I don’t have any European guidebooks so I have been reading the “36 Hours” travel column published by The New York Times as inspiration for my weekend trips. Here is my take on 36 Hours in Barcelona.
Friday, 4:30 pm, adios to The Hague: It is a gloriously sunny day in The Hague. The nicest day we have had in months. There is talk of the temperature reaching thirty degrees over the weekend. As I walk home from work, I hear the barista at the coffee shop down the street tell a hoard of tourists how lucky they are to be here for this weather. She is beaming. It’s been raining for months, she says. I resist the urge to tell her that, no matter what the forecast says, it will probably rain tomorrow, too.
Friday, 6:30 pm, bloodbath at the airport: Easy Jet customers are very competitive about seat allocation, I learn. Easy Jet is a discount airline that sells tickets from Amsterdam to Barcelona for 30 Euros. They do not allocate seats in advance and, as a result, everyone pushes and shoves to be first in line. I’m not sure if this is because it is crucially important to get an aisle seat for a two hour flight or because the adrenalin of getting to the front of a line simply obscures all sense of reason. I see a woman leave her five-year-old daughter behind in her zeal to get to the front of the line (those little legs just won’t run fast enough!). Another woman almost gets trampled. Two people behind me nearly come to blows.
Friday, 10:00 pm, time for tapas: I arrive at the Barcelona Central Garden hostel and am immediately provided with a plate full of tapas. I like this country already.
Saturday, 7:00 am, my morning, your night: I am sharing a dorm room with five strangers. I get up for my day of sightseeing and bump into two roommates who are just arriving home from the clubs.
Saturday, 8:00 am, don’t let anyone hug you: The woman who works at the front desk gives me a list of tips for surviving Barcelona. There are pickpockets everywhere, she says. Don’t trust anyone. Don’t take the escalator. Don’t let anyone hug you. Don’t let anyone spill anything on you. Don’t let anyone help you with your bags. Don’t carry too much cash on the metro. And remember, she says, they say you haven’t really visited Barcelona until you have been robbed in Barcelona.
Saturday, 9:30 am, breakfast at Boqueria Market: The market is already bustling with customers who are feasting on seafood tapas and guzzling sangria. There is also coconut and strawberry juice, raw meat, fresh bread, Argentinian empanadas, dried spices, candies, coffee, and flowers. Smell and colour all around me. This is what I love most about traveling.
Saturday, 11:00 am, walk it out: I sign up for a free walking tour and we make our way around the gothic quarter. I see the school that Picasso attended, bullet holes from the Spanish civil war, Roman columns, and the city’s oldest synagogue.
Saturday, 2 pm, time for tapas (again): I join some of the people I met on the walking tour for tapas. We are three Canadians, an American, and a German. The menu isn’t in English, so we give it our best guess. We end up with calamari, tomato and buffalo mozzarella salad, roasted chickpeas, and gazpacho. A jug of sangria goes for 2 Euros. We sit in a sun drenched square for hours.
Saturday, 5 pm, gelato: Lunch is over so we head back to the gothic quarter to find the gelateria the guide pointed out. Avocado and lime gelato is the best.
Saturday, 8 pm, I forgot that Camper shoes are made in Spain: I say goodbye to my friends from the tour and, by accident, find myself in front of a Camper store. I love these shoes. In Augusts past, NA and I used to hunt for them at the annual Gravity Pope sale in Edmonton.
Saturday, 10 pm, Flamenco: I meet up with an American lawyer that I met earlier in the day for a Flamenco show. The bar is dark with orange lighting. We get front row seats. I am skeptical that this is going to be an annoying tourist attraction but the show is actually amazing.
Saturday, 11:30 pm, dinner: Plaça Reialis is lit up and busy and hot. Even though it is nearly midnight, there are still lineups at the dozens of restaurants that line the square. The American and I luck out and snag a table right outside under the midnight sun. Unfortunately, an angry Spanish woman who arrived several seconds later than us also thinks that this is her table and a power struggle ensues. She tells us we are stupid and stalks off into the night. We shrug and order the Paella.
Sunday, 2 am, on my way home: It’s 2 am and its thirty degrees and Las Ramblas is alive with bodies. Maybe this city doesn’t sleep.
Sunday, 8 am, intro to Gaudi: Thanks to some brilliant advice from a friend, I pre-purchased my tickets to the Sagrada Familia and bypassed the long, long lineup. I don’t usually get too excited about churches, but this one is crazy and amazing and makes me want to be friends with Gaudi. There are sculptures of turtles, a wall with a biblical inscription translated into 50 different languages, and coloured jewels that reflect light all over the white interior of the building. I feel like I’m dancing in a disco.
Sunday, 11 am, more Gaudi: I decide I love Gaudi and walk around the city to look at more of his buildings. My favourite is the Casa Battlo, which has been designed to look like a giant dragon. Unfortunately, everyone else agrees and there are hundreds of people on the pavement in front of the building, staring mesmerized.
Sunday, 3 pm, sleep: I fall asleep on the plane on the way home.