As you know, this blog is not a minute-by-minute travel blog. It is a what’s-going-on, am-I-still-alive, what-are-my-general-thoughts travel blog.
Yes. I am still alive.
I spent my first week in Spain visiting the city of Barcelona. Yep, it’s pronounced ‘Barthelona’ – ‘c+i’ and ‘c+e’ get the ‘th’ treatment, so get used to the lisp. You’ll thank them for it when you are not confused by ‘siento’ versus ‘ciento’. And they will say, “Grathias!”
First thing I noticed: it is hot, humid and crowded. The streets are always crowded. Tourists and locals all pushing past each other in an ancient game of “who knocked over grandma”. If you’re wondering who did knock over grandma, it is likely to be another grandma, texting while riding a standup electric scooter. Feeling adventurous? Play the advanced game of “spot the pickpocket”. Aren’t crowds fun?
I also noticed that Barcelona is very clean. Most large cities are littered with, well, litter. Barcelona is not. The city employs an army of street sweeps. Both infantry and mechanized. Night and day, someone is sweeping the sidewalks, streets and alleys of Barcelona. Really, it’s quite impressive. Also, not as much graffiti as I would have thought… huh.
Barcelona is, unlike most old cities, laid out in delightful grid. You can even spot it from the plane on final approach to the airport. Prominent, often tree-lined, boulevards set up a grid pattern, with only the occasional diagonal to keep you on your toes. Compared to cities like London and Paris, Barcelona is actually navigable! Turn right, turn right, turn right, turn right and you are back where you started. Wander about, explore the side streets, avoid the famous pickpockets, AND still find your hotel. I won’t give you a money back guarantee, but it’s pure freakin’ magic!
The beaches are easy to find (there next to the sea), clean and friendly. Except, I am reliably informed, during major holidays, such as the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. On those days and, especially, nights, step lightly. Still, it’s worth the short walk, bike, scooter, bus, or taxi ride, to walk along the sandy beach, to the rocky shoreline, to the frigid sea. Perhaps the water warms up later in the summer? It is only June, after all. Pro tip for cold water: dive right in. What doesn’t kill you, and all that.
As for food… Tapas. Yep, Tapas, Tapas, and Tapas. Every restaurant has them. No, not every restaurant. I found three that didn’t: KFC, McDonald’s and Taco Bell (all located near each other and surrounding 4 Irish bars… coincidence?). (The answer is no. It’s not a coincidence. Drunks have to eat, too.) If you’re only in Barcelona for a few months, just stick to those three and be Tapas free. Or, have some Tapas! Fill the table with plates of the stuff. In all different shapes and flavors. Bring a friend. You can’t order just one Tapas, because that’s a Tapa, and it’s just weird. Maybe even try some Sangria. Want some variety? There’s every other kind of food you can imagine. I, for example, had one truly great pizza. I only ate one pizza, so that’s a small sample size, but still a shout out to ‘Da Nanni.’ I enjoyed my wonderful wood-fired pizza — did I mention it’s hot in Barcelona? – while sitting beside a wood-fired pizza oven! The pizza made it all worthwhile, but most folks took their fresh-baked box of goodness to go. Wusses.
When you’re tired of Spanish, Sangria, wine, and all-around good sense, step into one of the 17,000 Irish bars in Barcelona. (Seriously, I counted 4 within 100 yards.) Some folks there will still speak Spanish, drink wine and Sangria, but most will not have any all-around good sense. I was there, so I know!
Barcelona is an all-around good time. Maybe a bit expensive, but worth the visit. Probably not my next home town. I’m off to a couple of smaller towns next, followed by Madrid.
And, yes, I’m still alive at time of posting…