Barcelona: Day One

I started my trip to Barcelona with the intention of journaling every day. That plan lasted until I got to the hostel – I have extremely detailed notes about my journey from NYC to Barcelona, but beyond that, I’m recapping each day based on memories, a few scribbled notes, my original itinerary and pictures in my phone.

Barcelona Travel Guide

Day One: Travel + Barcelona Football Match

I left my apartment on Tuesday at 2 p.m. after half a day at the office. As I got on the subway, I picked up a key that a woman dropped on the platform and returned it to her – praying that it was good karma that would protect me from Barcelona’s notoriously talented pick-pocketers (spoiler alert: all three of us made it through our trip without being pick-pocketed!)  

As I transferred from the 6 train to the E train, a nice man helped me down the 534543 stairs with my 44 lb. bag. It was a small miracle that my bag weighed in at under 50 pounds. Of course, I had spent the morning at the gym doing arm exercises and even the 44 pounds was a struggle for the hour and a half journey.

At one point, the train got stuck underground for a good 5 minutes and I did a very good job of not jumping to conclusions and panicking that we were stuck forever and I was going to miss my flight. Must be all that yoga keeping me zen...

When I made it to the Airtrain terminal I felt like such a tourist – the ticket machine was not my friend that day.

I made it to Terminal 8 of JFK by 3:23 and while American Airlines check-in and baggage drop process seems a lot less efficient than Delta’s, I was through security by 3:49 and meeting Jon at our gate!

At the gate, Jon finally decided to try to book all of the tours I had sent him weeks ago and while some were already sold out for the times Emily and I were going (Sagrada Familia and Park Guell), he got into a few.

Barcelona Travel Guide

My butt was in my seat at 5:07 and I was, as usual, in awe at these giant planes. First class has legit BEDS! I’m so used to flying domestically in tiny planes. Is it weird that I’m so much more freaked out by huge planes than little ones? They have no business flying through the air!

Dinner was some cheese and crackers and chicken with rice and some creamy sauce. The side salad was so pathetically sad, but overall I’ve come to expect worse from airplane food so I was pleasantly surprised.

American doesn’t serve Fresca, my go-to in-flight beverage, but on International flights beer and wine are free and they have DIET DR. PEPPER. That’s what I went with.

I slept from about 6-6:30, woke up briefly, and then fell asleep for another 30 minutes or so.

I started watching Passengers as I ate at around 7. By 8:15 I popped a melatonin and slept until 11:45 which is a solid chunk of time on a flight! When I woke up I finished watching Passengers and jotted down two quotes from it that I really liked:

You can’t get so hung up on where you’d rather be that you forget to make the most of where you are.”
“If you live an ordinary life you’ll have ordinary stories. You need to live a life of adventure.”

They seemed fitting for the start of my trip!

As we started coming in for our landing in Barcelona, I blasted Ed Sheeran’s Barcelona followed by George Ezra’s Barcelona – followed by Duele El Corazon.

We went through customs (Jon almost knocked over a temporary wall) and hung out for 2 hours or so while we waited for Emily to land. Jon got two pinchos at a restaurant – more on pinchos later – but we really had no idea what he was eating.

We scoured the place for outlets to charge our phones but had no luck.

When Emily arrived we made our way to the Aerobus, which we had pre-purchased tickets for. We had no trouble finding it. We stowed our luggage and connected to the free WiFi. It was a quick trip and while we originally planned on going from Placa Espanya to the metro, we chickened out and decided to hail a cab to our hostel and to figure out the metro when we didn’t have massive suitcases. (Ok, Emily and I had massive suitcases, Jon not so much).

We easily walked over to a cab and our driver was so nice! He knew we were American and put on an Eric Clapton CD and as we got closer to our hostel, he explained we would be staying in a neighborhood called El Poble-sec. Airbnb’s neighborhood guide (a feature that I love), describes El Poble-sec as:

“Tucked away in the shadow of Montjuïc, Barcelona’s “dry village” actually boasts the city’s cheapest bars. Transcending its previous reputation as a semi-seedy watering hole, Poble-sec is now renowned as one of Barcelona's favorite destinations for fashionable nights out. Many of Barcelona's best restaurants, tapas bars, and arts institutions make their mark in Poble-sec while its playful nature keeps it feeling down-to-earth despite its proximity to the heart of city.”

Our taxi driver also told us a good place to go for lunch in the area – his suggestion was in Placa del Sortidor (Sortidor Square) and was called El Sortidor. Our cooking class instructor ended up giving us the same recommendation later in the week. Unfortunately, when we went to eat there, the waitress either didn’t understand us or didn’t want to seat us because she said they were closed even though they clearly weren’t!

Anyway, our cab driver also told us that the main street we were living off of, El Paral-lel, gets its name because it runs parallel to the equator. Similarly, Avinguda Meridiana runs along the Prime Meridian.

He took a wrong turn as he talked to us and stopped the meter early – after having been warned so many times about sneaky cab drivers who take advantage of tourists, we had such a great first experience and were soon walking into Hostel One to check-in!

An impressively dread-locked Frenchman greeted us and helped us with our bags. We walked into the lobby/kitchen/common area and were offered breakfast (available every morning for 2.50 euro) but we passed. Our room wasn’t ready yet, so we sat and got the whole spiel from Kim, another young person from France.

