We've got a love/hate relationship, Barca and I. On my first visit, I ended up being turfed out of the train station by the police to sleep on the streets after my passport was stolen at Benicàssim festival. Feel no pity, for it was entirely my fault; took my fanny pack off, didn’t I? This trip, however, was my annual weekend away visiting my bestest pal Loz who eloped here two years ago. So a weekend of sun, sea and no suspicious parents (Mads was jamming it in Sweden)... perfect.
Let's get to the nitty-gritty. There are two types of British tourists: those who hide from the sun and those who bask in its glory. I opt for basking. I know what you're thinking: ‘But you’re ginger, you don’t tan.'
Challenge accepted, I say!
Mistake 1: Judging tanning as a challenge.
Mistake 2: Leaving my suncream in the UK.
Mistake 3: Trying to be hardcore and pick up the factor 20 instead of 30, to try to blend in with the locals - even though 20 is still laughable.
Day one: I decide to do the once-over with the suncream as I’m so tanned from my last trip I thought there would be no need to re-apply… My bum is now raw. No photographic evidence? For your sake and mine, believe me on this one.
Day two: So my bum's burnt, so what? I’ll just lie on my back all day. Rookie error. I’m burnt in places I didn't even know the sun could get to.
Day three: Ever optimistic, I'll cover my burnt patches with books, bags and clothes. I'm feeling smug; the sun will not get the better of me today... Sun comes and goes, my smugness is on the floor with my dignity. I am now a rainbow; every shade of salmon you can imagine, from head to toe.
Note to self: Repeat this daily - I am not Spanish, I am British. I cannot get olive skin.
I nabbed myself a bargain for this trip - £80 return ain’t bad at all. Next time you book, check out snazzy Norwegian air. Relatively new to the skies, they have some great offers around, also slightly more legroom and free wifi onboard. For flying geeks like myself you can even have a cheeky look at where the flight is or watch films online. Wooooooopla. Look, that's me on that plane.
Once safely on the ground, escape the airport, grab the Aerobus to town (it's €10.20 return and takes roughly 30mins), avoiding the cabbies. Save those pennies for the tapas, I say.
Top 5 tips.
2) Take a stroll through Barca's Gothic quarter and check out the individual boutiques showcasing the collections of up-and-coming young designers. Sunglasses are 'the thing' this summer, so don’t do a me and buy an £8 pair at the airport. Be patient and find a one-of-a-kind gem when you get there. Between shops, do soak up the Catalonian ruins at El Born CC - for free, might I add.
3) Drinks are a must in this city. I would recommend Polo De Limon to get your night started. A rooftop bar, overlooking the city and beach, selling what can only be described as buckets of gin (take note dear readers, gin is my fave). Not feeling Limon? I have a few other suggestions up my sleeve.
4) Food, all day errrrreday. Instead of chatting tapas and paella, I'm delving into the sweet treats. Although briefly in terms of T and P: search the hidden alleyways for the best and avoid the tourist traps! Back to the sweet things. Chok is a dream, following the latest Kronut (croissant/donut) trend. The people at Chok are really nailing it. Apprehensive about this craze? Grab a croissant filled, and I mean filled, with raspberry, chocolate or mascarpone at the gorgeous bakery Hofmann. But don't hang about, grab them fresh in the morning. Want to be cooled down? Grab a fro yo from Yogurteria just off Las Ramblas. It's €3.50 for a small one but you can have as many toppings as you want. Feast dear reader. FEAST.
5) Visit La Boqueria - a market situated on Las Ramblas. You can’t really miss it, unless you have your eyes on the floor, but let's not do that. Eyes on the prize people! Now freshen up with a smoothie - they come in every flavour imaginable. Expect to pay €1 each and avoid the chap at the front - he charges double - sneaky mole. Motto is have a mooch before buying anything. Away from smoothies, the market boasts several food stalls, so take your pick.
You may have noticed I have skipped pretty much every tourist attraction. Let's be honest, you will go see Gaudi and visit the big ol' cathedral, you don't need me telling you that. In my opinion the most impressive sight is the old Olympic park though, so maybe stop off there?
LISTEN UP, Barcelona is riddled with pickpockets; have a small bag with lots of buckles and zips to take out with you, none of these flimsy beach bags. I adopted a new walk to deter the thieves by waggling my shoulders. Take it or leave it, but I’ve still got all my belongings.
While Bruges is the love of my life, Barcelona is my lover - ever so addictive. But dear reader, I have other addictions too which I'll tell you about in due course...
Until next time.