au pair diaries,  spain,  travel

AU PAIR DIARIES | Adventures in Barcelona: attempt two

Another weekend, another exhausting but wonderful day of sightseeing around Barcelona – but this time, I was with a friend who kindly offered to show me around and therefore the getting lost down cute little streets in the Gothic area was intentional and not in the least bit scary.

From our starting point in Plaza Catalunya (a place which has quickly become my base for everything, being both near my bus stop and a centre for all shopping and transport related things) we set off towards the Borne area of the city and had a nice walk through the narrow winding streets and past the market there until we reached the Arc de Triunfo de Barcelona. After being offered the chance to join the ‘Cannabis club’ (in which, my friend told me, they use a loophole in Spanish law to grow cannabis for you) by someone at the Arc, we walked down the avenue to el Parque de la Ciutadella.

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In 30 degree heat and a very bright sun, we wandered through the park for a while and saw the church, the zoo and the school there (can you imagine going to school in the middle of this gorgeous park? what a playground!).

Back at the Ramblas some time later, I got my first experience of the living statues of Barcelona (who were so good I could barely believe they were actually living!! How people seem to colour even the whites of their eyes I have no idea, but it was impressive…)

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We then walked past the Ayuntamiento de Barcelona and the Palau de la Generalitat on our way to sit down and get a coffee – or in my case, a tea. I may be in Spain where tea is less common, but for me every time is tea time! Refreshed and somewhat cooler (thank goodness) we then went for lunch at a really nice and surprisingly cheap Italian lunch place, where I got a huge slice of pesto pizza for 2 euros. Delicious!

Our late lunch finished, we then headed up to ‘Forum’, a strangely shaped building a bit further of the city centre which apparently cost a lot and is now a museum of natural history. We didn’t go inside, just wandered around the area where there are various other facilities, but one brilliant thing about this area was that, thanks to the stronger breeze here, it was much cooler and more comfortable to walk around in the sun. Unfortunately, this sudden welcome coolness seemed to make me forget to take any photos here, but needless to say it was a very pleasant, less crowded area of the city.

Another metro ride later, we returned to the Borne area, where we stumbled upon the Born Centre of Culture and Memory, in which there was a free museum on the Spanish War of Succession in the 1700s and some archeological ruins from the period which were really cool!

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Talking of ruins, Barcelona is actually full of all Roman architecture in the oldest parts of the city, creating a really lovely blend of old and new which definitely adds to its charm. These remnants of a time long ago make getting lost in the Gothic and Borne quarters very enjoyable, as everywhere you look you see beautiful old buildings mixed in with the newer facilities and installations.

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Not far from the CCM was the old church Maria del Mar, and after a quick look around inside, despite being extremely exhausted already, we headed to our final destination. At the top of Montjuic (to which we got a bus, thankfully – neither of us could have managed much more walking, especially not up a hill!) is Montjuic Castle, from which there are some absolutely stunning views of the city and even better, some very gorgeous gardens. This is by far my favourite part of the city so far; the winding paths through the flowers, combined with the views of the city below, have such a tranquil and romantic atmosphere it’s hard to believe you’re still in Barcelona!

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A leisurely stroll through the gardens, some photos from the top… all was going well.

But then came the most stressful part of the day. Given that I live outside the city with my host family, transport to and from Barcelona is somewhat limited by bus timetables and such. And on Sundays the buses are even more limited than usual – meaning that the last bus back was at 8.30pm. The photo above was taken a bit after 8pm.

What followed was a mad run up a lot of steps to get back to the bus stop, a very tense, very long bus ride back to Plaza de Espanya, some very fast walking towards the metro… by which time it was 8.25pm and we were still in Plaza Espanya. Even by metro, it would be impossible to get back to my bus stop near Plaza Catalunya, and we had to admit defeat: I had missed the last bus back home.

If I had been alone, this probably would have been the point at which I ugly-panicked – but thankfully I was not, and that definitely helped to keep wearing a brave ‘all-part-ofhe-adventure’ face. But nevertheless, I still did a fair amount of panicking. Google maps, when asked to find a journey home by public transport, cheerfully informed me I’d get home at 6am the next day if I went by train to a nearby village and then waited overnight for the first bus back. Multiple other searches revealed the same thing. It seemed that unless I wanted to walk 10 miles or pay something ridiculous for a taxi, I was stuck.

What now? Other possibilities exhausted, I rang my host family to ask if there was a train or something that I didn’t know about it. Apart from the awful, stomach-turning moment when I told them I’d missed the bus and there was just a disappointed, perhaps disbelieving ‘how could you be so stupid’ silence from the other end of the phone, they were pretty nice about it. As it happened, there was a train – but not directly to my village. I had to get a train from Sants station, get off at El Masnou, and then my host father would pick me up at the station.

After we found the train station and got past our confusion on how to buy a ticket (which involved some very very dodgy Spanish speaking from me) the train journey back was not a particularly fun one, but overall I had a choice: I could look at this like a failure which would leave a sour taste and of a good day, or I could look at it like just another adventure, one of those things and perhaps a chance to experience another mode of transport and see the nearby village from the station. I chose the latter. One thing I am learning here is that things don’t always go to plan – but all we can do is hope for the best and adapt to whatever the circumstances throw at us. And if nothing else, it made for a very good story to tell later in the week once I’d got over the shame and guilt of having to be picked up!

And really, isn’t that all life is sometimes? A series of stories one after another? I think so, anyway. And today has been one of the best ones so far.

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