My Homage to Catalonia – Part One

Wednesday – 3.59am.

Only a few hours of sleep had happened, and I kept waking up. I was quite excited. Then, at four o’clock, my ‘cheapo’ iPod alarm clock lit up to play “Weezer –Holiday”

In my sleepy state I recognised the intro, and then the bass and drums kicked in. I jumped up, I was very confused and annoyed. Took a few seconds to realise what was going on. The bass and drums were very harsh. It felt like Pat Wilson was kicking my head in 4/4. I got out into the cold and walked over to the radio. Rivers Cuomo sang “Let’s go away for a whi..”. Then I ripped my iPod out.

Thought it would be a nice touch the night before. I managed to get 15 seconds in. I’m not a morning person at the best of time.

Immediately after that my phone alarm goes off. The “alarm” sound on an iPhone has got to be the worst sound ever for an alarm ever thought of. Instead of nice soft tones like Grieg’s “Morning” for example, Apple thought it would be great to have an alarm that sounds like a seal being clubbed.. over and over again. They should just rename it “terror”!

Anyway, I suppose it was time to get up. Only half an hour until the taxi arrived. Yet I was ready long before that. There was nothing on the TV (it was 4am!) so I just flicked through the music channels. Every one seemed to be playing that Jennifer Lopez song! Leona joined me to finish her tea, I drank the remainder of the milk while we watched MTV JLO and waited for the taxi.

We were getting a taxi to the Europa Buscentre then getting the bus to Belfast International airport. It would take about 45ish minutes to walk. But we decided against that as it would be dark and drunkards coming out of Thompsons and other Belfast establishments would be knocking about. It normally takes 15-20minutes to drive there in rush hour. Our bus was at 5am and we decided to give the taxi driver half an hour to get there.

The taxi was a few minutes late. We would only have twenty seven minutes to get there. The radio in the taxi was playing that Jennifer Lopez song! It was very bright out and the roads and streets were deserted. The overturned milk truck we had envisaged hadn’t transpired therefore our taxi ride was uneventful. We got to the bus stop with a mere twenty two minutes to spare!

Nothing exciting happened while waiting for the bus. Which is a shame as the time then dragged. Nothing exciting happened on the bus journey. Which is a shame as it dragged, I also found it infuriating as it seemed to be driving up the empty motorway at like 40mph. We checked in online so headed straight to security. Once through security we spent the last of our sterling on Starbucks. The departure screens advised passengers for our flight to “chill out and relax” or something ridiculous like that. About ten minutes later the screen changed to “HURRY UP!” (I’m paraphrasing), so we trekked it to our departure gate.

Once at the gate I found it surrounded with what can be described as ‘formula one nerds’. I know I’m quite the nerd myself.. But at least I’m not middle aged wearing an overpriced Ferrari shirt with all the sponsors all over it (fair enough if it was at the track.. but the airport? Really?). Still, I was excited and wanted to make “new formula one friends” and talk about how excited I am to go, Leona advised me against it. Just as well though, as we were about the board. Aer Lingus were smart enough to assign seats so there wasn’t that mad scramble, we just dandered on. On the place there was no one sitting beside us. At first I was like “I want to make a ‘formula one friend’!”, then I thought about the extra leg room, at 6’3” I was well chuffed about that! I’m not a great flyer so at take off I just ate Worthers Originals and grabbed onto the arm rests. Once the seatbelt light went off I watched the Christmas Episode of Father Ted on my phone. Mainly because it was there! I was very hungry at this stage and some people had ordered the cooked breakfasts. They smelt lovely.. Yet overpriced. I managed to resist.

We arrived in sunny Barcelona ahead of schedule. Went through their sunny airport, passed their sunny customs and went to find a sunny bus stop. The bus had just left so we waited on the next one as I practiced the Spanish for “two return tickets please”. It was the first time I had to use Spanish since my in GCSE in 2002 (I got a D). The bus came fifteen minutes later and we got on. I said to the driver “dos billete de vuelta, por favor”, in my head he this sounded perfect but the driver responded with a “¿Qué?”.

