#28 Watch a futbol game in Spain – Part 1 (Barcelona)

4 Oct

In a last minute decision, I decided to use my vacation time to meet up with my good friends Heidi Loera and Ronnie Landazuri during their trip to Spain. Since I just started my new job and didn’t have too much vacation time, I wasn’t able to do the exact same itinerary, so I planned to meet up with my cousin Brittany in Barcelona and then head over to Ibiza to meet Heidi and Ronnie for the second half of their trip. The experience was so amazing and I did so much that I’ve decided to break it up into two blog posts, so here goes part 1…Barcelona.

After 15 hours of travel that included short stops in Salt Lake City and Paris, I arrived in Barcelona.

Quick airport tips – you may want to change some money there to get you started. Surprisingly, the airport exchange rate was one of the best I found in the whole city, only second to my cousin exchanging money for me at her own bank. DO NOT make a call from the airport payphone on your credit card unless you really need to. A few minutes=$50. There are a couple of options for transportation from the airport. A taxi will run you about 30 Euro, but I recommend the aerobus. It was only 5 Euro and it was really nice. I was sort of expecting a city bus with 300 people and some chickens, but it was a nice, air conditioned coach that only made a few stops before arriving in Plaza Catalunya.

Upon exiting the bus I heard someone yelling my name, “Nikki!.” Well, not that many people call me Nikki anymore and I don’t know too many people in Spain, so that meant only one thing…it was my cousin! She told her work that she couldn’t come in that day because I was visiting…gotta love that. They even let me store my suitcase there while we went exploring!

We walked around the plaza, checked out some archicture created by Gaudi, a famous a Spanish Catalan architect and stopped to enjoy some tapas and sangria and a cute little outdoor restaurant. That was one of the things I loved about Barcelona…all of the restaurants have wonderful outdoor seating areas. The weather was beautiful, so I thought this was the perfect way to dine. I gave into the jet lag and went to bed fairly early that night knowing I had a couple of big sight-seeing days ahead of me.

On day 2 of my trip, my cousin and her British roommate Emma had to go to work, so I joined some of her roommate’s friends on a little outing to Montjuic, a hill that overlooks the entire city. At the top of the hill there is a massive castle called Castell de Montjuïc.

The views from the top of the hill were spectacular and really helped demonstrate the massive size of the city.

We took several forms of transportation to get to the top – metro, funicular and finally a cable car that was sort of like a small gondola at a ski resort. On the way down though we decided to walk through the beautiful gardens, as this is one of the greenest areas of the entire city.

From there we met up with my cousin and the two of us decided to go on an impromptu bike tour of the city. They have these amazing little bike stations called bicing. If you are a resident, you can subscribe to the service that lets you check out a bike from one location and return it to any other station throughout the city…genius! My cousin’s roommate uses the service, so she let me borrow her card for the day.

The bike tour was one of my favorite things I did on the entire trip. It was unplanned, which I love, and we got to see so much of the city. I highly recommend seeing Barcelona by bike. In the span of a couple hours we saw some amazing churches and museums, the Arc de Triomf (didn’t even know they had one in Spain before this), amazing gardens, the famous Sagrada Familia and so much more. Some guy even asked me if I spoke English…I must have looked incredibly Spanish on my bike.

After a fun day out and about in the city we went back to Brittany’s place to get ready to go out and meet a couple of her friends for some drinks. We got the plaza before the others, so we had the opportunity to enjoy an interesting unique experience. People were just hanging out around big fountain in the middle of the plaza and guys would come up to you and ask if you wanted a beer. For 1 Euro they would give you a beer from their 6-pack and you just stand there drinking it….highly illegal everywhere in the U.S. with the exception of Vegas and I think New Orleans (?). Next we met up with Brittany’s friends Denise and Ster…really awesome girls and I had a great time getting to know. Ster is actually a Spanish clown, so you can just imagine how fun she is to be around!

