Daily Archives: 29 January, 2011

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The One With Europe ’11 Day 11 – First Day In Barcelona

The Skyline Of Barcelona

After the horrifying experience at Madrid, I can’t deny that I approached Barcelona with much caution. Ever the alarmist, I stored everything valuables – from wallet to camera to keys – in the inner pockets of my new Celio jacket (which incidentally has layers than I thought). I slung my backpack protectively across my body, and placed it in front of my body where I can hug it.

In short, I looked like a freaked out tourist suspecting everyone around him like a would-be robber.

But even at that state of mind, I couldn’t help being awed by the spectacular that Barcelona has to offer. It’s easy to see why this was one of my friends’ favourite city in Europe:
– Cobbled alleyway and charming old buildings made the Old Town of Ciutat Vella a joy to get lost into. I couldn’t do it in Morocco, but I let myself be swept by the crowd across Barcelona
– Plaza Catalunya is like any large square in the world, with the minor distraction in the form of flocks of pigeon. But what with the sprawling La Rambla right next to it and affectionate Spaniards kissing each other goodbye, I felt like in a arty romance film. Cue the rising sun and flying pigeons, minus the poo
– The morning crowd of La Rambla. Even as I hugged my belonging closer to me, I peered cautiously at the setting up pantomines (?) and stall owners. Everything was fresh, new and rejuvenating with its hues of colours. Like they are hoping for a good today. Even the tortoises on sale poked out their heads and peered curiously at this excited stranger
– Detoured from La Rambla and ended up right smack inside Mercat de la Boqueria, a bustling market. Everything is huge here – from cured meat to seafood (oh god they like it so big) to whole suckling pigs to mountains of fruits. And only in a Spanish market you’ll find bar to serve you pints of foamy beer, if you need it that early in the morning
– Tourists were milling about Plaza Reial, but for the life of me I couldn’t see what’s so interesting with that fountain in the middle. Maybe I was at the wrong place
– So I sauntered up to the center of the old town, where Barcelona’s political heart was at. Got distracted along the way with many shops. Spent more time than I should here. But oh Starbucks how I miss ya.
– There was a peaceful protest outside Palau de la Generealitat. The sight of the colourful protesters, policemen and dancing bunnies (it was some tourist thing) was kinda ironic in a comforting way
– Buskers. They were everywhere. And not one of those who strummed a few chords on their guitar and calling it a show. These buskers have real talent. Many offered albums of their own creation. Their audience are an appreciative lot. I guess with the sunshine and cold weather, the catchy music – from jazz to “Spanish guitar duo” – put everyone in good mood
– Museums. Barcelona is full of it. I am not a museum person. So that explains the lack.
– The Roman Wall. I was there captivated by some gigantic bubbles show (yes I was that impressionable) and didn’t realise I was at a World Heritage Site. Hah.
– Second calamari meal, this time at the delightful Mercat de Santa Caterina. If I ever run a restaurant business, it will be like this. Open kitchen, bustling chefs, delightful wait staff, plenty of nature. It was difficult not to enjoy a meal here. The food, needless to say, was one morsel from being perfect.
– Anxious to soak in some culture and history, I went into The Cathedral and Esglesia de Santa Maria del Mar. The Spaniards appear to like their churches soaring skywards. The higher, the better. As a result a natural hush permeated over the visiting crowd like a silencing cloak. It was almost magical.
– The port of Barcelona was a wide collection of mooring yatches. Harumph. There are many wealthy people here, I suppose.
– After a quick nap in the hostel, I ditched my map and went for a unguided stroll around La Rambla, following the Saturday crowd. Ended up at El Raval, the answer to everything hip and young and cutting-edge of Barcelona. Throngs of students made way for dinner at small, local cafes, while shops offering second hand goods, designer bags, Inca costumes (?!) and many others dotted the whole place
– After dithering for hours and a delightful chocolate waffle later, I settle for yet another paella dinner. Hmmm. Was okay.

The weather on my first day here has been great. Let’s see what the second day holds!