A day and a half in Barcelona


I’m not going to lie. Arriving in Barcelona yesterday I was shattered, shattered and sweating like mad. Before booking this trip, I had a full on itinerary of things I could do, and yet today all I wanted to do was chill out. After checking in and freshening up, I headed out for some home comforts. The difference in the use of English here compared with Valencia is amazing, and you almost forget some of these people are actually Spanish.

First I took a stroll before heading to Hard Rock Cafe. Now, I’ve been meaning to go to one for years, and yet I never seem to get round to it, so though it’s not Spanish, it’s still something I can tick off my list. The tone then switches from American to Irish as I pop in a cool little sports bar down one of the side streets.

You can say what you want about fancy wine and cocktail bars, but you just can’t beat the atmosphere of a sports bar, adorned with flags and football scarves and bank notes and everything basically you can think of, from all around the world. And their St Patrick’s Day celebrations were in full swing with funny hats and Irish music.

I always feel at home in Irish bars, and this was actually just what I’ve needed, but I have to also remember I’m actually in Spain – and on a tight schedule – so I can’t slack off forever.

Deciding I should also experience some Spanish culture, I ended the night with a flamenco show at City Hall Theatre. And wow was it intense. You can see the passion and dedication in the performers’ stern expressions as they sing and dance. So dramatic. It isn’t necessarily something I’d want to see again, but it was interesting, and they were technically very impressive.

After some much-needed sleep, this morning I knew I had to be on the ball and rearing to go. An obvious check on my list was of course the Sagrada Familia, an impressive Gaudi church and one of the most iconic buildings in the city. Still under construction, you have to try and ignore the cranes, but the fact this place is so well known and widely visited despite not even being finished is a pretty good achievement. The thing that struck me most (as well as the precise attention to detail) was the sheer size of it. Definitely better to see in person than on photographs.

My next stop was Park Guell, to admire more Gaudi artwork. I walked from Sagrada familia, which took about half an hour, but it’s a fairly steep incline so if you lack energy or are generally unfit, do yourself a favour and take the bus instead.

The park itself is free to enter and offers some great views overlooking the city, but the main draw is the monumental zone, you know, the bit with those funky buildings you always see on the internet – and on this post for that matter. Fascinating architecture and so many photo ops make it worth the money. Like so many structures in this vast sprawling city, the park was designed by Antonio Gaudi, who originally intended to create easy passage around the mountain terrain and who set up shop here for a while.

Unable to keep walking any longer, I retired back to the hostel for a short break to ease my aching soles and recharge my phone. Then, I knew exactly how I should spend my last few hours in Spain, not in a museum, not chasing down more monuments, but by visiting the coast. Nice and pretty and relaxed.

In Barcelona, an afternoon at the beach means something a little different to what it does back home. It’s not only a cool spot to hang out on your scooters, but there are sports and activities aplenty, and even outdoor gym equipment – which I don’t use myself, naturally, but that I do casually watch some of the Spanish men using for a little while… Speakers blast out R&B tunes, ranging from funky to calming (including the most soothing version of Linkin’ Park’s “In The End” I’ve ever heard), creating an unusually chilled out vibe I’ve not really experienced yet.

As the sun began to set, I relished these few hours, just sitting back with a book, free from pressure or expectation. As much as you want to see everything when you go on a trip, it’s vital that you don’t neglect periodic downtime too or you’ll be completely burnt out. Take it from someone who’s learned this the hard way! Heading back into the winding labyrinth that is the Gothic Quarter I explored a little further than I did the night before, before finally returning to my bed, my first 100% solo trip a genuine success. Though I might not be able to walk for a few days…

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