Barcelona Story Hour

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.

43 thoughts on “Barcelona Story Hour”

  1. British Airways does rock. The French air traffic controllers were on strike during our honeymoon, which gnarled air traffic through Europe. Since we were flying to/from Madrid with layovers at Heathrow there and back, guess what country we would have flown over had they been open for business? So, we missed our connection in Heathrow and BA put us up in a hotel with meal vouchers, hotel bus vouchers, and a flight the next morning. It was not the lap of luxury, or a fantastic set of meals, but I wasn’t out any extra cash and it wasn’t even BA’s fault. I would fly them again any time, even dealing with a layover in Heathrow if it meant avoiding an American airline, even one with a nonstop flight. Because the American airlines, those f-holes will leave you effin stranded any chance they get.

    1. Yes!!! I HATE how airlines try to screw you over allllll of the time. “No, that issue was not due to our airline, you’ll have to pay for a new ticket.” Gah. Air travel has turned into a major hassle when it used to be thrilling. Customer service, people. It’s really not a hard concept.

      1. And, look. We both love British Airlines and would use them again. So, their customer service is helping them make more money.

        I also wonder if airlines have stricter don’t be an asshole regulations in European countries… but I’m going to just proceed with the assumption that they do it because they are not evil.

  2. P.S. Your 3rd day did look awesome! When I saw you in short sleeves on the beach, I died a little from jealousy.

  3. Oh my gosh, JEALOUS. Even the bad parts of your trip sound pretty splendid. I’m so glad you got to go!

    Also, this:
    “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.”
    …made me laugh out loud at work. (Awkward! Haha.)

      1. oh! and also to clarify the “long weekend” idea – I only took 3 days off of work, had 3 full days in Spain, and 2 travel days using Tuesday night and nearly all of Wednesday.

  4. How absolutely wonderful! It sounds so perfect … even with the messes and the rage. All it did was make you appreciate the AWESOME moments more, right? =)

    And hush about this being long. It’s the BEST way to tell a story like this!

  5. Barcelona remains the only place I’ve ever ridden on one of those touristy bus things and I enjoyed it. Also, asking the cab driver for restaurant advice? Genius!

    Sounds like a great trip, highs and lows and airport running included!

  6. “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?”

    AHAHAH. Omg. This. Yes.

    And THANK YOU for dispelling the “YOU NEED 2 WEEKS IN EUROPE” BS. While I have never done a 3-day whirlwind, I totally intend to someday.

    1. As someone who works in museums, I want to address this briefly. It’s really hard to strike the tone where everyone feels comfortable in a museum environment and at the same time all the artwork or artifacts are protected. Generally speaking, when people loosen up, they aren’t as respectful of the collections — they feel more at home and touch.

      Now, I’m not saying people shouldn’t feel at home in a museum, but it is a problem trying to figure out how to teach art/artifact preservation without imposing church-like behavior. Very few museums get it right because it is really hard to do. I think a lot of museums go the “this is a place of reverence” route, because they know their collections will be safer that way.

      And yes, art should be enjoyed. If you find something funny, you should be allowed to laugh. In fact, I think most people think all art is serious — which totally isn’t the case.

      So I’m not presenting any solutions but just explaining a little background. This is an ongoing debate in museum studies — you can find all sorts of museum blogs and conferences discussing this issue.

      1. That’s very interesting–and somewhat sad that to most people, loosen up = get less respectful. Why does there have to be that connection in people’s minds? Can’t we loosen up AND still have some respect for these awesome pieces in front of us?

        1. I don’t think it’s a conscious decision people make to be less respectful of the artwork/artifacts. I think it’s subconscious that when people feel more comfortable in an environment, they also act like they do in other places — at home the objects are yours to touch and at many shopping stores people want to touch.

          It is a natural reaction for people want to touch artwork and artifacts. Touch is a major sense and can help a person learn more about something. To be able to sit in a chair in the decorative art section of a museum would give the visitor better appreciation for that object. And that’s why some museums are trying to make replicas or provide fabric swatches for guests to touch — so they can appreciate something on another sensory level (unfortunately this is a very expensive/time consuming process so there is a limit). But unfortunately the act of visitors touching means that future visitors won’t have the opportunity to see an artwork/artifact.

          So instead of letting people let their guard down, which leads to touching, museums employ tactics to make visitors feel they are being watched and that the institution is a place of reverence. It’s a type of behavior control. There’s a lot more theory behind this that deals with Foucault’s work.

          And again, I don’t condone this type of approach, just explaining why it happens so frequently. Personally I think there must be a way to teach visitors about preservation to empower them to be stewards of museum collections and at the same time create an environment in which people are comfortable. But I haven’t figured that out yet.

          1. Really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this topic! Confirms my suspicion that there’s a huge museum nerd lurking inside me. 😉

  7. So fun to read! I didn’t realize you guys were only going for a long weekend–definitely something I wouldn’t have thought of doing, but it sounds like it was a blast!

    “Pick 1 thing you REALLY want to do on any given vacation and DO IT.”

    Yes!! Good advice. If I have the time, I usually try to pick one thing I want to eat, one thing I want to see, and one thing I want to do. I’ve also made a lot of memories doing things not on my list, but there’s something really special about the moment you track down something you’ve been daydreaming about for weeks. In Vienna, one of my “things” was seeing the Hundertwasserhaus. Total eye candy. Also renting a pedal boat and exploring the Danube (sadly, I didn’t get the chance to eat a Sachertorte, which I’d really wanted to try, but maybe I’ll be back one day :)).

