So it’s been a while since my last little blog update. Over Easter I decided to go on a little adventure with my friend and travel to the North of Spain instead of going back to Ireland to stuff my face with Easter eggs. So here is a rundown of the places we went to.
Alicante- So much more than a beach!
Alicante was our first stop before flying to Barcelona so luckily we got to spend the day there before catching our flight. Alicante does have an amazing beach, but the promenade and the old town are also beautiful and it is quite easy to get around. There is also an amazing castle that overlooks Alicante, I didn’t have time to go the whole way up but I heard that the views are breathtaking.
My first memory of Barcelona was from when I was about six on a family holiday and includes a blurry image of a big cathedral and some flamingos. I really don’t remember much else, so I decided I needed to go back to actually remember something this time.
And what can I say? Barcelona is truly everything you could want in a city, culture, art, good shops, museums, and a beach! Having been in the South of Spain since September it was very refreshing to go to the North. I was aware that Barcelona was going to be somewhat different as it was in Cataluña but it definitely did not feel like I was in traditional Spain. Even the architecture in the streets was Gothic but it was still quite modern at the same time, something which I’m pretty sure is unique to Barcelona.
We stayed in an amazing hostel ‘Casa Garcia’ that is situated in the centre of Barcelona, close to the metro stop ‘Diagonal’. For once, it was a hostel that actually felt like a hotel.
La Sagrada Familia
The first stop on our sightseeing tour was the ‘Sagrada Familia’, Gaudi’s famous cathedral. It took a while to find, even though we had a map it was not that well sign posted but once we found it, it was totally worth it. The architecture is truly amazing, so intricate and the height of the cathedral is just mind blowing. If you walk past where all the tourists queue to get inside, towards the other side of the cathedral, you’ll find a little park with a lake where you can sit in peace and quiet and appreciate the cathedral in all its splendour. It’s also great for taking pictures too!
Unfortunately we didn’t queue to get inside the cathedral as we had quite enough of queuing for one day. You see on our way there, we got distracted and realising that the large queue of screaming girls along the main street were actually queuing for the opening of the new ‘One Direction’ shop. Naturally, we assumed that all the band members would be inside and so we joined the queue of frantic 14 year olds both thinking to ourselves, ‘How cool would it be if we actually got to meet them in Barcelona, of all places!.’ Unfortunately after the second hour of waiting for what seemed like an eternity, not even the idea of seeing Zayn up close and personal could stop me from wanting to die from boredom and exhaustion.
Next on our stop was Park Geuil, the famous park designed by Gaudi. Another metro stop took us near to the park before we embarked on a very long uphill journey. I had always imagined myself sitting on the benches, overlooking the city after watching ‘L’auberge espagnole’ in university so I was so excited when we found them. I literally could have spent all day there…but we had a whole city to see.
After another metro stop we arrived right into the hustle and bustle of the centre of the city. We stopped by the Plaza de Espana and then continued on down Las Ramblas through the street stalls and performers. After walking about and feeling hungry we gave in to our guts and did the touristy thing and went to Hard Rock Café for some well deserved burgers. It was a tad pricey but quite frankly I wasn’t complaining, and neither was my stomach. After feeling satisfied we decided to head down to the bottom of Las Ramblas towards the port and the Gothic Quarter and being lazy we took the metro (yes, las ramblas really is that long).
The Gothic Quarter
Located on the left hand side of Las Ramblas, where you literally drift down some side streets, the gothic quarter is, well, gothic. My friend was convinced we were going to find some amazing architecture but quite frankly the streets were quite dark and after thinking that we were in the red light district it all started to get a bit creepy. On the plus side we managed to find a nice Plaza and some weird sculptures. My advice…stick to Las Ramblas.
Our intention was to go to the ‘magic fountain’ that changes colour at night but like 80 year old pensioners as soon as we got back to the hostel we fell asleep. Luckily our hostel had a pub crawl organised for us so after a few courtesy cocktails, thanks to the staff and some banter with Italians and Australians who were staying in the hostel we ventured out into the city. After having been travelling on the metro, walking through the main streets actually made me realise just how big Barcelona was. After a few drinks in the bar we headed to one of the clubs along the beach, thankfully we got in as we were all in a group but having agreed to bring no heels because we wanted to be ‘serious sightseers’ on our trip, I felt severely underdressed. However, after a few beers (the cheapest drinks on the ridiculously over priced bar menu) and some good music, none of us really cared.
The Magic Fountains
So the next morning, feeling a bit worse for wear we finally made it to the Magic Fountains. Luckily for us there was some sort of sports event on, so we got to watch some skateboarding before we walked up the steps to the top of the palace where you can look down towards the fountains. It really was beautiful, and definitely worth going to.
The Picasso Museum, situated near the port is free on Sundays, but go early to avoid the queue! The museum is fully devoted to Picasso and his life. His works are displayed in a sort of timeline order which makes the art easier to understand. I had studied Picasso at university but actually seeing his work up close made me appreciate it so much more.
In order to get to the beach you need to walk for about 20 minutes along the port. The port itself is typically lined with expensive restaurants but there were some market stalls open and we managed to get some ‘empanadas’ for 2 euros. The beach is amazing and even though the weather wasn’t that great, it was still nice to get some sea air, even if we were surrounded by a stag do sleeping off their hangover.
All in all, Barcelona has it all. The only downside is, it seems to be touristy all the time! The metro is probably the fastest and cheapest way to get about but if you aren’t used to it, it can be a bit daunting to figure it out. Despite this, Barcelona is definitely a must-see city, but in order to truly enjoy the city give yourself more than two days because there really is just too much to see and do.
Updates on Bilbao, coming soon!