10 reasons why I’m crazy about Barcelona. Number 10 is a shitty one (Part 3)

Like the way we do it here in the third world, but way more organized.

Updated: Here are Part 1 and Part 2 of the series. In 3,513 words I share with you why Barcelona is such a special city. Now your turn: what about Barcelona that you adore? What is your favorite place to eat? Next time I visit Barcelona, what do I absolutely have to see? Fire away in the comment section below 🙂

6. Travel Bound Barcelona Free Walking Tours

When I went to Europe for the first time (remember Italy?), I was advised by fellow travelers to join free walking tours whenever I visit a new city in Europe as those tours do a good job of walking us through the history and layout of the city. I didn’t get to go on one in Italy and Paris, so this time in Barcelona I marked it high priority on my agenda. To put it another way, Barcelona took my free walking tour virginity. But after what transpired, I was just happy losing it 🙂

There are several free tours running in the city as far as I know, but I opted for Travel Bound at the suggestion of my guesthouse Casa Consell and obviously the reviews on TripAdvisor. Detailed information about the tour can be found here.

Now, I don’t want to generalize and promise you an amazing time because how much fun you have will be determined by your tour guide. However, if Matthias (from Sweden who has been living in Barcelona for nearly a decade if memory serves me right) leads your group, rest assured that it’s going to be fun and informative. He’s articulate, knowledgable and energetic. And pretty funny to boot.

The tour visited Las Ramblas and La Boqueria market, both of which I had no intention of going. The fresh food and snacks at La Boqueria were awesome. But Las Ramblas, like Avenue des Champ-Élysées, I found overrated. Sorry!

Here’s a caveat: even though it’s a free walking tour, we are expected to have some tip at the ready when the tour ends. Why? Because your tour guide isn’t living on just air and water. In fact, they earn a living by guiding you. (It’s communicated clearly at the beginning of the tour though most people who go on free walking tours probably already know how it works.) The tip is NOT mandatory, and there’s no minimum amount of tip. You tip whichever amount you feel right. I personally find this tipping thing pretty great because it motivates (hopefully) the guide to do an excellent job. How do I know? Because I was once a waiter, and you have no idea how crazy hard I whored myself out every night. LOL. Bottom line is I think it’s more of common courtesy than anything else.

The reason I’m broaching this subject is because something happened in my group that made me think for the rest of my time in Barcelona. Our group consisted of 7 (or 8) persons, mostly university students and 20-something working adults from several nationalities. There was this guy, aged 30, from Slovenia who was in Barcelona for a conference and so had a day off to explore. Let’s call him X for the sake of brevity. Out of respect, I won’t share his background and other personal details he shared with me.

X was nice and appeared to be knowledgeable about history, religion and architecture. His knowledge made our discussions a bit more lively, I have to admit. Imagine if everyone in the group were like me and had little knowledge of Christianity and European history, the guide would definitely be discouraged.

 Dried everything at La Boqueria

When the tour came to an end with Matthias thanking us and saying goodbye, X told me that he had to leave right away because he had “this thing” to attend to. Out of curiosity, I asked him his thoughts on the tour and if he was going to tip. He loved the tour but said: “no need for tip, it’s supposed to be free. And I don’t have any money with me. I need to go to the bank.” Then he left.

I was stunned by his action. But I’m not sure if I was more bothered by the fact that he left without even saying something to our guide and tipping, the former of which was downright rude in my book, or by his excuse of not having any money whatsoever at hand. I might sound harsh here, but anyone who’s traveling and telling you at the same time that he/she doesn’t even have one or two euros (or any local currency for that matter) for change is totally bullshitting.

When someone is enthusiastic about what he does and does it well, I find it important to support him in any way I can. It can be a compliment, money or whatever; what matters is the person is aware that we appreciate what he’s doing. That’s my belief system. I went over the incident many times in my head during the following days, and the best conclusion I could come to was that not everyone thinks the same. And it’s alright. The whole point of traveling far and wide is to be less judgmental and more willing to embrace others, isn’t it?

