From England to Spain

Early in the morning of April 4, I locked the door to my room, locked the door to my flat, and dragged my carry-on down the stairs and over to Morgan’s flat. Then we headed to the bus station and boarded our bus that would take us to London Victoria Coach Station. From there we headed to London Luton airport by train and then by shuttle. Morgan needed to check-in so we got in line and waited to check-in. I decided to join her and double check that my online check-in had actually checked me in. It was here that the lady at the counter made me put my carry-on into their little cube, dimensions 55x40x22 [or something similar]. My carry-on didn’t fit. It wasn’t willing to squish it plus I don’t think it could have, so she charged me extra to have it put in the hold. First lesson learned on my travels. On my return flight with Ryanair, squish my bag so it will fit.

We continued through security and to the terminal [running, actually] and boarded the plane. One of the things about easyJet, because it is cheap you need to get through the gate early in order to get a good seat because there are no assigned seats on the plane. Thankfully we got a good seat and departed for Barcelona!

We arrived and made our way to our hostel, Equity Point Centric, and got settled in. The hostel, which we had book three days before our trip, did not come with blankets. All you got with your bed with the bottom sheet and a pillow case. The blanket and top sheet cost 2 euros each. We decided, since we were staying there for three nights, to get blankets, which ended up being a good investment because it got cold. There was also some sort of mix up with our reservation, which required us to change rooms after the first night, which worked out rather well for us. In the first room Morgan’s bed didn’t have a pillow and we asked downstairs for a pillow. One of the workers said they would bring it up in a little bit. An hour later it still had not arrived and we were going to sleep. Morgan just dealt with it like a pro and went to sleep.  The next room we were moved to had pillows for the both of us, which was good. Overall, I liked the place. The bathroom was a bit tiny, showers kind of dirty and dingy, and the staff seemed slightly disorganized, but it was a pretty nice, safe place. Although you need to show your card when you enter, I did manage to get through twice without needing to, so either I’m just not noticeable or their “security” has holes. Oh well.

The first day we explored La Rambla and a bit of the Gothic center of Barcelona, wandering around looking for a place to eat dinner. We ended up going to a Vietnam restaurant and getting some “real” Vietnamese food plus sangria. [There was a lot of alcohol consumption on this trip. One because we wanted to fit in and Catalunyans drink wine or beer or something alcoholic with every meal, and two because we could and we were on holiday.]

Chicken with mango and sweet sauce and rice

After dinner we wandered around, enjoying the night life of Barcelona. By nightlife I really just mean watching other people eating [they eat later in Europe, around 8 or 9 for dinner and 2 or 3 for lunch, quite different from America. I was usually starving by the time it was usual for them to eat. I just snacked the entire time to get by.] We saw the Gothic Cathedral, men selling little glow-in-the-dark toys, noise making toys, and as we wandered down La Rambla we saw a man who makes art/paintings using spray paint!

Notice the spray paint can in his hand.

We stayed for awhile and watched him. He would spray the color on and then use a sponge to dab the color. In the picture he placed a cardboard in the middle of the painting to keep the spray paint in one centralized area. Then he wiped off the excess paint on the cardboard and used it to mix the paint with the rest of the picture, dragging the board back and forth. It created the reflected light effect you can see in the paintings behind him.

Eventually we reached the end of La Rambla and headed back to our hostel for some much needed sleep. We woke up the next morning and ate an early breakfast of toast and cocoa rice krispies. They also had little muffins wrapped in plastic and some crackers. There was a sign saying not to take food out of the common room, but I put some of the muffins and crackers in my bag as snacks for later. Everyone does it. And we needed it too, at least I did, because I got so hungry later. My stomach is an empty pit constantly needing food. Haha!

