Serendipity

Day 1 in Barcelona

Back in Freiburg, I’ve done my assignment, like I always do, to get to know and prepare for the city I am visiting, through my usual wikitravel-Fodor-tripadvisor route. This takes out a bit of the fun in discovering pleasant surprises of the city. But if you were to travel alone, like I do now, it wouldn’t hurt knowing where exactly to go and try out a tentative itinerary.

As soon as our plane landed, I kept my eyes sharp for that ticket booth where I could buy a T-10 pass. This ticket allows its holders to use the bus or the Metro within its covered zone. I think I wanted to buy a zone 1 ticket, whatever that area covers.

From the airport, I took a shuttle to the train station where some train staff handed us out free tickets to one of the tram lines. I took a look at the train line plan. I got convinced I was looking at something more lika maze to be solved rather than a map by which to be guided. I asked one of the train guys in Spanish, or at least what I’ve picked up of the language from the audio CD I’ve been training with how to get to my youth hostel. ‘Donde esta Plaza Urquinaona?’ He explained everything in everything in Spanish, where I picked up his point. Or so I thought. I should have gotten off at Catalunya Station. But it’s either we skipped it, it was moved to another station, or it doesn’t exist altogether. My eyes were transfixed on the monitor almost the whole time. I reached the last station with no Catalunya estacion in sight.

And so I had to ask around, walked a little, got a little more lost, and finally followed to the train station some German-speaking group which I overheard to be going to the same direction as I was. This is how I got to buy my T-10 ticket with the help of the Informacion guy.

After settling down for a bit in my hostel, which took some more roaming around in Plaza Urquinaona, I went off to look for the information center to pick up a city map in Plaza Catalunya (not again!). I found the plaza, but not the information center. I walked some more (I am doing some serious walking in this city), and soon found my way to Las Ramblas, the second place of interest on my list. Still decided to get that map, I continued walking and spotted the Boqueria Market, my supposed first stop.

In Las Ramblas, the pedestrians are the king of the road. It is bounded on each side by a single-lane road for motor vehicles. The pedestrian zone stretches from Plaza Catalunya all the way to the sea port where fleets of yachts are found. By this time, I have forgotten entirely about the map and just wandered aimlessly near the boulevard. I went back to Las Ramblas and tried looking for the other sights on my list.
As I continued walking, I heard a familiar language, and I slowed down my pace to make sure my ears were not fooling me. A couple, each pushing a stroller, with another lady in tow were talking in Filipino. I faced the lady with a stroller and was referred to the other lady to ask where to find my other destinations for the day. She scribbled some lines on the paper I use that contains my itinerary in lieu of a map, and added her mobile number in case I get lost. I could have racked up my phone bill because of the many times I got lost, but didn’t bother to giver her a ring. I walked off feeling more confident now that I have a “map.” I enjoyed getting lost in the Gothic quarter, which I shouldn’t be visiting until my third day here.

The sea port
It was getting dark and time to head back to my hostel (a very pretentious one called ‘Gaudi Youth Hostel’). Without a map, I traced my way back to the hostel which took me another hour. You probably know the reason, but that is, still, another story.

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