Monday, October 19, 2009

Around & About Barcelona

It’s probably about time I got my lazy ass together and share stories and pictures from my trip. I’m still in post vacation syndrome and missing all the great times and yummy food we had in Europe.

Barcelona, Spain is a very nice tourist friendly place to visit; delicious food (Tapas & Paellas) and friendly people. Although, I read countless stories about pickpockets and muggers, we’re lucky we did not encounter such incidents. It definitely helps when we’re always very conscious (and semi paranoid??) about our surroundings and we were traveling in a group of 4. And yes, we do try to avoid dark scary alleys!

Having live in the US and exposed to the Spanish language, we find it easier to communicate in Barcelona. It also helps when people in most places (usually very touristy) understands/speaks English. And they are very friendly and nice! =) It was a tough transition when we flew to Italy as we had Spanish stuck in our heads!

We spent 3 nights in Barcelona and stayed in a wonderful apartment (MH Apartment Liceo) less than 5 minutes from Las Ramblas where the party goes on until late night. The nearest metro (Liceo) is also about 5-10 minutes from the apartment. There were tons of restaurants and shops @ Las Ramblas. Eating on Las Ramblas itself is pricey, so go into the equally busy side streets were you could find better bang for your buck!

Subways in Barcelona are clean, convenient, fast and punctual; they come about every 5 minutes or so! You can get one day (Euro 5.80), 2-days (Euro 10.70), 3 days (Euro 15.20), etc which gives you unlimited rides on the bus and metro within Zone 1 which you would most likely be in as a tourist. Single tickets are at about Euro 1.35 per ride. If you get the T-10 ticket (10 rides), it’s only Euro 7.70, which was what we used since we could use it on multiple people. We only used about 4 T-10 tickets (Euro 30.80 total) the 4 days 3 nights we were there. We did tons of walking in between!

We took the train to and from the airport into the city, before changing onto a metro to get to our apartment. The train ride cost us about Euro 2.80 per person per way and it perhaps took us about 1 hour to get into Barcelona city, that includes waiting time for the train which comes about every 30 minutes or so. We switched from train to Metro @ the Passeig de Gracia station. It did take us to figure out that we needed to take the train into Barcelona before getting onto a Metro. The info lady who was helping us does not speak English, and we do not speak Spanish.

Beer is definitely cheaper in Barcelona. We learnt that when we ordered coke @ a restaurant thinking that we’ll save a buck or two. It turned out that our miserable can of coke was Euro 2.30, beer of the same size was Euro 2.80! Also, in certain places they charge you for bread even though they brought it to you without asking you. Some places charge you bread per portion, some per person! And in some places they charge you a service fee of about Euro 1. Having experienced how much extra charges we ended up paying for sit down dinner, we often opt for fix price meal offer or the ones with no service charge. And we started asking the price of everything before we order. Oh yeah, a cuppa cafe in Spain (and Italy) is about Euro 1 and they are actually espresso…… don’t expect your regular size coffee! =)

We found it weird when we got out of the apartment at about 7 am the first day and it was still dark outside. Not only that, there weren’t really a place to get a cup of coffee unlike in the US where coffee places open at 5am!!. There’re people loitering around Las Ramblas who we suspect are party goers from the night before! The market which supposedly open @ 7am was just getting into business. McDonald’s, Starbucks and Dunkin Coffee (you read it right, it’s Dunkin Coffee, not Dunkin Donuts) weren’t open for business at 7 am. It was Saturday morning and it felt like midnight! It wasn’t until about 8am when Barcelona “wakes up” and businesses open! We managed to get our coffee from one of the few shops open at about 7.30am that morning………it was the most expensive cup of coffee ever! What we thought was a Euro 1 cuppa coffee ended up to be Euro 3.50 when the shop owner “prowled” over some unsuspicious tourists. We ordered coffee (cafe), and before we knew it the owner asked if we wanted milk and showed us a mug which we agreed not knowing that was going to cost us more Euros!

On the other hand, we saved a couple Euros per person per day by bringing our own water bottles! We filled them up at the many drinking fountains available in Barcelona (and in Spain)! =) Thanks Rick Steve for the great idea!!!

Pictures coming up next!!

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