Why Saying Chao (Bye) To Barcelona Was The hardest Thing Ever!


During the four days I spent in Spain, I made it to Barcelona, Catalunya, Girona, Costa Brava, Besalu and Banyoles. I deliberately constrained my visit to the north-eastern parts of Spain, as these regions offered the best of architecture, beaches and mountain views, alike.

A visit to Barcelona can be most rewarding in terms of the many exotic locations you can set your foot on. It could easily be the best starting point to your holiday in Spain, as all other parts of the country can be most easily reached from here.

Day 1

The majestic Cathedral has been under construction since 1882!

Photo of La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

I landed in Barcelona on the 17th of March, 2016. Spain is where I commenced my 15 day travel across 5 countries in Europe. The youth hostel, where I had booked a bed was called Hola Hostel. As per google maps, my hostel was 17 minutes away from the airport. From the information on the net, buses were quite easily available from a bus stop close to the airport. Except it wasn't half as easy to locate this bus stop. Also, as luck would have it, my data network was still taking it's own sweet time to adapt to the change in the geographical location.

As it was only 4pm, I was still hopeful of finding my way around, with ease. The bus stop was still crowded. But the real challenge was to strike a conversation with a local. Although they tried their best to help, they could only reply in 'ESPANOEL' (SPANISH). Infact, due to the miscommunication with a bus driver, I went around the airport in the same bus, twice. God bless that angelic lady driver who spoke little English and guided me to the right bus stand.

Thanks to my inability to speak Spanish, it took me 3 hours to reach Hola Hostel. It now really worried me that I wouldn't visit half as many places as I had on my list. So immediately after check in, off I went. It was 8pm and I was out for a stroll, all set to explore the streets of Barcelona. The La Sargada Familia was in close proximity to the hostel. From what I had read on the internet, the construction of this Roman Catholic Church commenced way back in 1882. After 120 years, it is still incomplete, due to the untimely death of the man responsible for the style of architecture adopted for its establishment. Antony Gaudi, was the promising architect who inspired the Gaudi architecture. Sadly, his death in a car accident, lead to the Government taking responsibility of the La Sargada Familia. Further, due to civil wars and the lack of funds in Spain, completion of the project has been deemed impossible, anytime in the near future. Its interiors were strikingly beautiful. But due to the ongoing sermon, I thought it was best to keep my camera at bay.

The same Cathedral whose exteriors did not impress me much the previous night, had me awestruck in the morning. I just couldn't take my eyes off its magnificent golden spires, as I walked towards Parc Guell, the following day.

After suffering 6 bitingly cold months in England, 17 degrees at 7 am in the morning, was pure bliss. The weather was lovely. It made the 1 hour walk from hola hostel to Parc Guell much more pleasant, than it seemed.

This place was home to many buildings that were embellished by Gaudi architecture. Each had its own charm, and they could easily pass for dream houses.

One of the many buildings in Parc Guell that are adorned by the Gaudi style of architecture.

Photo of Parc Güell, Barcelona, Spain by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

In Parc Guell. 4 for 10 euros. I clicked a picture as a reminder of the creativity behind the display

Photo of Parc Güell, Barcelona, Spain by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

My love for earrings is eternal. But if you come from India, then these junkies may not be worth investing on. It is all about personal choices, though.

"3 for four euros", said the Indian vendor, as I continued to walk away, from his collection on the street. He was pointing to the keychains, which seemed to preserve the essence of Gaudi architecture, his colourful tiles. "Teen ka main kya karoongi, bhaiyya. Ek one euro mein doge," I asked him jovially. To my surprise, he agreed. Bargaining is prevalent in all parts of the world, seriously. As he handed over my keychain, he said "Ji bag sambhalke, yahaan bohut chor hain." Most people you meet are only well-wishers. Both natives and Indians are very friendly and helpful.

As I extensively toured the streets of Barcelona, I noticed the palm trees that grew there in plenty. I couldn't recall where else I had seen one last. So I knew it was time for a picture, when I saw this Gaudi structure standing tall amidst some, in Parc Guell.

Notice its unique spire and windows!

Photo of Why Saying Chao (Bye) To Barcelona Was The hardest Thing Ever! by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

The Terrace in Parc Guell

The walls of this terrace are embedded with Gaudi tiles. A view from this terrace is a most perfect combination of the ancient gaudi architecture with the present day Barcelona city scape in the backdrop.

Visit the Parc Guell terrace to enjoy panoramic views of the city.

Photo of Why Saying Chao (Bye) To Barcelona Was The hardest Thing Ever! by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh
Photo of Arc de Triomf, Passeig de Lluís Companys, Barcelona, Spain by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

It was not on the list of attractions that I had chosen to visit in Barcelona. I passed the arch while I was trying to find my way to the old Catalan Parliament. I must say that I liked it better than my destination. These are the perks of touring a new city on foot. You discover the unplanned.

The soapy bubbles that the man blew out on the streets leading away from arc de triomf, were SO BIG!

