16/08/18 to 17/08/18
If you haven’t already, read the first instalment here.
The next morning we were up bright and early (minus Roy) for a walking tour of the Ciutat Vella (‘old city’), during which our Hungarian guide spoke about Catalonian unrest, and reasons both for and against independence. She also spoke at some length about Picasso, who I acknowledge had a revolutionary impact on art, but who I also can’t bring myself to support in any form for his blatant misogyny. That said, the tour overall was great, and the guide told me I looked like a famous bartender in Melbourne named Winnie. I tried to find her on social media so I could figure out whether to be offended, to no avail.
After the tour, our guide gave us some insight into the different ‘quarters’ of Barcelona, which I’d written in my notes app as follows:
- El born for local designers
- El raval – techno, cheap shot bars
- Close to beach – more commercial music clubs
- Off passeig de gracia – intersections, cafes with silver chairs (such cafés are the cheapest in the area)
- Go to bunkers for view!
Cadi and I then headed for lunch at Alsur Café in El Born, joined by the two other guys who had completed our small tour group that morning. One was American, and was not only keto, but also doing a form of intermittent fasting that meant he only ate one meal a day. The other was Australian – from Sydney – working as a PE teacher in London on a two-year working visa. Afterwards, some of us meandered around the Parc de la Ciutadella and similarly touristy spots, basking in the heat and taking photos to assure our families of our wellbeing.
Dinner was tapas on Rambla del Raval, and we were graced by Roy’s presence after he’d found (and messaged) me on Facebook. We ended the night scaling the large metal cat sculpture we’d spent the best part of the meal staring at, and scrambled to make it to the last showing of the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc. I can substantiate the many reviews that attest to its brilliance, although the best picture I took of it doesn’t show any of the colour that distinguishes it from other ‘non-magical’ fountains. You’ll just have to take my word for it.
The next morning marked the beginning of my last full day in Barcelona, and I’d quickly come to the realisation that the three nights I’d booked were insufficient. Having completely booked all transport and accommodation well in advance, however, I didn’t have the luxury of being flexible, although I did have the luxury of a guaranteed place to sleep. A fair trade-off, I’d say.
We (Cadi, Roy, I, the Australian) embarked on a Gaudi walking tour, the content of which was fairly self-explanatory. We ended at my sole recollection of Barcelona, La Sagrada Familia, and I was somewhat unsurprised to note that it didn’t look much different to when I’d last seen it five years prior, although it remained equally imposing. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the foresight to get tickets to visit the interior, which is apparently incredible. I also didn’t have the time (or again, the foresight) to visit Park Güell, of which I’ve heard nothing but good things. This is a not-so-subtle suggestion to those of you planning on visiting.
We had lunch as a tour group, where I chatted to a twenty-year-old Colombian who enthusiastically rattled off a list of places to visit in Colombia (the notes app comes to the rescue, once again). For food, I chose one of the few vegetarian options, which was essentially fried potatoes with a fried egg and some sauce on top. It was fucking delicious, and at this point in my trip my body was screaming for nutrients. It was rewarded with more sangria.
After Roy and I strolled back the hostel, Roy for a nap (obviously) and me to put away some of my belongings, I headed to Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, conveniently acronymised as MACBA. It’s quite an impressive building; more so once you’ve navigated the plethora of shirtless skateboarders out the front.
The exhibits themselves were the degree of abstraction that I enjoy, which is to say that they were very, very abstract. I love happening upon a piece so totally bewildering that any artistic justification would seem far-fetched, and MACBA provided such moments in abundance. I should note, however, that some pieces were much more straightforward, so please don’t feel unsettled by my earlier descriptions. It’s well worth a visit.
The final hours of my final day in Barcelona were also my best, and the reason for my incessant reminders to those planning trips to Barcelona that they ‘visit the bunkers’. Said bunkers lie atop the Turó de la Rovira, a large hill which was home to anti-aircraft warfare facilities during the Spanish Civil War. Google tells me there were never actually any bunkers there, and I’m willing to overlook the inaccuracy in its naming for its breathtaking views.
Although others were supposed to join Roy and I, they ended up not coming, for one reason or another. We went to the supermarket where we’d bought sangria that first night, and collected our necessary supplies: two bottles of wine, a large baguette, some cheese, a tub of guacamole, and a small box of tomate frito, the ingredient that makes pan con tomate the delight that it is.
Making your way up to the bunkers is fairly straightforward, as you can catch a bus from the city centre that stops near the top. This means that you have no excuse not to go, and although these pictures don’t do the view any justice, they hopefully give you some inkling of how incredible it was.
I eloquently described my time there in my physical journal as ‘chill music, chill time, completely un-chill view.’ Roy had put on one of his Spotify playlists, and I found myself starting every so often when I recognised something I loved. Some days later, I added what I remembered to my own Spotify playlist, as I’ve always been appreciative of the nostalgic powers of music.
We watched the sun go down, talked, and worked our way through the picnic we’d bought.
He set an alarm for eight to say goodbye the morning I left, and it was sweet, albeit brief. I don’t know if I’ll ever see him again, and we haven’t spoken since. Part of travelling is coming to terms with leaving people behind, and the transient nature of the relationships that become surprisingly strong over the course of a few days. I don’t feel sad when I think about it, and I feel that forming attachments in circumstances such as ours would ultimately be unfruitful. Thus ends my Barcelonan story.
Before I publish this post, I want to make a note about pickpockets, as they were discussed endlessly both during my time there and before I’d arrived. I can’t say whether it was because I’d been the recipient of such incessant fear-mongering, but I wasn’t pickpocketed in Barcelona, didn’t witness anyone being pickpocketed, or know anyone in my time there who was. I’m tempted to say that it’s not as prevalent as others make it out to be, but perhaps I was just lucky, or am vigilant by nature. Spain as a whole is not a dangerous place, and as long as you keep your wits about you, I don’t see why you’d have reason to worry.
I’d also like to make a note about Barceloneta, the man-made beach of Barcelona. I didn’t incorporate it into my narrative as I can’t recall when I went, having clearly erased it from my memory. I do recall, however, that I didn’t like it – the sand was grainy and unpleasant, the transition from sand to sea was on a rather steep decline, and the waves were aggressive to the point that I struggled to stay standing. I also stacked it on the pavement, where they’d placed circular bits of metal at regular intervals. I haven’t figured out what their purpose was, but I still have a faint scar on my elbow from the fall. I wouldn’t recommend visiting.
And on that sour note…
Until next time,