The Spanish lullaby

Travel tale

Bienvenido a España! For those who thought they would do well with Spanish in Barcelona, think again. The official and common language in use on the streets and in schools is Catalan! Although official announcements on trains and aircraft are in Spanish (which is a relief for those who go prepared with Spanish lessons), the local language remains Catalan.

Our arrival at Barcelona station from Paris was an interesting one. We chose to take the overnight train from Paris to Barcelona to experience the European way of travelling.

Honestly, if you want to do this, make sure you book first class. The second class sleeper couchettes are the least comfortable and one feels trapped in a limited space with strange people. Once we arrived in Barcelona, it was easy to find our way around. If you do not speak Spanish, it is good to do your research on the net. Everything is well-organised and the only hurdle is the language. Since our stay at Barcelona was only for 2 days, we purchased a 2-day pass and took the metro train to our hotel. The hotel Holiday Inn Express was comfortable and welcoming. The staff was cordial and warm, as opposed to Paris. Spain was very different from central Europe-warmer, livelier and more accommodating, just as we had heard. People were loud, friendly and flamboyant!
That afternoon we visited the Barceloneta-the bay area-and the Olympic village around the port. The sandy beaches were alive with recreational activities, parasailing, moped rides and idle sun-bathing. The salubrious spring weather allowed a beach bustling with cheer and liveliness.

After a long stroll across the beach and the promenades, and a sumptuous dinner at the elegant ‘Ramblas’ (Catalan for esplanades), we retired to our rooms.

The next day, we took a city tour. From the city centre Urquinaona station, we hopped onto a bus that took us around interesting sites. We first went to Le Poble Espanyol - a miniature of Spain's different provinces. Its streets were dotted with restaurants, cafes and bars, and also little spots to taste cheese and wine.

Soon after, we left for the famous Camp Nou-the football stadium of Barcelona. It was a majestic stadium with a divine aura. The gods of football change and play here. Our next halt was the famous La Pedrera-an eccentric creation of architectural marvel by the famous architect Antoni Gaudi. This building was designed for a rich family between 1906 and 1912. It is more a sculpture than a building and was recognised by the UNESCO as a world heritage site in 1984. Today the building serves both as a residential complex and museum. This capricious design was only one of the many footprints of Gaudi on the map of Barcelona.

Just a few blocks away from the Pedrera, there was a flamenco performance and a short introductory flamenco lesson. The presenters taught us the basic steps. An hour of gyrating rhapsodies was a mesmerising experience-just the right mood to end our last day in the fantastic city of Barcelona, before we took our flight to Brussels the next morning. We took with us unforgettable memories with the resolve to return to this city yet again.

(The writer can be contacted on vikram.malhotra@wordpar.ca)

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