Photo of Why Saying Chao (Bye) To Barcelona Was The hardest Thing Ever! by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

Most attractions in Barcelona like the Arc de Triomf, Parc Guell and Parliament of Catalunya were within walking distance of the Hola Hostel. The Parliament is ancient. And the trees that bordered the street in front of it, added an eerie feel to it, even in broad daylight.

I am still trying to learn the name of those trees that border the streets opposite the parliament.

Photo of Parliament of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

It was 2:30 pm. And I was walking towards La Ramblas. La Ramblas is a street side market, which sells queer yet amazing stuff. The harbour where cruise ships dock, is visible from the street leading up to this market.

Cruise Ships!

Photo of La Rambla, Barcelona, Spain by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

I definitely deserved a good meal for all the walking I did, that day. The local cuisine is based on seafood. And the Paella was one popular dish. Most eateries that lined the street leading up to La Ramblas, sold Paella for 7-8 euros. But somehow I only felt the thirst to explore more. The feeling suppressed my hunger. And anyway, I didn't eat sea food. So I grabbed a bottle of pineapple juice from a supermarket. Here, I met another Indian. The manager at the store. I was happy to learn from him, that many local shopkeepers came from India.

I paid him after our short-lived conversation. And the earnest man even returned the one extra euro that I had given him, accidentally.

I saved a good half an hour that I would have otherwise wasted away on lunch. May be I was going overboard. But when you are on a tight schedule, it is important you choose wisely. However, I took out 10 minutes to admire the harbour. I sat there, sipping my juice. I sat there contemplating the events of the day. Almost immediately, it was the incident that had just taken place in the shop that got me thinking. It is strange how we fail to notice all those wonderful things about our own people and motherland, while we are busy appreciating others. In my eyes, that Indian store manager was a star.

A bird spotted somewhere near the harbour on La Ramblas.

Photo of La Rambla, Barcelona, Spain by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

I took the last gulp of my juice. And just as I was preparing to leave, I saw him standing nearby. I wondered, if he had migrated from elsewhere and had similar thoughts running through his mind.

As I walked away from the harbour, in the direction of Montjuic, I spotted this pillar. The blue skies of Barcelona only enhanced its looks. These little secrets you discover about a new city, make long walking tours totally worthwhile.

The pillar that pointed in the direction of the Montjuic hill.

Photo of Why Saying Chao (Bye) To Barcelona Was The hardest Thing Ever! by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

It was an exhausting 25 minute uphill climb to the Montjuic mountain. If you are in love with the idea of viewing a new city in its entirety, then you must find a spot that offers panoramic views.

It was an awe inspiring view from the hill top. Standing there, I felt all my wariness drain away.

Photo of Montjuïc, Barcelona, Spain by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

I felt like a boss watching the union of the two mighty lovelies. The Blue sea and the Blue sky.

Photo of La Rambla, Barcelona, Spain by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

The Balconies of Barcelona

"Another one hour's walk from here", said the shopkeeper at Singh's superstore. I was on my way to the last destination on my list, for the day. Castillo de Montjuic. I had stopped to confirm directions and buy an ice cream, at another supermarket. Although the idea of a castle and its magical fountain filled me with enthusiasm, I wasn't sure how much longer my legs would carry me. But it was as though the streets of Barcelona wanted me to keep going. They wound their way along these quarters, that had the privilege of such beautiful balconies. I was stunned by the intricate designs.

I had been too pre-occupied to notice the time. As the same roads exited into the city, I realized that I had only half an hour more to go.

The balconies of the quarters in a street that I happened to accidentally tread on.

Photo of Castillo de Montjuïc, Carretera de Montjuïc, Barcelona, Spain by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

"Exit the roundabout into Castillo de Montjuic", said a troubled google maps voice. It was tired of guiding me and needed some well-deserved rest. I duly switched off my data network as I laid my eyes on that roundabout, it had led me to.

It was no ordinary roundabout. Barcelona was a city full of surprises.

Photo of Castillo de Montjuïc, Carretera de Montjuïc, Barcelona, Spain by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

These two pillars at the entrance of the castle towered over the tallest man who walked in.

Photo of Castillo de Montjuïc, Carretera de Montjuïc, Barcelona, Spain by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

It was 6pm. And the palace was already bustling with people. Never in my life, had I felt so relieved on seeing an escalator. I stepped on it and waited patiently for the ascending escalator to reach the balcony. It is where I sat down to watch a good dance performance by the Spaniards. And then, it was showtime.

Relax on the balcony and witness the activities here. Some even reflect the spanish culture.

Photo of Why Saying Chao (Bye) To Barcelona Was The hardest Thing Ever! by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

Show Time. The Font Magica (The magical fountain) leaves you speechless with its colorful outburst.

