Barcelona: From the Top Down

Remember my friend Erin, who shared her bits from her trip to France, we’ll I asked her to write up a bit more as she continued on the trip to Spain, and lucky for us, she did. So, take it away…

You don’t have to like every place that you visit. The point is to experience a culture other than your own.

That doesn’t mean you have to enjoy every minute of it, that doesn’t mean it has to become your new favorite destination, that doesn’t mean you have to want to go back again and again.

It also doesn’t mean it was a wasted trip.

As long as you can appreciate the experience and keep an open mind, it’s a success in my book. The point in traveling the world is to experience and let’s face it, not every experience is a great one.

That’s how I feel about Barcelona.

It’s not that I didn’t have a good time, I did…I loved the food and the people were friendly, the architecture was beautiful. Everyone should go and decide for themselves.

But to me I felt like I was spending a few days in California. I wasn’t blown away. I was disappointed there were so many American stores and everyone spoke English. I was so excited to leave France and finally use some of my high school Spanish but that didn’t work out…sigh.

I love culture shock.

I think that’s where my addiction to travel begins. I like to feel lost, confused, out of place and unsure, (only when on vacation, not so much in life). Barcelona, aside from the architecture, was too modern and easy for me.

Keep in mind this trip to Europe was my first vacation to another “Western style” country, so already the culture shock had been taken down a few notches. (Plus side, it was the first time I’ve come home from vacation without swine flu or some unknown stomach virus. Bonus Points!)

Barcelona did have some highlights. The food was amazing. And obviously, I loved La Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, Las Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter. And at one point, we accidentally found ourselves in the middle of 1.5 million nationalists on Diada de Catalunya, which turned out to be quite an experience.

We also went to a topless beach for the first time…and participated.

I mean, all the cool kids were doing it!

When you’re the only group there with bathing suits on, you’re the ones out of place. There’s no time to think, you’ve just gotta do it. Top down. Like pulling off a band-aid, quick and painless. Oddly enough, at that point everyone stopped staring.

However, my topless friend panicked each time someone spoke to her on the beach including the guy selling water even though he only looked directly at her face.

“It feels weird when people talk to me and I’m naked, but they’re naked too…but I don’t know if that’s okay?!” Hands casually covering her exposed bits…

The lesson to take away from the topless beach is not that my friend freaked out about being naked but that she tried it. She stepped out of her comfort zone…and her clothes with an open mind.

I suggest everyone do the same.

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  • Barcelona… Gosh I miss it!

    I do feel very ignorant now though… Their flag looks so much like the Puerto Rican flag and I didn’t even know it! The *only* difference is that our stripes are white instead of yellow. The design (blue triangle with white star in the middle) and even red stripes are exactly the same. Well, the conquistadors did come here first, so maybe that’s where we drew her inspiration? Fascinating! Thanks for teaching me something new today 😀

    – Maria Alexandra

  • aaaand on a different note…

    “I was disappointed there were so many American stores and everyone spoke English. ” <– Really?

    Unfortunately, that's the reality in most countries nowadays. American Pop culture is strong. Very strong. It simply means that you have to take deeper beneath the surface in order to really find the charm of the place.

    personally, I find it to be a pleasant challenge in itself 😉

  • aaaand on a different note…

    “I was disappointed there were so many American stores and everyone spoke English. ” <– Really?

    Unfortunately, that's the reality in most countries nowadays. American Pop culture is strong. Very strong. It simply means that you have to DIG deeper beneath the surface in order to really find the charm of the place.

    personally, I find it to be a pleasant challenge in itself 😉

  • MlleW

    I like your title linked to the “participation on the topless beach”…Barcelona has been quite spoiled by its tourists which can make the experience somewhat diffused. For me it’s youth sentiment: I visited it the first time 16 years ago as a teen so I always remember it like the magical city of art and going out, however, I recognize how it has changed and become more blunt to tourists. I have been robbed twice there so I know the pickpockets are supertrained and as good as invisible/unnoticable (whereas other cities I have no probs with it)

  • Gotta love the Barca. I wish I could have had more beach and food experiences there. I went to a great fun cava, cheap good place near the waterfront. La Champagnerie

    My favorite there is the Gaudi architecture: http://aroundtheworldin80jobs.com/getting-all-gaudi-in-barcelona/

    So many things to love.

    Turner

  • Oh it pains me to see this! I totally know what you mean, the centre of Barcelona is a very ‘comfortable’ place for new visitors, and it has been ruined a bit by an American influence, but that’s Western Europe for you. However, I lived there for 8 months earlier this year, and hardly ever visited the centre for that reason. You want to get up to the ‘Gracia’ part of town, which is where I lived. It’s between the centre and Park Guell and is untouched by tourists – of which I was very grateful! Plenty of opportunity to practice your Spanish there, as well as eat some more fantastic food. We also tended to take trains up the coast to go to different beaches, Barceloneta beach was avoided by us all! Avoid the tourist bits, and you’ll avoid the tourists…