This weekend (Friday-Sunday) I went on my first weekend trip outside of Valencia! Mi amiga and I took the tren from Valencia to Barcelona, about a 3.5 hour journey to the north of Valencia. The only thing that dampened the excitement was having to get up at 4:45 in the morning in order to catch the 7:25am train (ugh). I didn’t help that I was up until almost 2:00. In my defense, dinner was at 9:30 so I didn’t start packing until 11:00 and then I just couldn’t sleep.
We got to Barcelona Sants (l’estació de tren, as they say in Catalán- it’s la estación de tren in español, but more on this in a different post) a little after 10:30am. We made our way to the metro and took it to center of the city, in the middle of Les Rambles (a.ka. Las Ramblas en español). We came out of the metro right across from the Mercat de la Boqueria, Barcelona’s largest and most famous market. It was cool, but I was surprised to find that it wasn’t as big as el Mercado Central in Valencia.
From there, we wandered around the Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter), winding our way through the narrow pedestrian streets.
We then found ourselves at la Basilica de Maria del Mar, a very old gothic church. We eavesdropped on a couple of tour guides once inside. The first guide spoke Catalán, so we only got bits and pieces of what he was saying, and the second spoke español, but she was giving the tour to a small group of estudiantes estadounidenses (I wish this word existed in English…) and was speaking with that in mind, so it was incredibly easy to understand her.
We then stumbled across el Mercat del Born, which isn’t actually a mercat at all. It’s a cultural center with the ruins of buildings destroyed in the War of Spanish Succession by King Philip V in order to build la Ciutadella, a military fortress. Thousands of people were displaced from their homes without recompense. Today, the fortress no longer exists and in its place is the Parc de la Ciutadella. El mercado was constructed in 1876 and functioned as a market until the 70s/80s, although the ruins weren’t discovered until 2002 when the building was undergoing some renovations. It took us a while to figure out what we had stumbled upon, and I looked up those dates out of curiosity.
We then made our way to the aforementioned Parc de la Ciutadella, stopping at a Mercadona (a Spanish grocery store that’s as common as Meijer in Michigan) before having almuerzo in the park. We climbed up the fuente after we ate.
We then walked a short distance to the Arc de Triomf.
All of the above we did from 10:30 to 4:30- and with our not-so-lightweight mochilas. We were finally able to check in to our Airbnb in the early afternoon (yes, 4:30 is the early afternoon in Spain. It’s not siete de la noche, but siete de la tarde). It was not that nice, to be honest, and we were surprised that the place had good reviews on the website. It was a small apartment with four rooms that were all rented out to different pairs of people. The apartment was a little rough around the edges and not the cleanest place ever (this is me being diplomatic). Our room was fine, but my friend and I both decided not to shower while we stayed there. Our room also faced the pedestrian street below and had a small balcony. We were also very close to a plaza. This turned out not to be great at night. We were told it could be a little noisy at night since we’re in a popular area, but it was more than a little noisy. It didn’t even seem like there were doors and walls separating us from outside. But the apartment was in the middle of the city, right by Las Ramblas and on the edge of the Gothic Quarter, and it was pretty cheap. And judging from some hostel/Airbnb horror stories I heard today from other students who traveled this weekend, it could have been worse.
We rested for a little while and then decided to walk to the Font Mágica de Montjuïc (Magical Fountain of Montjuïc) to watch a light show. We climbed up Montjuïc, only to discover that I had led us to the wrong fuente. Oops. Luckily, a nice man walking his dog led us in the right direction. One unnecessary hike up and back down a mountain later, we arrived that the Museu Nacional de l’Art de Catalunya, which the fountain was located in front of. There were lots of people milling about the area, even though by this point it was dark.
We sat down on some steps facing the fountain and waited a few minutes for when the next light show was supposed to begin. When it didn’t start on time, we began to realize that it didn’t seem like the fountain was even on. And there was a makeshift fence, like those for construction zones, around it. And the man who helped us get un-lost early mentioned that he thought that the fountain was under renovation. I checked the website again and it said nothing about it being closed, which seemed pretty crappy to me. For some reason, it occurred to me to check the site in another language because I had been reading the English version of the webpage. Sure enough, the Spanish version of the page said that the fountain shows would resume towards the end of February. Why this wasn’t also posted on the English page and why there were lots of people hanging around a non-functional fountain in the dark, I’m not sure. We decided to go back to the Gothic Quarter for dinner, opting to take the metro back instead of walking for 50 minutes (especially after the totally pointless hiking).
On our way to the restaurant, we passed by the Monument a Colom (Columbus Monument).
We got to the restaurant around 8:30pm, early for los españoles, but we were really hungry after having walked so much. But upon seeing no one else in the restaurant, we decided to go back to the apartment for a bit. It’s pretty common for restaurants to be dead until 9:00pm, and some places don’t even open until then. We came back around 9:30 and the place was thriving. It was a little Italian Argentinian restaurant at the edge of the Gothic Quarter called Tucco Real Food, which I totally recommend. I spent just over 8 euros total for a beer, empanadas served with pan, chorizo, aceitunas, and queso, and tiramisu (and it was all really good!). We spent the rest of the evening talking, leaving around medianoche.
So that about sums up our day. Check out my other new post for a lesson on languages in Spain (especially if you’re thinking, “Wait, those names aren’t Spanish!”).