Definitely considering having a blog name change but ‘To Bake, Study, Travel or Sit on Pinterest’ doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. Either way, travel is hopefully going to play a big part in my posts in the coming year! I’m on a gap YAR. I know everyone immediately assumes I will just do nothing (no), bum around (maybe), live at home (yeeees) and go travelling (YES) and have no real plan for the coming year. So yes, most of those things are entirely true. I feel like I need a break from studying after my degree and internship and I will be spending my life savings on a crazy trip to Asia but I do have a plan, I hope, to do a PhD next year so at least I feel like I have an overall purpose!
After a few months of working doing an research internship after my graduation I felt like a holiday was definitely on the cards so last month I flew to beautiful Barcelona quite last minute with several uni friends! The flights were cheap and the accommodation even cheaper (cannot recommend air b&b highly enough!) and the food/drink was ridiculous value for a major city.
Wandering the streets of Barcelona at night is hilarious. Like any city its great to see everything lit up, the fountains, palm trees and all still wearing your shorts and t-shirt in late September. The dock area at the end of Las Ramblas, the major shopping and food avenue, has large open squares, boats a shopping mall on the water front and of course, many reputable crepe stands!
It really is amazing how much you can fit into a couple of days into such a well networked city. From Gaudi’s architectural masterpieces down to world-renowned beaches, you can experience it all with time to stop, explore and eat plenty of tapas!
Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia is a must-see. Still unfinished from 1882, the iconic landmark to the north-east of the city centre was once surrounded by empty farmland. Now the metro takes you to the doorstep and you can grab a Burger King for your way home but either way it’s breath-taking! The guided tour is totally worth it, explaining all f the intricacies of Gaudi’s design, from the opposing exterior facades to the geometric tree and branch roof of the nave. Equally, further north nestled in the hills above the main city you can find Park Guell. Much of the design is based on mosaicism, made from smashed ceramics that come alive as a rich tapestry across the large structures. Again, Gaudi’s love of mirroring makes for a sweet panorama but the real treat is the view! Make sure to head to the top of the hill and stand on the top of the cross to watch the sunset all the way over Barcelona and down to the beach.
Although a 10-journey metro pass can be picked up for only 10 Euros, you get to see so much of Barcelona just by walking through the city streets. We had no particular agenda, occasionally checked GoogleMaps to check we were still going south towards the beaches but I’l never regret the evening of sore feet having truly explored the city. Walking down the Passeig de Sant we came across the Barcelona Arc de Triomf alongside the Museum of Natural history – both well worth the visit to marvel at the architecture, while the neighbouring Parc de la Cuitadella provides a scenic rest-bite from the city with huge fountains and ponds.
And only a little further south and you hit the beach! After what felt like one of the rainiest, windiest English summers EVER, this was a sight for sore eyes. Just sitting on the white sand is amazing but many people jog, cycle, scooter, windsurf, even segway along the beach (or sit with a cheeky cocktail – winning!). The water was warm and clear and the beach wasn’t too busy, but watch out for persistent street sellers trying to flog cheapy mojitos and warm beers, they will not leave you alone if you ever show interest.
On the note of cycling – HIRE A BICYCLE! It was genuinely one of the most hilarious and worthwhile things we did in Barcelona! We saw the city, had a great laugh and having climbed the hill all the way up to Park Guell for the sunset, we freewheeled them back down to the beachfront with the wind in our hair. The traffic is busy and a little intimidating by night but many of the major roads have central cycle lanes, separating the cyclists from the cars entirely, allowing you to really enjoy to lean back (gangsta pose) on your touring bike and appreciate the city-sights!
Finally, who could go to Barcelona and not be interested in the food and drink. Its cheap, colourful, plentiful and everywhere! I was not expecting the extent of the enormous Mercat de la Boqueria, just of the main shopping street of La Rambla, it is Barcelona’s most central produce market. This enchanting bazaar of bountiful fruit and veg, meats, cheeses, weird and wonderful seafood, fast-food and sweeties is an assault on the senses and when combined with endless crowds of buyers, I was a little overwhelmed. It’s no easy task navigating your way around the endless stands, let alone keeping sight of your friends but the experience is well worth it – especially if you arrive hungry!
We didn’t have the largest budget when it came to food but what we had was amazing. Just out of our apartment in El Raval we headed to nearby Taps Tapas and tucked into patatas bravas, fresh breads, chicken and pepper kebabs, large prawns and hams accompanied by a cold beer to start our messy night out! A bar crawl is almost too easy in Barcelona, even on a mid-week night. Just head to the old gothic district, between the main roads of El-Parallel and La Rambla, hit each bar, drink some crazy cocktails and you will have a fantastic night. The locals are welcoming, quirky and fun, always eager to speak a little English and have a laugh.
All in all my trip cost me less than £250 and was an absolutely amazing few days away. The flight from Gatwick was easy, Air B&B took the hassle out of any hotel check in/out, we got away from the English rain and really experienced all that Barca had to offer. With many Estrella in hand, sunny days, warm nights and great food I can’t recommend Barcelona enough.