Barcelona. Home of a grand basilica, golden beaches and a fantastic football club, it really does make quite the postcard. From the harbour to the backdrop of Mt Tibidabo it’s understandable why it makes it on to the world monopoly board. However, I do also understand why it’s only a light blue and not the famous darker shade further along the board, due to a few minor misdemeanours on our part. As amazing as the Gothic architecture was, for two eighteen year old guys impressive religious buildings are only interesting for so long. We were more suited to the beaches, Olympic park and Nou Camp.
For the first time during the trip we treated ourselves and stayed in a campsite, complete with fully functioning toilets and showers, right on the beach just a short bus ride away from the centre of the city. We took full advantage of the facilities, particularly of the washing machines. During one of our relaxed beach card games is when we discovered the first key flaw of the site. The infrastructure occupying the space between us and central Barcelona was the airport. Planes are very loud and our gazebo wasn’t exactly the greatest sound barrier, so when combined with what seemed like a plague of mosquito, sleeping became tougher than usual. This was the first and only time the gazebo was called into action as a result of Bani failing to tie it down and the wind changing the structure of it as a result. The second major inconvenience was discovered from the repercussions of our bus table naivety. Obviously we planned a big night out in Spain’s second city, and we had to commit to going big due to being out of walking distance from the van and too stingy on our gap year budgets to fork out for a taxi and so had to pull an all nighter to make it to the first bus the following morning. Unfortunately, we had not learnt from our Pamplonan mistakes and once again went to hard on the sangria. After the first few bars we were coaxed into a seemingly fantastic opportunity from one of the club promoters lining the streets and thought a package deal to three clubs would help us through the night. Our free shots in club numero uno went down a treat but the drinks after that were a bridge too far causing the need for a power nap. The role of carer and cared for were reversed as Bani became my babysitter for the remainder of the evening, were we went on a night time tour of the harbour and beach, both of which provided a opportunity for a brief nap. Tour in this circumstance was more of a drunk rambling and the power naps lay in a thin grey area of voluntary sleeping and passing out. Eventually the sun returned and the buses started running again, returning us to the home comforts of Fanny and the beach where the napping continued interspersed with food breaks and more gin rummy.
After a paella fuelled recovery we packed up our camping equipment, binned the remains of the gazebo and drove into the centre with Barcelona FC’s Nou Camp our destination. And it was a pretty cool destination. From there we moved onto Mt Tibidabo. Only planned in due to a ‘Friends’ reference about hitchhiking through Europe, it came with a wonderful drive up the hills on the outskirts of the city with views to match. The church at the top is impressive too but nothing on the one we were about to go and see. A quick funicular trip down to hill led us to the Basilica de Sagrada Familia, one of the most grand and spectacular religious buildings in the world, even though it hasn’t been completed despite construction beginning in 1882. It is a architectural marvel that even Bani could appreciate. He didn’t appreciate, however, debateably the worst aquarium in the world which we had visited earlier in the week in the harbour where we got ripped off to see a few sharks and a turtle before another disappointing activity of the cross harbour cable car where all the punters are crammed in just to view the back of the next persons head for ten minutes. It did lead us to the Olympic park (originally designed for the 1936 games before Germany stole it) which was used in the 92 summer Olympics and now sits for tourists to admire and actually get involved in if they are willing to pay to run on the track or kick a ball about.
The drive away from Mt Tibidabo rounds off our Spanish adventure as we head across the Pyrenees into France. And what a frustrating drive it was. Poor planning meant we had only selected a rough area to stay in for that night, a town which was throwing some sort of festival and became impassable as we joined the masses of traffic. Having eventually made it through the gridlock we headed for the beaches which only multiplied my anger as every car park in the city had a 2m height limit preventing the van from entering, forcing me to drive in many circles. My trusty navigator stepped up to lead us in any direction the inner chimp in his brain decided to take us, leading to more height restricted areas and closed car parks as we randomly bumbled about near the sea until we arrived at a roadside caravan park thing which was good enough to stay in for the night.