Phillip Wong // The Articles

Speed Tourism Through
the Old City Streets

Barcelona, SPA   |   Oct 2010

The flight into Barcelona was made all the more exciting due to the pleasures of travelling with EasyJet (whatever benefits come from not allocating seats to passengers, I'm not entirely sure). Once out of the airport and into the lazy Spanish evening, a half hour train ride into the city centre followed by another hour along the coast awaited until reaching our destination, Calella. Having successfully negotiated the journey with 20kg bike boxes each, we had earned our tourist dinner at McDonalds.

Calella is a small tourist beach approx. 50 kms from the Barcelona city centre by train. The town is best described as what would happen if a collection of buildings were to pop up in one hit during the 1970s and remain untouched to the present day; a sleepy, rustic charm so to speak. A strange German influence cloaks the town, highlighted by the Oktoberfest festival that lasts the month and features a revolving schedule of genuine German brass bands in all their splendour.

Being a tourist town, there are two main options on how to spend your hard-earned cash: the wonderful array of t-shirts and the not-so-fine dining. Fashion lovers and gadget geeks need not apply, but this is what makes the quaint beach town attractive; there is no option but to relax and indulge.

The daily routine started with a visit to Canapè for a cafè amb llet, croissant xocolata and/or croissant fromatge followed by a trip across the avenue to the Spark supermarket for some of the cheapest groceries ever seen. The evening routine was a single-minded mission to sample the local gastronomic delights. The offerings were of typical tourist town standard (especially my beloved patatas bravas which, on all occasions, was made without a fresh tomato in sight) but certainly cheap and cheerful.

Hotel Neptuno

A sign of things to come: the clear blue sky from the patio of our apartment would continue for the entire trip with no sign of anything other than warm weather and lazy Spanish days.

The gentle sun would ensure that sun-lovers could comfortably enjoy another of the area's attractions - the nude beaches - although some of this special Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen would still be recommended for such folk. Available at all pharmacies, and Spark of course.

Calella City Streets

Once off the highway, the Calella city streets are all pedestrian, save for the taxis that that are willing to take on the gauntlet of narrow, pedestrian filled roads. The buildings are typically European; tight-knit and multi-story with the town church as the centre piece.

The one time I ventured into this church was late in the evening as the church was closing for the day. Hearing the rustle of key-in-lock behind me, the attendent continued to close up despite my attempts to explain that I wasn't interested in a sleep-over. Her meanacing and repeated gesturing towards the altar did not sit well, until it became clear that that was where the side exit was located.

The Local

Barcelona FC on the big screen, €1.80 San Miguel at the bar, same deep fried potatos with tomato sauce posing as patatas bravas. This, my friend, is Calella.

The locals had flocked into this quaint bar on the Carrer de l'Esglèsia near the town church for the mid-week Champions League fixture. A window seat gave some reprieve from the cigarette smoke and afforded a view of Calella life.

As can be seen, the main pedestrian roads in Calella are tiled similarly to that of a bathroom. No offence implied.

La Rambla

After a one hour train trip to Barcelona Sants, a sojourn into Barcelona City began on one of the busiest pedestrian areas around. La Rambla is a hive of activity, be it pedestrians or the buskers who practise the local style of dressing up and sitting down. Don't get trigger happy on the camera though if you're not prepared to throw some coins in the hat. Judging by the numbers and sheer effort put into the elaborate costumes, busking could be judged to be a legitimate career path for these Spaniards.

St Josep Markets

Leading directly off of La Rambla, the St Josep covered market provides an endless supply of chocolates, seafood, crushed fruit juice, and - of course - the famous product itself: Iberican ham. You can spend all the way up to €130 per kg if you wish but, regardless of price, all come with a complimentary hoof attached.

Be sure to pick up a little manchego along the way as well.

Taking a leaf from the motto that fresh tastes best, these eateries inside the St Josep Markets are where the action is. With several cooks operating in an area the size of a small hallway, each store can afford to offer an extensive menu given the ingredients are all within easy reach.

A healthy queue awaits those looking for a seat, although the food and wine provides just reward.

Barcelona Cathedral

Gaudi's Sagrada Familia takes much of the spotlight, but for those unable to wait until the completion date of 2030, the Barcelona Cathedral is right here, right now for immediate enjoyment. Make sure you're wearing pants, shoes, and long sleeves if you're planning on venturing inside.

The Cathedral integrates perfectly with the maze of city streets which may lead to some surprise when it opens up to Tourist Central in the well populated courtyard at the main entrance.

Around the back streets of the Cathedral, nuns work their magic on the populace.

Old City Streets

To be a successful busking duo, a prerequisite is for one member to be slightly eccentric. A great busking duo has two members that fit the bill. Afternoon revellers are entertained by a sensational rendition of classics hits sung in perfect spanglish.

Within this square, more traditional busking takes place. Take your pick between classical guitar, glass ball acrobatics, or traditional Spanish dance.

This gentleman stirs up interest from the lunchtime crowd before his companions enter the fray to complete the trio and get the show underway.

The old city streets, the ones tucked away from the main streets and retain their vintage atmosphere. Life moves at its own pace and yields for no-one. Do yourself a favour and strap your boots on; these streets were made for walking.

A woman takes a quiet moment while, off-screen to the right, an busking opera singer runs through her routine.