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Published: February 3rd 2013
Barcelona has got to be one of the most homely places I’ve been too. I guess it was my experience within the city in the 4 days here as well as the ever-hospitable host from Hostel One Paralelo that makes the stay here all the more at home. Checked in at the hostel with no big fuss and Angel, the guy who guided me, was very approachable with questions asked and circled the various places on the map. After which, I roamed around the Gothic quarters, snapped a few shots before returning to the hostel to meet Gabriel and Calvin. It was the highly anticipated Nou Camp game in the evening that kept me all excited and it definitely did not disappoint, with Barcelona FC winning 5-1 and Lionel Messi scoring a brace of 4 goals. The atmosphere may not be fanatic but the experience of watching the best football team (in my opinion) live is definitely more than worth the money paid (35 euros).
Day 2 of Barcelona started off with a morning walking tour around the city, similar to the one I went for in Seville. The guide, Chris, from Aussie, was pretty knowledgeable and the whole walk
around the Gothic town definitely raised my awareness of the events that took place here years ago. What’s more striking to me was how Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, is so distant in spirit, from the rest of Spain. The traditions, cultures and even language of the Catalans are different from the rest of Spain. There were Catalunya (Catalonia) flags flying proudly at every corner we turned, but the Spanish flags? Hardly. It somehow feels to me that the residents here are screaming for independence away from Spain (despite being politically independent), in the midst of the economic crisis and the effects that lingers on. People asking for money on the streets, busking in the stations and on trains are aplenty. And apparently, the trend of unemployment will set to continue, at least in the near future. But anyways, it was a really bright morning walk. We settled for a drink at travel bar after that and tried Sangria, a local cocktail. Had lunch at a recommended local restaurant and asked for the local dish ‘paella’ which kinda reminds me of the seafood platter we have back in Singapore. It was pretty good, a different taste with lots of ketchup
and fresh seafood.
After lunch, or rather high tea (‘cos we ended at 4pm), we went straight for the Mojuic Castle, a good hike up the hill. It was the old fortress that defended the city from attacks from the seas and the view was fantastic from there. It oversees the whole of the Barcelona, with notable sights being the Gaudi’s most famous design, La Sagrada Familia (which means the sacred family) and the hills on the outskirts of the city. It was just rejuvenating chilling high up away from the city crowd and enjoying the scenery, something that I like about a busy city like Barcelona. We ended the day with dinner served by the hostel free and mingling around with the others in the house.
Day 3 was more exploration of the city away from our usual hangouts near the La Rambla. We went on a bike tour with Chris and visited the most notable Antoni Gaudi’s works around the area. I would highly recommend both the walking and bike tour (they are free and are on a tip basis) as they will cover most parts about the history and explanations of the landmarks and buildings
in the city itself. It was hiking yet again after that, with Park Guell as the next destination. Though not as majestic as the castle last night, it was more nature and offers a different view of Barcelona. It’s like a Bukit Timah Hill, as we have it in Singapore, situated in the city. And there is definitely more of a crowd here as compared to the castle. Today’s dinner has got to be the most interesting one I’ve had, as we signed up for Paella class with travel bar. It cost 19euros but we feel it was worth most bit of the money. For that, we got to walk around the market with introduction to the various ingredients required for the dish, try out some local food along the way and the recipe for the dish itself. More importantly, we got to watch the chef do a step-by-step guide on actually cooking the paella on a big pan (a pity we can’t actually do it ourselves though). There were like 30 of us so can imagine how big the flat pan was! We did had our hands on making the sangria, though it was pretty straightforward, with a mixture
of red wine, orange juice, fanta, some sugar, liquor and cut fruits. Ended the day with a very interesting conversation with a Russian lady on our table. What makes it more memorable was that she wrote our Russian names on a postcard from St Petersburg for us, one each. A very nice gesture!
The last day was more of a break from all the walking and traveling and just chilling in the hostel and by the seaside. Got my Barcelona jersey at La Rambla for 24euros and cooked my own lunch and dinner to save up just a bit! Took the overnight train to Madrid, the next stop.
Barcelona is a fascinating city, not too bustling and yet retains its very own flavor as the Catalan capital. Hopefully there’ll be a chance to be back here again!
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