Barcelona is my perfect place
Unfortunately Barcelona is not the place I could peacefully stay
USA > Mexico > Peru > Bolivia > Chile > Argentina > Portugal > Spain - 2012 / 13
Spain Itinerary - Barcelona
I'm still deeply in love with all the Hispanic culture after I left South America, I keep listening and watching Spanish songs and movies, and dreaming of sexy Latinos every night and day. Truth is I really want to move to Spain to continue feeling her passion after I came back Europe, but I know it wouldn't be too wise to make the move when the economy is so fragile and the unemployment is close to 30%. Even so, still I am here in this Barcelona trip, to check it out clearly if this perfect place of mine is really the perfect place to be.
Okay, if you asked me what a perfect place should be, I believe... it shouldn't be not too big nor too small, and with well developed transports; not too busy nor too quiet, that has efficiency in a relaxing pace; got blue sky and seawater and fresh seafood; got trendy parties and sexy cute guys; got history and art and creative environment; preserving its own unique culture but at the same time embracing world differences... Don't ever think I'm over too picky because Barcelona is exactly as what I said to be like. At least in my memory, in peoples commentaries, and in google search engine.
Barcelona is the capital city of Catalonia autonomous community, the second largest city in Spain. It has a population of around 1.6 million, a size of 101.9 km2 divided into 10 districts. The public transport here is very well developed, it has 11 metro lines that brings you to everywhere, and the cheapest ticket option is the T10 that gives you 10 single tickets for the price of €9.8.
Barcelona has more than 2000 years of history, it was already a commerce centre when under the Romans, and it has always been the most flourishing harbor city on the Mediterranean Sea. Ciutat Vella, the old town district, is where I enjoyed the most. Not only it got the most ancient histories but also the most interesting happenings. Beginning from the many shopping brands around Plaça de Catalunya, to the talented street artists on the bustling La Rambla, until I reached the very blue sky and sea by Port Vell the old harbor, I kept having my eyes widely opened, scanning all the vivid images in excitement.
The Barri Gòtic district inside Ciutat Vella was an ancient Roman city, with many gothic buildings date from the Middle Age. The endless winding alleyways are so complicated that even having a map in your hand wouldn't give you any sense. However inside the medieval labyrinthine there are numerous trendy shops displaying chic fashion and inspiring products, crowded bars and restos delivering good vibes and great fun, just made me enjoyed getting lost so much.
I couldn't forget the stunning modernist designs of Gaudí since my first Barcelona trip in the late 90s. Just I didn't expect myself to be surprised again during this revisit. This architecture genius got a really innovative style, creating extraordinary fantasy worlds crossing space and time, realising imaginations that are totally unprecedented. True that there are beautiful architectures everywhere in Barcelona, but no doubt it is Gaudí's name that had became the city's label. Seven out of nine World Heritage buildings in Barcelona were designed by Gaudí, including Casa Batlló, Casa Milà, Casa Vicens, Palau Güell, Parc Güell, Cripta de la Colonia Güell and La Sagrada Familia, all of them are tourists' favorites. La Sagrada Familia is particularly world famous, it has been under construction for over 100 years and it is still not completed. Gaudí had spent 43 years to work wholeheartedly on this project, in his latter days he even lived in the church and worked in the church, until one day he got hit by a car in front of the church.
Barri Gràcia had always been an independent town before the end of 19th century, I guess it answers why this district is so relaxing. The artists and old folks who live here enjoy spending an afternoon at one of the many open-aired cafés, having little chats and smiles under adorable sunshine. I am specially in love with all the art nouveau buildings, when looking at the very refreshing color tones and lovely balconies I just want to move in immediately.
There are two kinds of public transports that brings you to Montjuïc Mountain to overlook the beautiful Mediterranean. Aerial tramway Telefèric del Port departs from La Barceloneta at the old town gives you a bird's eye view of Port Vell the old harbour, the cost to return is €16.5. Cable car Telefèric de Montjuïc departs from Montjuïc Park stops at midpoint station Mirador the viewing deck, the cost to return is €10.3. Castell de Montjuïc, the military castle situated at the peak, was built in the 17th century. The castle functioned as a prison during Spanish Civil War, where political criminals were executed there. Now the castle was transformed into a military museum, displaying wartime weapons and equipments of the past five centuries.
