Paella on Night One!
On Saturday we braved an early morning start and left Rome for the popular Catalyian City of Barcelona.  After an interesting cab ride we got to the airport in record time and boarded our flight to Ryan Air.  For all the negative press it cops, the flight was not that bad, remembering it cost us next to nothing to fly, certainly compared to ticket prices back home just for interstate.  Although I was somewhat surprised when a cheer and applause broke out in the cabin upon landing…
The main cathedral in the centre of Barcelona
For us Barcelona was a last minute decision – we were able to book cheap flights and wanted to make it to the city that is so highly regarded by tourists.  We were expecting good things when we arrived but the city well and truly blew us away.  It started with our arrival at our accommodation – Hostel One Paralello, when the concierge – Angel – spent half an hour with us outlining the best attractions and restaurants in Barcelona, what to see, what is more interesting to see and told us that just because they would make Paella for dinner.  This was a great start to our day, which continued when we went to a traditional Spanish restaurant for Spanish food and sangria, a true cultural experience when my Spanish (at that stage) was pretty much counting the number of words i knew on my fingers and the wait staff spoke no English.  But the food was good and we got what we wanted and a tequila to ‘sip’ for after.  (If you want it sipped then don’t put it in a shot glass, and if you do don’t be surprised when someone shots it, but thats another story)
Statue of Columbus pointing the wrong way!
When we finished lunch we engaged in another very popular Spanish activity – siesta!  Sleeping after meals, how has this not caught on in other countries?  When we awoke we met Darren and Lukastz our roommates and headed downstairs.  This hostel is unbelievable every night they cook dinner for all the guests, this encourages people to sit together and get to know each other which was so very awesome!  That night we enjoyed our Paella and went to get some Vodka to enjoy a few drinks with the other guests, we met a group of German students as well as several Americans, Nick, Andrew and Erica who were studying in Europe and in Spain for the weekend.  We also met Thiago and Christian a couple of guys from Brazil who were travelling around Europe and knew how to party!
One of the staff at the hostel, Paulina took most of us out to a few different bars and it was great to get to know all of the different travellers and their stories over a few drinks.  We stayed out for a while, although there seems to be a significant difference to Spanish clubs than those back home, that being they don’t open until 12, maybe my clubbing style is just old fashioned but it certainly allows for a long pre drink session.
Catalan House of Parliament
On Sunday we woke up and decided to go on a walking tour, followers of my blog know how much I enjoy these tours as they make for such interesting history about the cities as well as good stories.  Our tour goude Methias was extremely interesting to listen to and full of excellent knowledge.  Our tour took us through the gothic areas of the town as well as the key churches, museums and the square that holds particular significance from the Spanish civil war.  Starting out we walked past some amazing churches with incredible facades, truly beautiful buildings.  As we walked through Methias explained to us the current tense political situation in Spain.  I was not aware but Barcelona sits within a Spanish state that is called Catalonia.  The Catalonians are currently pushing for independence from the Spanish as they are one of the few profitable areas left in Spain.  However despite voting for independence on the day we left (more about that later) there vote was considered illegal under the Spanish constitution.
The most famous church in Barcelona
We visited one famous square thats name escapes me, however it is the site of an important part of history from the Spanish civil war…it was the site where a bomb went off destroying most of a church and killing 42 people, with most of them being children.  This episode is one of the darker in the history of spain and the Spanish have enacted laws to stop anyone looking into the atrocities committed by both sides, instead choosing to simply forget about it.
From here we walked to a site that houses the main cathedral in the centre of Barcelona also this building that was built during the tyrannical rule after the civil war.  Ironically as one of the most unremarkable buildings in Barcelona – it houses the college of architects.
After the tour had finished we enjoyed a few beers over some traditional Spanish Tapas, my favourite being these little potato balls known as Bravas, quite tasty and served with a tangy mayonnaise.  Other favourites included Spanish Tortilla (a type of Spanish quiche), Calamari and Croquets.  Spanish beer was not too bad either.
James and Thiago
That night we returned to our hostel for the traditional dinner and on offer tonight was a French style potato bake.  It was hear we met several new friends, Pat, from USA (living in London), Hannah from Kentucky, Ash, Sukey, Sandy and Jack who live in Perth.  An interesting thing that I have picked up on is that coming from different parts of Australia give you a slightly different accent, something I was oblivious to when I was back home.
A window inside Sagrada Famillia
Sticking to true Spanish style that night we headed out, despite the considerable obstacles that all the good places were closed…Sunday turned out to be an interesting night on the town.  The first place we found that was recommended online was a little bar called Frequency when we got there the small room had only one other occupant – a Spanish guy with a bright red wig, certainly a little different, although as our requirement was for a watering hole we were pretty easily pleased!  A few drinks later we headed to the second bar, that was an improvement, certainly with more people before heading to two ‘popular’ and ‘distinctive’ clubs.  However despite our mixed experiences we had a good time being out in Barcelona with friends.
The main window inside Sagrada Famillia
Monday we headed out to see arguably the most famous tourist attraction in Barcelona – the magnificent Sagrada Famillia.  We have seen no shortage of churches on the trip so far, the pinnacle being some of those in Rome and the Vatican City but Sagrada Famillia is just breathtaking.  Its design by famous Spanish architect Gaudi is remarkable, with every detail so intricately planned to represent his vision of this cathedral.  The array of windows, and glass and the general design with the pillars and arches make this church one of the most amazing that we have seen.  Remarkably this church is not yet complete, and is not due to be finished until 2026 such is the desire to finish the church as close to the original designs as possible.
The party at Nasty Mondays!
That night our amazing host Angel cooked for us a Spanish style pasta dish, quite tasty but he warned us if we told Italians the secret he would probably be lynched.  After a delicious dinner with our newest friends (Khalid and Ryan from New York, Jennifer from Maine and Michael and Alice from Sydney) plus our friends from previous nights we headed out to what we were assured was the biggest party in Spain – nasty Mondays.  It also worked well because it was Ryans birthday so we were able to celebrate in style – a few litres of Vodka and the liquor made famous by the state of Kentucky – bourbon.  This night was fantastic, easily the best night that we had out in Spain.  It was great to go out and have some fun with the people that we had met.  The best part about spain was the hostel that we stayed.  Meeting people was easy and unless you really tried you couldn’t avoid the nightly dinner and the continued from there.  Everyone had a great time at Nasty Mondays even Angel stayed to party for a while, and after a solid night of partying, we stayed up for quite a while longer, talking, finishing the pasta, and drinking until calling it quits when the sun was rising.
Angel Michelle and Hannah
The next day was tough, more because we were tired (only having had about 3 hours sleep) than hung over, tired I can deal with so things weren’t all bad.  We had originally planned to head to the popular park that overlooked Barcelona, however we also needed to visit a post office to offload some of the weight that would stop us from boarding our next flight.  Unfortunately this turned out to be a slightly longer ordeal than planned, we did however get to visit the Place d’Espanya and see the beautiful fountains that overlook the square.  We spent a lazy day enjoying the sunshine, and walking the main street “Les Ramblas” and in the evening we met up with Michael, Alice, Khalid and Ryan at a quaint little Champagne bar that was serving glasses at about $1.20 AUD per glass.
Michelle, Michael, Alice and James
This bar was great, there was a variety of Champagne as well as tappas to enjoy, and although the staff said they didn’t speak English (they definitely did) we had a great time sampling the different varieties, and generally enjoying the novelty that we have yet to find anything close to this cheap at home.  SO appropriately after 6 bottles of champagne (it was about 7-730) we made our way back ‘home’ to find a delicious Spanish Tortilla (quiche) being cooked for dinner.
That night we played it a little lower key, called an early night at about 2 after spending some time discovering a Spanish Shisha bar with the rest of the group.  It was quite a relaxing night where we could enjoy a glass of wine and relax before what was an early flight in the morning.  Before we turned in for the night, we headed to the local bank to withdraw some money to find the ATM covered in spray paint.  An interesting step in protest on what was the general strike in Spain.
In case of revolution break glass
In the morning we awoke with the knowledge that it was the general strike – no trains, no metro, no busses, taxis were 50-50 (last strike people were burning them…).  It was interesting because we had received a few warnings from Spanish friends and the airlines that we might get stuck, or delayed, or cancelled IF we made it to the airport.  Also despite the demonstrations that were also happening across the struggling European economies our travel insurance company pretty much left us in the cold.
Our trip to the airport was supposed to be by taxi, however because of the situation and the uncertainty Angel arranged for one of his friends to drive us to the airport for the same price.  This was awesome in and of itself.  When we got to the airport it was fortunately a relatively smooth process.  No protesters, no demonstrations, very limited strike action and despite a few small delays we were able to leave pretty much unscathed.  Whilst this was good that we were continuing our adventure, we have longed to return to Spain since the minute we arrived in England – it was that awesome.
Interior of Sagrada Famillia
Highlights.
The Hostel – this is easily the best place that we have stayed on our trip so far, the people at the Hostel made this city my personal highlight so far – it was just incredible!
Sagrada Famillia – this must see church in Barcelona was unlike any of the other churches I have seen in other countries and it was amazing.
Nasty Mondays – Barcelona’s biggest party certainly didn’t disappoint this was one of the best nights we had on the trip – right up there with our Rome pub crawl and Oktoberfest!
Funniest Things
Within the first few minutes this is the lady that I saw on the train, I wasn’t sure whether or not I should be alarmed because that is a gas mask.
This lady has a gas mask and is on the train from the airport

