The last time I was in Barcelona, I spent one full day in the city then left the next morning to go to Lyon for a performance. I always told myself if I ever made it back to Europe I would go back to Barcelona.
I was really excited to return to Barcelona. Although I consider myself am introvert, I was really not excited to travel by myself. Sometimes being around people can be draining. After coming home from work, I really need to not talk to people. My roommate is an extrovert so sometimes if I see our light on when I get back in the evening, I’ll just sit in my car for a little bit and enjoy the solitude. However, the 57hrs spent in Barcelona are making me reconsider that introvert label.
Some people love traveling by themselves. I found a few problems with it:
1) there’s nobody with whom to share your experiences. Going to the Picasso museum was really interesting, but art is better shared. When I went to the Matisse exhibit in Minneapolis, I appreciated it a lot more because I was able to have conversations about the works with my friends.
2) photos are more difficult. If you want a picture of yourself in front of something, you have to ask someone some rando every single time.
3) you can’t share food. This is especially regrettable in the country that created paella and tapas.
4) you’re pretty much home by sundown. Thankfully, that’s around 21h30 in Barcelona, but still, it would have been nice to explore the night life.
5) if you get lost, you get really lost. In Marrakech, I had downloaded Google maps to my phone so I could access it offline. The Spanish block that feature and my host didn’t have internet in her flat. Thank goodness Barcelona has free public WiFi. That said, I never knew exactly where I was. With Dana, when we got lost, at least we were together and could figure it out. Getting lost by yourself is a little more uncomfortable.
To avoid the loneliness of solo travel, I reached out to the couch surfing community and found a young Peruvian/Spanish master’s student name Edda. She offered to show me around my first day. Again, spending the day with some random stranger I found online is something that falls under the umbrella of things I didn’t tell my mom before I left. I’m still alive mom.
Edda and I met up at 11 at the plaça de Catalunya near Las Ramblas. Online, I told her I had been to Barcelona once before and had seen most of the Gaudi sites. She promised to show me the real Barcelona and warned that we would be walking a lot.
We started with the old city walls and the Gothic quarter. I got to see some of the places I had seen last time on a sandman free walking tour. There were some new corners of the city she helped my discover as well.
This cat is in the neighborhood where I stayed – the Rambla Del Raval. It is also known locally as Ravalistan due to the high Arab population. Though it used to be quite cheap, like the rest of Barcelona and many other cities, the area is experiencing gentrification and pushing the historical population out. Edda says you can still get the best kebabs in the city there.
After the walk around the city, we went to lunch at a tiny restaurant at the edge of the Gothic quarter called Can Paixano. If you were just walking by, you would have missed it. There were no tables or chairs so everyone had to stand around the bar. Edda said it was popular for people who work in the area. I tried to read the menu, but it was in Catalan so I told Edda to order for me. We ended up with a plate of chorizo, pork, and bottle of restaurant-crafted rosé. I’m not generally a fan of rosé, but this was a nice summer treat.
After lunch, we walked around some more then went to the beach. We laid out in the sand, got to know each other, and enjoyed a short, post lunch siesta. I’m not complaining, but the sand in the Sahara was much softer. Before we left, I ran into the water and touched the Mediterranean for the third time in my life.
After the beach, Edda told me she was going to take me to her favorite spot in the city, but first we had to buy water. I had no idea what that meant. We took the metro to the stop Albert X then started climbing. This is when she told me where we were going. At the top of the hill is an old bunker from WWII. After it was decommissioned, it became a hidden hang out for Barcelona’s youths. Edda said sometimes she likes to just go up there and think. As we looked over the city, I could see why this is her favorite spot.
After Edda and I parted ways, I headed back to the flat. Unfortunately, my host wasn’t home and she didn’t have spare keys for me so I was locked out. Since it was around 8, it was as good a time as any to find dinner. Walking down the street, I stopped at the first place that had individual paella. Normally, this is a dish that meant to be shared so it’s made in huge platters. Paella is one of my favorite dishes so I knew I couldn’t leave Barcelona without it.
Eating alone is not something I’m completely comfortable doing. I don’t know where to look. At a café you can people watch. In a restaurant, that gets kind of creepy.
I overhead the couple sitting next to me speaking French but could tell they weren’t French. They were wondering if the seafood paella had scallops in it. When the waiter came back, they asked in English but didn’t know the word for scallops. After a few moments of confusion, I said:
Ella quiere saber si la paella tiene las vieiras
Why I knew the word for scallops in Spanish, I don’t know. He responded in some Spanish that I missed and ended with hay mejillones, camarones y calamares. no hay vieiras
So I told them what was in the paella and said, il y’a les moules, crevettes, et calamars, il n’y a pas des coquilles St Jacques.
After that, I had dinner companions and the waiter was really nice to me. He even gave me free sangria and dessert.
The next day, I explored the city on my own starting with the Picasso museum. Even though the line is crazy long, it moved fairly quickly. Next to Gaudi, Picasso is probably the next most famous artist associated with Barcelona. The museum is well worth the visit for anyone the least bit interested in art. I was able to get in free with my university id. Go gophers!
The Picasso museum is on the far east side of Barcelona. On the far west side is a big hill with the Montjuïc castle. The plan was to start at the museum and slowly walk to Montjuïc for sunset stopping as I pleased along the way. That’s exactly what I did.
After a long climb I arrived at the top. The castle has served multiple purposes over the centuries including lighthouse, fortress, and prison. At the top of one of the highest points on Barcelona and overlooking the sea, it’s easy to see why this was such a coveted location.
Since the castle closed at 8 and the sun sets much later, I made my way down the hill a ways then watched the city change colors as the sun fell. It was a perfect farewell to the city. I was glad to give the city a proper visit over my two full days there. When I got on the train the next day to go to Toulouse, I was really looking forward to being in a country where I am able to understand people again. My friend Gabriel and his friends would make me eat those words.