The next day Brittany took off to Ibiza and I went out to continue exploring the city on my own. I had seen the super-touristy double-decker red buses around the city the previous days, so I determined that would be the best way for me to see as much as possible during my last day in the city. It was an excellent decision. I spent a good 8 hours roaming around Barcelona that day and the bus was the perfect form of transportation. They give you a headset when you buy your ticket (which is only 30 Euro), so you can plug in and listen to a guide explain all the sites your are passing from stop to stop. I had already decided that I needed to visit Park Guell based on everything I had heard, so I made that my first destination. The park was beautiful.

It offered another breathtaking view of the city and is a fantastic combination of peaceful natural surroundings and the artistic style of Gaudi. I hiked around the entire park, which is quite extensive. It was a nice little workout, especially considering the sweltering heat (much better than cold weather in my opinion). Just as I got to an amazing lookout point my camera died (travel lesson for me to charge my camera every night). I’m obsessed with taking photos though, so upon leaving the park I walked around looking in shops until I found a disposable camera to finish out the day.

After getting back on the bus, the next stop I made was at the FC Barcelona stadium. Now it should be noted that the team was not in town, so I didn’t have the chance to see a match in person, but watching it on TV and going to the stadium is enough for me to check this off my list (don’t judge!). Brittany’s other roommate works at the stadium, so she had given me a pass to take a tour of the museum and the stadium. It was an amazing sight to see and I can only imagine what is like filled with thousands of screaming fans.

These photos were taken with an amazing Kodak yellow disposable camera. Not embarassing at all to ask strangers who barely speak English to take a photo of you with that amazing piece of photography equipment. Oh well!

Believe it or not, these two stops had already taken up a good part of the day because I was so into both places that I spent a significant amount of time at each one. I was a little bit tired from all the walking around, so I decided to let the bus and the pre-recorded guide show me the rest of the city. From the gorgeous Museo Nacional d’Art de Catalunya to the stadiums where the Olympics took place to the ports and beach area, I think I saw almost all of Barcelona. I highly recommend the bus tour. It was a great value and an excellent way to see the whole city.

I headed back to the apartment to see if I could catch Brittany’s roommate and her friends before they headed out for the night, and luckily I caught them just in time. We went out to an Irish pub (don’t ask me…I guess it’s the fun locals spot though) and ran into even more of my cousin’s friends. I have to say that they were all super nice and welcoming. It was great to already have a built-in network of people to hang out with.

Next we went to a drum and bass club. Now, if you had asked me what that was a couple of weeks ago I would have had no idea. Now I can tell you it’s a little bit like the band Prodigy. It was definitely interesting. The group I was with though was really fun so I had a great time. I can’t exactly keep up with the Brits though, so I sent myself home in a taxi around 2 a.m. It should be noted that people in Spain operate on an entirely different timetable than we do in the U.S. They are practically nocturnal, but more about that in part 2 of the Spain tale.

The next day I was off to the airport to catch my flight to Ibiza to meet back up with my cousin and Heidi and Ronnie. One last little tip – the Barcelona airport literally has a mall in it, so don’t worry if you get there early….there’s plenty to do. Our flight was actually about 3 hours delayed, so I just did some shopping, posted some very important messages on Facebook and grabbed a beer. I seemed to be a little more calm about the situation than some others though. The cultural difference there was astounding. The Spanish people were up at the counter surrounding the poor gate agent and yelling at her. I felt so bad. I guess it works though because the other day I got an email apologizing for my experience and offering a 25% discount for the next time I fly that airline. It was all very interesting. Eventually, the small riot subsided and we all got on the plane. Off to Ibiza! I had no idea what I was in for…


One Response to “#28 Watch a futbol game in Spain – Part 1 (Barcelona)”

  1. Nicola James October 6, 2011 at 2:14 am #

    Hey Nicole! Emma showed me your blog 🙂 Loving the pics of us and the article on your Spain antics! Was lovely to meet you and I hope you had a good time in Ibiza too!

    From Nicola xxx

    ps you’ve got Hot Air Balloon Ride down twice – no. 3 and no. 29… 😛

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