The Big Trip, Day 7: Barcelona – another day in paradise

After the upsets of last night, I don’t sleep very well despite the reassuring presence of Tom snoring. It’s occurred to me that I may have left my passport in the van, and I’m not sure if it’ll still be there when I get back.

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Still, I manage some fitful dozing, my first night’s sleep not in the van for a week. It was a late one, and we both manage to finally surface at about 11am. After a cup of tea, we head back up towards the van to assess the damage.

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We retrace last night’s confused steps up the hill, and the area looks totally different in the daylight. The ornate, 18th century looking building I passed in the dark turns out to be the National Art Museum of Catalonia, and in the day it has handy escalators to get you up those steep, steep hills. It also has a succession of stepped walls of water as you ascend. Tourists throng the place, deservedly, as that was surely the intention.

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It’s a nice walk in the park on a sunny day, and I can feel my mood improving. Yes, I’m still a bit worried about the van, but I don’t feel like hurrying back. We amble along in the sunshine, stopping occasionally to look at the vistas of the city from the hill. Tom points out the landmarks in the distance, including the famous Gaudi cathedral which I’ll hopefully have time to visit at some point.

When we get back to the van, it doesn’t take long to get everything back in order. I’m unsure how they actually got in, as no windows are broken and the skylights are intact. My best guess would be that they managed to slide the drivers window open because the catch wasn’t properly shut, then reached in and opened the door with the interior handle.

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Still, my passport is still there, and it really does seem that all that’s missing is a pair of glasses. It takes a while to find where some things have got to; the metal support for the table, for example, turns up under the bed where it must have fallen when the intruders checked under the mattress. A couple of friends on Facebook have warned me to check in case anything has actually been put in – ie for smuggling purposes. But there’s nothing in any nook or cranny that shouldn’t be there. As breakins go, I’ve not done too badly here.

After last night we’re both tired, so Tom heads back to his room while I doze in the van, the back door open to let in the sunshine. A German couple have pulled in beside me in an old VW LT van emblazoned with the legend ‘Vegan Traveller’, and we chat for a while; his name’s Robert, and he’s been travelling in the van with his girlfriend for nearly a year. I ask what he’s been doing for money, and he tells me he’s been living off savings. Nice if you can, but I don’t have that amount put by.

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After a couple of hours, I’m ready to head out again, and I decide to travel down the hill in style – I’ll take the funicular railway from Parc de Montjuic down to Av Paral-lel. The station’s only a couple of minutes’ walk down the hill, and I buy a 48 hour travelcard – the shortest time you can get.

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I head to the lowest point of the inclined, stepped platform. This is so I can get a spot right at the front of the train, from which to film the 2 minute journey downhill.

Much of it’s in tunnels, but even that’s quite interesting when you get to the point where the two trains have to pass in opposite directions. The cable running the cars splits along with the track, and the trains pass slowly and closely by each other. From an engineering viewpoint it’s fascinating and elegantly simple.

Tom’s picked up an extra couple of hours teaching (well, running a children’s Halloween party with a fake arrow through his head), so I head off to the Wild Rover again, where I take advantage of the wifi to pen my blog.

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Then it feels like time for another amble, which inevitably takes me back to main drag La Rambla. It’s a little busier than last night, but that was really busy anyway – I get the inpression that it’s never quiet here.

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I quite fancy another cocktail, and I find a little street place right next to the opera house. This is a good choce, as the opera house actually constantly plays opera loudly from speakers outside the entrance. Not live, I assume, but it’s relaxing to sip a very large margarita to the strains of Verdi and Puccini.

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Tom turns up and helps me to finish the giant margarita, then we head off to get something to eat. Just pizza this time, but it really hits the spot – I have some sort of calzone thing full of ham and cheese, while Tom has a whole mushroom pizza. He has a heathier appetite than I do.

But less money – his teaching here is just getting started, and as yet his earnings are low. So we reprise the strategy of the previous night, and go for some street drinking with a six pack of Estrella (if you come to Barcelona, you’d better like Estrella because there’s not a lot else on offer).

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A slightly more unusual option presents itself when we round a corner and see a drinking throng. But it’s not a bar – it’s an art gallery. They’re open for a public viewing, and I’m familiar with such things from my time living in London. Not only do you get to see some interesting art, there’s usually free drinks!

After that, we just ramble through the darkened streets chatting. Along the way we pass the actual Barcelona Cathedral, and I take a snap to add to my ever-growing cathedral collection. I’m not sure if I’ll get a chance to visit it in daylight, so I’m glad we just sort of happened on it after dark.

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As the night winds towards its end, we find ourselves in another of Barcelona’s awe-inspiring wide open spaces – La Placa de Catalunya. It’s starting to rain, and we bothn slip-slide comically over the polished ground, but Tom  takes a moment to pose in the very centre of the square.

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It’s been a lovely chilled evening spent with a good friend, but it can’t last forever and we go our separate ways. All I have to do is go up the very steep hill back to Parc de Montjuic and the van. Simple, eh?

Not so much as it turns out. The streets up those hills are a rabbit warren of switchbacks, and there’s not much phone signal, so Google Maps gets easily confused. As a result, I find myself exhaustedly wandering up and down twisty roads for nearly two hours. Half the time when Googel tells me to turn left I’m confronted with a locked gate and have to retrace my steps. It’s like a devilish labyrinth.

I finally arrive back at the van at about 3:30 am, having taken two hours to do a half hour walk. My feet are aching and I’m clutching a posh ashtray I purloined from the terrace tables of a hotel whose grounds Google foolishly directed me through. But the van’s there, and bed has never felt so welcoming. I’m really hoping for a night in Barcelona that doesn’t end up with high drama – let’s hope tomorrow is easier.

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