I then said “erm.. return? Er… dos, er.. por favor. Gracias.”

The driver seemed to understand that so we got on the bus.

Our flight, and a flight from Dublin and Cork, arrived at about the same time so our bus seemed to be full of Irish people, and it was packed. Off we went to Barcelona city centre. On the way in we passed a crappy five a side football pitch, Leona made the funny “Look, there’s Camp Nou!”, I thought this was hilarious, the rest of the bus didn’t seem to. Another thing I noticed on the way in is that the tower blocks had San Maguel adverts on top of them. In Belfast there are pictures of hunger strikers. I’m surprised Diageo haven’t considered it.

Our hostel was quite close to Pl. Universitat and we were the only two people to get off, to some difficulty. Once we got off the bus, we had to find some breakfast/lunch as we were famished! There seemed to be quite a lot of food places about but we wanted to get something simple, a burger or something, we walked into a place called “Pans & Co.” which is a chain which sells subway/burger hybrids (it’s the only way I can describe it!).Leona went to order first and asked for a Chicken and Bacon (that’s what it was called on the sign). The lady replied in Spanish which was too fast for me to hear and Leona replied “¿Patatas Fritas?”, the lady replied again and Leona said “¿Coca?”. I was impressed. She later admitted she guessed what the lady was asking but seemed to have got it right.

Here came another chance to show my five years of learning then failing Spanish wasn’t a waste. In my head I wanted to say “I would like the same please”, to which my mouth translated into Spanish as “¡Dos!” and I pointed to Leona. Both Leona and the teller looked perplexed at the idiot before them. So I saved the day by saying “chicken bacon, patatas fritas y coca cola”. Lucky I did, otherwise I would have looked a complete idiot! Phew!

Anyway, food was dead on and saw a giant photo of a dude who looked like my buddy Marty (who frequently visits Barcelona) so I kept laughing at it every time I looked at it!

It was about four hours before we could check in, but we didn’t want to drag the bags around with us all day so we got our bearings and went to find the hostel. Turns out it was just around the corner but we thought we were on the wrong street, just by chance Leona spotted it. We buzzed the door and went in. Hostel was on the second floor and as we walked up the stairs all we could hear were babies crying (turns out there is a day care centre under it) which, at first, was a little unsettling! Walked into reception and, thankfully, the dude spoke English. He just told us to leave our bags under a shelf in reception. At first I was weary but there were other, more expensive looking, bags there. Besides no criminal mastermind would steal my bag full of boxer shorts etc.

So with three or four hours to fill we went for a walk. Passed the Museum of contemporary art and did the tourist thing by heading for La Rambla. We walked down the middle of la Rambla, as it seemed did every other tourist in Barcelona at that very moment. The statue guys were really good, especially when you compare it to the arse in Belfast who just moves around. It was also cool to look at all the stalls and have your choice of all the tat you could buy. What wasn’t cool were the guys trying to flog some squeaky thing. Essentially it is the most irritating thing in the world, you put some rubber thing in your mouth and your voice goes squeaky. I don’t know how there is a market for it and how the market isn’t saturated as for the next week any touristy place I went all I heard was “Squeak, squeak, squeak, squeak…”.

After a bit of a wander we ended up down by the docks (well there were a load of boats about) and had a sit down to see what we wanted to do. Leona saw a cable car in the distance. So we decided to go towards that. At this point we realised we forgot to lift the suncream and were still wearing jeans. The sun was out and it was roasting (in Barcelona? Who’d have thought it?) – this will be a tough few hours!

We proceeded regardless and we got all of 50m when we had to wait for the bridge to comeback because there was a fancy boat wanting to sail out of the harbour. So we waited about five or ten minutes in the heat and when the bridge reattached itself the crowds flocked over. We found our route to the cable car blocked by a giant shopping centre / aquarium / cinema. We walked through it and the air con was a gift. While there we thought it best to use their “facilities” and then went back out the other side and bought an ice cream. This was very tasty!

