Back From Barcelona

Claire and I got back from Barcelona this weekend, after our short break away there with my mum and sisters. We were staying in a reasonable-sized second-floor apartment right in the middle (it was advertised as being in the “lively” district) of Barcelona: in an alleyway off a sidestreet to the famous La Ramblas.

Highlights of the trip include:

  • Drinking lots of sangria, eating lots of paella and tapas, and generally having a great time.
  • Visiting La Sagrada Familia, perhaps the longest-running building site in the world (a testament to Spanish construction speed). This huge basilica has been under construction for just shy of 100 years, and was, for the greatest part, designed by Antoni Gaudí, the Catalonian architect who pretty much invented organic architecture. Wandering around the place, it’s easy to believe that the architect “changed his mind” every time he viewed the site from a different angle, leading to several faces of the building that look very different in style.
  • Lounging on the beach and paddling around in the Mediterranean. It’s a hell of a lot warmer than swimming off Aberystwyth’s coast.
  • Going to the Museu de l’Erotica (warning: shitty website) and seeing the evolution of erotic entertainment, from ancient Greek, Egyptian and Chinese earthenware emblazened with pornographic pictures through to the birth of the “pin-up”, artefacts of BDSM play and the like from the last few hundred years, use of aphrodisiacs and birth control throughout history, and heaps of interesting… artwork. Sadly they weren’t selling prints.
  • Rambling down La Ramblas, with it’s restaurants, bars, and various street entertainment (human statues, jugglers, tumblers, people who do impressions, fortune tellers, comedians…). The place is a hive of activity at any hour of the day or night. After Claire, my sister Sarah, and I came out of a nightclub (called “Jamboree”: it’s really quite good) at approaching 6am, people on La Ramblas were still partying, and one man tried to give us flyers for another nightclub… no, no thank you: we’re going to bed already…
  • The stunning Barcelona public transport system. High-speed, on-time underground trains, integrated tickets for train/bus/underground/funicular transit, reasonable prices, accurate display boards, good maps… there’s a lot to be learnt from this.
  • Climbing the mountin and visiting the old fort at the top, a throwback to the Spanish Civil War, and probably one of the last forts of it’s type to be built: the advances and increased popularity of bomber aircraft make wide, open forts with high walls, mounted artillery, and well-defendable passageways became less useful in the age of the aeroplane, and by the second world war the technologies used will have started to become obsolete. But the fortress still stands, and it commands a beatiful view of Barcelona and the countryside (and sea) around it.

Not-so-good points include:

  • Getting food poisoning, probably from some strange-tasting tentacle-thingies in a dish of paella. Eight hours of throwing up later, all seemed well again, but it wasn’t pleasant at the time.
  • Theft of my mum’s wallet (containing several hundred Euros and her debit card) by a pickpocket on the metro. Thanks to Kit for helping us get the theft report helpline. The police station were particularly useless, though.
  • The electricity in the apartment would randomly go out, requiring the reset of the circuit breakers and the recalibration of the air conditioning.
  • The alleyway in which the apartment is smells bad and is filled with druggies. Friendly druggies, but druggies nonetheless. On several occassions I was offered the chance to buy drugs, right outside our accomodation (some might call that convenient), and at one point I was mistaken for a dealer by a guy looking for weed. Perhaps I should have been trafficking drugs along the alley? That’d have raised some funds.
  • Neglecting to take the digital camera we meant to, or the carrying case for the video camera. As a result, we have few photos (most of which require development and won’t be available for a few days, yet) and all the video footage is from inside the apartment (lots of short clips of us all, pissed on sangria).
  • Extended delays to our flight home.

Nonetheless; a great trip. Big thanks to my mum for organising it and to Claire for putting up with my family for a week. I’ll share some photos with you all when I’ve extracted them from (a) my phone and (b) the negatives.

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