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Barcelona for Cheap, Bulls, Credit Fraud, and Beaches

SPAIN | Thursday, 17 July 2014 | Views [1596]

Hmm where to start. I think I left off with my first couple of days in Barcelona. I did quite a bit while I was there but I hope to visit again because I feel like there was so much other ood but it's entirely possible. Now, this cool s**t that I wasn't able to do. It's a pretty big city. DId some touristy things and got to experience friday night concerts in the streets of La Raval. My CS host, Jose, took me and another couchsurfer out to go see a little night life in the less touristy areas. Random streets in between buildings had DJs or bands playing and locals and some tourists alike partied the night away. I also rented a bike for a few hours and aimlessly rode around. Ended up at the beach and holy balls was there a s**t ton of people. Also it wouldn't be a Lorrie bike riding story without me getting lost and eating pavement at some point. I won't go into detail. But yes...both those things happened.

As the title implies I wanted to touch on how you can do a lot of things for relatively cheap in Barcelona. It's viewed as an expensive city to stay in and explore and as someone who's walked a good majority of the city and who's had locals help them out I can say you can probably spend around only €20 a day. I myself didn't abide by that budget every day because I like to splurge on food but it's entirely possible. Now, this is strictly speaking in terms of activities and not your accomodation. There are a lot of nice hostels for relatively cheap, airbnb has a lot of hosts in Barcelona, and then there's couchsurfing (I did a combo of couchsurfing and a hostel). Also, don't sleep on the beach because YOU WILL BE ROBBED and there are machines that groom the sand all night. 

First of all, get yourself a T10 Metro ticket at any Metro entrance at a ticket station. It's good for 10 journeys on any public transit in the city. Don't worry about zones because this ticket covers zone 1 and i can tell you that it pretty muh covers almost all of Barcelona. You can walk everywhere like I did but some of those walks from place to place can take an hour or more depending on your pace. And after backpacking and exploring other cities, trust me, your feet will thank you. The metro can be a bit daunting but take your time to figure out which line you're using. Also make sure to follow the signs for your train line all the way. I thought a few different lines were meeting in one platform and I almost got on the wrong train. Every line has their own platform and they're color coded so the platform will have that color represented throughout. The T10 pass is totally worth it at €10.30 as opposed to €2.15 per individual ticket. There are other ticket packages so it depends on your preference. But this one is particularly good if you're only going to be there 3-5 days. Luckily, I can read Spanish pretty well but if you can't don't worry too much about using the ticket machines. The icons are pretty easy to figure out if you've ever used BART or something similar and T10 metro will be one of the choices. I know that blows about half of your daily budget but rather you should spread the cost over the amount of days you're staying and keep that noted. There's the common city tour buses (the red double deckers) that every major city has that takes you to major areas and it's a walk on walk off kind of thing. Total ripoff at more than €20 and you don't learn anymore than you would from free pamphlets from each place.

As far as activities. The Magic Fountain show is exactly what it sounds like. At Castelle de Montjuic in Plaza Espana is in the summer and starts at 21:00 and I think there are several shows until midnight. Interesting mix of songs the fountain goes too including Catalunya specific ones, Queen, and I'm pretty sure I heard the Star Wars theme. Castelle de Montjuic is a castle and a museum in one. On Saturdays it's free to go in after 15:00 but I'm not sure on other days. It has a lot of Catalunyan art from different time periods. There's also a large theater that they put on live shows. The building itself is cool to see. The Plaza del Toros is in the same area. It's a former runnings of the bulls arena that has now been turned into a mall. It looks cool and there's an elevator to go to the roof which has some nice views of the city and especially Plaza Espana. Sagrada Familia is the most famous Roman Catholic church in the city and the building is totally worth the view. I met someone who said that you really should see the inside (which I didn't get to do) but buy your ticket online to avoid the lines. There were a ton of people there. Park Guell can be reached by the metro at the stop lesseps and follow the signs to the park. It's a bit of a walk and uphill. There are buses too. Tourism guides make it seem like you have to pay to see most of the park and that there's only a small free area that you should get to early. Truth is the entire f***ing park is free except for the monument and a Gaudi exhibition. Which I don't really think is worth the price. The park itself is huge and at the top you can see some of the best views of Barcelona ever. Then there's a bar called Travel bar and they're headquarters for the company Travel Bound. They have free walking tours everyday at certain times and have a bunch of other activities aimed at backpackers and students. And it's worht it to see the less touristy areas of La Raval and Poble Sec. Maybe have a travel partner or a local show you around at night because it gets a bit creepy getting lost in the streets. But you will find some awesome divey bars and great food places.

Now as far as staying on budget while still being able to eat. Cafes and bakeries are your friend. Every place has a menu of the day that lasts until 14:00 mostly and some are really good deals that have a an entree, a drink, and a dessert. Don't go to chains or large restaurants near shopping areas and malls because, although good, are expensive for smaller meals. Things you should try...seafood paella, churros from an actual churreria, whatever pintxos look good, various red wines. Xurreria in the El Barri Gotic neighborhood has, hands down, the best churros I've ever had and for cheap. It's pretty traditional to get them with chocolate so I highly advise you to do so. There's a ton of grocery stores with a great slection of Spanish meats and cheeses and you can get fresh artisan breads from panaderias for cheap so you can still have an authentic food experience. If you have access to a kitchen then you have more options. 

So yeah, there's my little tidbits of advice for travelers. A bit long but I hope someone finds it useful one day.

Next thing I know I'm on a train 4 hours to Pamplona. Most of you know I had already planned to go to Pamplona for the San Fermin Festival. The streets were filled with people wearing the traditional feestival attire...white clothes with red accents, mainly a red bandana around your neck and a red sash tied at the waist. I of course dressed up. I had to buy pants there because I forgot mine. Damn it, I actually was at a perfectly suitable event for my white pants and I f***ing forgot them. MEH. 

They say the streets run with rivers of wine and that is definitely true. Almost everyone will have red wine spilled or rained on them at some point, especially at night when everyone is good and drunk. There's suprisingly a ton of families and kids during the day enjoying the festival but the nightlife is a different beast. Every convenient mart that sold beverages had combo deals of alcohol and soda. The most common being red wine and coke to make calimocho or kalitmotxo in Basque. Too many of those kind of feels like drinking a Four Loko but it tastes better. The same idea of alcohol thinning your blood and your heart racing from the sugar content making you drunk faster. I prefer my clara con limon (beer + lemon soda) for a more refreshing experience. If you're easily put off by getting drinks spilled on you than you probably shouldn't be at a bar during San Fermin. No one gives any f**ks. But it's all in good fun, I honestly had a great time. People would still be up until maybe 4 or 5am. I never really stayed out that late to be honest. 

In the midst of all the festivities I had a bit of misfortune happen. I had a lovely case of credit card fraud. When I tried to pay for my hostel my card was declined and I ended up paying in cash. I was pretty concerned about it especially after my card was again declined for a bus ticket. The bank website was down for maintenance and it came back online later that night. I had found that my bank account had been cleaned out the day before I arrived in Pamplona. Someone spent money at Ralph Lauren...pssh come on, that's definitely not me. I hit up my mom and my sister via the internetwebtings and had my sister call the bank to see what I could do. I was worried but not at the same time because I had my other credit card and some cash left...at the very least I knew I could get to the airport when I needed to and get home. I made calls the next morning to get everything situated and disputed the charges. It was a bit of a bummer to cancel my card because I could no longer withdraw any cash. And cash is more widely used.

(tangent: As far has having money in Europe I wait until I arrive to get cash. Using foreign cards at stores and other places could rack up service charges and cash is generally easier to use especially when you buy smaller items or go to smaller local stores. Currency exchange at airports are a total rip off. Better to keep your USD for when you get back and head for an ATM. Aiports usually have ATMs that accept a wide range of cards and personally my card only gets charged $5 for each transaction so I normally withdraw a few hundred euros. I know La Caixa bank accepts a variety of cards. It charges the same $5 and has been found in all of the cities I've been to. When I go out I only carry a day's worth of cash and my card for emergencies and i keep everything locked up. If you don't want to leave anything in your hotel you can keep the rest of the stuff in a money belt that tucks under your clothes and the day's worth can be held in a zippered wallet (I personally have the zippered wallet chained to my pants/shorts). I luckily had enough cash for my hostel when my account was compromised.)

When I was getting things situated I was worried that I had not been careful here in Spain. I couldn't even think of when it would have happened. I physically had my card so I figured the number was compromised and thought I may have had a lapse of judgement. Like leaving my wallet alone on my bed when I went to the bathroom or something (I was in a hostel). It didn't make sense though because I didn't let that thing leave my side...I slept with it chained to my pocket still. Turns out all the purchases were made in California...in Contra Costa County...in Pleasanton. It was peculiar bacuse it happened half way through my Spain trip. To save money, I hadn't been to many bars when my trip was getting closer. My friend said her mom's account was compromised a few months ago and she doesn't go to very many sketchy places. SO it goes to show that s**t just happens.

