June 3, 2014

Barcelona: The Basics

I took a nicely priced train from Paris to Barcelona. I receive the coupon updates from SNCF (France's national train system), and was able to buy when the price was low. Train took: 6 1/2 hours.

Barcelona is not...a part of Spain. Welcome to [the country of] Catalonia, people.

Tapas are...frustrating. I want MORE FOOD!

The architecture is...like sometime after Venice, but earlier than Paris.

Ham and pork are rumored to be the staple meat because...it was part of the Inquisition's effort to squeeze out the remaining Jews and Muslims...the kingdom made it the most (only?) available source of protein.

Sangria is...the same flavor as vin chaud (hot wine)...but iced.

The metro stations have...all downward steps, all upward escalators. Not fun for luggage.

The plaças in front of churches used to be...cemeteries. 

The king decided...to abdicate the throne to his son. [Today.]

Catalonians went...wild with independence fever. 


Transportation
Barcelona is well-connected with a metro and bus system. The T-10 ticket for just over 10 euros (10 trips) is affordable and simple. There are also Barcelona day cards for up to 5 days, and these provide museum discounts and unlimited public transport. I opted for the T-10 as I wasn't doing any museums and I wanted to spend most of my time walking around, not underground. 

My train arrived in the Barcelona Sants station, and I took the metro to where I was staying. For the airport, just pay the 6 euros and use the extremely convenient Aerobus system. It's every five minutes, and has stops all over the city; it will at least get you to a connecting metro station.
 
Accommodation 
I highly recommend AirBnb for your Barcelona stay. All the people I met staying in hostels (around 10 people in their twenties) were having wacky experiences. The other guy using AirBnb was loving his apartment just as much as I was, so that's enough for me! I stayed with a cool Catalonian lady, Núria, in her rad Barcelona apartment. My room was about the same size as my twin bed, but I had plenty of privacy, and I didn't have to share a bathroom with 10 other people. She also gave me kitchen/refrigerator, dining room, tv, and balcony access. Her apartment is on the 2nd floor with an elevator, and my room was nowhere near the street so it was always quiet. The wifi was excellent as well!

The location is what made the place even better; a supermarket, bakery, and metro were all literally 2 minutes from the front door. I could walk to La Rambla in 10 minutes, and all over the Barrí Gotic within 15 to 20 minutes. The bus stop outside the front door goes straight to the beach in 10 minutes. When I go back to Barcelona, I'm staying with Núria, and you should, too.  

Tours
Runner Bean Tours: Old City (Free Tour; guides work for tips, recommended to give between 5-10 euros)
-Highlights: Jewish quarter history (shoved out of Barcelona starting in late 1300s, finished the job with the Inquisition), churches that inspired and were attended by Gaudí, story of Saint Eulalia, the cloister at La Catedral, and how Barcelona has preserved architecture by rotating façades. Lasted: 2 1/2 hours. 

Sandeman's Barcelona Tapas Experience (16 euros; you'll pay about 5 more euros than that as well)
-Highlights: pretending like I brought friends with me, potato tapas, bread tapas, fish tapas, garlic tapas, having entire tapas bars reserved for our group of 40, and talking to British/Irish/Canadian/Australian travelers. Lasted: 5 hours.

These tours gave me as much social time as I needed to have here, and boosted my historical and cultural intelligence immediately. I recommend any of the tours either of these companies provide.

Other Things To Know
-Every street sign is marked. You cannot actually get lost if you have a map and can read.
-Everything is exceptionally clean, including the beach and all bathrooms. Yes, this is a Mediterranean port city. I still can't believe it myself.
-Bring your own bottle. Restaurants will serve you expensive bottled water, not water from the tap. However, there are beautiful and unique drinking fountains all over the city. I drank the water for 3 days and didn't get sick at all.
-Barcelona is incredibly walkable. The hills have escalators, the pathways are even and broad, and most of what you will come to see is flat anyway.


Day 2, Gimme Some Gaudí & Jazz
Day 3, Plaças i Passeigs
Barc-alone-a: Why Are Solo Adventures Important?

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