Friday, 24 July 2015

That time I went to Barcelona

A couple of weeks ago I went on holiday... abroad... a rarity for me. Growing up in a less than wealthy family (too many bloody siblings) and then dragging on this student lifestyle for as many years as possible, I've never been flush with cash. So this holiday would be my first ever aeroplane flight (turns out it's boring) - so we headed off to Barcelona and these are the tourist snaps. It's difficult to have any sort of order with so many photos, so I've just done it chronologically, with descriptions to go along with each day. 

In summary though, Barcelona is an amazing place.


The flight over was pretty dull... it was exciting to see the Peak District shrouded in mist, but it just made me wish I was down there rather than floating umpteen hundred metres above. We had started our day at 1am in the morning, with 2hrs of trains over to Manchester before catching our flight as the first light of day illuminated the hills - which meant we arrived in Barcelona early enough to have a good exploration of the city - pretty much all we did that day. Our flat was about 2 minutes from Placa de Catalunya, right at the top of La Rambla.


Tuesday began (after the first of many a sweltering night) with Cava and croissants, as every day in Spain did - once we'd found a Carrefour (they are insane, in a disorganised sense, when it comes to supermarkets over there) and was then followed up by finding our way to/up Mount Tibidabo, before heading across town to the Nou Camp for the evening. 

The bus we had planned to catch to Mt Tibidabo wasn't running (apparently - we subsequently saw it, but it was too late by then) so we had to find our way north via the Metro, followed by a beautiful old fashioned tram, followed by the funicular. Between the tram and funicular was one of my favourite restaurants (Mirablau) - with open air views over the entire city.. 

After some food - we caught the funicular to the top of the hill... 

At which point my favourite hour or two of the holiday occurred. With Barcelona being by the coast, 500m hills feel so much bigger than they usually do in terms of prominence - so I very much enjoyed the views. We were even lured into paying the 3 euros to get in the lift to take us to the top of the church on top (to stand right beside golden Jesus) - the best 3 euros I've ever spent, as the trip takes you above the rides and tourist stuff that most people see up there.

Eventually I was dragged away from the views... and we headed down and made our way to the Nou Camp stadium tour - well worth doing for anyone even vaguely interested in football. Not least for me who got to stand on the very pitch that Solskjaer and Sheringham scored those injury time goals in 1999... that and we got to see the jacuzzi... 

We ended the day with a visit to Can Paixano, a bar in which you're forced to stand, but does Cava for the cheapest prices you can ever imagine and has some very decent food to go with it - even if the employees aren't all that impressed with English-folk. 


Wednesday was penciled in as our Gaudi day. Get all the cultural stuff in in one go so as not to waste any time in the rest of our holiday... although, really, I was obviously intrigued to see the whopping cathedral, Sagrada Famila - even if it is no York Minster. So we began with a visit to Casa Batllo which isn't cheap, but you can appreciate what the money is spent on what with the clever interactive tablet-virtual reality type tour. I immediately ignored this, and just went about having a gander around the rooms myself whilst the woman learnt all about it, being able to tell me the odd interesting bit through a filter. 

This was followed by the wander up to see Sagrada Familia - which was well worth a closer look and was amazing in scale, but was somewhat underwhelming in comparison to expectation. Good to see, but not quite worth the hype.

These first two visits were followed by a wee wander around the markets and a desperate search for food, which ended with us being ripped off on La Rambla (or, more Yorkshirely, The Rambles) by paying an accidental 15 euros each for a glass of midday sangria... 

The afternoon was then spent exploring the El Born district of the city - famous for its food and whatnot (so the woman says) - and stumbling into its beautiful cathedrals. If there's one thing the Spanish do right, it's not charging for entry into religious buildings. I so often miss out on the beautiful architecture in the UK due to my reluctance to fund religion and all its evil in gaining access - but the Spanish just seem to let you wander in to pretty much all their churches and cathedrals free of charge. So in amongst our wanderings around El Born, we stumbled into Basicila of Santa Maria del Mar... where I took these...

This was followed up by yet more wandering, looking for a nice tapas place for tea. We ended up in a lovely restaurant where I found one of the top five foods I've ever eaten. In no particular order, these were chewing nuts, Bakewell pudding, Bishopdale cheese and chocoholic Brymor ice cream - with the new addition of cheesy, meaty, tomato-y rice-y balls. I wish I knew more, but that's as good a description as I can muster. The day ended with yet more walking down the alleys before enjoying a busy evening in the square behind the cathedral catapulting flashing darts into the air...


Thursday was our more relaxed day - a morning spent on the beach (so wonderfully steep - creating amazing breaking waves which are so fun to frolic in) which ended with me getting mild sunburn, which over time (with a heavy backpack and camera bag on it) resulted in the worst, bubbly sunburn I've ever experienced. There are no photos of the beach part due to the beach-burglar risk, but we followed that up with a walk over to the Barcelonian Arc de Triomf...

...which was itself followed by tea sat in the most idyllic spot outside the cathedral. Musicians, dancers, a bottle (or two) of Cava and the most typical of Spanish city views... outside dining just doesn't get much better... 

The day was ended by a trip on the Metro over to Placa Espanya to watch the Magic Fountain of Montjuic amongst thousands of others. I wasn't expecting much, but this really was quite a spectacle - with the immense fountains set perfectly to music - and with such a friendly atmosphere. The fact that it goes on so long into the night with such vast crowds demonstrates just how worth seeing this is... we eventually headed back around midnight. It was, however, difficult to photograph due to the number of people and the endless spray in the air - but I got some more touristy photos of it anyway...


Friday meant another early start and the flight back to miserable Manchester. The flight was delayed, once we were on it, for as long as it was supposed to take in total - so I was not amused. But once back over the UK it was amazing to have clear views of Thorpe Cloud, Kinder, Edale, Mam Tor and Bleaklow (the Pyrenees had looked okay earlier in the day too). The woman had been insanely scared of pick pockets the whole time too... so it was good to point out how we hadn't been mugged once in all our time away!

Final Notes

A few things that I'm too lazy to write in anywhere else, but are worth noting:

  • A bottle of wine for roughly a quid. It wasn't even bad wine, it was okay.
  • Drivers in Barcelona are insane.
  • The UK should get involved in the idea that shops and town centres stay open until midnight

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