Barcelona has just what Americans love about Europe, a mix of historical beauty and cultural excitment. Your day can be spent visiting such jewels as the Museu Picasso, nestled in the cobblestoned alleyways of the gothic area, or you can toast on the topless beaches. The sheer layer of golden sand still lines your skin as you settle into one of the welcoming tapas bars or continue on to Las Ramblas for a paella and sangria dinner. Most people don’t make it out till quite late and stay out even later, as the bars don’t close down until six in the morning. Here are my recommendations on what to check out and what to avoid. Along with a few suggestions and warnings.
1.) So you gotta get to the beach, obviously that must happen.
2.) Paul de La Musica: Amazing!!!! After being inundated with constant displays of Gaudi architecture (and Gaudi is a genius I don’t begrudge him that, but) it is nice to see someone else’s work. You have to pay for a tour here and they only happen at designated times during the day. The museum is in a part of town that didn’t look like it had much else to do, HOWEVER, it is so worth it. Delicate and ornate architecture meets music and ingenuity in the construction of this music hall. This is my number one must see!
3.) Parc Guell
4.) Museu Picasso
5.) 4Gats (Els Quatre Gats): This restaurant used to be a hangout for artists such as Picasso, Lluis Millet, Gaudi, and many more. Great atmosphere and excellent food although a little pricey. Check out the website…
address: Montsio, 3bis 08002 Barcelona website: 4gats.com phone: +3493 302 41 40
6.) SideCar: (for nightlife) This is a great bar/dance club on the fringe of the gothic area, just off Las Ramblas. It is my favorite club in the city (sorta indie-pop-rock). There is a cover charge but it’s worth it. If you’re asking around some of the locals pronounce it See-day-car, as if it were a Spanish word.
1.) Fundacio Joan Miro: too expensive for what it has. The exhibit is small and almost laughable as Miro creates lines into….lines? The lines traveling up the page tend to be titled things like, happiness and achievement. The lines that descend the page are called depression and loss, etc. Deep? Buy yourself a box of crayons and a toddler and save the effort. I mean, unless you like that sort of stuff. Which obviously many people do because this Miro guy is kinda a big deal. The only nice part about that day is that the museum is located next to some awesome parks. So if you are feeling like you might want to look at some riveting lines you should also plan to stop and relax in the park. Check out the quiet but fantastic three level waterfall.
2.) Lloret de Mar: All we found in lloret de mar was tourists and cheap tourist paraphernalia. The beach was too crowded. The town seemed to have been formed with the sole function of catering to tourists. It felt so fabricated and corny. Lots of clubs and overpriced stuff.
1.) If you are staying for an extended period of time (meaning not just a day or so) you should get an apartment. You can find them all over craig’s list. You can find an apartment for the same price as a hostel and it is way nicer to have your own place. Where you can mingle with locals instead of other out of town hostel people.
2.) Don’t get ripped off. I mean, you will inevitably get ripped off. We did a lot of asking locals where to go, especially for meals, because we are broke and the tourist spots can get pricey. We found a restaurant called Ramons or Romanos or something. It was not far off Las Ramblas in a, let’s call it a lower income area. The place itself is quite humble but very fulfilling. One cook and a slew of his slovenly visitors filled the narrow kitchen way. Here we could get a salmon dinner for two euros plus tip. So ask the locals but be careful people do get robbed, that’s not just hearsay. I was on the beach one night. I sat my purse next to me in the sand and laid back to look at the stars. When I sat up the purse was gone. Tricky bastards. I was even with a large and intimidating man. I figured he must have stolen it because, despite evidence given in the Michael Jackson song, I couldn’t believe someone was that smooth, you know, of a criminal. I searched him, we searched the beach. He found it down near the surf. Someone had taken the 5 euro I had and my watch but they left my ID and credit card and purse displayed in pile of sand, weighted down with another mound of sand. I thought how polite the thief had been and appreciated him/her for that. It was a coach bag too, I’m surprised that didn’t get taken. The funniest part is that the watch was our only time telling device. So my friend and I spent the rest of our trip never really knowing what time it was.
3.) Tip. You’re used to it anyway, why stop now? It is your duty as a tourist of that country to tip, no matter what people say. These people work in a restaurant they aren’t pulling down astronaut wages. Don’t be a scum bag.
4.) Eurail was a difficult thing for me. I got my ticket ahead of time online, thinking I was saving money. But then when you want to actually use the ticket you have to pay a reservation fee, which my friend, who hadn’t bought a ticket ahead of time, didn’t have to pay. So that pissed me off. It is called a compulsory reservation charge and totals about an additional 100 euros. So I would condemn Eurail as money sucking bastards however, the actual trip I had on the train was amazing.
