Barcelona, Spain

by CameronM Fri, November 07 2003 07:58

To celebrate my 30th birthday I planned a weekend trip to Barcelona, Spain!!!

The day started very early with a 4:30am train journey from Wimbledon to London Waterloo, 2 buses to Liverpool Street station and another train to Stansted airport, before even leaving the UK. The flight, my first on Ryanair, was eventless - a thing you hope for on a plane travelling at 650 miles an hour at 37000 feet. Unfortunately, travelling by budget airlines means they cut costs where they can and Ryanair does this by flying from some of the remoter airports. This is true for Stansted and the Girona airport, located about 1.5 hours from Barcelona.

After finally arriving at the Equity Point Gothic Hostel, I am surprised by the layout, which features individual pigeon holes, complete with a curtain and side table. Mine was off the floor and accessed by a ladder, it was cool to have your own space, where you could throw you junk around without feeling like people would nick your clothes.

The hostel, which I had booked before leaving London, cost €16.00 per night and although the booking was for a mixed-dorm, you certainly have more space and privacy than you usually expect.
I stowed my gear and headed out for a look around the streets of Barcelona, with the goal of finding something to eat. After a short walk, still not very well acquainted with my location, I found a bar diner offering a three-course meal, with house wine for just under €6. It sounded too good to be true, but as the owner spoke as much English as I spoke Spanish I had to go on faith and was pleasantly surprised. Although not fine dinning, it was filling and moderately enjoyable.

It was almost 4pm, yet many of the shops were still closed, the Spanish, as I would soon learn, don't really get going till 7 or 8pm. I had been told to check out La Rambla, a street famous for street-side markets and cafes, but even this was quiet at this time of the afternoon. Having nothing else to loose I headed back to the hostel, for a shower and to check who was around.

I discovered that most of the other backpackers were no where to been seen so I sat down in front of the TV, only to find that the Mummy Returns was dubbed in Spanish, a fact that doesn't really matter for an action film. I spoke to an Anja, an Australian on a weeks leave from her job as an engineer for an oil company in Algeria, and found out that most of the people head to a bar inanimately called the Travel Bar, where they dish out free food every night. We headed down and found out where most of the backpackers and a fair number of the international population were. I met a Finnish exchange student, who had eaten at the Travel Bar every night that week and who said she would continue to do so, as her finances were tight. The food turned out to be a large serve of pasta with a simple tomato sauce, but more than enough to fill the small gap slowly developing after my bargain priced lunch.

During the evening Anja mentioned that a local operator ran excursions to small villages outside of Barcelona, offering a chance to discover the real (or close to it) Cataluña. Cataluña (Catalunya) I discovered was more than the name of the region in which Barcelona was the capital, but also describes the historic language of the area, Catalan. The use of Catalan, which closely resembles Spanish, was heavily restricted but it has regained its place as the main language of the Catalan government. The idea of a hike in the wilderness won me over and together with another Aussie from the hostel, we signed up for the trip.

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