Wacky architecture, sangria, tapas & thieves

Trip Start Dec 14, 2007
Trip End Mar 16, 2009

Loading Map
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Hide lines

Flag of Spain  ,
Sunday, August 10, 2008

After a long 12 hour bus ride from Nice our only plans for the Saturday evening were to get some sleep, not really the best way to spend a Saturday night in Barcelona I know but hey we're getting old. Inge-Marie had found us a cheaper accommodation option instead of the recommended Busabout hostel which was situated just west of the city centre. (Busabout if we have not yet mentioned is the company we travel with between cities in Europe - basically they offer bus transport from a pick-up point to a drop-off point in the next city on their itinerary and you can "hop-on and hop-off" between cities as it suits you).
After spending the last few weeks with mainly Busabout people (a.k.a. young Australians who live to party) it was going to be nice to have a little break and change of scenery from the typical hostel vibe. Getting to our apartment was a bit of a workout dragging all our bags down and then having to heave them up the metro staircases as well as a tight squeeze getting on and off the busy train, I can't imagine how disabled people manage to use the metro. We were soon to find out that the workout wasn't over, we still a massive hill to climb to get to the apartment where we'd be staying for the next five days. We arrived out of breath and soaked with perspiration but when we saw our accommodation it was all worth it.
The apartment had three bedrooms with their own bathrooms that all shared a cosy lounge and kitchen. The best feature however was that we had a massive balcony with deckchairs, table and chairs all overlooking the neighbourhood. After getting used to living in shoe box sized bedrooms it was great to have a little extra living space.
To get orientated in the city we book a 'Fat Tire Bicycle Tour' through Barcelona which took us past some of the cities most famous sites. Compared to Berlin, where we did a tour with the same company, we felt the tour lacked a little. It might be that Barcelona does not have the same history to offer that Berlin has but for the 20 Euros we expected a little more. We did feel that your money would be better spent taking the hop-on hop-off bus through the city which costs the same and covers ten times more of the city, less the exercise of course which is easy to make up for with a few calve pumps.
Many years from now, when I think back of Barcelona I will remember the city not for its bloody bullfights, its yummy sangria nor for its sumptuous tapa's but for Antoni Gaudi's crazy buildings. He is the architect who designed and built some of the cities most remarkable buildings, most notably the La Sagrada Familia, which is still not completed even after 126 years of construction. Apparently when Gaudi was asked when it would be completed he said his boss was not in a hurry. So its not unusual to see big yellow cranes and scaffolding covering the cathedral and it will most likely remain this way till it is completed which could be around 2026 for the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death. We spent a day visiting his other famous buildings and to be honest I don't know if he was a genius or even way ahead of his time or just a little crazy? Either way his buildings are very intriguing and break the monotony of the traditional styled buildings found throughout the city.   

To get a true taste of Spain we booked ourselves onto a Spanish cooking class or rather demonstration as our role was limited to making some tapa's and more importantly the sangria, which I took very seriously. I have never been a big fan of paella, I always felt it would be better without rice. Since the evening I might have changed my mind, it seems the real authentic Spanish paella is far tastier and less dry than I remember it. (Inge-Marie will be repeating this recipe when we return to SA and you are all invited;-). When the sangria ran out, which it did very quickly, we got to make up our own batches. For the few who don't know Sangria is a famous Spanish drink that contains cheap red wine that is no good to drink on its own, a few big pours of brandy, a little white sugar, various chopped fruit and any fruity fizzy drink to top it off. The quantities may vary but the result is very refreshing and very popular drink, by the way this will also be served at the paella evening Inge-Marie will be hosting. (IMH: It's agreed then, I'll do the cooking and Ryan will do the flamingo dancing so bring your cameras!)
We learnt more that evening than just how mix a mean sangria. We also learnt Barcelona is a thieves paradise after Inge-Marie's handbag got stolen from the restaurant. We were warned that pickpockets and thieves are in abundance in Barcelona but never realised it could happen so easily nor to us as we are usually quite vigilant about this. Inge-Marie had left her hand bag at her feet where we were seated, out of sight and not more than an arm length away, practically right under our noses. We never saw anyone come near it nor noticed any suspicious characters lurking about but soon realised it was stolen the instant she bent down to look for it.
Fortunately we anticipated something like this could happen so she had long since stopped carrying any real valuables in her bag like passports, money or even credit cards. On this occasion her prescription sun glasses which are worth nothing to the thief, perfume, cosmetics, a few other little things but most importantly the keys to our apartment we were staying in! So please, if anyone in Barcelona comes across a dodgy looking guy bumping into things wearing oversized prescription Chanel sunglasses, reeking of Armani Mania, wearing way too much make-up and a green hand bag slung over his shoulder, stop laughing and hold onto your belongings!
This little story is so ironic after my entry on crime in South Africa as even a stable first world European country like Spain is not immune to crime. And it seems this is not a small problem as the queues at the police station proved. This is such a common occurrence that the police hardly seemed fazed! It seems under the surface the country has some serious social issues and I am not surprised that not much is being done about it as we heard many people mention how corrupt certain institutions are, ever heard the saying 'a fish rots from the head'?
To put the cherry on the cake, when we got back to the apartment we found that our flat mates sharing the apartment, a pair of Estonian Goths had started tucking into some of our food. They clearly thought anything left in the kitchen was fair game and wasted no time getting started. I though of dragging them down to the police station by their long black hair but realised that the police would not take a little tomato sauce theft very seriously. So we left it at that and put it down as another life lesson.

Besides the few times we were robbed in Barcelona I would have to say we fell in love with the city. We had a fantastic time in this beautiful city sampling some great food and drink, its wonderful beaches, outstanding architecture and lovely people. I would not hesitate to add it to any future European itinerary.
Slideshow Report as Spam
Where I stayed
Montuic Apartment 33
  • Your comment has been posted. Click here or reload this page to see it below.

  • You must enter a comment
  • You must enter your name
  • You must enter a valid name (" & < > \ / are not accepted).
  • Please enter your email address to receive notification
  • Please enter a valid email address


jessi330 on

It sounds a bit naive to think that Barcelona has theft is anything special to note.
Every large city has petty crime like theft. What is worse is violent crimes. Flatmates stealing food is no comparison to actual theft. I'm glad you enjoyed the city despite that unfortunate occurrence.

Use this image in your site

Copy and paste this html: