Not what we expected, but not so Bad(alona) after all. Barcelona, Spain, September 17-19

3 Oct

Our two days’ stay in Spain’s party metropolis had all the makings of a successful whirlwind pseudo-weekend away. Despite being situated in Badalona, in the City’s suburban outskirts, the hostel we booked, BE Dream Hostel Barcelona promised a youthful party atmosphere, just 5 minutes walk from the beach and a few metro stops from central Barcelona, with a ping pong table and art supplies to boot.
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We had heard numerous people rave about Spain’s second largest city being their favourite European hub and we had high expectations coming off the back of an epic week of beautiful sunshine, an indulgence of beer and Sangria and an endless supply of quality food in the country’s capital, Madrid.

It actually turned out to be a bit of a non-event, which I’m inclined to think may have been initiated by the curse of the overnight bus.

For about €30, at least half the price and surprisingly quicker than the slow train and about a tenth of the price of the fast train, bussing from Madrid to Barcelona was an easy choice. Not so easy, however, was gaining any form of rest, comfort or fresh air on the 7-hour trip. I know, cry me a river, but by the time we arrived at Barcelona Nord at about 6.30 am, we were tired, irritable and certainly not amused to find this almost uninhabitable bus station kindly supplied toilet paper to commuters… on the OUTSIDE of the cubicle.

The hostel was easy enough to locate, close to Pep Ventura station and we were able to check in early and start ploughing through a mountain of laundry from Madrid (we were washing in the plastic bin in Madrid), even managing to go food shopping and later whip up a stir fry. We had a wander through Badalona and I was spun out over how suburban it was after being in cities for the previous 3 weeks – there were kids walking home from school, people walking dogs in the park and jogging along the beach, so in that respect it was nice to see how people like us lived in suburbia, but overseas. In the evening, we were keen to crack into the beers (€2 for a six pack of San Miguel in Del Rio supermarket) and chat to other travellers, but apart from a high school group of 50 kids from Holland (to be continued), the hostel seemed fairly quiet, so we downed a few beers on our own.
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Badalona Beach

We ventured into a grey and overcast Barcelona (not the beach weather we’d hoped for or expected) the next day without much of a plan (mistake #1) and ended up being disappointed by the Erotic Museum (€8 entry) on Las Ramblas (Barcelona’s main ‘happening’ street) and underwhelmed by Museo Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC), the Arena Shopping Centre lookout and Olympic Park but we were excited to find La Boqueria market, tucked away off the main street.
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MNAC – Museo Nacional d’Art de Catalunya

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View from MNAC

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La Boqueria market

This fresh produce market is teeming with locals and tourists (probably to the chagrin of the locals who are just trying to get their shopping done) and provides the complete sensory overload. Fresh fish, live crustacea, meat, sweets, fruit and vegetables, preserves, nuts, grains – anything you can think of is there and in vast supply… but disappointingly there are no free testers. We spent a good hour and a half in there trying to decipher lung from liver and filming still-moving crayfish and crab sitting on an ice display.
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An assortment of meats and entrails

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Grains and cereals

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Lollies!

In retrospect, we should have just organised a day trip up to the mountains at Monserrat (the Dutch kids said it was awesome) or to the castle, Castell de Montjuic, but we didn’t and instead got drunk by ourselves two nights in a row at the hostel, the second night peaking only when Nic got yelled at by the teachers supervising the Dutch school trip for inciting some sort of bad behaviour (we call it fun, they call it naughty, whatever.)

I think the highlight of our stay in Barcelona was the Madrid vs Manchester City football game. Nic wanted to watch it at the pub and we were going to head into the City but we happened upon a small family-run bar in Badalona called Frankfurter’s, which, true to its name, sells about 20 different types of sausage, as well as some traditional tapas dishes including our old friend Patatas Bravas… and they were screening the game.

At first we thought the owners didn’t want to let us in, because they couldn’t speak English and they thought we just wanted a drink without food, so one of the guys started waving his hand at us telling us to go away. Once we had got past that misunderstanding, we got a good spot at the bar and soon had two fat bratwurst in bread and two beers to devour. We ended up having a lot of fun with the staff and met a Spanish couple who had recently returned from driving around Australia, who helped us translate a little.
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Wares from Frankfurter’s, Badalona

So, our brief visit to Barcelona was not the one we had envisioned, but after writing this blog post I realise it was actually a nice two-day break from our otherwise hectic trip so far.

HOSTEL

Be Dream Hostel http://www.behostels.com/dream
Av. Alfonso XIII 28B, Badalona, Barcelona, Spain

    Pros:

Comfy beds, well-equipped bathroom (hostel converted from some sort of aged care or disability centre), nice staff, commercial kitchen, decent breakfast included, free Wifi

    Cons:

Hostel is in the same building as a day care centre so from morning to late afternoon, all you can hear is screaming children. Hostel lacked a bit of atmosphere, but maybe because of the huge school group, even though they were really nice kids.

TIME SPENT SO FAR…
In the air: 22 hours.
Total travelling including flights, buses, airport time: About 53 hours.

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