Thursday, 12 February 2015

A Weekend in Barcelona

So this weekend just gone something really exciting happened - not only did I get to go to Spain for the first time, and more importantly Barcelona for the first time, I also got the chance to see an old family friend who I had probably last seen about four years ago! Our parents went to uni together so we've known each other forever, though her family actually moved to the U.S. years ago so we don't see each other all that often. It was so good to catch up properly again!

Palm trees AND sunshine?! Heaven!

Unfortunately during the week I'd been pretty sick - I guess it was the flu or something, I had aches all over including a headache, constantly runny nose and then I developed a horrible cough that left me speaking in an extremely husky voice, and not in a good way. And of course I was no better in time for the weekend, and possibly I was even worse since the weather is Bologna had become pretty bleuuurgh with a day of constant rain (really I think it only stopped for like two hours) followed by a huuge amount of snow overnight. That meant a load of morning flights on Friday got cancelled, and it was also raining so in the city it was hell to get anywhere! Luckily since I was flying in the evening things had resumed order again by that time, although the flight was still delayed by about an hour because the plane had to be de-iced a second time...

...and so I eventually arrived in the city center of Barcelona at about 9.45pm, via the aerobus from the airport. Georgina met me at the bus stop at Plaça de Catalunya (a big ol' plaza) along with her friend Jenna, and the first thing to do was to grab some dinner. We opted for tapas at a place not far away and I got to try real patatas bravas (reeally hope that's spelt right - I never learnt Spanish!) for the first time: the verdict is that they're delicious, of course!

Next job was to find my hostel. Since they're not allowed visitors in their accomodation I'd booked myself into Generator Hostel for two nights. I think it was about a 20 minute walk from the Plaça and pretty easy to find - and totally worth it because it was really cool! Very modern and interesting, and the staff spoke English too which was great because, as I mentioned, no hablo español (I Google Translate-d that, so sorry if it's wrong!). I was staying in a female 6-bed dorm room but for the first night there was noone else in, so perfect really!

After that we headed out for some drinks. The girls took me to a cool place called L'ovella Negra (The Black Sheep), where we had some beers and chatted for the next few hours. Some other Americans joined us and with them we drank something that the bar sold called 'Panther's milk' - milk with vodka and brandy in it....yep doesn't it sound awful?! Well, it wasn't! It was quite sweet and we enjoyed it - although it makes for a serious headache in the morning of course! We left the bar as it closed and I was back in my hostel at about 4am (good thing that I was alone in my room that night!).

* Me and Georgina

I want one of these babies to keep!

I was up just before 10am the next later that morning, and was pleased to find the shower was really decent (how often does that happen in a hostel?!). I met Georgina and Jenna at a tiny place called Brunch & Cake, where we seated quite quickly (which was good because it was pretty busy) and left to ponder the menu. There were so many interesting things and I think we gladly would have chosen multiple things - as a table of four or five girls did across from us, they must have had seven or so different things between them and we were seriously jealous!


I opted for avocado, chilli and feta on toast (amazing) with a little pot of fruit salad (also perfect), along with a glass of fresh OJ. Georgina had a turkey and scrambled egg bag and Jenna a stack of French toast covered in berries - seriously, how good does all of that look?!...

Totally satisfied, we began the city tour. The girls have already been in Barcelona for a month so they knew where the good bits were. They took me first to see the Sagrada Familia - that big cathedral that is still being built despite having been started late 19th century! I was looking forward to seeing it, and it was a credit to all their work as it's a stunning building - although I don't think it'll be finished any time soon...

It was veery difficult to take a decent photo with all the sun glare..
View of the back
Next we headed for Las Ramblas, one of the main streets of the city. It's got this big walkway down the middle lined with trees, which I bet looks great in the summer. (Oh, did I mention the weather there yet? It was gorgeously sunny all weekend and several degrees warmer than Bologna - yay!!) We wandered down some of the side streets and into a couple of shops for a bit, and also saw the Cathedral of Barcelona, which was pretty impressive!

We decided to go out and see the port, which wasn't too long a walk away, after which we carried on round to the beach where we sat for a bit. It was warm sitting in the sun and the sea was a gorgeous colour that did look quite tempting - if only I'd not been sick! There were so many people selling stuff on the beach though - shawls/blankets, coconut pieces, and some 'sexy mojitos', all of which we politely declined...

