Barcelona, Spain:#2

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So, It was on the 5th day of my trip when I returned back to Barcelona, this time with a free walking tour booked from Freewalkingtoursbarcelona.com . You book the tour completely free of charge, the concept is you decide the price at the end. The guide does not look at the amount you place in their hands so, there’s no awkward feeling of paying more than what’s affordable to you. I would highly recommend one of these tours, there a fun way to explore the city, especially if your travelling solo. It’s a way to meet people too, I met a lovely girl called Katie who was also travelling solo. Katie had been travelling solo for quite sometime, she shared some of her stories as we walked around together. It was really refreshing to meet someone like-minded, she was such an inspiring young lady.

The tour was booked for 3pm and the meeting point was at placa de Cataluyna. Placa de Cataluyna is a large square located in the city centre surrounded by and apparently the favourite meeting point.

Placa de Cataluyna Square

I’m a little early so, go to a place called EL Triangle, a small shopping centre, to have a coffee and a look around the shops before it was time.

Back in placa de Cataluyna Square and the tour guides are organising our groups, their very organised and have each of our names for a guide who speaks our languages. There are a number of tours to choose from I choose to do the Gothic Neighbourhood one. Before we leave there’s a group photo with our tour guide, which was supposed to be put on the website for us to download free. Maybe our group was stingy with their payments because, ours was’nt on the website haha. It’s kind of a shame, as our guide was brilliant, he was funny, enthusiastic and was filled with so much knowledge. Although, our group was significantly smaller than we started off with as people dropped off towards the end. I paid €10 for those who are wondering, it was definitely worth it but, like I said we didn’t have to pay a thing.

The Gothic tour

First we take walk to the MUHBA Via Sepulcral Romana a Roman funeral way dated back to the 1st century A.D, it’s located in placa de la Villa de Madrid. It is actually an exhibition but, we do the street view as we are doing the free tour.

Here we learn about its history of how they were found during the reconstruction of the road. It was amazing to see how well-preserved they are after all this time. We learn a little more on Spanish history and its civil war before moving on.

We then arrive in El Call which is Barcelona’s Jewish quarter. It’s a full of character area with little market stalls all around the square. Here we learn about history and stories of the Jewish people in the Catalonia area.

We moved on through the narrow streets and were taken to a chocolate shop were we learnt about the Catalan chocolate traditions.

Then on to the art work of Pablo Picasso the Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramic artist, etching artist and writer. Picasso was a fine artist who had a significant influence on 20th century art.

Carmen Amaya the great Spanish Romani flamenco dancer

We stop for a 20-minute break in a pub in this area to have a drink.

Our next stop was City Hall also known as Casa de la Ciutat and The Plau de la Generalitat. The location is in Placa Sant Jaume, the cities political centre which is located in the middle of the Gothic Quarter.

We learnt about the history of the two buildings in medieval times, and how they still govern the lives of Catalans and the people of Barcelona today.

Our last stop was the Barcelona Cathedral one of the cities most remarkable landmarks. It’s full name is The Cathedral Of The Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, dedicated to the Co-patron saint of Barcelona.

Needless to say we learn about the history of the Cathedral

Probably one of the most beautiful buildings I ever seen

I never went inside the building as there was big que, time was getting on and I still had to get back to my hotel which was an hour train ride away. Albeit, just standing outside to admire it was unbelievable in itself, the details are phenomenal!

I don’t return back to Barcelona during this trip but, my next post will be about Calella, as this was the location where I was staying.

Thanks for reading 😁

Barcelona,Spain: #1

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It’s day 2, I arrived late last night in the early hours. It’s around 8am and I’m heading to the restaurant in my hotel for breakfast. I’m staying at the Hotel Neptuno, a lovely little family run hotel located in the heart of Calella, only steps away from the centre and a five minute walk to the beach. Breakfast is buffet style and has a variety of choices to choose from and everything looks so fresh!

*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no cost to you. Please read my Disclosure page for more info.*

Over breakfast, I decide to go to Barcelona for the day as it’s only an hour train ride away. I haven’t seen anything of Calella yet but, I’m just too excited about Barcelona!

