LIZ HARROD

Barcelona, in Peak Season – 14 April

In Spain, Travel 2011 on April 13, 2011 at 9:57 pm

It’s taken me a bit to write this one, mostly because I expected to love Barcelona so much, and to be quite honest, I didn’t.

Barcelona was not what I expected.

Granted I am a Woody Allen fan and love Vicky Cristina Barcelona, but the fact that Javier Bardem did not sweep me into a torrid but enlightening love triangle with he and Penelope Cruz was not my main issue.

My issue was Europe in peak season.

When planning the timing of my trip, there were a few accidentally good decisions I made.

Examples:

1) Waiting until after my 25th birthday: decision made solely based on the fact that I hadn’t spent my birthday at home since high school. Coincidentally perfect, though, because now I can legally rent a car, not that I have. . . But I could if I wanted to!

2) Start in Ireland in February: purely a geographical decision. Howevere, perfect due to the presence and hospitality of Meg and Michael and the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival. . . All of which became part of the plan after the first decision.

3) Begin backpacking in Europe in winter: a no brainer because I don’t have a paying job. So the longer I waited to leave the more money I spent on things other than travel. The bonus I didn’t think of? By starting in February I avoided peak season. . . Until now.

Barcelona really is a beautiful city. The first thing any tourist will hear about when heading that direction is Antoni Gaudi, Spain’s most famous architect responsible for the Dr. Seuss like structures that speckle Barcelona’s cityscape. The second thing that will cross the radar of any tourist is Las Ramblas, a main street where you can see almost anything.

My time in Barcelona was, admittedly, fast, and I was, admittedly, preoccupied with getting to Paris – couldn’t wait to see a few friends and be back somewhere I could at least feign the ability to communicate. Nevertheless, I did pay attention to a few lessons about peak season in
Europe and extended traveling in general.

Lesson #1:

Traveling in Europe in peak season can be exhausting – think Disney but lose the cheerful Mickey and the giant cartoon maps directing you where to go. That being said with a bit of planning (something I admittedly decided to partially neglect on this venture) it is manageable and even enjoyable.

Have a look at the city you are planning to visit and decide what your goals are. Do you care about the tourist highlights? If you don’t, you will be fine – enjoy your time away from the beaten path while everyone else waits in line.

However, if you do have a list of popular destinations you’d like to visit, don’t make some of the mistakes that I made,

First, if you find yourself in Barcelona during peak season, do not try to visit Park Guell at lunch time. In any other location this little tip pertains to all famous parks of a limited size. Yes, it sounds lovely – lunch in amongst the trees, and, in the case of Park Guell, surrounded by Gaudi’s masterpieces. But trust me, thousands and thousands of people are just as enamored by the romantic idea. Trust me; I witnessed it first hand.

If you must eat in a popular park during peak season, aim for a breakfast picnic instead, or a late afternoon lunch. Avoid the 12 to 2pm time period all together and find a secluded spot elsewhere.

Lesson #2:

When it comes to the conventional destinations, i.e. cathedrals, museums, and yes, castles, check out the details ahead of time. Beware of higher ticket prices (inflated to capitalize on the masses), stricter regulations on concession prices, and varying opening times. If you want to really enjoy a place, get there early – before it opens – to be in that first cue of people they let in.

Oh, and if you are buckling to the prices and going for it, this isn’t the place to be stingy. If you are going to wait in the line and pay then general admission, you may as well spring for the audio tour and the stupid elevator pass up the tower.

Fun budget tip – most student IDs don’t have dates on them. . . Just saying.

Lesson #3:

More in relation to extended traveling than peak season.

It is okay not to like a place.

Traveling for an extended period of time has its ups and it’s downs. One of the hardest things for me to remember is that it is okay not to like a place.

Sure, everything is a new experience and every experience is worth having, but that doesn’t have to mean you like all of them.

For example, I’m not particularly thrilled that the woman in Marrakech overcharged me for my henna, and I’m not particularly in love with Sagrada Familia even though it cost me €15 to see it (with a student discount).

That being said, if I went back, I’d do it again – maybe haggle a bit more for the henna – but I’d do it again anyway.

Conclusion on this one? I didn’t love Barcelona with my heart and soul, but I’m glad I spent a couple days there, and I’d certainly go back, knowing a bit more of what to expect.

Lesson #4:

Perhaps my most important.

It is absolutely positively fine to rest, nap, laze around, sleep in, whatever!

Technically yes, I am holiday, but I have an issue with that word. Holiday implies a constant vacation, but to be honest I’m living this way. And sure I’m in Europe (France at this very moment), and occasionally I have to remind myself how lucky I am, but at the same time I also have to remind myself to take a break. I don’t have to go go go go all the time. I’m allowed to be tired, and if I would rather cook a bit of dinner, write a bit and go to bed, it’s fine to skip a crazy night out on Las Ramblas.

So there, lessons that took a few days in Barcelona during peak season to really drive them home.

And just to reiterate, I’m not writing off Barcelona, just this time around, it wasn’t for me.

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