A lot of Americans are afraid to travel abroad in fear of being robbed or getting their s**t stolen but to tell you the truth, I've been screwed over in the states way more than I ever had in another country. We have a lot of crime and even when you're careful things still happen. When you go to other countries my general rule is don't be stupid. You may laugh and say "I think there's more to it than that." But when you think about it, is there? Being aware of your surroundings, traveling at appropriate times, not talking to sketchy people, keeping your important documents hidden or secured I think fall under "being smart and not doing dumb things." As much as I love the movie Taken, that entire movie could have been avoided if her dumba** friend didn't lead the first stranger they met directly to the front door of the apartment building. At least at a hostel or hotel it's more public and has other guests and their own security. But they were in an apartment by themselves and of course that girl dies eventually. I've never seen Hostel but since I'm writing this you can rest assured that I haven't experienced any crazy Eli Roth situations. My hostels have been good and have only gotten a bit nicer along the way. Well, this current hostel doesn't really have a common area besides the kitchen and i feel like a shut in chilling on my computer in the room. Oh well. Anyway, moral of the story don't be stupid anywhere. I'm normally pretty alert seeing as I live in Oakland but I guess everyone lets their guard down and can be overly comfortable with the place they live.  Still don't know how it happened but I've gotten everything squared away now and I'll hopefully have a new debit card when I get back.

Despite the setbacks I have still had a good time here. I was able to watch the 8th and last bull run from a balcony I rented on airbnb months ago so I got a good deal. It's very common for people who live on the streets of the bull run to rent out balcony space for spectators and it can get pretty expensive. I figured it was worth it though and I got my balcony a lot cheaper on airbnb than on tourist websites. In my fail of a selfie above, you'll see I'm on Calle Estefeta which is the longest straight away of the run. It's right before dead man's curve and you get to see a lot since you can see down to the end of the street. Hearing the rockets going off to signify the start of the run made you excited for what's to come. Then you see the crowd of people turn that corner at dead man's curve running with a purpose. From what I saw and talking to a couple of runners there were people that just got in the way. As in, they just looked confused and didn't run when they needed to. And they're most commonly the ones that get hurt. I mean, wtf were they expecting was going to happen? Also, people are really bad at jumping fences and end up getting their legs hit. The bulls are huge and unlike the smaller bulls they release into the coliseum at the end who have their horns blunted...these f***ers definitely still had their sharp horns in tact. A guys leg got gored. He was pinned against a wall right by me, there was a lower balcony that blocked it a bit. You could see the muscles in his leg and the skin flap. I only saw it for a split second IRL but it was gnarly. He got hit again trying to crross the fence. That particular bull stuck around the area for a while looking for victims.

I also stayed for the closing ceremony, Pobre Mi. Everyone holds candles and sing a song by the same name and kind of "mourn" the end of the festival (but in actuality I'm sure most were happy about it). Then it's one last night of debauchery into the wee hours of the morning. To my surprise the city is really quick about cleaning after San Fermin. I left around 11:00 and the streets were clean and bar and restaurant owners were practically done cleaning. It was a different place.

Next thing I know I'm on a bus to Donostia/San Sebastian. Originally I wanted to fly into Donostia but decided I wanted to save it for last and I'm glad I did. When I got here I immediately fell in love with the place and I hadn't even been to the beaches yet.  My hostel is only 2 blocks from the beach so I took the time to even out my tan today haha. I surprisingly haven't taken many pictures yet but I have plenty of time. Yesterday I made a short trip to the small fishing town of Getaria. Lovely little place and home to a few txaokoli wineries as well as being very close to many others. The fresh fish dishes at the restaurants are bomb. I hike around Mount San Anton and saw great views of the sea, Getaria, and the neighboring towns. 

I still have the rest of today, tomorrow, and a part of Saturday here in the lovely city of Donostia. I still have a lot of things to see and do before I head back to Bilbao and fly back to the states. I'm a bit bummed I had to cut out France from my trip due to my financial mishap. The buses to Biarritz only take cash and Bordeaux by train is expensive. I was going to rideshare to Bordeaux (BlaBlaCar is a widely known rideshare website in Europe) but that would have to be cash too. I literally have maybe €3 in cash and some change. I luckily have my bus ticket back to Bilbao already and put aside the cash for the airport bus so I wouldn't spend it. France will have to be another time I guess. I do have to add that, physically, I've been a lot better now. My body was pretty shot when I was in Barcelona. My feet were hurting terribly from the multiple miles I walked. My bag would continuously get heavier as the minutes passed. When I was finally at the place I was staying at and I could leave my bag behind to explore, I was still in pain and sucked it up. I did a lot in Barcelona but my whole body hurt...I think my teeth were even sore. I rested up my body more in Pamplona and I've felt a lot better since. My lower body is used to the abuse now but I do enjoy relaxing more on the last leg of my trip here in Donostia. Don't get me wrong I'm still going out to do stuff but I don't mind chilling at a spot overlooking the sea. I do have to say after all this walking and hiking my legs look great hahahaha. Well, I'll see you later b****es! :P

Tags: advice, backpacking, barcelona, donostia, pamplona, san fermin, spain, tips


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