I’m finally back from my (self-paid) graduation trip in Europe and I’ll slowly pen down my experiences on this space. Our first stop was Barcelona, not because we wanted to visit the city, but air tickets were cheaper if we flew into this city. However, during the planning stages and after my venture into Spain, this country quickly grew to be one of my favourite. I stayed in Barcelona on two separate occasions and accommodations, Hostal Ribagorza and Hostal Dragonflybcn. Located just a corner turn from each other, I would definitely recommend Hostal Dragonflybcn over Ribagorza, hands down, anytime.
Upon entry into Ribagorza, I discovered rice on the bed sheets. After we reviewed the hostel, we received feedback from the owner that the bedsheets were not washed by the staff but by an external service. Essentially, you would be sharing the dirty bedsheets left behind from the previous x number of occupants. Later that night, we realised there was no heater available for the shower. This was highly crucial, considering the weather was freezing and the water was too cold to humanely shower under. You’ve to realised that my friend and I have bathed under our fair share of cold water for a series of nights in various countries, so we’re not really making a fuss out of nothing when we say the water is literally too cold to bath under. The water temperature felt like melted ice, that’s how cold it was. We ended up just wiping our bodies with our dampened towels. There were also no remote control available for the air-con in the room, and we learnt later it was a service provided only upon request -.-.
Either way, both locations were prime ones, at a 5 to 10 minutes walk from either the Arc de Triomf station or the Urquinaona station. Attractions located near them include the Arc de Triomf, Parc de la Ciutadella and the Placa Catalunya stop for the Aerobuses A1 and A2, which runs from Terminal 1 and 2 of El-Prat Airport respectively. After settling in, we made our way to the Arc de Triomf and Parc de la Ciutadella was located just behind it. The weather was beautiful and the people there simply loved blowing big bubbles using a string. Lol, we saw a number of street performers entertaining the crowd with bubbles. The young were amused because it’s bubbles and the old because of photo opportunities.
Arc de Triomf & Parc de la Ciutadella – Nearest station: Arc de Triomf
From the park, we walked along the streets to Museu de Xcolota, across El Born, passed Santa Maria del Mar and to La Colmena, one of the oldest patisserie in Barcelona, a fun fact I learnt when doing my research in this city. Definitely do give their Xuxo de Xcolota a try. While the cream version was not bad (we got cheated by the staff to try it since they gave us their cream ones even though we asked for chocolate lol), the slight orange zest flavoured chocolate cream brought this sweet treat to a whole other level of deliciousness. At €2, this affordable yet decadent treat is a definite must try.
La Colemena – Nearest station: Jaume I (located right outside the station’s exit)
A visit to Barcelona ain’t complete without a visit to Gaudi’s notable works – Parc Güell and Sagrada Familia. Post-dessert, we rushed down to Parc Güell to make our pre-book tickets timing. It was our first venture into the metro system and we realised at Liceu station, you simply cannot cross the platform within the metro if you’re standing on the wrong one. You’ve to exit the gantry and re-purchase another ticket to enter the station to get onto the correct platform. So do remember to check which direction you’re headed to before entering the gantry. We were lamenting a wasted fare on our T-10 tickets, and ended up, this was the only station in Barcelona that gave us this problem -.-.
At Parc Güell, we easily spent about 2.5 hours wandering about the area, which was so beautiful with Gaudi’s works displayed in its architectural grandeur. Naturally, iconic sites within the park is still chocked full of people but what can anyone do about it?
Tip: Pre-book your tickets if you wish to visit Parc Güell (& the Sagrada Familia). When we were there, the next timing available to tour the place was 4 hours later!
Parc Güell – Nearest station: Lesseps (just follow the signboards to the park)
After exploring the whimsical and mosaic-based works, we headed down to our next pre-booked item, the Sagrada Familia. When I first heard about this cathedral, I thought the exterior were pretty, though dampened by the on-going construction works. I didn’t have plans to enter, until a friend of mine waxed lyrical about the wonders of this place, that I told myself, an entry is a MUST. Post-visit, I can see the grandeur that captured the attention of my friend. Subsequent church/cathedrals visits appeared sub-par in comparison. There’s just something so captivating about the light flowing through the beautifully crafted stained windows, the atmospheric sensation of watching devotees praying in the church and the row of candles that light up the stands.
