From one huge city to another. I agreed to meet up with my friends who were traveling elsewhere in Europe, and it was decided that we will be meeting up in Barcelona. My plans were pretty flexible prior to this. Barcelona is quite far from Madrid and i wanted to check out places in between, but since i spent too much time in Lagos, I had to make a mad rush to Barcelona. A plane ride was not an option though. For someone traveling on a budget taking a bus is still the better option— even if it took me 9 hours to get there. Oh and did I mention that I almost missed the bus when i got to the station? I woke up with a massive hangover so I couldn’t pack my bags as quickly as i had hoped. I forgot that the bus station in Madrid was massive, and when I found the bus it was actually running already and i had to run to the driver’s side to signal him to stop. LOL. This has become a familiar occurrence during this trip. Morning departures aren’t a good idea for someone who isn’t a morning person. When will I ever learn.
The bus was running pretty fast, I actually thought we’d arrive earlier than expected. Once we were at the outskirts of the city traffic slowed to a crawl. I wondered if there was an accident. Turns out a lot of roads were closed because the La Mercè Festival was being held that weekend! Oh wow! I was pissed at first, but once I found out there was an ongoing festival, I was enveloped with excitement. Out of all my travels I’ve never gone at a time when there was an ongoing local festival. What great timing to be in Barcelona! And it’s funny how none of my friends knew about this. hah.
I arrived late in the afternoon though so I missed the festivities from the previous day, plus the events earlier that day like the human towers and the Gigantes parade. The human towers sounded awesome, I was pretty bummed that I missed that. It didn’t matter much though. The atmosphere was festive everywhere, I felt really giddy as soon as i got off the bus. The hostel where I would be staying at was at the La Rambla area, and here the crowd was even more festive even if there wasn’t any particular event going on. As soon as i checked in I met up with my friends for some tapas and… Sangrias. lol. Not a fan of that drink, but when you’re in Spain, you might as well go with the flow and keep drinking it.
That night we watched the Fire Beasts and Dragons Walk, which is a parade where you get to see floats of dragons and people were dressed as monsters. It was pretty interesting, but it was nothing compared to the Correfoc Fire Run which was held the next day. This is a parade of fireworks and it was really intense. Fireworks were sprayed at the crowds to my surprise, and it was so much fun trying to avoid the sparklers. The participants of the parade even invited people from the crowd to join in. This is definitely the highlight of the festival and it shouldn’t be missed. It was drizzling that evening but no one seemed to mind. Everyone was such in a festive mood, no amount of rain nor mild burns from the fireworks could spoil it. I pitied those people at the hostel who opted to join another generic pub crawl instead of joining the festivities with the locals. That’s definitely one night I would remember for the rest of my life.
My friends left after the weekend, so it was time to do some exploring on my own. Barcelona is massive, and for someone who’s not a fan of big cities, I’ve grown to like it. For some reason, despite the crowds, it never felt suffocating. There’s also enough variety to keep anyone interested. You’re bound to find something you like. The most famous attraction is the Sagrada Familia, and with good reason. This is considered as Antoni Gaudi‘s masterpiece. I’d be hard pressed to think of anything else that is beautiful yet grotesque at the same time lol. The entire place is massive. From afar, it looks like a jumbled mess since there seems to be no singular unifying motif. Once you get closer, you’ll get to appreciate its splendor. The attention to detail is amazing. It’s still not finished and there are a lot of construction work going on, but that won’t distract you from the spectacle before you. If you plan to enter the cathedral though, you need to purchase you tickets online at least a day before. None are sold on sight.
Another attraction designed by Gaudi is the Parc Güell. It’s an interesting place, I’d best describe it as a children’s book come to life. Like the Sagrada Familia, if you plan to visit the place, you need to purchase tickets online beforehand. You can roam around the surrounding area for free though. Do a short hike up from this site and you’ll be rewarded with a panoramic view of Barcelona. I had a late lunch at a nearby restaurant and it deserves special mention. I was planning on heading back to the hostel and just have a late lunch nearby when I noticed this restaurant with a long line outside. And I didn’t see any tourists, all of them were locals! I figured it must be one hell of a restaurant if people were willing to wait around the block just to get a table. The restaurant is called Las Delicias, and the name is indeed very fitting. The food, especially the paella, was f*cking delicious! And it wasn’t expensive at all! The one hour wait was definitely worth it.
Besides Gaudi‘s creations, there are a lot of other interesting sights. The gothic quarter offers a lot of interesting architecture. There are lots of old churches and cathedrals around. If you’re not into old school architecture, the promenade along the seafront offers an amazing view. Walk further and you’ll reach the public beach. it’s not an amazing beach, truth is it’s pretty generic– but it is a beach. And I am really biased towards places that are near the beach. This is probably the main reason why I’ve grown to like Barcelona. Show me a city by the ocean and I’d be willing to stay there indefinitely.
I was planning on doing day trips to nearby places like Montserrat, but i decided to scrap those plans. The past few days were pretty rushed and hectic, it would be good to stay put for a change. And there’s no better place to just sit still and relax than the beach. I was also glad that I chose Barcelona as my last stop in Spain. It left a very good memory of the country.