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Published: September 17th 2007
La Sagrada Familia
Barcelona's most famous landmark.
After one day's rest from the madness of La Tomatina, it was time for more madness in Barcelona.
Unfortunately, my bed was directly beneath the fan in our dorm, and because it was so hot, I decided to leave it on. The next morning, my throat was sore.
A real melting pot of many cultures, Barcelona has an avantgarde, bohemian, freakshow vibe and the place is alive in every sense of the word.
Nowhere is this reflected better than on the main street, La Rambla. Lined with street stalls, street performers and everything in between, this is the heart of Barcelona, and is always packed with people.
Unfortunately, this is also what attracts Barcelona's notorious pickpockets. I had talked to a couple of people in Madrid who had had their wallets nicked, so as I ambled down La Rambla, I made sure my hands were glued to my pockets. Another thing that I noticed immediately about Barcelona is how cosmopolitan it is. Barcelona's vibe means that everyone is welcome here, and there are people here from absolutely every corner of the planet.
Things also seem a lot more fun and relaxed here, unlike Madrid, where the people seem a
The main street and epicentre of Barcelona.
bit more "sophisticated".
Arguably, Barcelona also has a better football team than Madrid - and FC Barcelona's stadium was our first port of call.The world's current "dream team", boasting the likes of Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho, Samuel Eto'o, Deco and the latest star recruit, Thierry Henry, this team is capable of playing some breathtaking football. So it is only right that they should strut their stuff in a breathtaking stadium.
Like the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid, the Nou Camp also houses up to 100,000 spectators and it's vast blue and red stands simply must create an electric atmosphere on gameday. The tour pretty much followed the same procedure as the tour at the Bernabeu - a self-guided, point-to-point tour.
First stop was the players tunnel - where there is a chapel! A pretty unique thing to have, this chapel is complete with altar and seats for the players to have one last prayer (probably the visiting players) before they take to the pitch. The place was even christened by the Pope!
Among other things, you get to go pitchside and get a feel for what it must be like to be player running on to the pitch, sit down
Me & The Nou Camp
Marking my spot at FC Barcelona's theatre of dreams.
in the press box at the top of the stadium, enter the dressing rooms, visit the media centre, and look at the museum.
Inside the museum, you learn that FC Barcelona is one of the main vehicles driving the pro-Catalunya movement. Like the Basques, the Catalans are fiercely proud of their region, and murmurs of wanting independence have been around for decades.The founder of FC Barcelona, Swiss ex-patriate Joan Gamper, was accused by the Spanish dicatatorship in 1925 of promoting Catalan nationalism and was expelled from Spain. Ever since, the intense and red-blooded rivalry between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid has existed, with a strong political undertone. Matches between the two sides are known as "superclasicos".
The museum had an entire section dedicated to Joan Gamper, who tragically committed suicide 5 years after his expulsion from Spain.
The tour cost 11€ - so 4€ cheaper than the Bernabeu tour - but in my opinion, the Madrid tour was probably better. At the Bernabeu, you had much more access inside the stadium, for example, you could actually sit down on the substitutes bench, you could sit down in the press box, and you could just about touch the hallowed turf. Here
Chapel In The Nou Camp Players' Tunnel
For the players (more probably for the opposition) to have one last prayer before taking the pitch.
at the Nou Camp, access was often restricted in many places. The museum at the Bernabeu also seemed to have a more logical flow to it, where at the Nou Camp, you didn't quite know what you were looking at and why.
FC Barcelona were also playing Athletic Bilbao on our last night here, with tickets starting from 40€. Would love to have gone, but perhaps another time as 40€ is almost a whole day's budget for me!
That night, we were meant to go on a pub crawl, organised by a backpacker bar called Travel Bar. Their excursions, including pub crawls, Spanish cooking classes (which we were to do here on our last night) and bike tours are immensely popular, and by all accounts are loads of fun.
My throat and I weren't seeing eye-to-eye however, and I figured that I would rest in the hostel that night. It was quite funny, because the two German guys in our room, Alex and Marion, also had the flu. That meant Davies was the only one not sick - we'll get him eventually...
