A Few of My Favorites Things in Barcelona

I want to share a few of my favorite things I’ve done/seen/heard in my host city.

Parc del Laberint d’Horta: One sunny afternoon, a group of us went up to the oldest park in Barcelona. Designed in 1792, it is still insanely beautiful and well kept. It feels a little bit like a secret garden because it is located up on a woodsy hillside overlooking the city. The name obviously comes from the fact that there is a perfectly groomed labyrinth in the middle of the park. We went on a Friday and at that time there were a group of school kids on a field trip here. They were all so excited playing hide and go seek and laughing and screaming. Well, you can’t go to a labyrinth park and not actually go through the maze, so we started walking into the tall green bushes. After a few wrong turns, I realized that the kids had it all figured out. I started chatting with a few of them and made friends. When they began to run all of a sudden, we followed and, voilà, the way out! Kids are so smart. It was a really fun afternoon. Part of how the grounds are so beautifully kept is because they only allow in a certain number of guests per day (around 150), so I’m glad we made the cut!

Búnkers del Carmel: Also known as Turó de la Rovira, this spot was actually an anti air-raid bunker made back in 1937 in the midst of the Spanish Civil War to protect the city. It was a perfect spot to do so because, it sits at the highest point of the Turó and has an incredible 360° view of the entire city. It was a little bit of a trek actually getting there because it isn’t much of a tourist spot. We rode the metro up to the neighborhood, only to get off and walk around for an hour trying to find the right bus! Hah! I’m more than certain it was right under our nose the entire time…Anyway, it was worth the wait because the bunkers are spectacular. We had a bright sunny day and a slight breeze. Many people were having picnics and a few others were having real photo shoots for magazines and whatnot. It’s seriously that amazing of a view. The mood is also quite ‘chill.’ Everyone is walking around, laughing, taking pictures, and enjoying the company and beauty. When I go back next time, I think I’ll pack a food basket and bottle of wine. That’d be perfection.

Bó de B: I have a slight food obsession, but this city just keeps getting better! Ok, this is a little Greek sandwich place right downtown by the beach and the old Post Office. Everyone absolutely raves about these bocadillos a) because they will rock your world and b) because they’re pretty cheap for the amount you get. Part of the charm of this places is that no matter the time of day, there is always a line down the block. You can call me crazy all you want for waiting in line for an hour, but I have no regrets! All the meat, cheese, vegetable, and tzatziki sauce was bursting out of the fresh baguette. It was that good. After eating every last remaining morsel possible, I realized that the wait is a deliberate part of the experience. If we hadn’t waited outside for that time, drooling over the delicious smells in our nose the entire time, I probably wouldn’t be as obsessed with a sandwich right now. But I am. So clearly it worked…

L’Ovella Negra: I so wish places like this existed in America. The ‘Black Sheep’ bar (literally) is located in the old Roman neighborhood of El Raval. When you enter through the front, you have to step down and walk through a dungeon-esque entryway. Then it opens up to a big hall with long wooden tables and young people packed in everywhere. It’s a watering hole for international students. Part of the fun is in sharing a huge table with random people and talking the night away over a cubo of cerveza or sangria! Also a huge perk: they bring bowls of popcorn to the tables and refill them all night. I really love the community feeling that fills the place all the way up to the rafters. Also, you can imagine how rowdy things get when the fútbol games are playing on the big screens. Fun times for sure!

Castellano versus Catalán

Spoken language is a very prominent and controversial topic here in Barcelona. Obviously, with Spanish being the official language of Spain, everyone here is fluent in Spanish. Furthermore, the city of Barcelona is situated inside an autonomous region of the country, called Catalonia. Here the people also speak a different language: Catalán. When I say different, I’m not talking about a dialect or something like this. Completely different.

In the time of Franco, Spanish (Castellano) was the only language that the people were allowed to speak or teach in the schools. Amazingly, the Catalans continued speaking their own language with their families in the privacy of their homes. Finally in the 80s, Catalan was allowed back on the streets and in classrooms, so it’s not surprising that it came back with more fervor than ever. I kid you not, every single street sign, restaurant sign, and advertisement is in Catalan. It’s the law.

The root of everything in this bilingual struggle is totally political. Spain has one of the worst economies in Europe, yet the Catalonia region is very wealthy in comparison with the rest of the country. The Catalans are fed up with having to pay higher taxes to support up the rest of Spain, while they see no increase in their salaries. Having a king whom they must support financially, yet feel is useless, doesn’t help matters either. Maintaining their language after all this struggle shows their pride in their heritage. The rest of Spain might see them as close-minded, selfish, and elitists, but they do have some very valid points. Now, to be fair, actually managing to break off and become their own country anytime soon is something I’m highly skeptical of.

Sorry to get into the politics of it, but it is an issue that is in my face daily, so it is something I’ve taken much notice of. It is also the reason that the language is so strong here. The neat part to me is that everyone in this area is bilingual, down to even the very young schoolchildren. I have zero problem talking to people in Castellano on the streets or in restaurants, and I do feel that my Spanish has improved while being here. With that being said, I’m not sure how likely is it that I will also be able to pick up Catalan, too. Being exposed to it all around, it feels more like a strange version of French blended with some Italian with a tiny bit of Spanish on top. Oh well, it’s all good 🙂

It helps to see the difference if you have some background in Spanish, but nonetheless here are some examples of what I’m talking about. It’s still a Romantic language, so it similar but there are major differences. Enjoy.