As my plane touched down in Barcelona, Spain, I was actually feeling quite terrified. Walking through the border security check I was surprised not to be stopped with the sweaty anxiety I’m sure must have been showing on my face. The 35 degree heat wasn’t helping matters either.
The reason behind my terror was due to the fact that this was my first time in non-English country on my own..
Sure I had visited lots of Europe countries with my recent whirlwind contiki tour where English was certainly not the local language and coped just fine. But there is a difference to being surrounded by a big group of fifty other english-speaking people, along with a tour manager who can answer any questions, give basic language lessons, and negotiate any needed activities on your behalf with the locals… Going to a foreign country alone, you don’t have any of that. My first night in Barcelona, my hostel dorm room was filled with mainly Italian guests with very limited English making me feel quite lonely that first night.
The next morning was even worse as I had a scheduled phone interview for a job. My cellphone was showing no service, the instructions on street pay phones were all in Spanish, and the shops didn’t even open until right before my phone appointment bringing me close to tears. I certainly felt like I had a bit of culture shock that morning.
In the end I did successfully make the needed phone call using a Spanish SIM card brought with only seconds to spare. And even better, I got the job! More details of that to come in another post. But let’s just say I was super excited. Travelling and dorm rooms is very tiring not to mention expensive. The thought of being able to sleep in my own private room for more than two nights in a row sounds like heaven to me.
My first night in Barcelona I went and checked out the Sagrada Família which is an amazing cathedral designed by Gaudi. The design is so fantastically different and beautiful that it kinda ruins other cathedrals for you. No other cathedral can ever match the beauty or oddness of Gaudi’s design.
La Sagrada Família, some construction but they still haven’t actually finished building it yet!
More Sagrada Família – inside and out
I’m also ashamed to say that the first night in Spain, I didn’t actually eat Spanish food. I was just feeling too overwhelmed to try and figure out a Spanish bar or restaurant. Are you really surprised? I chickened out and had delicious Wok to Walk noodles instead.
The next day after the stressful phone interview, I spent the majority of the day wandering the maze-like streets within Barri Gothic and checking out the building style. I even had a wee siesta like the locals in a park. I looked at the outsides of attractions like the Picasso museum, Casa Batllo and the Catedral, but decided I wasn’t really in the mood with feeling hot and tired to spend money on the rather expensive admission fees. Later I checked out Park Guell which wasn’t as awesome as I expected. It’s another Gaudi location which features his mosaic decoration. I expected a park full of many mosaic things. But instead there was just one lizard and a couple of buildings within a massive park. I spent ages walking around before I realised the stuff at the entrance was it. At least it was a free attraction. Later that night I enjoyed sangria with some tapas. Yum yum! Sangria is red wine mixed with orange juice and other unknown elements. Often has sugar in it too. Tapas are a mini meal snack served with alcoholic drinks. Depending where you go, you can get them for free with your drink. But with Barcelona being a very touristy place I could only find places where you had to pay for tapas. Still it was real Spanish food!
Clockwise from top left: Casa Batllo (another Gaudi designed building), Port Vell Harbour, Plaça de Catalunya fountain, and a random spot I found in a park
Clockwise from left: Carrer del Bisbe a.k.a the bridge of sighs, Park Guell mosaic lizard, and the Picasso museum
Delicious Sangria! Image courtesy of spectavius.com
On the third day I started with a free walking tour. I’m not even sure what company the guide was from, or his name, all I know is that he was excellent with being friendly, interactive, great tips and knowledge. He hangs out in the Catalunya plaza with a yellow umbrella at 11am every day.
The walking tour finished at the beach which was excellent for myself and another Canadian girl from my hostel room. We were ready to work on our tans and get a bit of relaxing done next to the warm Spanish sea water on golden sand. It was great being at the beach with another person for a different reason too, there are a lot of pickpockets around making it really unwise to leave your stuff alone on the beach. Having some company meant we could take turns watching each other’s valuables while having a refreshing dip in the water. There were even black ?Nigerian/Indian hawkers wandering about the beach offering fresh moijios and coconut for sale. I felt very pampered. I found that this was my favourite day in Barcelona too. Perhaps because the culture shock was wearing off? The relaxing on the beach certainly helped me to feel quite settled.
Later that night I watched the Magic Fountain show from the top of Mount Montjuic. It was a spectacular show with timed water jets and coloured lights to popular English music. Watching the sunset over Barcelona was also pretty spectacular.
Clockwise from top left: Sunset, the Magic Fountain, more sunset, and looking up at Mount Montjuic from the fountain.
The next morning it was time to head to my next stop. To my horror I missed my booked express train right at the start of the day. All because of a silly mistake with programming the wrong timezone (and therefore the incorrect time) into my google calendar. I didn’t panic too much and headed to the bus station and brought a €32 ticket. But I was mainly pissed off at having to double pay for a journey. Especially when I had specially booked the train quite a while ago to get a cheap advance fare. Buying another train ticket that day was priced at €100 (~NZ$170). Ick. But at least the bus was cheaper. Just tends to be rather slow. An eight hour journey instead of the original planned two hour one. Ick.
I hopped onto the bus ready for my next destination – Madrid.