7. Gràcia neighborhood 

A gloriously beautiful day at Plaza del Sol. 

Given my penchant for quiet, charming residential part of any city I visit, it comes as no surprise that I absolutely adore Gràcia. And so should you!

The neighborhood is only 1.5 miles away from the perennially touristy Passeig de Gracia, but the atmosphere here feels significantly more authentic, relaxing and artistic. It’s full of narrow streets, intricate terraces, small restaurants, bars, wine shops, antique stores, boutiques, thrift stores etc. Literally perfect for eating and shopping and wandering and people-watching. 

Proof that Gràcia is a magnet for street artists. I’m obsessed with graffiti arts. 

8. Nou Candanchú (Plaza De la Vila de Gracia, 9, 08012 Barcelona)

I’m definitely not a hardcore foodie but before I visit a city, I research til my eyes bleed about restaurants where I could get the best bang for the buck. I don’t remember where I read about this solid gem (perhaps the travel section of the NYTimes published a few years ago?), but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter because I’m passing it on to you now 🙂confused dasher, the perfect 3 day itinerary in barcelona, nou candanchu review, where to eat on budget in barcelona, barcelona best cheap eatsNou Candanchú is conveniently located in Gràcia– perfect for a lunch stop. I can’t say with certainty about other times during the day, but when I was there, there were only locals lunching by themselves or with families and friends. Quite atmospheric! Some might get self-conscious, but between you and me I have to confess I do enjoy being a white tiger in the zoo 😀

The restaurant garners rave reviews for its escalivada, a simple traditional Catalan dish of roasted vegetable usually garnished with some meat or fish. What went in mine were roasted peppers, eggplants, olives and anchovies. Describing food isn’t my strong suit, so I’ll just say that for around 10 euros, you get something that’s equally as good as sex, if not better. Heartily recommend! [Read more…]

10 reasons why I’m crazy about Barcelona. Number 10 is a shitty one (Part 2)

Updated: Here are Part 1 and Part 3 of the series. In 3,513 words I share with you why Barcelona is such a special city. Now your turn: what about Barcelona that you adore? What is your favorite place to eat? Next time I visit Barcelona, what do I absolutely have to see? Fire away in the comment section below 🙂

2. The architectural mix

For people like me who are interested in architectural photography, Barcelona offers plenty of actions thanks to its mesmerizing juxtaposition of old and new styles of architecture. I wish I had stayed longer because I could easily spend days strolling and snapping away the many whimsical buildings.

First, there is the Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic) where we can get a quick fix of the quintessential European medieval architecture and labyrinth streets. Wandering the Quarter in early morning especially on Sundays is an absolute treat you wouldn’t want to miss. Take a cue from the man in this photo below. L’Eixample is also my favorite district to wander around as it houses some of the most interesting modernista buildings. Here is the magnificent Casa de les Punxes (the House of Spikes), a Gothic castle in the middle of Avinguda Diagonal that I came across when I was walking back to my hostel. The property is privately owned so it’s not possible to go inside, but the exterior itself is a visual treat already.On Passeig de Gràcia, the styles vary from this building filled with balconies…to this large office building with space for shops on the ground floor.

3. Casa Consell (Consell de Cent, 324, Principal 2, 08007 Barcelona)

Casa Consell is NOT the most expensive place I have stayed during all my travels. On the contrary, it’s one of the cheapest (20 euros per night for a single room) but has wound up being my most favorite accommodation to date. It’s a stone’s throw away from Passeig de Gràcia where Casa Batlló and La Pedrera are situated (you can shop until you drop at the likes of Chanel, Ferragamo, Dolce & Gabbana etc to boot). It was spotless. However, the reason why I fell in love with Casa Consell is it made me feel like I was in my future apartment.

