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Wednesday, 6 June 2012

A Brief Introduction to Barcelona

Hello again!
I've done so many updates recently - I feel like one of those microblogging Facebook/Twitter users who tell the world that they've just taken a breath.

It should be back to the normal one-post-a-day cycle tomorrow.

So me and Sam are all settled here in Barcelona. We're in the hostel now; Sam is Skyping. Like in Córdoba, Sevilla and Granada, there is a roof terrace at this hostel so I might go out there soon, I just need to wait for our washing to be finished in the tumble dryer. That's right, a TUMBLE DRYER. Ah such luxuries.

Unfortunately we haven't had much time to do some exploring of the city today. We've done a little and what we've done has been good for our first day here, but we had to get some important and pressing issues sorted first, which ate up a lot of time. However, we have an AMAZING day planned tomorrow - we're going to get up early and see the best that Barcelona has to offer, and we are going to be shattered at the end of the day. But we're really looking forward to it; it's definitely going to be worth it. As I have proved, who needs sleep?!

Thankfully, this post is actually going to be easy to follow in terms of time. The last two posts merged events from today and yesterday in a way that was a bit confusing for me (hopefully less confusing for you), but this is just like a normal blog post.

The only difference is that we'll be starting from Barcelona Sants train station, where we got off our sleeper train. So form an image of a generic train station in your mind and you are pretty much there...


After the gruelling and generally shit journey from Granada to Barcelona, we stepped off the train at Barcelona Sants station at 9.30am. I was a backpack-wielding zombie; Sam was more slightly more awake.

The first task was to get from this station to our hostel, Hostel Studio.

I know what some of you may be thinking at this point. The last three times we've tried to find our hostel from a train station it has been a bit of a disaster (we spent 14 times longer than necessary in Granada, oops) so in a big city like Barcelona, we probably wouldn't even find it.

This time, however, we actually used common sense.

I copied down the directions given on HostelWorld, which were very easy to follow. We had to take one of the metro lines for three stops, and then another for four stops I think. Then we just had to walk 50 metres up a road and the hostel would be marked clearly.

Barcelona's metro system is a bit strange... it is different form Madrid's. It seems that different companies own different lines, and also what '1 trip' consists of varies. They also have different zones (unlike Madrid) but luckily almost the whole city lies within zone 1 - so we won't be going anywhere else.

It wasn't very difficult though. We got to the stop for our hostel with ease, and the hostel itself was very easy to find.

We met the owner of the hostel at reception, who gave us a map of the city and showed us all of the main attractions and different things about the city, which was useful. However, our room hadn't been cleaned yet (we arrived before the check-in time) so we waited in the common area with all of our stuff.

One of the first things we saw was a room with a coin-operated washing machine and tumble dryer. Our bag of dirty clothes was massive at this point, and we'd already been forced to re-wear a couple of things, so this was one of the first things we did. It was such a relief to have fresh, clean clothes in our bags.

While Sam had a shower (there was one next to the common room which was useful) I worked on the last two blog posts, which I was desperate to finish. I also had a shower mid-post. It was the best fucking shower. I can't tell you how much I appreciate good showers... I was in there for so long!

It took me a while, but I eventually got there. Sam had moved most of the stuff up to the room at this point, so I moved the remainder of our things.

Then we had to plan the next step.

This is where things start to get complicated.

We plan to be in Venice, Italy, on 8th June. We need to be staying somewhere in the south of France on the night of the 7th, and we needed train tickets for all of this.

As this was so complicated, we made booking the necessary tickets back at Barcelona Sants station our priority.

When we arrived there, our first port of call was the information desk. They could tell us the different routes we could take and tell us where exactly to go in the station to book our tickets.

We were greeted by a really nice guy at the desk. I asked if he could speak English (as what I had to explain was so complicated, I thought it would be best to), and he said that he spoke a little. They always say that. I don't know what they think constitutes 'a little' though, because whenever they say that they always understand what you say perfectly and can produce English almost just as well. If it was the other way round and it was a Spanish person asking an English person, the chances are that the person at the desk wouldn't have a clue what to say.

I told him that we needed to get to Venice and we wanted to leave on 7th June. He explained that we would need to stay a night at least in the south of France (which we already knew and had already prepared for) and then searched train journeys for us after we said that we would prefer to be in Lyon seeing as it is one of the most connected stations. He then printed off a small itinerary which we could use at the tickets desk (he also told us where this was) so that we could book our tickets. Overall, he was extremely helpful and looked like a vibrant human being, unlike most of the staff that we saw there.

