, so the locker room and media room were closed to tours. We decided it wouldn’t be worth it to pay for a tour if we couldn’t see these areas. And there weren’t any home games while we were there, so we didn’t get to see the inside of the stadium.
- The crowds. I was first there in the spring time, which is apparently the off season. This time around everything was packed with people.
- Construction in the soccer stadium prevented us from seeing it.
- The lizard in Parc G??ell was constantly mobbed by people, so it was impossible to get a decent photo. The only chance would be coming here during sunrise to beat the crowds.
- We stayed in a hostel a little out of town, but very near a subway stop. However, part of the subway line was closed for maintenance and replaced by a bus that supposedly came as often as the subways did. We essentially had to transfer to that bus to get to and from our place.
Nikki: The more traditional Catalan fare we tried with Jordi and Tanit. I had a sandwich with fuet (Catalan sausage) and Brad had a sandwich with honey and bacon.
Brad: The open-faced sandwich we had with Jordi and Tanit. Mine was bacon, brie, and honey. It was really good.
Nikki: McDonald’s. It had actually been months since we’d eaten there, so I was looking forward to it. And then I felt terrible after lunch. I might be done with McDonald’s for good.
Brad: We had McDonald’s for lunch one of the days. It was too much food and too heavy. I didn’t feel well that afternoon.
Favorite person we met?
Nikki: Jordi and Tanit. Super friendly, funny, and interesting!
Brad: Jordi and Tanit. They took us to the crazy parade and a delicious dinner.
Nikki: The construction on our subway line.
Brad: We didn’t tour the FCB soccer stadium. It was under renovation and Nikki, who has seen it before, didn’t think it was worth the €23 admission if we couldn’t see the press and locker rooms.
Nikki: All of Gaudi’s architecture is very weird.
Brad: A musician in Parc G??ell wearing leopard print leggings, huge sunglasses, and ankle sleighbells. He played “Charlie Brown, he’s a clown,” at one point screaming gibberish and blowing a snot rocket as part of a guitar solo. He’s how I imagine a homeless Ziggy Stardust post-glam rock’n'roll suicide playing for change in a park. He wasn’t bad, just a lot unconventional.
Statistics for Spain
Statistics for the Trip