“Did you get pick-pocketed on the Ramblas?” It’s the first thing everyone asks when you say you’re Barcelona-bound. It’s sad that the Catalan capital is now synonymous with thieves as opposed to all the other joyous things about it, but there you go. Anyway, we don’t get pickpocketed because we stayed well clear of the Ramblas, Park Güell, and the Sagrada Familia. We just can’t be arsed with all that lark. But happily, we holidayed in the district of Sarrià, which has so many of its own attractions that we didn’t need to venture any further. We didn’t get on a train, or the underground and instead, hopped on buses, jumped in a cab or dandered along, punctuating our journey with ice creams or a cerveza in the square. There was A LOT of sipping chilled verdejo on the terrace, and this suited me just fine. And people were always coming over to chat, which made me feel like I was on back on the Ormeau, except the sky was cerulean blue and instead of the greyhound at our feet we had a portly English bulldog.
We didn’t go to Barcelona with the intention of dog-sitting, but when I rang my friend Rhaiza to suggest a visit, she offered me her flat since she had booked a trip at the same time. This worked out extremely well, as we paid for two nights in a hotel and spent the remaining three in her bijoux apartment. It was bliss, I tell you, bliss. Rhaiza showed us around on the first day and thus we acquainted ourselves with the locale and she directed us to all the best cafés and restaurants. I can be very annoying on holiday, almost as annoying as I am at home. My principal complaint is that I hate being, as I keep telling LSB, ‘on the periphery.’ I hate coming across like a tourist, blundering around looking bemused, and eating rubbish masquerading as local cuisine while the locals dine on superior cuisine in the place next door.
Another annoying thing I do on holiday is switch off. Once I’ve landed, and find myself free from the demands and drudgery of life at home, I enter an almost somnambulant state. Once again, poor auld LSB, because it’s up to him to consult bus timetables and maps while I wonder along gormlessly in his wake. It could, of course, be weaponised incompetency, just like him and the laundry at home, when he fucks in a navy sock with the whites, and everything ends up a wishy-washy blue. But he brings the role on himself as he’s very good with navigation and timings, so I leave him to it. Anyway, you too can be good at sussing the bus system in Barcelona as like New York, it’s based on a grid system: V for vertical and H for horizonal. We were flying about the area no problem at all, and at no point, unlike a recent experience in Belfast, did I hear a fella yell, ‘BALL BAG!’ out the window at his mate.
Three brilliant things to do in Sarria
Visit the CosmoCaixa museum.
Almost Guggenheim-esque with spiral ramp by way of a staircase, this is no ordinary science museum. It boasts a replica of a sunken Amazon forest, complete with an Aquarium with comical looking stingrays, turtles and massive pirarucu fish. Looking up, birds flapped around happily, (don’t ask me what they were, but one looked a bit like a flamingo) and a capybara was rooting about in the shrubbery. The children, of course, weren’t content until they’d bought a toy capybara in the gift shop. ‘What’s his name?’ I enquired, expecting something of a Latino bent, like Rodrigo or Pedro. ‘Nigel’ came the reply, which makes him sound like an insurance salesman in Wolverhampton. (The other child bought a stuffed penguin, who rejoices in the name of ‘Mr Waddles’.)
Aside from the rainforest, there are exhibitions about the sun and another on climate change and the Arctic. I swiftly moved on, past the harrowing statistics about how f**ked we’re going to be if we keep burning fossil fuels. I felt terribly hypocritical because there’s me calling myself an environmentalist and sure didn’t we all take a Ryanair flight to get there in the first place. There’s my green credentials straight down the toilet.
I do enjoy a mountain walk, especially if it’s flat. And this is what ROCKS about La Carreta, because it’s a ten kilometre path AROUND the mountains, so although there’s a steep, (but mercifully short) trek up to it, it’s all rather pleasant once you’ve got your breath back. Unfortunately it attracts proper sporty types; cyclists in all their lyrca’d glory, and fell- running enthusiasts, sinewy and svelte and not even having the decency to sweat. Then when you’re back in the square, chowing down the aforementioned tapas and gelato, you see them racing past again. I’d rather not witness this sort of caper when I’m sipping a Prosecco at two in the afternoon, but what can you do.
I’m not a fan of amusement parks in general because the rides make me vomit, but the wee ones fancied taking the funicular up to see the Big Wheel on the mountain, and thus I acquiesced. I read a review which claimed that the rides were better suited to ‘younger children’, so I thought I might be ok. I wasn’t. Perhaps the rides themselves aren’t on the same level as say, The Oblivion in Alton Towers, but it’s the fact that they swing out OVER A CLIFF that sent my stomach churning. Anyway, LSB enjoyed the big swingy things and let out a good auld West Belfast ‘YEOOO’ as he whizzed by me. I think I’m still recovering from the Log Flume. ‘Going round again?’ asked the sprightly chap after we’d been round once. ‘NO WAY,’ I yelled, staggering out, followed by a soaked but disappointed LSB. I actually quite enjoyed the whole experience.
In short, I loved every second of the trip and am planning my next one. And staying at a pal’s house is definitely one way to save if you’re feeling the pinch. The hotels cost a fortune which leaves much less pocket money for all the lovely wine.