When we had lunch at the traditional Spanish restaurant I heard the waiter say 1 english word “thank you” as we were leaving.  Given my Spanish pretty much stops at Beunos Noches we were in an interesting predicament and although I couldn’t understand what he was saying I did realise something that is universal because I do the same thing in English.  Whenever we speak to someone who doesn’t speak good English it is natural to speak slower and anunciate every syllable somehow believing that this will help.  I am now acutely aware that it doesn’t because that is what happened to me, I heard the same syllables over and the same words but it didn’t make things any clearer.

The Revolution starting early

The Champagne bar that we went to on the last day was another example of an “no English environment” however after stumbling through ordering all of our tapas and champagne in Spanish the waiter managed to squeeze out a little phrase…”can you please bring back your glasses”…I am thinking he probably knew more English than he let on, but surrounded by Spanish its not exactly something you can call him out on.

The Final Word.

Spain was amazing, the people are incredible, the food is delicious and the nightlife never stops!  We didn’t plan on coming to this city but I am so glad that we changed our plans because I loved Spain so much!  We had the best accommodation, had awesome staff around to help us and who were always keen for a chat, there was Angel the man is a legend! And we made some awesome friends who have invited us to stay with them across the world, and Khalid and Ryan are picking us up in New York!  Barcelona has been the only city where we have spent most of our time out and about at night instead of during the day, but even though we missed some sights we had an unbelievable time.  This trip has encouraged me to continue studying French, and after visiting Spain I am planning to start learning Spanish.

 

 

 

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