I will be returning to my favourite stomping ground for the amazing 10th visit from November 6-9 to see the indescribable Lady Gaga in concert for the third time. Barcelona is an incredible city with the world’s best fútbol team (Més que un club!) with a ton of history and culture and places to be discovered. To commemorate this remarkable occasion, I’ll be doing a series of blogs this week about my third favourite city in the world.
After being brainwashed and manipulated for so many years by the madrileños that Catalunya was evil and the devil and all things bad, when I returned to the Greatest Peninsula in the World in 2008 after a five-year absence, the goal was Madrid. I would be able to feel free to be me and finally live in a big city with all kinds of opportunities. I thought I would prefer Valencia though, being on the beach and the gay web series Lo que Surja making it look like an amazing place to live.
They gave me Linares, a small city in Jaén instead.
So it was my first trip to Italy when I thought it would be a good idea to fly out of Girona into Pisa, not really realising that despite being in the same country, Barcelona was an extremely long bus ride from Andalucía. 12 hours. I had a couple of hours to kill in Barcelona when I didn’t see anything of interest outside the Arc of Triomf close to the bus station. I had Starbucks and tried ordering in Catalán (mocca blanc). I felt overwhelmed, but I was going on maybe 3 hours sleep from that night bus trip. On the way back from Italia, I had a night, which I spent mostly sleeping after going for a bocadillo de jamón. I was back in “Spain” and had missed jamón. I also made a quick trip to the arguably most well-known tourist attraction in Barcelona, la Sagrada Familia. I didn’t enter but remained impressed by its awesomeness. I left Barcelona not enjoying the city.
A year later when my partner-in-crime-in-not-being-ex-pat-but-actually-eSpanish Ashley talked me into going back for a Christmas jaunt, I was first reluctant. I was unsure of how long I would be in Spain and wasn’t left with a good impression of just being in Barcelona for maybe 20 hours, 8 of them sleeping, when I had no money whatsoever. I wanted to see other places and work on my goal of seeing all 17 comunidades autonomas de España. She talked me into it, and on 25 December 2009, I boarded an AVE (high-speed train) destined for Barcelona.
Hace seis años hice el mismo trayecto, pero al revés, de Barcelona a Madrid.
Over the four-day vacation, I fell in love with Barcelona. I was standing on the beach on Christmas Day! How cool was that? Ohio was under a foot of snow. I didn’t make it back to Arena that trip, but I did go to the Disco of the Moment, Metro, near Plaça Urquiona (more of a Basque name than Catalán, oi?) We had a lot of fun watching the gays, even if her vest went missing at the bar. We went to Montserrat and met with a rain storm. We were able to sneak on the train for free and somehow got away with it by playing dumb guiri.
I had Basque pintxos for the first time at a chain restaurant near Plaça de Catalunya. She showed me Parc Güell, which back then was free. Pluto also used to be a planet, but things change for the worse and we just have to deal. We also went to the Sagrada Familia but didn’t enter. I still haven’t actually been inside because paying money for an unfinished cathedral and still having to wait in line/queue for hours despite having bought tickets beforehand online isn’t my bag.
I wanted a chance to explore the city on my own, so in March 2011, I went back. This trip, I explored the area of Gracia, which is less touristy and a hipster-bohemian-posh vibe. Only the Catalans could manage to be all three at once. I stayed near Poble-Sec and went out both nights, making my way back to Arena. During the 1950s and 60s, Barça had a lot of Polish players, and as the Catalans have a reputation of not wanting to be called Spanish, they are called “polacas” by some right-wingers who refuse to ever step foot in Catalunya. Leave it to me to meet a cute Polish boy who I am still friends with today. This trip I also crossed Tibidabo off my list of places to see.
I was just outside of Barcelona, hiking in the foothills of Mount Ti-bi-dah-bo…
Anyone who has seen Friends will recognise this quote. While I found my way up to the funicular and the old amusement park, it just wasn’t the same as Joey and Rachel made it out to be. It does offer spectacular views of the city. Once again, I explored the parks of Montjuic and fell in love with the city all over again.
Trip 5 came a few months later. I was having visa issues, and as I was planning on attending the Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona (If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.) They were helpful at the Univeristat, but as I wouldn’t have paid the matricula by the date the visa expired, I would have to wait. They told me not to fear as I would have three months in which I could still apply.
This trip was quick, less than 24 hours due to a lack of funds to stay longer. I do remember exploring Parc Ciutadella and daydreaming once again at Rambles del Mar.
It would be a full 9 months before I returned to Barcelona...to be continued.
Oh yeah, one word of advice. Barça is the name for the best fútbol club in the world (Més que un club!). Do NOT ever call the city or province Barça. It is BCN, its airport code, or for a term of endearment, Barna. The Barceloneses feel as strongly about this as they do their opinion about whether they’re Spanish or not. Visca Barna i Força Barça!