Thursday, March 3, 2016

Exploring Barcelona, Catalunya

Barcelona, Spain is the thing of dreams, especially to José. He is an avid fan of the Barcelona FC team and going to see them play in their stadium ranks high up on his bucket list. Only nine days after arriving in Spain, we were booking our first tickets.
Ryanair is the budget airlines of Europe and with that, it is also a no-frills flight. Any little bit will cost you extra, similar to Allegiant Airlines on the West Coast. This was a quick overnight trip for us so we each packed our change of clothes and extra necessities into our backpacks. For us, this usually means one change of clothes, personal hygiene products in a ziploc bag, Kindle and charger, cell phone and charger, journal, camera with extra batteries (me), video camcorder with charger (me), passport, Spanish TIE (residency card), ticket, copy of AirBnB reservation, and the girls bring an odd assortment of toys in their bags.

Our AirBnB reservation ended up being the hostel Residencia Universitaria Sants. It was really fun to find the entrance because the doors aren't clearly labeled and you have to wander up and down the street a little trying to find the right buzzer to ring. You see, when you make a reservation on AirBnB, you only see the name of the travel property which was "Unique N Homely En suite Pvt. Rooms" in this case. I didn't connect the name of the hostel as it translated to roughly University Residence in my mind. I am not the sharpest travler sometimes. We had a private room with bathroom and five individual beds and a metal closet for each person. It was clean, the hot water was great, and it served our needs perfectly. 

We had to catch a taxi when we landed at the airport because there wasn't a lot of time until the game started and José wanted to get there as soon as possible. We checked into the room and dropped our belongings there except I brought a bag with extra coats, mandarins, and my cameras. We walked from the hostel to the stadium as it was only about 20 minutes away. It wasn't that hard to find since we followed the crowds of people walking down the street in Barça shirts. When we arrived at the stadium, we stopped at the vendors in the street to buy jerseys for the girls too. They ranged from 25-35€ each and the girls were happy as clams and we were all in the proper attire. Stadium food is expensive as normal so we only bought a few things with sodas a mere 3€ each. The game was great and we got to see Neymar score his first "poker": four goals scored in one game. The crowds streaming out of the stadium afterwards were enormous so we followed them in the general direction of the metro. 

We took the metro out to go exploring for a little while after the game. The metro was quite easy to figure out and I purchased a 10 trip ticket which was pretty cheap. We took the metro towards my favorite tourist stop, the Hard Rock Cafe Barcelona. We had dinner, drinks, and dessert and headed back to the hostel to get some sleep. I slept the alarm for 8am Sunday morning so we could go to see the famous Sagrada Familia. When we got up the next morning, I logged on to buy tickets and discovered that the soonest options weren't until that afternoon and we had a return flight back to Valladolid at 3:20pm. So we decided to take the metro and head towards the zoo and parks and do some random exploring. After walking pass the Barcelona Zoo and it's 19.90€ price tag, we ended up in the Parc de la Ciutadella. It was definitely a lucky find as it was gorgeous!!

 This Parc was full of so many things to see and the girls had a wonderful time running all over. There was a beautiful building with horses and fountains and a waterfall, built in part by the famous Guadi so this was as close as we were going to get this trip. We spent a couple hours here wandering all over and the girls recorded their weekly videos in front of the fountains. It covers a great area so there were lots of different areas to wander through. The west side of the property had the Castle of Three Dragons which wasn't quite as impressive as I had expected. As we wandered back to through the park towards the metro, we passed under the Arc de Triomf which was quite impressive. By this point, we needed to head back towards the point where we could catch the shuttle bus towards the airport.
We had a little free time before the bus departed so we hung out in the Plaça de Catalunya. The girls bought little cups of seeds to feed the million pigeons that would eat right out of your hands it seemed. There were many street performers but they were enchanted most by the gentleman creating enormous bubbles that they chased around the plaza screaming in delight. We bought lunch at the McDonald's across the street. We placed our order on a touchscreen menu right in the door as opposed to ordering in person. The common language here is Catalan and Spanish too but I didn't want our order to come out wrong. We placed our order and then picked it up when they called our number and we took it downstairs into the basement dining area. Afterwards, it was time to head home for an uneventful trip home. We will definitely be back again before this adventure is over! [Date of travel: October 17-18, 2015]


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