Back to Barcelona

Over the last weekend in February, I traveled with my friends Kristen and Nikki to Barcelona because we had–you guessed it–ANOTHER puente!  Man do I love living in Spain- so many holidays!  We took Spain’s high-speed train, the AVE, after work on Thursday and arrived to Barcelona a mere 2 and a half hours later!  Incredible, considering a normal car or bus ride is about 7 hours.  At one point we were going 186 MPH which is just freakishly terrifying.  I love traveling by train, I definitely think it’s the most comfortable way to travel, but I hate knowing it goes that fast.

Parc Güell

Parc Güell

I feel so fortunate to be able to say that this was my second time in Barcelona.  I love living in Spain for so many different reasons, but a top reason is the fact that all of these spectacular cities are at my finger tips and make for easy weekend getaways.  The last time I went to Barcelona was three years ago with my parents and it was actually the first Spanish city I ever visited.  I really enjoyed my time there, but I can’t say I was in love with it like many people I meet seem to be.  The reason I wanted to go back was to see if maybe I could learn to feel the same way about it as everyone else.

With the exception of a few mishaps, it was a really great weekend.  We stayed at a great hostel called the “Hipstel.”  Yes, it’s actually a hostel geared towards hipsters but I really enjoyed it!  It had a very home-y feel and a beautiful dining area that made us feel like we were having breakfast on a garden terrace.  Also, the weather that weekend was perfect:  sunny, 60s, and just beautiful.  One of my favorite parts of the trip was when we went to the beach one late afternoon and I got to dip my feet in the Mediterranean Sea- in February!  If Madrid had Barcelona’s location, it would be absolutely perfect.  Palm trees and the beach just make me so happy!

The Hipstel's dining area.  Loved it!

The Hipstel’s dining area. Loved it!

The Mediterranean Sea!

The Mediterranean Sea!

Bare feet on the beach.  In February.

Bare feet on the beach. In February.

We also accomplished many of the touristy things such as Parc Güell, La Sagrada Familia, Las Ramblas, Mercat de la Boqueria, as well as the free walking tour that took us mostly around the Gothic Quarter.  One thing that I noticed more this time than the last time I was in Barcelona is that it is a city full of color.  Everything from the tiles and mosaics found throughout Parc Güell, to the rainbow-colored stain-glass windows in La Sagrada Familia, to even the stands upon stands of different colored fruits in La Boqueria.  I’ve never seen so much color in one city before, and I think that’s what makes Barcelona so unique.  Gaudí, the famous architect, left his mark all throughout Barcelona and I think most of the color within this city can be attributed to his masterpieces.

Hanging out in Parc Güell.

Hanging out in Parc Güell.

Inside La Sagrada Familia.  So colorful!

Inside La Sagrada Familia. So colorful!

La Sagrada Familia.

La Sagrada Familia.

Mercat de la Boqueria.

Mercat de la Boqueria.

Colorful fruit inside the market.

Colorful fruit inside the market.

MISHAP #1:
So before I had mentioned that this was a great weekend with the exception of a couple of mishaps that occurred.  The first one was when I lost my wallet.  Now I’ve always known that Barcelona is known for its infamous pickpockets, so I made sure to keep an extra eye on my things.  I’ve honestly never heard of a city that has a worse pickpocket problem than Barcelona.  Well on Friday evening, we went to the Mercat de la Boqueria (a huge market off of Las Ramblas).  After looking at all of the fruit and dead fish, we made a couple of purchases.  Our whole time there I was eying up these candied nuts that I sampled and were delicious.  So by the end of the night, I decided to buy these nuts.  Everything at the market was very reasonably priced but these nuts were outrageously expensive!  I couldn’t not purchase them, though, because I had already asked the woman to cut the amount in half to make it less expensive.  I ended up paying 7 Euros for not that many nuts.  I was so flustered by this that the last thing I remember was putting my change in my wallet and then leaving the market.

