First, I just want to get this out of the way from the beginning: Going to Europe for a long weekend is totally doable. Before we left we got tons of incredulous responses saying, “Really?! But that’s not enough time! Why would you do that? No no no you have to be in Europe for at least 10 days! You’re only going to see one city?! What a waste! You’re crazy! Only 3 full days in Spain? What’s the point!”
Can we all agree that you saw the point yesterday? Because guess what? In 3 days we did everything on any Barcelona Top 10 List searchable by the googles. And we rocked that shit. Furthermore! Even though we wish we could have stayed longer because Barcelona is AWESOME – the reality is, when we thought about it, there was nothing left to do but lounge around. Lounging around is awesome… but we just didn’t have the time this go around, and taking a short trip to Spain was TOTALLY worth the expense.
Ok, moving on…
Our flight out of SFO was delayed by 2+ hours making us miss our connection in London. Thankfully British Airways is a rockstar and we got on a later connection, no problem. We had to run to catch that flight, but all was well. Unfortunately when we got to Barcelona, our luggage did not arrive with us, so even though we were 2+ hours late, we had to hang out in the airport for another 1.5 hours waiting for our europack to arrive with all of our clean underpants. We didn’t show up to our awesome euro apartment (found via Air B&B, I highly recommend) until 10:00 pm on Wednesday… and we had left at 940 pm Tuesday. Yikes. But we were here! And we were stoked! So we immediately jumped into the shower (that didn’t drain well and created human feet soup, and with a hot water tank smaller than R2D2 which made things… speedy), threw on new clothes, and headed out into the Spanish night!
What did we find in the Spanish night? A lot of really drunk euro trash. Like American frat boys gone wrong… with neon polos and snooty attitudes and no understanding of personal space. But we didn’t care, we just sort of marveled at them while we sipped sangria and ate cheese and olives.
The next morning I woke up all on my own at 6 am, after a fitful night of sort of sleep. Our apartment happened to be on one of the busiest and nightlife-y-est side streets in Barri Gotic (the oldest and awesomest part of Barcelona), so when the bars let out at 2-3am the apartment filled with the sound of a 1000 drunken foreign languages all mixed together. It was kind of beautiful in its own way. When one evening we finally got out of bed to watch the hubub below us from our balcony, it was amazing how much of an adorable sausage fest it was. I wanted to hug everyone.
The first full day in Barcelona it rained for half the day. It rained a lot. I left wearing one pair of shoes and then had to scramble back to the apartment after walking only a few short blocks because my shoes were soaked and I needed to change them. After all of that travel and all of the waiting we’d done, I have to admit I felt a bit defeated wandering around the soggy streets trying to find somewhere to buy a museum pass and get some maps. Kamel’s Barcelona app that we had downloaded months ago wasn’t catching GPS and was absolutely zero help to us, and I could literally feel the hours tick by as we dealt with logistics. That part of any trip, the gearing up, the revving of the engine, the pure re-orientation of life after flying across the world…. it always sucks. We ended up opting for a hop on-hop off tour bus, something I’ve seen in other cities and always sneered at. But hey! it meant paid for transportation for 2 full days, taking us to all the things we wanted to see, and it was DRY. Once we were on the bus and on our way to Sagrada Famiglia, I felt a lot better. And by the afternoon the world was beginning to dry up.
Things I learned from the first full day:
- Keep in mind spring break schedules. I have not thought of spring break in years, and didn’t realize it would be spring break when we went to Spain. This created a lot of crowded ass hole 18-22 year olds who often plowed right into us or were really loud and annoying or decided to lounge on the steps of various bookstore/gift shops so that I had to grunt at them and gesture for them to move the hell out of my way or I would kick them in the balls. That was super unnecessary rage that could have been avoided by 1 week’s difference.
- Ain’t no party like a Barcelona party cuz a Barcelona party don’t stoooooop.
- La Rambla is the main tourist hub in Barcelona. It is mostly full of nick-nack shit like caricature drawings and I <3 Barcelona T-shirts and a lot of shitty restaurants that have people trying to coax you off the street and into their establishment. It’s a good landmark for figuring out where you are, and it’s a great way to walk to the beach, but don’t get trapped there! It’s my tourist hell. It is not the real Barcelona, and for the love of god, don’t eat at the restaurants. They are overpriced and a notch above fast food.
- It’s ok if your first day of a vacation you’ve dreamed about for over a year kind of sucks. It gets better. I promise.
Day 2 was sunny and warm enough for me to not wear my coat for most of the day. We saw the modern art museum which is always one of my favorite things to check out in any new city because it speaks to the culture now. We saw a lot of awesome historical things too, but we don’t live in ancient times and I want to have a better understanding of the places I visit and who the people are who make up those places.