At the ticket desk, we had to wait for 25 minutes before we got seen.

The person who served us could not have been more opposite to the guy at the information desk. This guy looked like he really hated his job, and even in all the time we were waiting, I didn't see him smile once. I wondered what his mood was going to be like when two English tourists came up to him and ask him to do something complicated...

It could have been much worse. After initially starting in Spanish, he communicated with us in English and understood everything that we wanted to do. He printed our tickets and gave them to us, everything seemingly fine.

We stopped off close to the ticket sales area to sort our shit out. I told Sam to check the information on the tickets just in case it was wrong.

It was.

The guy had book dour tickets for the 8th instead of the 7th.


So we ran back to the desk and thankfully our number was still above the desk, so we explained it to the guy and he re-printed our tickets. I briefly wondered if he did the date wrong on purpose because we're foreign and because he clearly does not like his life, but I doubt it.

At this point, we'd planned to go and visit an area in the south-west of Barcelona containing the Plaça de España, the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya and the Pavelló Mies van der Rohe, all buildings/spaces which are interesting architecturally and historically or simply put, look FUCKING INCREDIBLE.

Before we left, though, we saw something in the station which we hadn't seen in a while... something we've tried to avoid but was too good to pass up today.

A McDonald's.

We really did hate ourselves for this, but it made sense. We could get a full meal (with large amounts of meat too) and a drink each for 13 euros - if we went out to a restaurant the price would be double that at the very least.

At that particular time, too, we were both very hungry, and we've been eating the same things a lot - bread, apples and pears - so we needed more variety in what we were eating.

We used the self-service machines - I ordered a Chicken and Bacon Wrap while Sam was a conformist and got a Big Mac meal.

We absolutely devoured this shit. My wrap was actually really really good, and because it contained a lot of salad, it was healthy in that aspect. Sam wished he'd got something like mine, but still we filled ourselves up and it did a very good job.

Apart from the healthy eating side of things, me and Sam were annoyed because we were contributing the fucking capitalist machine. We'd been lured in and got what we wanted because we knew that they could provide it.

We did do something to make us feel a bit better though.

With our meal, we got two glasses. Clearly, we weren't going to take them home with us or even in our bags for a short space of time. We talked about what we could do with them (ideas included throwing them at people, taking pictures of us with them on the trip), but then Sam thought of a better idea.

He took the glasses out of the cardboard packaging they were encased in, and then poured a little bit of his drink into both glasses. That would make it difficult for them to be reused and would therefore cause them unnecessary problems. Taking down the capitalist machine two glasses at a time!!

We then got the tube to the Plaça de España area. It was about 8.30pm at this point, so the sun was almost setting, which gave us great light for photos. So let's do another small picture tour:

Buildings in the Plaça de España area:

Part of the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya:

 The building of the art gallery itself:

A lovely sunset over Barcelona:

This is the view from the top of the hill, next to the Museu d'Art nacional:

We stayed on top of this hill for about 20-30 minutes. It was a beautiful sunset and we got to see a lot of the city, which is why I'm glad we did this when we did.

There was a nice atmosphere too, until some random street performer playing songs on his small keyboard decided to come up to the top too, and he was playing so hard that it was all you could focus on.

It was getting dark, so we wanted to be back to the hostel. Despite this, we got the tube to the station nearest to Barcelona F.C.'s stadium, the Camp Nou. It took us a little way to find it, but when it eventually came into our view... was shit.

We could obviously only see form the outside, but it looked derelict and there were no lights lighting the place up like there are in England.

It wasn't as tall as I thought it would be, knowing it's incredible capacity.

But anyway, after this anticlimax, we headed back to the hostel, and this is pretty much where we are now.


You may have noticed from some of the words in this post that the language is slightly different. This is Catalan, which is effectively a mixture of French and Spanish. Be prepared to see more of this!!

I better wrap this post up, I am absolutely knackered. I dread to think how little sleep I've gotten recently.

Stay tuned tomorrow though, because WE ARE DOING THE WHOLE CITY. WE ARE GOING TO FUCK SHIT UP.

The pictures will be great and there will be a lot of stories to tell, so look out for that.

In the meantime, see you later!

Jack - 6/6/12 - 04:49 in Barcelona, 03:49 in the UK

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