This was my first experience staying in a hostel, and I had originally gone back and forth between a hostel vs. an Airbnb. There are obviously pros and cons to both, but Hostel One really ended up exceeding my expectations.

We were given the door code (AMAZING not having to worry about keys!), the WiFi password, and told the rules about writing your name on anything you wanted to keep in the fridge.

Every day Hostel One hosted an outing to a touristy attraction – Parc Guell, Montjuic, etc. Then, each night at 8:30 pm, people staying in the hostel (or either of the other 2 Hostel One locations in Barcelona) were invited to enjoy a free dinner downstairs. The people who work for Hostel One are from all over the world, so one night you could be eating lasagna cooked by an Italian and the next, Quiche Lorraine cooked by someone from France! (Those were the two group dinners we joined in for). Dinners are donation based and the money from the previous nights dinner buys the ingredients for the next day's meal.

During the dinner, the staff would explain the plan for the evening – each night the group journeyed together to a bar at 11:30 PM, followed by a club around 1:30 AM. I knew before the trip that the hours in Spain were going to be a change, but actually hearing them say we weren’t leaving for the bar until 11:30 PM was crazy.

We locked up our things with the hostel and set out for Quimet & Quimet – a restaurant that Anthony Bourdain featured on his popular Travel Channel show “No Reservations.” It was super close to our hostel and we arrived about 20 minutes before it opened, and wandered around a little while to kill time. I found an amazing vegetable shirt in a thrift store and tried asking if I could try it on off of the mannequin but the language barrier meant no vegetable shirt for Lauren! SO SAD.

We were the first three people to enter Quimet y Quimet, which is an extremely popular and typically packed restaurant! We ordered our first glasses of sangria of the trip and while Jon was less than thrilled with the almost entirely seafood-centric menu, I was in heaven!

Quimet y Quimet

Quimet y Quimet’s famous for their montaditos – small, bite sized sandwiches. I ordered their most popular one – salmon, yoghurt and truffled honey. It was so so delicious. The bread was so crispy, light and airy, the salmon so fresh and the yoghurt so creamy. I could have eaten about ten of these.

I also ordered an order of the stuffed baby squid and the baby broad beans with codfish – both were incredible!

All that seafood cost me under $20 and was an amazing first meal in Barcelona!

After Quimet y Quimet, we made our way to another restaurant so Jon could get some meat – a cheeseburger to be exact. He considered it to be Spanish because the cheese was Manchego (MY FAVORITE).

Then, it was time to go back to the hostel and hope that our room was ready. We chilled in the lobby for about a half hour chatting with people as they came and went and (wrongly) assumed that they knew we were waiting to be shown our room. Finally, we were like, “uhmmm excuse me is our room ready yet?” And the guy was like, “Oh you’re ready to see your room? Yes!” OY. Just goes to show how much more laid back people are in the rest of the world.

When we got to our room, I was shocked at how big the lockers were. My entire large suitcase + carry on backpack fit in it no problem.

We realized none of us had the right converters/chargers for our phones and headed out on a mission to find the right converters – for just 5 euro we were in business. We took an hour nap before showering – I forgot how small European showers are. 

We stopped downstairs and headed to the subway with someone else from our hostel who was going to the Barcelona football game that night – he led us to the subway and when we got off, we followed the crowd towards Camp Nou, where FCB plays their games. We stopped at a bar along the way and after much struggle, I managed to order a “vino blanco” while Emily and Jon got huge beers in plastic cups that we drank in the street. We sat down at a table with two guys from Michigan and Boston who happened to be college hockey players. Seriously, cannot escape hockey. We got a little closer to the arena before stopping at bar #2.

Barcelona Football Game

We ducked into a souvenir shop before entering Camp Nou. Did you know they only serve non-alcoholic beer there? Fact.

Camp Nou is absolutely massive – the capacity is 99.354. Though I’ve been to the Big House, the size of Camp Nou was still impressive!

Honestly, I thought the atmosphere was going to be a little crazier than it was – but it was still a really awesome experience, especially because Barcelona won 3-0 and Messi scored two goals!

Another fun fact – at Camp Nou, the toilet paper is outside the stalls. So remember to take some before you go into a stall…

Camp Nou

It rained on and off throughout the game and luckily I had a rain coat but it was still very wet and pretty cold so we were a little cranky when we got out and realized it was going to be quite a struggle to make our way back to the hostel.

The line to even get INTO the subway station was absolute madness so we decided to start walking back towards the hostel (over 3 miles away) while trying to hail a cab. We walked for a LONG time before we were able to hail one, but eventually, we did.

Jon and Emily were champs and went down to join the hostel pre-game but I was absolutely exhausted and had no interest in being social. I went to bed and woke up to Emily returning at 4:30 AM and Jon coming back around 6 AM. Not only had they gone down to the pre-game, but they ended up “going to the bar with everyone for one drink.” Which turned into, “Going to the club just to see it…” This would continue to happen to us the rest of the week...

I had slight FOMO, but I also knew that the following day was jam-packed with tours and walking and I didn’t want to make Emily deal with a hungover, complaining Lauren all day.