Viva Espana: Day 3 – Geeking with Gaudi

My hostel in Barcelona is in a quiet residential area not far from Sagrada Familia. It has an enforced code of silencio after 11pm – not only for the guests but for the neighbours too.

My dormitory (a small one) room mates are all women travelling on their own and, thank heavens one of them is American: she arrived moments after me and facilitated the introductions. We have a German, a woman from Chile, myself from England and the American. After a chuckle about international stereotypes, we all settled in.

Well, it was after 11pm. Silencio.

This morning, I headed out for breakfast and an impromptu street art tour.

After breakfast, I headed for Sagrada Familia. It was a sunny day but very chilly. Thankfully, I had checked the forecast before packing and have clothes for every eventuality except flooding. As a Northerner (English), I’ve even brought my Big Coat.

Having bought my ticket, I joined the queue to enter. No guns, no crossbows, no knives, no chemicals, no baseball bats, no flames and definitely no radioactive material should be on your person or in your belongings… if you wish to enter the Basilica. I’m sure I shouldn’t find security checks as entertaining as I do.

As I arrived at Guell Park and joined the ticket queue, I heard familiar accents. There were four Mackems (people from Sunderland) behind me.

As they looked around the park, one of them said: “Doesn’t this remind you of that monkey park in Bali? Where I got bitten by that monkey?”
“Oh yeah,” replied his partner. “That was funny, though scary at the same time.”
Their friend, evidently as reliable source of sympathy, asked: “Did the monkey get innoculated?”
“The monkey? What about me?” asked the indignant victim. “We couldn’t get him off. He nipped me on the neck.”

(…which doesn’t sound as dramatic as ‘bitten’).

“At least the guy at the park said you didn’t have to worry about rabies,” said his wife.

I resolved to give them a wide berth… in case they were magnets for other wildlife attacks. The birds were already sounding a bit agitated.

Of course, the other reason the birds could be hacked off could be the sheer number of souvenir sellers blowing into their bird call whistles. It was incessant. They were all over the park – there were more blanket vendors than outside the Eiffel Tower (which is a LOT).

Did you loathe the vuvuzelas? Did you detest the kazoo? You’ll a-d-o-r-e the birdsong whistles. I’m lying. You’ll hate them. I like kazoos and even I couldn’t bring myself to buy one for my nephew even though I know it would annoy the life out of his dad, my brother.

There was a tapas restaurant serving the late lunch crowd as I walked downhill. Was I going to chance it?

I use the word ‘chance’ because on a trip to Granada, I stopped off tapas in a bar and was served a plate that would have fed six. Accidental over-ordering is a regular risk in travelling. (Examples: afternoon tea for four, when I was the only diner, in Moscow, and multiple bowls of dumplings in Yekaterinburg, again as a solo diner).

I cautiously ordered a Greek salad and plate of patatas bravas. I think ‘generous’ is the word I’m searching for to describe the servings… which is no bad thing and shows me that solo tapas is going to have to be undertaken cautiously.

The afternoon was spent Magpie Wandering. What’s ‘Magpie Wandering‘? It’s the phrase that pops into my head to describe the way I often walk around cities.

I set off with a destination planned. I find the route on Google Maps (other navigation apps are available, I think), and off I go. Minutes later, I glance down a sidestreet and spot something that looks interesting (or ‘shiny’), and I’m instantly walking in that direction to see what it is.

I was initially heading for La Rambla, but on the way… I headed off to see what looked like Barcelona’s version of the ‘Gherkin’ but spotted the Monumental and went to have a look at that instead. By the time I reached La Rambla, I’d been to the bus station (it’s rather impressive, yes ‘shiny’), the Supreme Place of Justice, the Arch of Triumph and was off to see the House of Three Dragons (because just the name is ‘shiny’ – who WOULDN’T want to go and see the House of Three Dragons?) only to discover it was shut, had a coffee and been to the Antic Theatre.

Once I arrived at La Rambla, it didn’t seem nearly half as interesting (‘shiny’) as the narrow and graffiti’d streets I’d been wandering through, so I gave up on that idea and went off in search of another cafe, for ideally coffee and cake, before I would stroll off to see the appartments designed by Gaudi.

Of course, then I decided that I’d enjoy a leisurely glass of wine, and it had been dark for some time before I resumed that plan.

And that’s ‘Magpie Wandering’ – really easily distracted. Or… maybe… just going with the flow.

Barcelona is a really easy city to walk around. There is just so much to see, and I decided to make my way to the area of my hostel and wander there – these are usually the areas I neglect when I am travelling.

I choose my accommodation for its location in relation to everything else.

The Gracia district is mostly residential. The tapas restaurants and bars seem mostly to cater to locals. I didn’t see any sign of venues trying to lure in travellers with cheap booze and football matches. There are small, independent shops lining the streets. There are several squares where people gather for drinks at the bars, or to sit on the benches and chat, or to play ball games with small children.

It feels like a relaxed part of town.

I also passed not one but TWO cinemas, both with several screens (I think) and one showing Hollywood films while the other focused on Spanish language. There must be demand and sufficient footfall for them to stay open – they’re also offering completely different ranges of films.

I’d really like to know which one is the most popular.

Categories: Barcelona, Spain, Street Art, Travel, Viva EspanaTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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