The harbour

Ahhh beautiful!

Eventually we decided we were getting peckish and so made our way back to Las Ramblas to go to La Boqueria, which is a big food market that the girls hadn't yet visited. Since it was now getting late in the afternoon several stalls were closed and more closing, but there was still plenty to see. Meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, sweets, chocolate....there was everything!

Outside view of the market

It's like being back in Italy!...

 At the back end of the market there are a couple of places where you can sit and have some food, so that's what we did. We ordered patatas bravas (again, yes, but man I could eat that stuff all day! And at this place the sauce was different to the night before, so no judging) and some meatballs, quite relieved to be sitting again - during the day we walked a lot, and covered about 8 miles! Or was it km, hmm I don't remember. But it was a lot, either way!

Once we'd eaten (and picked up some cups of fruit as we left the market) we headed for their accomodation, so that we could chill out for a bit and I could have a nosey (it's really nice!). Whilst we were there we looked up a couple of places to visit that night including a tapas place and a bar their friends had recommended earlier called El Bombón which is in an area called the Gothic Quarter (which I've decided is my favourite bit). At about 8pm the three of us went out along with three of their housemates (also American), though unfortunately the tapas place we'd chosen turned out not to have any tapas when we arrived, so we had a wander to find somewhere else. We picked a Greek place not far away in the Quarter (I never saw the name, though, oops!) which turned out to be a good one! We all either opted for a chicken gyros plate or lamb souvlaki (including me) and it was all delicious.

El Bombón was also a success. We unknowingly arrived before the crowds did and after about five minutes of hanging got a table and ordered some cocktails. It's a caribbean bar that blasts music and has disco lights - it was seriously cool, although did get very busy later on and after one drink we went out to find somewhere new. We ended up in a quieter bar for another round of cocktails, where we stayed for a little while. Having left this bar we somehow managed to leave the Gothic Quarter and, unsure of where else to go, ended up going to L'ovella Negra again! Where we had beers and of course the headache-inducing Panther's milk...

El Bombón


The lovely 'Panther's milk'..

...though this time we left the bar a little earlier, and I got back to the hostel at about 3am. Except this time I wasn't alone! There were three girls asleep in the room when I arrived, though I woke up at least two because I was rustling around. I don't think they were too bothered though and they woke me up at about 8.30am which all their rustling anyway, so!

Sunday morning I felt a bit worse than I had the morning before, and I was also still coughing like a mad thing, so I was happy to get ready and check out of the hostel before 10am so that I could grab some fresh air. I met Georgina at a cafe called Pudding, where the food was delicious but the decor was definitely the best part. It had a sort of circus/wonderland theme and just looked awesome! Though my photos are awful, so I'll only subject you to two of them so you can get the general gist.

Realising we didn't have very much time that day (my flight was at 3.25pm so I only really had until half past 1 to 2pm to do stuff), we decided to walk down one of the main streets taking in the (once again) glorious sunshine. Having nipped back to the hostel so that I could grab the backpack I'd left in the storage room there, we then headed towards the cathedral area where there were going to be some performers doing this climbing thing - I don't really understand it, but it's a big thing apparently where they climb up each other and it was pretty cool!

The streets were absolutely packed with people, and soon I had to be getting the bus back to the airport so we didn't stay and watch for long. With promises of seeing each other again sooner than in four years time, I said goodbye to my lovely friend who'd shown me Barcelona and was off on my way. I expected the flight to be delayed because of the snow in Bologna but we actually left and arrived perfectly on time, and the flight was brilliant as we followed the coast of Spain in the sunshine with barely any clouds and into Italy, where everything was covered in snow.

So, I've clearly had a fantastic weekend! I just wish I hadn't been sick because I would have enjoyed myself a bit more I think, it was a shame that I just felt like death as we walked around! Nonetheless I absolutely loved Barcelona and I will definitely be going back one day. And on the plus side I'm feeling much better now than I was, although still coughing a little bit...

And guess what? I'm now into my final two weeks here in Italy. My final two weeks in Bologna. Which is...really bizarre! I cannot believe how quickly it's all gone! But more on that later. I've got plenty planned for now, including a trip to Venice on Friday, Verona on Saturday, and two good friends will be visiting me from Monday. I have a feeling I'll really enjoy these last days here and I will keep you updated.

Ciao for now!


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