I love Spanish cuisine, not only the very fresh seafood paella, the aromatic Iberico ham, the exquisite Tapas snacks, but every dish from the very long list. Sadly I couldn't eat the entire menu as I'm traveling solo, but luckily I found La Boqueria the gourmet paradise on La Rambla the principal avenue. There are over 100 stalls inside the market, selling all kinds of seafood, ham, fruit, cheese, olive, pastry and snacks. One very important thing is that I can buy the food in small quality and cheap price, so it allowed me to taste as many Spanish specialities as I like.
Barcelona is definitely a city of culture, art and trend. Having sculptures and architectures from different eras, galleries and museums of different styles, street arts and creative designs in different forms. That city itself is in fact a super huge opened-air exposition centre, inspiring your mind anywhere anytime. No wonder it served as a breeding ground for all time genius like Picasso, Gaudí, Miró and Dalí. I am sure I will have inspiring ideas from time to time if I lived here.
If you were thinking choices are too many or time is too little, I suggest you to purchase the €30 Articket BCN ticket package to focus on the 6 most famous art museums, including Casa-Museu Gaudí, Museu Picasso, Fundació Joan Miró, Museu de la Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya and Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona.
Although Spanish is the official language of the nation, it is not the only language spoken by the people, a number of autonomous communities has its own official language as well. Catalan and Spanish, the two official languages of Barcelona, are both are widely used and have similar importance in the society. Catalan was originated from Latin in the 9th centuries, it used to be one of the most important languages in the Mediterranean region. Catalan was banned during certain periods under Spanish Empire and dictator Franco, only after the restoration of democracy in the 70s it was then strongly promoted again. Nowadays all the primary and high schools in Catalonia are taught in Catalan, all the public and commercial communications are written with Catalan, all the parliament discussions are spoken in Catalan, and they are also having television channels, newspapers, and many other media in Catalan.
Languages not only is the most basic and direct form of communication between human, but also the most practical and important element in recording history. I admire a lot the way Spanish government respects the second official languages in the autonomous communities, however at the same time I feel quite sad and emotional when seeing the harmony in between the two languages. Sad because Mainland China does not even tolerate local dialects, emotional because oppressive voices will never be heard. But China is right, absolutely right, if Cantonese or Shanghainese or Hokkienese or Hunanese or Sichuanese or any of the provincial dialects had became a second official language, it would definitely be at the same worrying situation as Catalonia wanting to separate from Spain today. Even though the Spanish government has always been opposing a referendum on independence, the Catalonia government and media continue to promote it anyways. More and more Catalans are wanting for a new nation, seems like a forceful independence movement will soon begin. Well... The thing is we are all human, no matter how generously or strictly we are governed, we will still be having endless complaints and repeat all our mistakes.
My hostel Urbany Hostel BCN GO! is very central, just walking distance from Plaça de Catalunya. The price of a 4 bed dorm is €19, for which I think is quite reasonable. As for the fact that the room is very clean, the kitchen and the common area are provided with well-equipped facilities, and having 4 key cards from the main door to my bed space, the tight security made me feel very safe. Unfortunately the feeling of being so safe had taken away my cautiousness.
The story goes like this, I was smoking in front of the hostel one night, all of a sudden a white man with 6 feet height grabbed my phone and ran away, I only had my slippers on still I chased after him without a second thought. After chasing him for three blocks, I was tired and he was also tired, we paused and gasped for like 3, 4, 5 seconds and then we carried on. Luckily I saw 6 teens at a corner to whom I yelled for help. They very good-hearted teens helped me to chase for another three blocks, then finally got him on the ground and punched him hard on his face for more than a couple of times. At the end a few handsome police came and took the bad guy away. Before they drove away they asked me if I were a professional runner, wonder how I could run that far only with my slippers.
Next day the very lucky me met another thief when I was on my way to the police station! An old lady unzipped my handbag when I was just normally walking!!! Thanks God nothing was stolen because my all valuables were inside the inside pockets of my jacket, you know I already had a lesson and of course I became much more cautious. When the police was recording my statement he told me that lots of illegal immigrants are living off from stealing and robbery in the recent years, numerous crime cases are happening every day. A petit solo Asian female like me is exactly the favourite target of the bad people. Nowadays in Barcelona thieves are everywhere, in the plazas, the metros, the stations, the airports, the restaurants, the cafés, the shops, the markets and many more places. They are well prepared with all kinds of tricks waiting for you to be trapped.
Oh... My perfect place... When will you be safe...