First, I would like to say something that may sound offensive, but I don’t mean it that way and I just found it very surprising. Everyone I know who has been to Barcelona just talks about how amazing it is and how much they love it, and I feel a little misled that nobody has ever told me about the “other side” of Barcelona. When we arrived in Barcelona, it turned out our hotel was on the “wrong side of Las Ramblas” as we like to call it, and my first impression was “…what did I get us into?” and “….is this a third world country and/or south Los Angeles?” Granted, all the big cities I’ve been to in Europe have been dirty. ALL big cities are dirty (Los Angeles, Chicago, New York…). When I stayed in Paris the first time, my hotel was in a similar “off the beaten path” area. However, while I thought the area was a little extra dirty and a little on the rundown side, I still felt like I was in Europe. But something about the run down parts of Barcelona really made us feel like we were in Mexico. I guess it just threw me off so much because I really didn’t expect to make that connection at all. I thought it was going to be a glamorous, colorful, Mediterranean city. In many respects, parts of it were. I just really didn’t expect the other part.
So anyway, Becky and I arrived and dropped off our bags at our sketchy hotel and then headed out to find some dinner. Luckily, about a 10 minute walk took us out of South Los Angeles and into the nice part of Barcelona that we’d been expecting. We could see the harbor and the Mediterranean, and we managed to find a cute plaza area and sat outside at a cafe for dinner.
After dinner we intended to just find coffee/dessert somewhere and head back to the hotel, but we ended up walking all over the “old town” area, taking pictures and checking things out. Also, we were very impressed by how cheap the drinks are in Barcelona (coffee at the cafe we went to was only 1.15 euros.. in many European cities I’ve been to the cheapest you’ll find is 3 or 4 euros). However, we were thrown off a little bit by asian women in the cafe speaking spanish… whoah. Which, by the way, the people in Barcelona actually speak (castillian?) as a first language, although most of them are also fluent in Spanish. Becky and I noticed that our limited Spanish and French skills were enough to help us read the subtitles for the news on TV, and various signs, so I suppose it’s not too different of a language.
By far the best part of the night was when we happened upon an outdoor concert. It was a band from Spain, and the words were not in english but the sound was amazing! Then, right after the band finished, we found out there was going to be a performance of Thriller (the song/dance by Michael Jackson). As I mentioned in a previous post, it was part of the “Thrill the World” event. By far one of the most random and amusing things I’ve experience yet in my European travels 🙂
After that we began our sketchy walk back to our hotel, but stopped in a shop on the way home for some snacks. Again, we were amazed at how affordable things were. Everything is usually so expensive in Europe it was nice to find cheap things for once! Much to our surprise, although the street we walked down to get there was pretty bad, when we made it to the actual street our hotel was on it was much more lively and much less sketchy looking than when we’d seen it during the day. You’d think the opposite would be true. Anyway, we were definitely relieved!
I will save Day 2 for the next post!
For all the pictures of our first afternoon/evening, click here.