It also turned out, that Alex and Marion also went to La Tomatina, and also stayed at
Plaça de Catalunya
Main square at the top of La Rambla
the Samay Hostel in Seville
. They also agreed that Samay was the best hostel they stayed at and even knew Mark from there as well! They must be on the Spanish backpacker circuit too.
Our hostel though, seriously sucked. Our room was tiny, for four people - the room next door was three times the size. Guess we drew the short straw on that one.
The showers were the worst ever - it was one of those ones where you press the button to get ten or so seconds of hot water, only that this one gave you two seconds of water, most of the time cold. So you had to permanently press the thing down with one arm, while washing yourself with the other.
There was also a toilet paper shortage and no handsoap - basically, not what three people who needed to keep warm, stay clean and blow their noses every five minutes, needed.
Would have to put this hostel right down there with the grotty B&B Rota in Venice
, as the worst hostel I've stayed at.
The next day, I was feeling pretty weak and my throat was on fire. I was really hoping not to get sick, especially here in
Passion Facade At La Sagrada Familia
Awesome futuristic/art deco take on the passion.
Barcelona where the party is at, because when I got sick last year in Germany, I couldn't fully shake it off.
But the show must go on, and it was sightseeing day today.
First stop was the Museu d’História de la Ciutat, located under the Plaça del Rei.
It was a really interesting museum that told outlined and detailed the history of Barcelona. There is a reason why it is underground - the museum houses the Roman foundations of Barcelona. The CGI-enhanced recontructions and information about how people lived back then was truly fascinating.
Next stop was Barcelona's most famous landmark - La Sagrada Familia.
Construction on this basilica started in 1882 and is still going! 2020 is when it is finally scheduled to be completed.
The original project of famous Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, the style of the church is certainly unique. I loved the irregular and impossibly intricate design of the church - no wonder it has taken so long to build. At the base of the Sagrada, are several quotes from the man himself and the attention to detail and the ideaology behind the designs were incredibly detailed. I particularly liked the newer Passion facade and the
Another of Gaudi's creations.
modern, cubic-like designs - an awesome artistic and contemporary take on the passion of the Christ.
The tallest tower of the church is 170m, and going up the Sagrada is certainly popular - like 45min queue popular. We decided to flag it, as we figured we've already gone up a few towers here in Spain and Portugal.
We then went along to two more of Gaudi's works - La Pedrera and Casa Batllo. I really must say that I'm a fan - I've always had a slight interest in architecture, and I really admire his out-there designs. Back in the day, they must have been really avantgarde and unusual to say the least.
Before we got back to the hostel, we also passed by Plaça Catalunya and Plaça Real - apparently where the city's druggies all congregate.
That night was our Razzmatazz night. I was pretty sick, but as long as I could go out, I would, as this was one of the main reasons why I came back to Barcelona.
We warmed up at our hostel with the Germans, who were going to come with us. There were some German girls in the room to our right, as
The band playing at Razzmatazz the night we went.
well as a really hot Canadian chick, Arlene, in the room to our left. When I asked Arlene what she was doing tonight, she told me that she was really desperate to try Absinthe. The other guys ears all shot up. Unfortunately, she wasn't keen on the 15€ cover charge at Razzmatazz, and so she took off on her own to try Absinthe...with someone else no doubt...
The German girls were pretty tired as well, and another Canadian chick who was keen to go out with us had already been to Razz the night before. Marion was too sick too come out, and so it was down to three - I was on the cusp of staying home as well, as I was pretty sick - but I decided to grin and bear it, hoping alcohol and a good time would make me forget I'm sick. It is Barcelona, the party capital of Europe on a Saturday night after all.
We finally arrived at Razz at 3am - you see the party gets underway pretty late here (like everything else) - and the place was pumping. Every Friday and Saturday night, there is a band, usually a reputable one too.
Main Floor At Razzmatazz
The main and best floor at Razzmatazz, the indie/alternative rock floor.
The previous night, New York electronica duo Ratatat played. Tonight, it was a Spanish band called Standard who played some pretty cool 80's disco rock that the crowd was lapping up.
Most of the chicks in here were indie chicks - hot Spanish indie chicks - watch out...
