We’re living in a beautiful country filled with rich history and a flavorful culture, and our curiosity got the best of us. Having 10 days before work begins for me, we decided to set out on the first of many aimless adventures around the city. First order of business…where’s the Metro? Fortunately for us, the Metro station for our neighborhood is only a 5 minute walk along railroad tracks, a dark alley, graffiti ridden walls, and up a shabby flight of steps. At first glance the pathway seems a bit “dodgey”, but really the footpath is quite safe and people are always around.
Note: Graffiti is nothing out of the ordinary in Barcelona. You’ll find it on every store gate when it is closed. There is an unwritten street “artist code” whereby once a property has been “tagged”, it is unacceptable for other graffiti artists to paint over it. Naturally, merchants are dismayed to find graffiti on their property, but have learned to use it to their advantage. In fact, merchants will often pay a graffiti artist to paint an advertisement for the store while tagging the property with their signature at the same time. It’s a win-win situation.
We made it to the metro station, and again…now what? After staring at ticket kiosks and metro maps long enough to be tagged as foreigners and non-native speakers, we decided push a random button, insert some money, receive a card, choose a train line, and GO. Where? Who knows! We can hardly pronounce the signs let alone understand them or place a destination on a map. Our only option was to hop on a train and see where we end up.
Note: EVERYTHING is written in Catalan…at least in the metro stations. And no, it’s nowhere close to resembling Spanish! Who knew we would be trilingual?
Note: Maps are impossible to understand. Some are oriented north, while others are oriented around the major avenues. VERY frustrating when it’s cold, raining, and your feet hurt.
In all fairness, I did have a destination in mind. I thought it would be nice to walk along the Avinguda de Diagonal which is a main avenue that bisects the city on, well, a diagonal. I did research Barcelona before arriving, and knew this would be a good place to begin looking for apartments as well. We soon arrived and were pleasantly greeted with charming old world-style buildings boasting ornate wrought iron terrace railings and decorative window moldings. As we walked along the bustling streets, we began to get a true sense of the laid-back Spanish lifestyle. Countless sidewalk cafes, small boutiques, bakeries, markets, schools, and churches peppered the avenues around every corner. We stopped in at a cafe for a “cafe con leche” to take in the sights, to experience the culture for ourselves, to people watch. Who were we not to!
Note: Mullets are amazingly popular. It’s quite scary really…each successive mullet outdoes the last. We’ve learned that if you spot a mullet, most likely he or she is a true Catalunian. The mullet knows no boundaries.
Note: Fashion is quite interesting. People wear boots, scarves, and winter coats if the temp dips below 65 degrees.
Wondering around uncharted territory is quite exhausting, so we decided to find our way back. By the time we returned to “Placa de Sants”, we had more or less mastered the integrated transit system. Hooray for our achievement!!
The following days were consumed with more aimless wondering, but we stumbled across some amazing places. Placa Catalunia, Las Ramblas, Parc Guell (Gaudi’s take on Hansel and Gretel), Mercat de Santa Caterina (a HUGE market), Passeig de Gracia (think Rodeo Drive in LA…only much older and more charming), cathedrals hundreds of years old, aww-inspiring plazas, and the waterfront harbor filled with docked sailboats patiently waiting for their next sea adventure.
We have only begun to unlock the secrets of the city, and already we are overwhelmed by it’s beauty and awe. What will tomorrow’s adventure entail?