I mean, how could I not love a sun-drenched living room like this? This is the kind of living room I always have in mind for my own apartment.And a sun-drenched terrace right outside where I enjoyed my french toast and fruit every morning. The spacious kitchen was certainly the cherry on top.  [Read more…]

10 reasons why I’m crazy about Barcelona. Number 10 is a shitty one (Part 1)

Updated: Here are Part 2 and Part 3 of the series. In 3,513 words I share with you why Barcelona is such a special city. Now your turn: what about Barcelona that you adore? What is your favorite place to eat? Next time I visit Barcelona, what do I absolutely have to see? Fire away in the comment section below 🙂

Hello/Bonjour/Hola/Óla bomdia you guys.

I’m back. Really, really back. Actually, I was back last Tuesday evening, but haven’t got around to blogging until now because: #1. I always need at least a week to regroup after I come back from somewhere amazing and especially this time to make peace with the cold reality that my savings have been reset to zero and thus Europe won’t happen again until…I-have-no-fucking-idea when, and #2. I had to go back to my dead-end job the following morning. Being chained to the desk for 9 hours has proved to be exceptionally helpful in impeding the readjustment process.

All excuses aside, I have to say that I couldn’t be any happier about being broke because I really had one unforgettable trip. In fact, it’s quite likely the most memorable traveling experience I have had to date. Neither because I got to stay in luxurious hotels (reality: I stayed in hostels, 10-person dorms, guesthouses and yes, 2-star hotel for a night) nor because I got to try Michelin-starred restaurants in any of the city I visited (reality: my eating was all over the place, but no meal cost me more than 15 euros. In fact, most meals cost around 10 euros or less.) Nevertheless, meeting people who mustered up all their courage to leave established careers and material possessions behind and are leading unconventional lives and seeing all the sights that I saw truly created great memories and lingering food for thoughts. I was incredibly lucky to not get sick at all throughout the trip. Getting sick was my (and the family’s) top concern because I have a very unreliable digestive system. Eating the wrong food (wrong in my dictionary is normal in yours. Two prime examples are eggs and cheese) could make my stomach violently sick.

Admittedly, I had no idea what I was talking about when I said I would do my best to blog on the road. For me, that truly is mission impossible as I usually passed out when I returned to my hostels. But I was smart enough to note down things I experienced and stories fellow travelers shared with me, so rest assured that there will be stories to be told, personal thoughts to be shared and obviously many photos to be uploaded in the coming weeks. It’s funny how now I’ll deem a trip incomplete if I don’t write anything about it. 

                                                       ———————————-

Now, back to the main stuff. I have another confession to make: I wasn’t always curious about Spain. My passing knowledge of the country consisted of: #1. Spanish is their language & #2. David Beckham supposedly penetrated his assistant a few times while he was playing for Real Madrid in Spain. (LOL. Though I really wish it had been all fabrication. I love Victoria too much). Anyway, what else? Nothing. I wasn’t even sure of their capital. Madrid or Barcelona? There was just no limit on my ignorance 🙁

Towards the end of last summer, I met up with a friend over coffee on a rainy day who was living in Barcelona at that point and we chit-chatted about traveling and Europe. I remember very vividly him telling me with excitement and pride that “Barcelona is the best in Europe. Affordability, weather, food, lifestyle, architecture…the city has it all.”

Now, when someone makes such a bold statement, I’ll just nod until my neck hurts and forget about it the instance the meeting is over. But given that he had traveled around Europe a fair bit and was actually living there then, I did give him the benefit of the doubt. So my curiosity was piqued. And the idea of Spain being the next destination in Europe after Italy and France began auspiciously.

Fast forward 5 months later, I was in Barcelona and having a major Vicky Christina Barcelona moment. Kidding 🙂 But the magical architecture of Barcelona he mentioned? Check!What I used to do was telling you all the nitty-gritty details of each day on the road like the time I woke up, the weather when I woke up, what I ate for breakfast, yadda, yadda, yadda. I mean, c’mon, seriously, did I really do that? It has since dawned on me that the format could be helpful to some but not friendly to most and extremely time-consuming for me. So, that kind of writing won’t ever happen again. Instead, the new format will be determined by my experience in each place.