We then decided to go and explore the floors as there are apparently six of them. The other floors included a pop floor, an electronica floor, a trance floor, a house floor and an outdoor balcony. After spending some time on the house floor, we went back down to the main floor, where the band had finished up and had become the indie/alternative rock floor.
Having had a couple of vodka and Red Bulls (one was free with the entrance fee of course) I was having a really good time as the DJ pumped out CSS's "Alala". Very sexy song.
This floor was by far the best, as they played stuff like The Killers and The Strokes - they even brought out the Proclaimers!
By the time the DJ ripped out Oasis' "Wonderwall", me, Alex and some Spanish guy were singing our hearts out. Then, the lights came on and Travis' "Sing"
Me, Alex & A Random Spanish Guy
Just before the Seven Nation Army finale spectacular.
was played. I like this song, but I've never heard it played at a club before - must be time to go - but better than playing "Closing Time" I suppose.
However when the song finished the party refused to die and then occurred the most incredible scene I've ever seen at a club. The entire crowd, which must've been at least several hundred strong, started chanting the bassline to The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army". This went on for several minutes - the crowd was basically begging for the song to be played. And when the DJ obliged, the crowd went bersek. I can categorically state I've never danced so hard to Seven Nation Army - ever. The DJ just had to play it. A maginificent end to a great night. The crowd were still singing Seven Nation Army on the metro home - yeah that's right, the metro here in Barcelona goes all night! I love this place!
We finally got home about 7am - but not before bumping into Arlene on the way back. Let's just say she had tried her Absinthe alright ;-)
We pretty much slept all day the next day, bar a walk
Barceloneta - the main city beach in Barcelona, right next to the gritty fishing district of the same name.
along the Barcelona's Port Vell waterfront and a two-hour siesta on the beach.
That night, we had our Spanish cooking class. We had wanted to do this when we were in Barcelona last Sunday, but missed out on tickets. We had heard of this from an English guy we met in Avignon. Basically you could make as much sangria, tapas, paella and gazpacho you could handle. Sounded great.
The first thing our very laugh-prone teacher showed us was how to make sangria. Generally it's up to you how much you put of each ingredient, but it is basically brandy, sugar (lots of it too), fruits (usually citrus fruits, but anything goes) and cold red wine. The alcohol guzzling Australians who made ours, went a bit overboard with the brandy ;-)
Then it was a classic Catalunyan tapa - rub a piece of french stick with tomato, then top with olive oil, chorizo and cheese - yum. Our table ended up having to nick ingredients from other tables ;-)
Next up was gazpacho - cucumber, tomato puree and coriander served cold - ours was much nicer than the one I had tried a week earlier - this time I appreciated the
Spanish Cooking Class
Our teacher teaches us how to make paella - unfortunately, most of us drank too much sangria to remember how to do it.
coldness, because it was pretty hot in that restaurant.
Last up was paella - and it's pronounced "pa-e-ya" people, not "pa-e-la" - which actually takes ages to cook. Ours was done on high heat, but our teacher told us that the real thing can cook for up to two hours! Don't think I have the patience to make it, to be honest. Basically, chuck in some raw rice, lots and lots of oil, chicken (the original Paella Valenciana has rabbit in it) and/or beef, some saffron or food colouring (saffron is worth more than gold by weight) and then let it cook.
We didn't actually get to do this one ourselves, but the teacher cooked up a huge pan for the whole class, which was the best paella we have had on this trip.
Would've been cool to stay out drinking with our fellow pupils afterwards, but we were still both tired from last night - I still have a cold remember - so it was an early night before we had to catch our very early train the next day.
Barcelona is cool - definitely my favourite city so far.
It ticks all the boxes and there is
The pretty palm lined square where the druggies gather.
everything here - fantastic sights, several beaches, vibrant nightlife, great weather, awesome food and lots of things to do. You could easily spend a week here and not be bored. I have to admit that my cold did dampen my experience a little bit, but I still had a great time and will be coming back here for sure!
This concludes our Spanish adventure - it's off to Amsterdam now, stopping by in the small(ish) French town of Annecy and then Bruges along the way.
I have throughly enjoyed my time in Spain - it's such a fun country to backpack, and the weather is always great. Would recommend it to anyone.
So it's adios one final time - see you in Annecy!
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