I Wish I Loved You, Barcelona

Oh Barcelona.

Now, let me preface this by saying that I really, really wanted to love Barcelona. It seemed to have so many of the things I love in a city: a beach, a booming arts scene, narrow streets, and an international airport. Even my mother is in love with the place. But, it just didn’t work out that way for me. A combination of bad situations culminated in me wanting to leave Barcelona as soon as I could.

First, I got to Barcelona completely exhausted after my two sleepless red-eye flights from New York. I knew Spain was a great place to sleep in because nothing is really open before 11am anyway, so I slept a lot and remained positive. Unfortunately I just couldn’t kick the jet lag throughout my weekend in Barcelona, leaving me tired and then irritated by my tiredness. It also didn’t help that I happened to bring with me my new shoes that were half a size too small.

Things started off badly with the terrible hotel I booked. It wasn’t even a hotel, it was an apartment with a reception five blocks away. My mistake, but still, Barcelona’s pricey accommodations prevented me from renting a private Airbnb like I normally would in countless other cities. The place I rented had paper thin walls, no windows, no wifi and no towels! I’m by no means a picky traveler but even this was frustrating for me. Barcelona’s prices are on par with New York and London and this is just what you get for the amount of money I was willing to pay. Can’t say I was shocked, but it wasn’t pleasant nonetheless.

After ditching my too-small shoes for comfy boots, I went to visit the Picasso Museum, only to find there were literally hundreds of other people in line, on a tiny alleyway in central Barcelona. I guess this was to be expected but I was still hoping for the best. Didn’t happen.

Two coffee shops I wanted to visit were closed that Sunday and I should have seen that coming as Sunday is Europe’s continental day off, but still, I had somehow hoped that the third wave coffee scene would somehow pick up on the third wave weekend schedules. Nope. The coffee shop I finally chose was so understaffed, it took them 20 minutes just to take my order (again, expected in Europe, but this seemed excessive).

Some will hate me for this, but I didn’t find Barcelona very beautiful, especially compared to Madrid. There were no curving baroque balconies in Barcelona and no colorful buildings. Just a lot of faded brown stones. I did enjoy the narrow streets of the Gothic Quarter but I think these kinds of streets can be found in many more beautiful cities as well. Madrid was beautiful everywhere you looked – there were elegant balconies, intricate façades, and beautiful orange and yellow hued buildings.

The truth is that Barcelona is really a tourist’s city. About 50% of the language I heard on the street was American English, another 30% was French, and the remaining 20% was a combination of Spanish, Catalan and anything else I didn’t understand. This is my definition of a failed trip. When I travel, I want to be surrounded by foreign culture in every possible way – and Barcelona let me down in this regard.

Lastly, I’m just not a fan of Gaudi. Sorry, Barcelona.

Barcelona

Barcelona
Barcelona

Hopefully next time around I’ll have a better experience in Barcelona, with proper planning and research (and no jet lag)! Have you been to Barcelona? What did you like/dislike?

November 10, 2016

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I’m an American photographer and writer based in Paris after living in New York for 7 years and then and spending a year and a half traveling. My work has been featured by the Paris and Nice Tourism Offices, Art Basel, and Refinery 29. Culture Passport is a place to share my travels and experiences in new places, with a focus on cultural attractions.

4 Comments Leave Yours

It’s always frustrating when a city you truly hope to be wowed by leaves you wanting either more or the quickest escape route. Sorry you had such a rotten string of bad luck!

Reply

Yep, and that tends to be the case with my travels! Thanks for reading, Marni :)

Reply

It’s funny how sometimes the culmination of a few bad events colours the way we experience a new place. Accommodation is a big one for me – I need somewhere comfortable to relax at the end of a day sightseeing! I had no idea Barcelona was so expensive.. I had mixed feelings when I visited too – neither hating or loving it. Now I want to visit Madrid though!

Reply

Yep, 100% agreed! To be fair I was booking relatively last minute so that also meant fewer available apartments, hotels, etc. In any case, I too had mixed feelings about the city itself. That tends to happen when we have super high expectations I guess ;) You should definitely visit Madrid – for me, it was 100 times better! x

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