I spent nearly two weeks in Barcelona. But during my stay a listness came over me. I did not want to go anywhere or do anything, not even start this “blog”. But maybe there was just nothing to write about. The idea was to use it as a sort of decompression chamber. But at the end I was almost ready to give up on my trip. The embarassment of returning early, the belief that it would get better and the knowledge that I got homesick after a couple weeks on previous trips kept me going.
What was really the problem? I felt like I was on spring break. Part of it could be chalked up the hostel. Some of it to the presence of large numbers of Americans out to party. And I suppose Barcelona is the kind of place where people go to do that. Additionally I felt physically tired a lot of time and i can’t blame jet lag for it. Was it the drinking and staying up late? bad diet?
Most of the time I stayed at the Sant Jordi hostel in Gracia. There are five of them spread out through the city and each one has a team. This one had a bike theme though that is not why I picked it. It is also probably the smallest one. Gracia itself seems like a good choice in retrospect. It’s not in the super touristy downtown but the neighborhood around it is buzzing with activity. The streets are quite narrow and there are many plazas. The facilities were complete, in top shape and clean. I especially liked the key card lockers. The only problem was that it was somewhat of a party hostel. Maybe that is every hostel in Barcelona?
I went on a few bar crawls with the hostel. Seemed like a good idea but I realized I wasn’t enjoying them at all. Since they gathered together several of the Sant Jordi hostels for these, we inevitably wound up being the majority in any given bar or club. And the clubs at the end of the night were places I would have never went on my own, with awful music. I never wound up going to hear any house/techno though that’s not really what I went on this trip for and there will be more time for that later.
As mentioned I kept running into a lot of Americans. I guess Barcelona and maybe Europe in general is a more popular destination than the places I’ve visited before for USAmericans. But I haven’t met any on long term travels. I think I’ll have to go to a more “serious” travel destination like Morocco to find those.
I had some good times going out on my own or with a few other hostel guests. I saw the Barcelona Gypsy Klezmer Orchestra, a cueca band in a bar and a flamenco show. There’s pretty much always something to do in Barcelona at night. Another hightlight was watching the Champions League final in the company of hardcore Atletico supporters. They never stopped chanting and it was heartbreaking to see Atletico lose in the final minutes.
I saw most of the usual sights. Renting a bicycle from the hostel was a good idea. Barcelona is somewhat bike friendly with dedicated bike lanes along major avenues but it’s inconsistent and sometimes it’s hard to find a route. I never left the city itself.
My favorite place in Barcelona was probably the neighborhood somewhere between the Chocolate Museum, the Arc De Triomf and Placa de Sant Pere. A nice mix of old and new with interesting public spaces as well as narrow winding alleys.
As far as food, I did try to cook a couple of times but it was a drag except the couple of times I made dinner with roommates. It didn’t help that my food got thrown out (or stolen) mid-way through my stay and it’s hard to keep supplies of certain non-essential but helpful ingredients. The hostel would make cheap dinner every night and paella (Thursday is paella night) was pretty good. Other than that I wasn’t really impressed by the tapas I’ve had and it’s an expensive way to eat. The best meal I had was a chicken biriyani from an Indian place. I was kind of curious to try a McDonalds there but never got around to it.
Unfortunately I barely got to practice Spanish. With so many English speakers it was just too easy to fall back on it. I even got to speak some Russian. There was a group of Kalmyk women who hung around the Lithuanian cafe where the Atletico fan club was watching the game (a real mix of cultures there but that’s Barcelona for you).
I ran into an unexpected problem. I didn’t really feel like dragging my laptop to Morocco. But I realised once again how hard it is to leave something behind. Pretty much the only option I saw were the lockers at the airport but they are 5 Euro a day and only accept coins. So I’d have to get 100 euro in change from the machine and the thought of myself feeding coins for two minutes just seemed ridiculous. So for better or worse I’m bringing this laptop to Morocco. Hopefully it will make it out of there, inshallah.
I did use some of my time to do some research into Morocco. I decided to climb the mountain Toubkal there. I’ve never done anything like it before but it should not be too difficult as it’s not a technical climb and I’m in reasonable shape. The only problem is my heavy backpack. And I’m also looking forward to going to the Sahara.