About a half hour later we got back to the hostel and I noticed I didn’t have my wallet.  After FREAKING OUT, we tried to logically think about what could have happened.  I said that I swore I put it back in my bag but maybe I could have been incredibly stupid and had accidentally put it in my trash bag and then threw it in the trashcan at the market.  I was praying I wasn’t that stupid, though.  We also considered that I was pick-pocketed at some point between leaving the market and going back to the hostel.  But my wallet would have been at the bottom of my bag and hard to reach.  The only time I thought could have been a possibility was when we stopped to take pictures in front of Gaudí’s Casa Batlló and I opened my bag.

In front of Casa Batlló clearly holding onto my bag.  There's no way someone could have stolen my wallet!

In front of Casa Batlló clearly holding onto my bag. There’s no way someone could have stolen my wallet!

The only thing we knew to do in the moment was hop in a taxi and go back to La Boqueria.  We ran into the market but everything was shutting down.  The trashcan that I thought I may have thrown my wallet into was no longer there.  We ran back to the stand I bought the nuts at and the woman that I bought them from was leaving.  We asked her if she had seen a wallet that may have been left there but she said no.

The next thing to do was to hunt down this trash can because I was convinced I threw my wallet in there.  We found a custodian and asked where they keep all the trashcans.  He told us in the back.  We frantically ran outside to the back and there were several trash men just hanging out.  We asked them where the trashcans that are at the front of the market are kept.  They pointed to a bunch of different cans.  I looked inside but they were empty!  We asked where the trash was and they pointed to all of these nasty dumpsters.  I was *this close* to jumping into one of them until I realized how disgusting they were.  Kristen also reminded me of all the dead fish we saw earlier.  So where do you think they put those fish at the end of the day?  Yep, swimming with them among other things was definitely not worth it.  Feeling defeated, we left the market.  We laughed about that whole situation later though because we imagined being those trash men just hanging out and then these 3 flustered American girls come running through the market and asking to go dumpster diving for a lost wallet hahaha I’m sure it gave them a good story to tell.

That night I canceled all my credit cards and set up getting new ones sent to me.  At that point we just assumed I was pick-pocketed and that I would never see my wallet again.  We went to the police station to file a police report on a stolen wallet just in case because it would make for getting a new Spanish residency card a lot easier.  Nikki and Kristen were kind enough to spot me money for the rest of the trip.  Not having access to any of your own money is a terrible feeling.

Then on Monday afternoon, while I was back in Madrid, I received the most amazing phone call of my life from the head of the Barcelona Police Department.  THEY HAD MY WALLET.  Not only that, but all of my cash, cards, and documentation were in it.  WHAT?!?!?  It turned out I was the biggest idiot in the entire world and left my wallet at the market, IN BARCELONA.  Of all places, I had to be dumb enough to leave my wallet in a pickpocket capital city?!  However, some kind, honest person must have found it and turned it in.  What are the chances of that happening?!  I’ll tell you:  slim to none.  I couldn’t believe even the cash was still inside!  Now came the process of getting it back.  Lucky for me, there is an incredibly efficient store called Mail Boxes Etc. here in Madrid, and the extremely kind men helped me set up a pick-up service that sent one of their men to Barcelona to pick up my wallet in a package and bring it back for me for 15 Euros.  I set this up last Thursday and it arrived this Monday.  So fast!!  I went to pick it up and literally everything was still in my wallet.  I can’t explain how happy I am.  I am so incredibly lucky, it’s a literal miracle!

