My first experience with Barcelona. I was with the ‘rents after a study-abroad stint in Leon, and we were on a flash-trip zoom around Spain. The timing with the country’s second-biggest city wasn’t the greatest; I felt poorly and the three of us actually resigned to climbing aboard a tourist bus. We also saw: La Sagrada Familia up-close / La Rambla bursting with a gay pride parade / La Boquería Market / Olympic offerings. After returning to Spain in 2010, I wondered if I should give the city another chance–all I remember is its touristy swagger.
Spiral stepping in La Sagrada Familia
Pools of Olympic proportion
Nuns used to sleep here
Clearest memory: Gaudí, you are awesome! Also, our hotel, a former convent.
We come prepared for our trip armed with tons of museum info and restaurant recs. Then, I got sick on Day Two and spent more time with my book than the city. (Am I cursed??) Luckily, we managed to squeeze in a trip to Parc Güell. We considered visiting some of Gaudí’s houses, but they were pricey for our grad-school-squeezed wallets. I decided I liked the slow pace of our trip, soaking up the sun and ambiance as we lazily floated from terrace to terrace.
Out on the terrace, any terrace
Clearest memory: While we were walking along Passeig de Gràcia, Andres got the call that made him start to pace. The corners of his mouth twitched, and when he clicked off the phone the good news came rushing out–the research center wanted him! And the research center was not in Scandinavia or South America or Illinois; it was in Madrid!
Similar reasons as last year’s propel us to consider Barcelona as an option (easy to plan, easy to get to…). We find decent tickets and figure a trip to museums and the beach wouldn’t hurt. I was curious to explore artsy Raval, Barri Gòtic, and hip Gràcia. The trip didn’t quite turn out as we’d hoped, though. It was mixed bag: we enjoyed the first day, loved our hotel, and ate like royalty. Then, plans fell through, transportation was ornery, and everything seemed so blatantly touristy. We decided that an afternoon on the beach was in order (not an entirely terrible way to bide your time when waiting to return home again).
Parc de la Ciutadella
Castellers…advertising Hard Rock Cafe :/
Clearest memory: The on-going conversations in my head of Madrid vs. Barcelona. Having been to Barcelona a few times now, it was hard not to compare it to Madrid. In Barcelona I like the architecture, the wide streets, the food, bubbly cava, and trying my hand at Catalan.
If I were to live there, however, I think the tourists (and the pandering to them) would drive me nuts. Souvenir shops were king. Loud, obnoxious visitors seemed to be everywhere. The menus translated into various languages and the prevalence of frozen pizza-and-paella joints made the experience seem inauthentic. And then: Being charged 5 Euros for a caña?!?! Andres being hit in the head with a tourist’s souvenir-stuffed backpack? Take me back to Madrid!!
One of the things I did love–our dining experience! More on that later…
In conclusion: I have some very fun memories from Barcelona, and it’s nice to know the city is a mere 3-hour train ride away. With the beach, lovely weather, great food, cool architecture, and top-notch art galleries, it’s no wonder so many tourists flock to Barcelona. Overall, however, I prefer Madrid as a place to live and feel lucky to call the capital home!
Related reading that came out this week: El País – ‘Bye bye Barcelona’: el documental contra el turismo masivo
Have you been to Barcelona? What’s your take on the city’s tourism?