My friend and I were in an overnight train from Paris to Barcelona. We were put in separate cars but hoped that since we were really early we could wait til others got on and bribe them to switch with us. We waited. And waited. And waited but no one else came to the car. Our excitement grew because now we not only got to room together we also got the whole cabin to ourselves. We were just unpacking some stuff when a stewardess came through the room. “What are you doing here?” She asked, furrowing her brow. I told her it was my cabin and about our plan to switch roommates and how easy it would be now, under the circumstances. She corrected me saying, we were in the wrong cabin. This one was reserved for a later stop, more passengers getting on. We had misread the ticket and now she had already collected the tickets and passports of all the other cabins and it was too late for a change. We trudged off to our rooms, defeated. Then ditched our new roommates and headed to the bar car. Before long the bar was packed. We made tons of friends in tons of languages. We got free drinks, we took shots. We closed the place down. The bartender was ushering the last of the guests (that would be us and a few new people we met) out of the bar and saying we had to go to our rooms. That’s the rules. I was appalled (and drunk). I was a grown person. I would decide when my bedtime was. And I wasn’t ready for bed yet. So one of the new friends we met had hash. Six of us tried to squeeze into a miniature bathroom that trains like that have. Someone was perched on the toilet another was crammed into the corner of the sink. We realized no one had papers so we began to laboriously empty a cigarette and refill it with a mix of hash and tobacco. My friend and another girl got too hot and claustrophobic so they were sent outside to be the lookouts. A job that must have been out of their realm of ability because before long there was a knock on the door. Our laughing and chit chat was consumed by shhhh then dissipated into silence. “Un momento porfavor,” I requested in my sweetest little girl voice. The spanish conductor tells us to come out. I can almost picture the conductor rolling his tired bloodshot eyes. He can’t sleep til we sleep. Then there is whispering again on our side of the door. I tell the one latino in the bathroom that he will need to do the talking. He is the only one who can carry on a decent conversation. So the latino bellows out, “Cinco minutos porfavor!” his husky male voice in stark contrast to the soprano of mine only a few seconds ago. Not to mention that five minutes is a bit of a dramatic time request. I guess we were a little scared that the hash might get us in trouble, or by the fact that we are breaking the rules, or by the suspicious nature of all our bodies in a confined and pungent bathroom, but mainly we are scared because we don’t know what trouble is here in a foreign country on the federal transportation system. I come up with the only plan I can think of. So we all exit at once, speaking in different languages and making nonsensical chaos. “I’m so sorry”, I blurt out. “It is a misunderstanding.” I hear someone else say in Spanish, “she is my cousin!” and another person seems only to be making a humming noise. We spread out down the corridors, the conductor with his hands on his hips. I see my friend, the unworthy lookout, just a few doors down. Opps, she says. I grab her arm and we and two of the other guys flee to the end of the car. We try to regroup, we try to come up with a plan. “Where is the hash joint?” I ask. “I ditched it in the trash in the bathroom.” Before I can take in just how gross this is the conductor rounds the corner, he is moving at a slow pace, not rushing himself, but making steady progress. We flee again to the end of the next car. “Ok so we should try to get it out. We should go back and get it.” “But the conductor” another voice points out. “Right”, my drunken mind stumbles over itself. And then the conductor can be seen again. We race to the end of the next car. “Ok so we have to go to our rooms.” “But then let’s meet up in a bit, back at the bathroom?” Ok. So the guys go off in the other direction, back to their rooms. And my friend and I have nowhere else to run. We are confronted. Face to face with a real man. Not a cartoon of a conductor, not a far away image we could laugh at and run from, not mom and dad, we are adults and this is awkward. “Hello.” I begin. Then after a pause. “Well, I don’t remember where my room is.” He points to it. I nod, professionally. My friend says with the same amount of mature resignation in her voice, “and mine?” As if this conductor didn’t watch us scramble out of a bathroom, as if we can really be speaking to him like customers to an employee. He motions her room and tells her there is a child sleeping within and she should take care. My friend puts a hand to her heart as if she has never been so shocked. She gaspes,“Por supesto” she says, but of course! She gathers up her false dignity, struts to her door, sheepishly turns back to recheck with the conductor that this is the right one. It is, so she once again takes her posture, nose in the air, and clumsily enters the room. I am wondering how the conductor knows where our rooms are. In my diminished state I am amazed by his endless knowledge. I am wondering who is driving the train. I am wondering if the conductor finds this at all funny. I laugh to feel him out. He does not laugh. I realize it is down to him and it is down to me and everyone else on the train is tucked in or slumbering. I smile at him, relishing what I see as a sacred moment, then without acknowledging our coincidental and transient bond I march into the darkness of my own cabin.