I have to admit, I really was not ready to leave Portugal. But part of the reason I do these little vacations are so I can get a taste of a place that I want to build on further down the line. Take Boston, for example; I've already visited the city twice and have every intention of a third trip.
Barcelona airport is...quite overwhelming, to say the least. I got off my flight hungrier than I would like, as I spent the entirety of my day writing and working, only to discover Uber is banned in Spain once again. An ignorant mistake, I can admit, but having used the app in many destinations all over the globe, I simply didn't think much of it in such a big city.
After some frustration with the self serve machines and a less than helpful Google search, an airport employee informed me I had to take the shuttle to the other terminal (2B). There, you're able to hop on the grey line to go to the heart of Barcelona, Passeig de Gracia. I think the trip cost around 4 euro, and took maybe 30-40 minutes at best.
When I emerged from the subway line, I felt the warmest wave of déjà vu; Barcelona is shockingly similar to Santiago, Chile. The architecture, the climate, the avenues -- even the angry sunburns on my shoulders that protested my cabin bag. Barcelona was a lot of sightseeing for me; I'm not usually drawn to big cities (living in one kind of wears off the novelty), but the shopping was very enjoyable.
Anyone who knows me in real life knows I'm a guilty slob for Taco Bell. So when I found one on my way to the hostel, I couldn't help but pop in. Once I discovered you could order a beer with your meal, I was sold.
The hostel I stayed in was the Safe Stay Gothic -- as the name implies, it is in the Gothic quarter of Barcelona, close to many bacillias, gorgeous alleyways and plenty of bars and cafes. I spent a majority of my time in the common area, which was usually pretty populated, but offered numerous outlets and USB ports for charging. Here are some of the books and crannies I stumbled upon.
The kitchen was pretty dismal, and the dorms were quite jammed, with barely 3ft of room between each set of bunk beds. I'm not a particularly large or gangly person and yet I found myself constantly bumping into other bunks. On my last night, I ended up crashing on the couch in the common area. Over all, I don't believe I would stay there again.
In spite of this, I tried my best to avoid being there longer than necessary, which resulted in a lot of walking. In fact, I didn't bother to use the metro after my airport experience. To a regular city dweller, everything you needed was within reach. A super market was a stone's throw away, providing cold beers, water bottles and snacks. I ate at a different cafe every meal, including a gourmet papas fritas Cafe, where I enjoyed cheesy fries (a birthday traditional of mine) with garlic aioli. If you're in the Gothic quarter, I highly recommend popping in.
Close by is a square is named after one of my favourite writers, Plaça de George Orwell. Orwell had written “Homage to Catalonia,” a first hand account of the Spanish Civil War. He came to Barcelona to simply write of the Spanish Civil War, but was so engrossed by the Republican resistance that he decided to fight the Fascist government of Franco, almost killing him in the battle.
Another first was my booking for a wine tasting via Airbnb Experiences. My host emailed me ahead of time to ask if we could switch the time, which gave me the opportunity to enjoy some focaccia pizza in Passeig Del Born. A good chunk of my day was spent in the sun there, which I enjoyed immensely.
The wine tasting was at a gorgeous shop called Vivinos. There was an air of renaissance and passion in the stone walls that made me feel right at home. I arrived considerably early, followed by a lovely couple -- who, against all odds, live just two blocks away from me in Toronto. The rest of the party followed en suite; a bachelorette group, who were incredibly knowledgable when it came to wines. Along with the tasting, a small snack board of cheese, meat, pretzels and olives were provided -- overall, a wonderful experience to learn about the local wine industry, flavour notes, and new friends.
Originally I had anticipated on going to a Michelin star restaurant for my birthday. However, travelling solo kind of changed my mind on that experience. Food is a gigantic part of my life, and a huge part of my up-bringing was cooking for and eating with others. I found that void to be particularly noticeable during this leg of the vacation, so I let myself get lost in the beautiful, haunting allure that is Barcelona.
As I was getting ready to catch my next flight (7:20am, yuck. That meant leaving at 5:45), I asked front desk to call me a cab. Another girl burst through the doors and was shaken to her core; she had been pickpocketed of everything, including her phone, money and passport. This is literally my worst nightmare and something I didn’t take lightly. I read plenty of thieves in Barcelona, so I got a chain card holder and attached it to the wrist strap of a clutch; this way, it wasn’t able to be separated from the clutch, which was attached to my wrist at all times.
A female cab driver came into the lobby to walk with me to the car. I thought this was incredibly comforting, all things considered. Since she didn’t speak English, we talked the whole time using Google Translate. She was incredibly motherly and made all anxiety dissipate. When we got to the airport, I was surprised to find she had gotten out to offer me a big hug, a kiss on both cheek, and a big happy birthday. Sometimes it’s nice to be an anonymous stranger in a place where no one knows your name. Sometimes, when you’re traveling solo in a different time zone from your better halves, it’s nice to be hugged goodbye.