We ended up going to 3 museums in the course of our trip: The Modern Art Museum, The Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, and the Picasso Museum. Barcelona knows how to host a museum. They are all really well maintained, beautifully set up, and incredibly unique. These are not just buildings with art hung up on the walls, they are a total experience. The one thing that did bother me though – a lot of the mixed media stuff at the Modern Art Museum was in English. This I did not understand. If not Catalan, then why not Spanish? I don’t want English to be so pervasive it shows up in modern art museums around the world. Stop it world, rock out with your own shit, don’t default to ours. It’s not that cool.
Things I learned from day two:
- When you can’t handle one more minute of tourist food and aren’t in a hostel or hotel to ask a front desk person – call a cabbie. When I was 2 seconds from melt down city, we asked a cab driver to take us to his favorite restaurant, the real Barcelona. An 8 euro cab ride later and we were having food-gasms over the best tapas we’ve ever had. The place was called La Tertulia, and if you are EVER in Barcelona you’ve got to go. You will not be disappointed.
- I am simultaneously a 7 year old girl and a 90 year old woman. My attention span for museums ends at 2. And I really hate it when they make me check my bag in coat check. Hate. Also, I don’t understand why everyone treats a museum like a fucking church. You’re not supposed to talk, everyone is walking around on egg shells, etc etc. Does noise ruin the paint job? You will see next week, in our epic Barcelona video, that at a certain point I lost my shit in an exceedingly quiet museum over one of the paintings. I could not stop laughing and had to walk away into several rooms so I could shake and snort in private. I almost peed my pants.
- Barcelona has wild green parrots. WILD GREEN PARROTS. That is all.
Day three was my favoritest day. Possibly one of my most favorite days of my entire life. I only wanted to do 2 major things in Spain, the first was see the Picasso Museum and the second was to rent bikes and pedal along the Mediterranean. On our last full day, we did both of those things and it was AMAZING!!!
We started out renting bikes at 11 am after eating churros and hot chocolate for breakfast. OMFGNOMNOMNOM. We headed straight for the beach and Kamel lead me in circles around a pavilion trying to get my bike-legs working again. I’m not the greatest bike person. I mostly head straight into large bushes or the one object I could possibly hit, and I can’t look left or right without turning the handlebars. I’m basically a disaster. But, with some coaxing and patience from Kamel, I was on my way! With my little bike bell! Zooming between people and pedicabs! Along the freaking Mediterranean! After that we headed into the city, exploring parks we saw on the map, finding Spain’s Arc de Triomphe, exploring more Gaudi, winding through side streets, discovering little artist markets here and there, eating snacks at a parkside cafe, and watching an immigrant unemployment protest trundle down a street.
I was so incredibly happy. We returned the bikes at 7pm.
Things I learned from day three:
- Sometimes a little practice and patient confidence is all you need to do things that freak you out, things you think you won’t be able to do but want to do so badly.
- Picasso knows his shit.
- Buying a little something (like handmade earrings from a vendor on a bustling artist-filled street) for yourself so you can think of the trip in little every day moments here and there is really gratifying.
- Pick 1 thing you REALLY want to do on any given vacation and DO IT. The feeling of “Oh my fucking god we actually biked all through Barcelona for HOURS and we’re doing this, we’re actually DOING THIS.” is never ever ever over rated.
- Fat Tire Bike Rentals – the most chill place, 10 euro for the whole day to rent a bike and they came with 2 types of bike locks. This is the best way to see this city.
- The best way to end any trip in a foreign country? Dinner with your favorite person (or just by yourself, it’s equally enjoyable) that includes country-specific baked goods, and country-specific wine. Can’t be beat, can’t be easier.
On our last day we headed to the airport bus at 9am for our 1140am flight. We got to the bus at 920, scheduled to make it to the airport about 950ish. We stowed our europack, grabbed two seats, one of them being next to another 20ish woman. I mentioned something about having plenty of time, it being 920ish and all, and the woman politely corrected me. It just so happens that our last day in Spain was day light savings time, and NO ONE HAD TOLD US. Not the airline, not the lady we rented the apartment from, not a sign, not a cabby, not one single person. And we were going to get to the airport about 40 min before our international flight home.
If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you’ll be well aware that I often run through airports. I am a run-through-airports-clutching-my-shoes-and-sweating-QUEEN. I have run through airports in Chicago, in Houston, in Denver, in SFO, in Detroit, in London, and now in Barcelona. But I have never ever ever missed a flight. And by god, I wasn’t about to start right then. When we got to the check-in counter the woman told Kamel, in spanish, that we had exactly 2 minutes to give her all our paperwork and fill out all the stuff we needed to fill out and print our tickets before they wouldn’t let us check in anymore. I have never seen my husband move so fast. Long story long, we made it to our plane, but didn’t gather any snacks for our 12 hour journey. And yes, I did almost cry when we were somewhere in northern Canada and I asked the flight attendant when the next time we were going to be fed was and he said 3.5 hours from now.
I realize this is epically long, but it was larger than life in our minds, in our expectations, and in its follow through. Travel, eat, take risks. These are the best moments you’ll have.