MISHAP #2:
So after that happy ending with my wallet, there is still one more incident to talk about from our trip.  Saturday night we had this great night planned.  We were going to go out and explore the nightlife a little bit with the 3 of us and another American guy, named Ryan, who was staying in our hostel room.  We were on our way out but decided to grab a “quick” bite to eat at a cafe-type restaurant close to our hostel.  We all ordered sandwiches (Nikki and I shared one), then Kristen and I decided we’d get beers if the other did too.  Big mistake.  The guy was very nice and spoke perfect English, and he arrived at our outside table with GIANT beers.  We weren’t complaining, but we were shocked to get such big drinks.  After lingering for a while talking and drinking, we went inside to pay so that we could get on with our night.  I went to the bathroom while they all paid (because I had no money and they had to spot me).  When I came back, they told me what had happened.  Apparently our beers were 18 EUROS and the sandwiches were 8!!  Not only that, up on the menu, there was a small piece of paper with 18 written on it covering up the real price.  Ryan had asked what the original price under the paper was and the guy said that was the right price.  We were furious but didn’t know what to do.  We ended up just going back to the hostel because we couldn’t believe how much we had just spent and couldn’t afford to go out for the night.  The rest of our night turned out to be fun because we just hung out in our room and had a spontaneous intercambio with our Spanish roommates, but we were still pissed about what happened.

La Baguetina Catalana

La Baguetina Catalana:  Source

We knew that wasn’t the right price of everything and that the guy was being super shady.  Luckily Nikki kept the receipt and we went back the next morning to check to see if the prices were the same.  They weren’t.  The beer on the menu had been dropped to 6 EUROS!  What an asshole.  He wasn’t working at the time so we asked the other woman behind the counter if we could have our money back after explaining to her what happened.  She said there was nothing she could do, but that we could go back in at 4 when he was working.  That was pushing it a little close to when we had to catch our train back to Madrid, but we refused to let this little jerk get away with taking advantage of foreigners.

So a little before 4 PM we grabbed our bags from the hostel and planned out what we were going to say.  We went back to the restaurant and there he was.  We were sort of stalking the place earlier to see if he was there, so his co-workers knew how determined we were and seemed to enjoy watching this go down when it finally happened.  We asked him if he remembered us from the night before.  We took out the receipt and told us he overcharged us for the sandwiches and beers.  He made several stupid excuses.  For example, he “accidentally” put the wrong price in.  Nikki’s response:  “You made the same mistake three times?”  Then he said, “Well when it’s super busy it’s easier to make mistakes.”  Our response:  “We were the only people in this restaurant besides a group of Spanish people that came in after us.”  This guy was busted.  Unfortunately, there was an outdoor menu that said the sandwiches were the right price and the beers were 13 Euros (still not 18).  He gave us the 15 Euros that he gypped us of.  We were still pissed that the beers were more than DOUBLE in price if you eat outside.  It was a total tourist trap.  But we at least got some money back and even better we had pride from being assertive and calling him out.  He apologized and I told him that we just wanted to come in to tell him that we knew, and that was enough.

Public Service Announcement:  If you go to Barcelona, DO NOT eat at La Baguetina Catalana on Passeig de Gracia.  If you read it’s reviews online, many other people had similar horrible experiences.

Overall, our weekend trip to Barcelona was a lot of fun!  Yes, several problems arose during our time there, but they added a little excitement and gave us some stories to tell.  In general, I am certainly a fan of Barcelona and I see why people love it so much.  I found that I appreciated it more this time around because now I know a lot more about Spain and its history, therefore I am more appreciative of what I see in various Spanish cities.  Barcelona is definitely a city I can visit again in the future.  However, it is often compared to Madrid and I have to say that I will always love Madrid more.  Yes, Barcelona has the beach, color, and Medieval-type beauty, but it lacks the pure Spanish city feel that Madrid holds, in my opinion.  Barcelona attracts a lot of foreigners and is therefore a big, international city.  I didn’t like that I heard English more than Spanish or Catalan while I was there, but I love that I hear Spanish pretty much anywhere I go in Madrid.  But Barcelona on its own, not being compared to Madrid, is a beautiful, lively city that I think should be one of the top cities of anyone’s list of European destinations.

Barcelona had us jumping for joy!

Barcelona had us jumping for joy!  (Most of the time)

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