It’s been three years since I was living abroad. An although it seems to shape a huge part of my identity today, seeing the reminder on Facebook gave me a sense that it was very much a past that I was holding on to. Since my venture abroad alone, I had travelled a lot. But mainly to see friends, with friends or family etc. As I boarded my Vueling flight to Barcelona I had extremely mixed feelings. Could I have forgotten how to travel alone? I also wondered:
- Perhaps I’m not as daring as I used to be
- Perhaps I won’t make friends
- Maybe the things I enjoyed then I won’t now
- Am I too old to stay at a hostel?
- Why am I bombarding poor Barcelona, along with the millions of tourists it already suffers?
- Do I really even know how to speak Spanish anymore?
The one that really got to me was:
Will I enjoy myself? Or had I romanticised the idea of travelling?
I went into my trip really open minded. I got off at BCN airport and got my instructions to where I was staying in Spanish, I purchased the right ticket – I felt good. But after suffering broken down trains, travelling for 2+ hours on the underground, and the fact that I had become very ill over last few days (The Damn Flu) I couldn’t help feel a little weary as I approached my hostel.
Casa Gracia, what store front. Decadent, fancy, overwhelming maybe? It was larger than I expected, but even more beautiful than I could have expected too. Really friendly people working there, clean and just a feast for the eyes at every turn. See Casa Gracia on places to stay for more information.
After sorting out my things and collapsing on my bed with two paracetamols, I contemplated sleeping for the rest of the day. It was now 4.30pm and I hadn’t eaten anything since the croissant on my flight in the morning. In came in Jorge, we had a Spanglish dialogue for around 5 minutes and I discovered he was leaving for a trip the next day, so wouldn’t be around for two days. We talked about language, the culture of Chile (where he’s from) and how much he loved Barcelona. I immediately left the conversation feeling better. He told me he may see me later at the hostel intercambio (language exchange) and I got my self freshened up and headed to the hostel restaurant.
After eating I felt better, and oh, how a coffee can bring you back to life! I decided to take my own advice and used my useful websites for looking local experiences page. I checked out couchsurfing – a website for finding a place to stay, events and meeting people, also a website I’ve never used before (but heard good things about). I searched Barcelona and loads of events started to pop up. At 6.30pm I discovered a Paella event starting at 8pm. If you know me you’ll know two things: 1. Food is life; 2. I love Paella. I wondered if I was too late to join but whatsapped the number regardless. “Hi am I too late? I’d love to join tonight!” The organiser sent me a voice note: “Hi! No not at all, meet us at Poble Sec station at 8pm, we’d love to have you join!”
You can see my full experience of Grandmas’s Paella Party here, but in short. I spent time with a warm and energetic host, had homemade paella and tapas with people from all over the world, and then danced the night away at a live music jam session – all for 20 Euro. You can see a few other things I did on my trip below. Click on any that seem like your type of thing to see full details, directions and pictures! (Note: not all links are clickable but if you ever have any questions, feel free to contact me on my social channels or email me). I haven’t been as active as I would’ve liked on this trip due to being ill. But I leave the trip assured of my love of Spanish culture, wanting to perfect my Spanish to fluency and knowing that I must soon move to a new country as the experience really nurtures my soul.
Things I did in Barcelona
Went to a reggae clash with a local
Had 2 euro tapas and wine in a local bar
Why go to Barcelona?
I’ve recently – but not consciously, been comparing countries in my head to people. Barcelona I likened to that person you know that every one likes. Seriously, it’s great, naturally charming, good weather and undeniably beautiful. In fact, I’ve never met a soul that didn’t like Barcelona because it is utterly beautiful and full of gems. The only complaint people tend to have is that it is too touristy. Working in the travel industry and having friends who live in Barcelona, I’m all too aware about Barcelona’s tourist problem, congesting the streets and making it hard to get a meal at your local restaurants.
Before my trip I spoke with a person from the Barcelona tourism board. He was at an annual travel industry event called World Travel Market. I asked him why Barcelona continued to promote tourism as they were already so crowded? He explained that what Barcelona wants is for the tourists to disperse, and to know: there is life beyond Las Ramblas! In short, Barcelona wants to show you more than its extremely famous qualities and really take your time to get to know it. And I’m sure, we can all identify with that.