    I want churros and hot chocolate for breakfast right now. Mmmm.

  8. This trip sounds like a burst of fun. Even though things were disorienting at first, I’m sure once you got your bearings, you felt awesome. Thank you for sharing.

    I’d love to go on a trip like this some time soon. I’m curious if you’d be willing to share your budget to see if it’d be workable for us? No pressure if you’d rather not.

    1. Sure! We splurged on airfare because we were having such a short stay that it balanced out in cheap accommodations. We got on a British Airways Sale back in Jan and for 2 people the airfare cost 2k. We could have done cheaper but we opted for a more leisurely return flight (leaving at 1140 vs 6am) because I am prone to passing out in the mornings when I fly too early. Also, having a 330 wake up would have ruined the entire day before. I think it only cost 200-300 more for the later flight. But that was the bulk of our cost.

      We got our apartment from Air B&B for $81.00 US per night. Prime location and I felt really secure leaving our stuff willy nilly in the place, versus in a hostel. One of the perks of Air B&B is that you have to pay upfront when you book so we were able to spread out our expenses making the the only cost we paid while we were there food and fun.

      We ended up spending about $800 US while we were there for meals and fun stuff. We could have spent less by using the kitchen more, but we indulged. This also is flexible depending on the Euro.

      So over a 3-4 month period the trip cost us about $3,100 total, from booking airfare to the moment we got home.

      1. Thank you for detailing the expense! We’re trying to figure out if we can swing a trip to Europe next year, and I’ve been scouring the web for people’s *actual* trip budgets, which are surprisingly hard to come by! I know things differ depending on where you stay, eat, etc. but it’s nice to get a ballpark figure, so I can estimate how much we’d need to set aside. Airfare seems like the killer–especially if you want to not have 4+ layovers one-way or leave at 5am.

        1. Honestly, we put the airfare on a credit card, because I believe it’s ok to have a little debt for a big experience. But everything else we paid in cash.

      2. Man, I am jealous of how little that cost!

        When Mark and I went to Australia last year, it cost us over $2k for the week for two of us – even though we got a flights+ accommodation deal, and the flight is only 3 hours! We have done a long weekend there, which was about $1500 since we got cheap flights.

        Then again, the joy of it costing $2.5k per person to fly to Europe from here? I got to justify spending a whole six weeks on one epic holiday 🙂 In fact, we are spending probably as much as your entire trip on one eight-day segment (the joys of deciding to include Russia)

        1. Amelia, this is because Australia is a great big rip off where they delight in charging people (you & me) way more than anywhere else in the world for pretty much anything. That being said, I love living here except for the cost of everything 😉

          1. and the retailers here wonder why we all shop online, haha!

            Still, I suppose that’s what happens when we’re so far away and have a small population…

      1. Ooh. Thanks for the recommendation. Haven’t heard of this site, but the agony qualifier sounds helpful (and clever!).

  9. I’m glad that you guys had a great time in Barcelona!

    Did you have a “run-through-airports” moment in Mexico?

  10. Ohhh finally ! I had to wait til I was home to read it all !
    You know, those parrots are “imported”… they are originally from Argentina, people bought them as pets and they established a colony and adapted by copying and competing with other local birds. They are cute and surreal in a way, but it is kind of a problem because they are winning over the autoctonous birds.
    Sounds like lots and lots of fun, you brought back memories! And those buses, as touristy as they are come in really handy to get a main idea how the city layout is, maybe for the first day if you don’t have a lot of time !

    1. Nooooooooooooooooooooo!!! Not the awesome green parrots!!! 🙂

      We have the same phenomenon in San Francisco, but not quite as wide spread.

      I love them anyway. hahaha

      1. Yeah they resally go well in the city no ? I love to look up in the park and see parrots. Also, random story… Barcelona seagulls are very smart they actually know the penguins feeding time at the zoo, and come and fight them for their fish then fly away with it…

  11. Your trip sounds AWESOME! I’m impressed you guys managed to figure out how to do all that with only three days off of work.

    Yayyy for traveling!!

  12. wow, Barcelona sounds so awesome! I haven’t made it to Spain yet, it’s on the list for the next Euro trip.

    It’s so funny you say that about museums, becasue one of things I love about museums is the quietness! I love that really calm feeling you tend to get in them. And I have to say, when I saw the Sistine Chapel in Rome, there were all these signs saying “silence” but NO-ONE paid any attention, and it was awful! It was impossible to properly take in the art when there were hundreds of other people crammed in, blabbing away at the top of their voices, ugh!

    Anyway, I think it’s awesome you went to Spain for a short trip. People here in Australia probably only do that to go to SE Asia, because it’s close by. It takes a full 24 hours on the plane for us to get all the way to Europe, and I’m just not willing to go through that pain for less than 3 weeks away, haha!

  13. I would LOVE to be able to do a long weekend somewhere in Europe! Sigh, if only I didn’t live in Australia where it takes an entire day to get to Europe … Your trip sounds AMAZING. Cycling along the Mediterranean! Churros for breakfast! I knew there was a reason that Spain is very high on my list of places to travel too 🙂

  14. This makes me want to take a quick trip! I’ve been saving my days off in the hopes of a longer trip to France, but it is such slow going saving those days. Your trip sounds like so much fun!

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