Photo of Why Saying Chao (Bye) To Barcelona Was The hardest Thing Ever! by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

The Castillo de Montjuic becomes most crowded around 7pm. And the obvious reason for this, is the Font Magica (The Magical Fountain). I wasn't anticipating a show during my visit, actually. Every relevant website had its own story about the annual opening times of the fountain. I just got plain lucky. The evening ended on a musical and colourful note, alike. I could not have walked back all the way. I feared pick pockets. And it was the only reason I wanted to avoid taking the metro, during the busy evening hours. Finally, I decided that remaining alert over a short journey was probably better than walking all the way back. There were 14 more days to go. I couldn't drop dead, just then. The metro station was outside the entrance. I bought my ticket for 3 euros. And reached the hostel safely, in 14 minutes.

Day 2

On the 18th of March, I was all set to visit the Montserrat. Although the two way ticket costed me 22 euros, the mountains were calling me. And I couldn't refuse. There are trains which run exclusively to the Montserrat from the metro station at Placa Espanya. (So take a tube to the placa espanya metro station, from the underground closest to your location.)The train journey to Montserrat lasted for almost an hour.

It wasn't raining too hard. But the thick fog limited the visibility. A lot of that which was clear to my eyes, was obscure to the camera due to the weather. And I couldn't click too many beautiful pictures of the mighty green mountains.

It isn't just the mountains at Montserrat. The architecture and an experience of the rituals at the beautiful monastery will also make your visit worthwhile. The monastery can be reached directly by the train you take. An alternative would be to take the cable car from the last but one stop. My ticket to Montserrat included the cable car.

As the cable car ride started, my nervousness was replaced by the thrill of travelling higher up.

Trucks and cars looking like tiny dots from far above, in Montserrat. An unforgettable experience.

Photo of Montserrat, Barcelona, Spain by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

Due to the weather conditions, I decided to call off the trek that I had planned for the day. I returned much earlier than anticipated. My craze for photography drove me to pay another visit to the balcony in Castillo de Montjuic. The convenient tubes connect all parts of the city very well. So I took the metro to the castle from Placa Espanya.

It was a most perfect opportunity for me to capture some aerial views of the city. By then, even the sun was slowly starting to make his way out from behind the clouds. On my second visit, I learnt that Castillo de Montjuic probably had some entertainment planned for its visitors, throughout the day. The bird-charmer (as I call her), had me speechless as she set her birds off on a man, that afternoon. Even though the birds didn't harm him, I was glad, I wasn't the victim. Because I wanted to be the spectator. I wanted to be the camera-man.

A panoramic view of Barcelona from Castillo de Montjuic.

Photo of Castillo de Montjuïc, Carretera de Montjuïc, Barcelona, Spain by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

Some interesting activities in the balcony of the castle.

Photo of Castillo de Montjuïc, Carretera de Montjuïc, Barcelona, Spain by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

My last destination for the day was Casa Batlo, Anthony Gaudi's residence. After the visit, I pinched myself to confirm I wasn't living a dream. The architecture was exquisite.I only wished he were alive to build me a house.

Walk in and out of this dream house. It could even put the Hans Anderson fairy-tale houses to shame.

Photo of Why Saying Chao (Bye) To Barcelona Was The hardest Thing Ever! by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

The structures inspired by the ancient gaudi architecture stood out on most streets in Barcelona. By now, I was familiar with the routes and walked back to the Hola hostel with ease. I was back in my dorm by 6pm.

The interesting Gaudi spires that adorned another building. I came across this on my way back.

Photo of Why Saying Chao (Bye) To Barcelona Was The hardest Thing Ever! by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh
Day 3

I woke up to the sound of raindrops pattering against my window. It was just 5am, still. This is the problem with Spring. The weather in Europe can get quite damp and wet, without any warning. I sat on my bunk praying fervently to the rain Gods, until I got hungry. Hola hostel was a bed and breakfast. Surprisingly, the breakfast was quite elaborate for the 17 euros that I paid per night. Even the beds were quite comfortable. I had slept soundly on them, during my 3 nights in Barcelona.

Also, the rain Gods didn't take too long to answer my plea. I saw the skies clearing, as I made my way to the beach that morning.

The sea is a tad more blue, and the sand, a tad more golden, in presence of the sun. La Barcelonata

Photo of La Barceloneta, Barcelona, Spain by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

La Barcelonata, around 10am, after the sun made his way out from behind the clouds!

Photo of La Barceloneta, Barcelona, Spain by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh
Day 4

I just had until 11 am on my third day in Barcelona. After an early morning stroll on the La Barcelonata beach, I packed my bags. Although I was all set to leave for Girona, I was in no mood to say "Chao" to this beautiful city, yet. (Article on Girona, Costa Brava, Besalu and Banyoles, coming up soon!)


Entry fee to Casa Batlo and train to Montserrat- 19+22=41euros

Stay – 17 x 3 = 51 Euros at Hola Hostel (probably the cheapest you can expect, especially for a B & B)

Metro – 3x2 = 6 Euros (appx. 10,500 INR)