Breakfast is done, I’m now making my way to the train station which is around a 10 minute walk.

Arrived at the train station and purchase my ticket at the counter. It’s €10 for a return ticket which is considerably cheaper than paying €30 for a hop on and off bus.

I arrive in Barcelona quicker than expected! Eventually, after walking around for a little while thinking it was nothing like I expected and significantly quieter than imagined. I realised I was in the wrong place after asking a gentleman where La Rambla was, and him telling me it was in Barcelona. I can’t be the first person to mix up Badalona with Barcelona right?

I return to the train station explaining to the lady at the desk. She’s very pleasant, lets me back through telling me the stop to Barcelona is Placa de Catalunya.

The train comes, it’s a lot quieter than the other train with many empty seats. It’s around 2 minutes into the journey when a man comes and places a plastic bag near me accompanied by a note. Can’t clearly see everything in the bag but it consisted of a packet of tissues, mints and some other small items. In fact, he has placed these bags and notes on every seat. Thinking he has put so much effort into making these packages and clearly wants to make some money, I think about purchasing one. Well, that was until another man, then a lady also come along to place their items next to me. Felt kinda bad at this point as it wasn’t possible to buy from all of them so, decided not buy anything.

As we approached the centre, the train sellers quietly collected their stuff without bothering anybody. It was a relief to get off the train, the whole situation had made it a very uncomfortable train ride. In addition to this, the many signs of “Go home tourists” wrote all over the walls in graffiti had made it an uncomfortable journey. Although, I attributed this to a few angry youngsters, telling myself they were isolated incidents and to ignore them.

Barcelona

On arrival walking through the train station, it was surprising to see street vendors selling fake designer goods out in the open. Don’t get me wrong, people sell fake goods in most places but, never imagined seeing so many and how open it was all being done.

I head towards the exit, up the stairs and wow!! It’s the Barcelona I imagined! Nothing at all like Badalona! It looked so exciting, I couldn’t wait to go and explore.

As it was all a last minute plan with no itinerary, I walk ahead and come to La Rambla, the most iconic street in Barcelona.

Walking through La Rambla was a unique experience crowded with tourists, souvenir kiosks, cafe’s, restaurants, fruit and flower shops and entertainers etc. Then there’s the drug dealers who blatantly offered me drugs! On three separate occasions! (No kidding) In fact, there’s a good few extremely dodgy characters hanging around. As well as this, it’s surrounded by beautiful building as well as the Columbus Monument, which was always in view from the beginning of the street.

It wasn’t long until I was distracted by La Boqueria an iconic market, one of the most visited attractions. Here you can buy and taste local products and experience the Barcelona market life.

I take full advantage of this and end up being in here for one hour! Eating, drinking and tasting everything in sight! It couldn’t be helped everything just looked incredibly delicious!

After my binge eating session, I continue walking up La Rambla stopping to look in stores for souvenirs. Although, it all gets very agitating being followed around the shops and being pushed to buy stuff! It was that annoying I abandoned trying to shop! In fact, I’m sick of Las Rambla now altogether! And opt for walking down the side streets, which are much more admirable and calmer.

The Wax museum

I come out near the Columbus Monument then arrive at the port.

There’s a shopping centre here called Maremagnum, it’s very distinctive with its mirrored walls and arched roof. People are sat around it relaxing and watching the boats come in. Inside, it’s a really nice place, with a variety of shops, places to eat and it’s not overcrowded.

From here I wonder around the beautiful city in total disbelief I’m even here. It’s a place I’ve always wanted to visit since watching the Olympics 1992 as a young child when Barcelona hosted the games. There was just something that looked so appealing to me when they shown clips of the city. And here I was, and it didn’t matter I was here alone, its a memory to last a lifetime.

Parc de la ciutadella

Parc de la Cittadella is a blissful beautiful park in the city. I thoroughly enjoyed my time walking around here taking in all the surrounding nature.

There were many other attractions here such as the zoo, the Catalan parliament, The Museu de Art modern, The Zoological Museum, The Museu Geologia and the lake where you can take a boat ride (it’s definitely worth a visit here).