The first full day we headed to Montjuic, to the west of the city centre. It is located on a hill and not as touristy as most people do not know of the place. We went to the Caixa Forum where there were art exhibits ranging from 1800s to modern takes on life. The latter one was this giant room split into mini rooms, and you walked through them. There was an audio guide but we just wandered in, not knowing what to expect. Some of the rooms were dark, and some were brighter, but it was mostly towards the darker spectrum. The rooms contained normal, every day object. One room contained a table with a chair and hanging from the ceiling revolved a mobile that had a mirror and some other small objects on it. By the end of the maze the exhibits got more gruesome and chaotic, until the last one which was just a giant messy clutter of carboard and cement and cloth, the site of a destruction. It was quite interesting. I really like modern art. After that we headed to the National Art Museum of Catalan, which held the history of Catalunyan art, again going from past to present.

the museum

The museum was situated on a hill so the view from the top was very similar to the view you get when you are at Sacre Coeur in Paris.

The view from NAMC

Afterwards we got lunch and headed back to the city. Morgan was feeling a bit under the weather so we went to a pharmacy [there were quite a lot by our hostel] and headed back to take a nap. When we woke up later we headed to Tibidabo, another outside the city hill, looking for this bar I’d read about. The bar supposedly has a great view of Barcelona, but unfortunately we didn’t know exactly where it was and couldn’t find it so we just settled for a small cafe, had dinner, and then went back to the city.

It sounds like we did a lot of traveling outside of the city the first day, and we did. We had gotten the T-10 pass at the airport, which gives us 10 rides on train, bus, or metro, for less than the price of 6 separate rides. By the end of the trip, when I was boarding my bus for Paris, I’d used it 7 times, so it was definitely worth it.

The second day we headed towards the Gothic Quarter and past it towards the beach. It wasn’t raining but it was slightly overcast so we hoped for good weather. We sat on the beach for a little and then once it started raining we headed back inland and found this cute restaurant for lunch. It was recommended to us by the owner of a bar we had originally stepped into first. They didn’t do food though, so he told us about this restaurant down the street and around the corner. It was a great find. The nicest old waiter welcomed us. We got giant portions of food for 5 or 6 euros, a pitcher of sangria for 8 euros between the two of us. We had three glasses of sangria each, for only 4 euros each! What a deal! And when we were leaving the waiter asked if we were coming back tomorrow. It was so sweet! Unfortunately we had other plans and thus could not come back but I probably would have if I could. It was also amusing to watch the family next to us. The parents were eating four plates of seafood and tapas between them and the kids had little potatoes and then they got ice cream and coffee and dessert. There was a mix up with the waiter when we both asked for the bill at the same time. He gave us theirs [80 euro bill!] and when we pointed it out to him, he kind of took it, looked at it, looked at the one he gave them, then his eyes grew wide and he laughed, said something, and switched the bills [ours was a little under 20 euros].

not very Catalunyan, but it was delicious. and gigantic! I almost couldn't finish!

Next we headed to the north of Barcelona to see La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s famous basilica. It was quite impressive, and not even finished! There were spires coming out of the top, that ended in what looked like shells. On the side of the basilica there were what looked like sculptures of fruits in vases, which was a little strange. Of course, there was a massive line to go in, plus it cost money, so we did not go inside, but just seeing the outside was worth it. Amazing detail, if strange, plus beautiful color and the weather cleared up a bit while we were there.

The rest of the day was spent walking back down to the center of Barcelona, seeing the Spanish Arc de Triomph, graffiti, and just wandering around. By the time we got back we were tired but happy. That night we also got a delicious dinner somewhere near the Gothic Quarter. I ordered a dish that was fresh cod with vegetables. Unfortunately I ate it without taking a picture first but the cod was so fresh it melted in my mouth. A bit on the saltier side but it was amazing. It kind of sounds like this trip ended up being a food tour!

On our last day Morgan was feeling very unwell so we took it easy. She stayed at the hostel while I went to the Contemporary Art Museum and then Morgan departed for the airport to return to England. I stayed and took advantage of the sun [it was finally sunny!] and went to the beach. After that I stopped at the supermarket, bought some sandwich making material, and headed for the bus station that would take me to Paris via overnight bus.

enjoying the sun

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