While enjoying the ice cream a nice lady was handing out pamphlets. I didn’t want to be the rude English speaker so I politely accepted, had a read and the only bit I could make out was a hashtag called #spanishrevolution.

We then headed on and we realised had we walked 50m the other way at the start (as opposed to where the bridge is) we would have got to where we were then. Still, we looked to the positives (ice cream and a Spanish socialist newsletter!). Walked passed the Catalan history museum and then along the other side of the waterfront towards the cable car. Got some cold drinks along the way as the heat was intense (a sign we passed said 33oC!

Along the way there were a few graffiti. One was “Tourists: why not visit your fucking grandma!” which I found unfair, I’d visited her at the weekend! The next one was “Tourists: Madrid is a nicer city” which made me laugh. That was the only anti tourist sentiment I had seen all week.

En route to the cable car we seen the beech so we thought we’d go for a sit down and get a rest. We sat on the path at the edge of the beech and looked over the very calm Mediterranean Sea. I noticed something at the corner of my eye: BOOBS! I didn’t want to seem like some sort of pervert that you hear about so I slowly moved my head another direction and to my surprise there were more boobs! It seemed topless sunbathing was socially ok so I told Leona my observation and I was so excited shocked I sent a text to Marty. He replied and warned me not to wander too far as there is a nudist beach populated by elderly trannys. Duly noted.

I’m not an avid fan of the beech, but Leona was saying she wanted to go before we left Belfast, so I suggested we go back the next morning. How nice am I?

Off we went to the cable car. It is part of the Metro network so we assumed it would be the cost of a metro ticket €1.45. When we got to the queue we realised it was €10 each. We’d got that far so we went on it but had we known before hand we wouldn’t have bothered. View was nice though.

P1030145 P1030144

The cable car brought us to some park (cant remember the name) and we had a sit down for a bit. We decided to walk back to hostel. Weren’t sure how to get there, but we knew the general direction. Sort of.

We got lost.

Not lost. We walked through some dodgy looking places and we just thought we were lost. Turns out we were on the street beside the Contemporary art museum. We walked a bit more and found it, so we knew where we were going from there.

Got to the hostel and checked in. Had a conversation with the fella at reception about the merits of Irish being an official language (he was wondering I had two places of birth on my passport). I agreed with him it was pointless but couldn’t be arsed explaining it further.

The room had the feel of prison cell. No natural light, the main light was some UV thing. But still, it’s only a hostel and it was only for sleeping. Got out of my jeans and stuck on some suncream. My arms and face were only a little bit burnt.

It was about 6 or so by the time we got sorted, so it was time for dinner. Went for another dander and found a pizza place on la Rambla (nicely named Rambla Pizza) which had beer and pizza offers. I was sold.

Got a nice roast chicken pizza and a 500ml Estrella, Leona had some ham and pineapple thing with a smaller girly Estrella. She doesn’t like beer so I drank hers too.

After dinner we walked up to Pl. Catalunya and seen some sort of protest kicking off. We joined in on the march, for a nosey and tried to get on TV. This was the #spanishrevolution that the socialist newsletter was on about. Had a look around and then we walked up Passeig de Gracia and Leona figured out we could get to some “magic fountains”, which are apparently brilliant, by jumping on the Metro. So we got the Metro from Passeig de Gracia to Pl. Espanya.

Once at Pl. Espanya we found an International Car Show, sponsored by Seat, blocking anyway we wanted to get to Font màgica de Montjuïc … also the car show had half price entry for anyone with F1 tickets. Alas, we were getting our tickets the next day so we decided to head back. Got the metro back to Universitat and headed back to the hostel. It was about 10 at this point and we were wrecked. It had been a long day.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s