Here, I will let you in on 10 highlights of my time in Barcelona, which is one of the very few cities that makes me feel a burning desire to return. Up to this point, Paris and Barcelona are the only two in Europe in the list. (Italy, I love your beautiful and charming cities and would be over the moon excited if I get to come back. But if not, I’m totally cool with that.) I didn’t stay in Barcelona long enough to start seeing its less flattering qualities, so there won’t be things-I-really-hate-in-Barcelona post to counteract this one. In addition, this love letter to Barcelona will be divided into 3 parts simply because it’s impossible to condense the entire content and around 90 photos into one. Without further ado, let’s delve into all the awesomeness that is Barcelona.Sagrada Família amazing ceiling , confused dasher, ultimate guide to gaudy architecture in barcelona, barcelona 3 day itinerary, 10 best things to do in Barcelona, barcelona in winter1. The mind-blowing genius of Gaudí

Photography, especially architectural photography, figures prominently in my travels, so the second-to-none masterpieces of Antoni Gaudí remain the number one highlight for me. Gaudí’s work alone has made Barcelona unique, plain and simple. I visited some out-of-this-world churches and museums in Italy and France, and while their grandeur completely blew me away, their heavy religious themes more often than not fall outside my realm of knowledge. Coming from South East Asia with the upbringing that I had, I know too little about God or Christianity as a religion to fully apprehend and appreciate many things I saw.

But with most of Gaudí’s work in which nature was the origin, things begin to make a bit more sense and become more relatable though how he managed to incorporate flowers, plants, ocean, dragons among other things into his mesmerizing architecture is still beyond me. His work also challenged my photography, for which I’m very grateful. I tend to look for lines, shapes, textures and patterns to photograph but when lines are curvaceous rather than straight or objects are not shaped the way they usually are, you are forced to see with new eyes and alter your approach.Casa Batllo ceiling, confused dasher, ultimate guide to gaudy architecture in barcelona, barcelona 3 day itinerary, 10 best things to do in BarcelonaGaudí left his marks all over the city, but due to time and mostly budget constraints, I only hit the big three- La Sagrada FamíliaCasa Batlló and La Pedrera. Before the influx of photos, if there is one thing I don’t necessarily like about Barcelona and Spain in general, it’s the exorbitant entrance fees. Those three places alone already set me and you back 57 euros. I later learned that for La Sagrada Familia, the money from visitors go to where it should go- the church’s maintenance and construction fund. But for Casa Batlló and La Pedrera, your money goes to the bank(s) who owns the buildings. Oh and you definitely should book the ticket to La Sagrada Família in advance online because the line is crazy long. You certainly don’t want to stand outside yawning while you can be inside marveling at this electrifying ceiling: The church is undoubtedly an architectural dream. I have never seen one that is more original. And earthly and magical at the same time. I visited the church in the middle of the afternoon when shafts of sunlight poured in from all directions. Combined with the electric lights inside, they made for an astounding visual feast. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I stepped outside to be stupefied by this unbelievably intricate facade. Here is his another intriguing masterpiece, Casa Batlló which was originally designed for the residency of the relatively well-off Batlló family. Casa Batllo ceiling, confused dasher, ultimate guide to gaudy architecture in barcelona, barcelona 3 day itinerary, 10 best things to do in BarcelonaAtrium that gives off a palpable, dreamy ocean vibe. Casa Batllo ceiling, confused dasher, ultimate guide to gaudy architecture in barcelona, barcelona 3 day itinerary, 10 best things to do in BarcelonaPart of the roof that looks like fish scales.Beautiful Barcelona at dusk viewed from the building’s roof top.Casa Batllo ceiling, confused dasher, ultimate guide to gaudy architecture in barcelona, barcelona 3 day itinerary, 10 best things to do in BarcelonaThe building’s facade is beautifully lit at night.Lastly, the equally quirky but fantastic La Pedrera. The building’s rooftop with surrealistic chimneys offers inspirational views of Barcelona especially on days with limpid blue sky. I don’t know how people interpret those chimneys, but I saw full human faces in them.

[Read more…]