Sagrada Familia – Nearest station: Sagrada Familia
Dinner was at this random restaurant we chose, because behold, we somehow couldn’t find a single place to eat in the vicinity of our accommodation. It was too atas and we got judged for essentially ordering a platter of breakfast dishes instead of what the restaurant was famous for, lamb stew. Iberico ham, tried and tasted, and it never made its way back into my mouth beyond the first time. It was simply too bloody, tough and salty for my liking. Their minced pork was a tad too salty to have on its own or with the toasted bread (which was oh so good!), but would have nicely complemented a bowl of rice. It’s simply the Asian in me. Naturally, the best meal for us was the bread that we drizzled with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and topped with tomatoes. Fogged up in the brain after a long day of travelling by air and on foot, we stupidly asked for a bottle of still water when the waiter mentioned drinks. Should have replied “no drinks.” We ended up paying €2.16 for an atas bottle of still (or really, tap) water. Just 30 cents cheaper from the cup of coffee and tea, we had the next day in Sevilla. Jokes on us, but drinks in restaurants were a no go from then on.
Dinner also marked the end of our first day in Europe and we settled in our room as we prepared for Granada the next day. However, the post on Granada would be a separate one, as I continue on my Barca journey after we returned from Sevilla. Post check-in, we were hungry girls after the train ride back to Barcelona. Stumbling upon this tapas bar near the hostel was a catch, because really, you can’t say you’ve been to Spain if you’ve not had a meal in a tapas bar. Food is literally as legit, varied and affordable as far as food goes. Crispy toasted bread slathered with tomatoes, patatas bravas (spicy potatoes), sautéed mushrooms and fried calamari, it was oh so deliciously satisfying. Potatoes were served with a dollop of chilli-ish sauce that tasted like chilli crab sauce and the fresh calamari (though slice a tad too thick as compared to Singapore’s standards)…no words can describe how good the meal was. I paid the waiter with so many coins after the meal (because we wanted to clear them), he literally went mon died in front of me. Had a feeling it meant my god, which was confirmed with google translate later, lol.
Tapes Bar Pulperia – Nearest station: Arc de Triomf
Post meal roaming about the city led us past this procession, with the guys dressed up in cute costumes and shoes. They simply reminded me of toy soldiers we see on cartoon shows.
Barceloneta beach, need I say more? On a sunny day, I can see how this beach would be packed full of beach-goers attempting to get a tan. Even on a cloudy and windy evening, there were still a fair number of people “sun-bathing.” Even if sun-bathing is not your thing (it’s definitely not mine anyway, hello, I live in Singapore where it’s generally sunny all year round), head down to the beach to people watch. It’s definitely worth a visit, with the dancing doughnut man and random couples dancing by the beach.
Barcelona beach – Nearest station: Barceloneta
We soon left the beach to catch the Font Màgica fountain show at Montjuïc. To get here is simply a 5 minutes walk down the road from the station. It’s so strategically located, and alongside the crowd, you really can’t miss it. Before heading to the fountain, check out Arenas de Barcelona, a former bull ring converted into a shopping mall. It’s so interesting (and rare) to see a perfectly circular mall.
Arenas de Barcelona, Placa Espanya & Font Màgica – Nearest station: Placa Espanya
Tip: Head inside and to the top of the arenas to get a (free) bird eye’s view of Placa Espanya and Montjuïc. There’s simply no need to pay for the lift service (located right outside the the arenas) to get this view.
En route to the fountain, there was an exhibition showcasing the different type of buses within Barcelona (or maybe it’s Spain in general). We were like kids there, feeling strangely pleased when we spotted one that we have ridden.
This was the crowd at the steps, one hour prior to the start of the show. It did not include those who were standing along the bridge that led to the fountain. Here, I was entertained by the random stranger in the audience who started a Kallang wave and a teen who popped by and requested the audience for a selfie, before returning with a rose to throw into the crowd. He came back a third time to dance with a random old lady from the crowd before returning to his group of friends. Not sure if it was a dare, but all this fanfare made for good entertainment as we waited for time to pass.
Tip: Come here early to grab a good spot. You can grab some snacks at the supermarket located in the basement of Arenas de Barcelona or a sangria and some churros from the stalls near the steps as you await for the show to start.
Once the show started, it was a burst of music, colors and amusement. With the typical music that goes alongside a music fountain show, the songs gradually transcended into popular pop music as night falls. Street peddler trying to sell their toys would start spinning them into the air to entertain the kids, before (indirectly) encouraging them to persuade their parents to purchase their wares. Really smart tactic, though not always successful. The show is a lengthy one, so even if you missed the start of it, fear not, cause half an hour into it, the fountain was still going strong. The crowd came and go, and we headed home early to rest for Montserrat the next day. But till the next post, bye!