As the plane approaches Barcelona, there are no clouds on the skyline, just the immensity of the Mediterranean Sea and the impression the plane will land in. As soon as I arrive, I understand that I am in Spain. All the Iberia planes are parked and show proudly the Spanish flag. Barcelona airport is not particular except that it is made of glass and it gives you the feeling that you can escape easily, anytime, anywhere. My traveller bag on my back, I go to my hotel, close to downtown. The direction to catch the subway is not crystal clear and my Spanish is not ready for that adventure! All the less, when the inspector answers me in Catalan!!! After half an hour, I finally find my way. Sitting on the train, I don’t want to waste any time enjoying Barcelona, so I open my big eyes and I look at the suburbs. Like every big city, it is sad and dirty. A pilling of low rents, works in progress and walls painted with graffiti. But this is also Barcelona. I always heard that this city was really dirty. Well, I confirm.
I arrive in my hostel chosen on the Internet. It is a little building, with 3 bedrooms on each floor. There is a common bathroom. There is a kitchen to share, and an Internet connection. The bedroom is really small and full of dust. This hostel is really overrated but in a way it does not matter because in Barcelona you are always out! My guidebook and my camera in the bag, I am ready to discover one of the most lively cities in the world.
On Sunday, Spanish people usually spend time on the “Las Ramblas” area, beginning with “Plaça de Catalunya”. This place is not exceptional in fact. The architecture is not original and there are a lot of pigeons!!!! But people are together, having a picnic, playing with children or dancing. On Las Ramblas, a long street finishing on the Port, life is totally different. This area is lively night and day. There is an atmosphere here. Something you feel, untouchable. There are a lot of cafés and restaurants. Comedians propose numbers, for example, a gladiator with a costume made with water plastic bottles. There are so many things to visit here, like visiting the Farmacia with its particular sign, or eating a piece of chocolate in the oldest and most famous chocolate shop of Barcelona, Antigua Casa Figueres. I enter that shop, and what a wonderful surprise for people who like those sweets. A pyramid of different kinds! I do not know what to choose. Two pieces later, with the chocolate dissolving in my mouth, I continue my walk and I find the “Mercat de la Boqueria”. I can resist there to have a slice of Serrano jamon, one of the most famous in Spain. I could eat this any time, breakfast, lunch or dinner!! It is so tasty. This market is amazing. It is divided by type of food: fishes, fruits, pork butcher’s shop and delicatessen. In the fruit section there are pyramids of bananas, pine apples, strawberries; it is really colourful and beautiful to see. I feel like I am in a tropical island. I want to buy everything. Once I can’t eat anymore I continue my walk. Every corner along Las Ramblas, I discover wonderful little streets with the typical Catalan style. Sometimes you can’t see the end and you have the feeling that you will discover something amazing. There’s a kind of mystery…Or at the same time, there are very bright areas like Plaça del Rei, with its palm trees, its fountain and one of the first lights designed by Gaudi (1852-1926), an important and influential personality for Barcelona. He was one of the most determining men at the beginning of the 20th century. His work is everywhere, always different and thought provoking. On the street, on the other side is the “Palau Guel”, unfortunately closed for several months. It seems to be from the gothic period of Gaudi. I go back on Las Ramblas and I pass in front of the Hotel Oriente where Ernest Hemingway used to stay. I imagine him entering the hotel in front of me, holding a notebook! Not so far from it, the “Gran teatre del Liceu”, which used to produce lyric music. As I arrive to the Port, I first see the Christopher Columbus Statue, facing the sea like he is going to discover another land. The port is really big. There are attractions for tourists, a mall called Maremagnum, where you can find everything and a big aquarium. After my walk on Las Ramblas, smelling the sea is fantastic. I feel really happy and serene. I make a tour of the port in order to see the boats. At Maremagnum, I shop a little, just buying some typical souvenirs before diner. I opt for “el Passeij de Gracia” to enjoy a glass of sangria with tapas and have the chance to see how Spanish people live the night.
I pass in front of “La Pedrera”, built by Gaudi. It is a really strange building. The bar I choose is called “Tapas Tapas”; I can’t be wrong about the food speciality! It is 9 pm and it is full and noisy, even on a Sunday night. I read the menu and there are so many different types of tapas that I am lost. Fortunatly there is the translation in French. I choose all the classic ingredients to eat like tortilla, salt-cod, Spanish ham… Two glasses of sangria and a Catalan cream later, and I feel completely relaxed and my Spanish is getting better!!
Maybe it is just because in Barcelona, there is something particular (distinct). I lived a day full of history, funny things (like the comedians or El Mercat de la Boqueria), interesting things… I have a lot of emotions and it is only the beginning. I have so many things to discover, “La Sagrada Familia”, “El Parc Guel”, all the work of Gaudi, “La cathedral de la Seu”… this city is a mix of culture and leisure ! I can’t wait for tomorrow.