Learning about Tapas

It’s now around 5. 30pm, I’m making my way back to the train station when I spot a little bar to take a break. I can’t remember the name but, pretty sure it was called Las Ramblas wine & Tapas. It’s a lovely little tapas bar, with the friendliest waiter who tells me how to do tapas the Spanish way. Apparently you don’t order all your tapas all at once in the same place, it’s a social thing. You do tapas the very same way you go for a few drinks in a few different bars.

Vermut The Traditional Beverage

He also tells me to not leave Barcelona before trying Vermut a traditional beverage in Barcelona. On leaving, he points me in the direction of a tavern to try one, sorry, I don’t remember the name of the place.

The vermut was well worth stopping by for. Vermut is an inexpensive tasty wine with spices and botanicals like cinnamon and chamomile. It only cost around €1.55 so, I took two, it was too nice and cheap not to have another one (you definitely need to try one if you come to Barcelona).

Its now time for me to leave but I return in a few days.

If you would like to hear what I get up On my return, follow to receive the alert.

Thanks for reading 😁

Calella, Barcelona Spain: The Late Arrival

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The Late Arrival #Anxious

When I visited Calella it was only the second time to venture out on a trip alone. It was definitely a different feeling to my first solo trip to Malta. I had absolutely no fear whatsoever! That trip to Malta definitely made me feel more confident with travelling alone, it was nothing but an exciting feeling well, until I arrived in the dead of night!

*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no cost to you. Please read my Disclosure page for more info.*

Feeling so confident from my first trip, hadn’t even considered how booking a late flight would leave me feeling so anxious!

It was around 22.45pm on arrival at Reus airport in Barcelona. There was just something about arriving late and being alone that left me feeling rather anxious. To top it off my travel documents for my transfer pick up was not making any sense! I had followed all the instructions that had some how taken me outside the airport looking for an office. Pacing up and down looking for this office only made me feel more anxious. I stopped to ask people if they knew where it was, nobody seemed to know! I ended up ringing the office number, turns out there was a miss print on the instructions. Eventually finding the office, the lady was able to instruct me on where to get my shuttle bus. She also informs me it’s about a 10-minute walk and I’m the last person the driver is waiting for. For some reason, this had me panicking and thinking I was going to be left.

I get to the coach, confirm my details with the driver and board. Once on the coach the panics over and I’m able to relax (for now) The coach journey was going to be around one hour and twenty minutes with several drop offs on the way. This meant I would arrive at my hotel just short of 23.55pm.

The coach stops and I hear the driver shout out my hotel. I’m so thankful and grateful I’m still alive! I literally travelled the whole way with my eyes closed! The drivers style of driving was like the fast and furious style. It was pitch black in many places during the journey but, this didn’t seem to slow him down. So, when I say I was thankful to be alive, I really mean it.

He chucks two suitcases out and directs a couple who also got off to their hotel. Then chucks mine out and gives me the directions but, I don’t listen, I’m more concerned with catching up to the couple.

The coach drives off, It’s gone midnight, and we have been dropped off on a main road. There’s not a single person around just a few moving cars passing. I walked quickly to catch the couple up but, they tell me their staying in a different hotel. I can not begin to tell you just how stressed out I am at this point.

I decide to go to the couple’s hotel to see if I can get the directions to my hotel from the hotel reception desk. Whilst walking to the hotel I discovered on Google maps my hotel was just a 2-minute walk away, so began to head towards my hotel.

It was quite possibly the longest 2-minutes of my life. I walked quickly through the tiny empty streets, with my heart racing and only the sound of my suitcase wheels wheeling along the ground. The thought of being in a foreign country alone, walking through the empty streets in the middle of the night was frightening. I told myself off in my head for putting myself in this situation.

Finally, I turn the corner and there was my hotel, Hotel Neptuno, I was so relieved.

#Note to self and to others

If your thinking about travelling solo I recommend you totally avoid arriving to your destination late at night. Spend that little extra and get a decent flight time, your more important than saving that extra £10/£20

Arriving late also doesn’t give you the opportunity to have a walk around your hotel and it’s surrounding area. Doing this helps to make you feel comfortable during that apprehensive first night.