Wednesday was our main day out in Barcelona. Our guide told us that there is a joke in the tourism industry that “you haven’t gotten the true Barcelona experience until you’ve been mugged.” He told us some horror stories, enough to make me worried. One guy on a previous tour had gotten mugged of everything he had on him except the t-shirt he was wearing. Yes, they even took his underwear! I’ve never been somewhere where so much emphasis has been placed on mugging, pickpocketing, and scam artists before. Apparently this type of crime is particularly bad here because of lax punishment. If they get caught, the punishment is either a fine or a few days in jail, no matter how many times they are caught.
After breakfast, we went for a walking tour of the Gothic Quarter. We stopped in a square in which the buildings were marred with gunshots from a mass shooting during the Spanish Civil War. After the walking tour, we had free time for the rest of the day. A lot of the people I had been hanging out with wanted to go shopping again, but I really wanted to see the sights instead. I ended up going on a hop-on, hop-off bus with a girl from Ottawa and a guy from North Carolina.
We rode around on the bus for a while before getting off at La Sagrada Familia, one of the most famous works designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. The line was about an hour wait, but it went by fast because we took turns holding our place in line and getting lunch. Incidentally, the man at the sandwich shop where we went for lunch told me to take my cell phone out of the front pocket of my purse and put it inside because someone would take it. He went on and on about how you have to be super careful of your belongings in Barcelona. He told the other girl from Ottawa the same thing. And here I thought that our tour guide was just trying to scare us earlier! The basilica, although still being constructed, was amazing. Every inch was a precious work of art. At this point, I’ve been in many churches in Europe, but this is definitely the most unique one that I’ve seen. It combines gothic elements with more modern design.
After La Sagrada Familia, we got back on the bus and went to the Olympic stadium up on Montjuic. Then we walked to the National Museum of Art of Catalonia and took photos in front of the fountains. We got back on the bus and were considering going to the Picasso museum but realized that we didn’t have enough time because we had to be back at the hotel by 8 pm to meet everyone to go to a flamenco dinner show. The other two people I was with wanted to try to do one more stop, but I wanted to go back to the hotel to take a shower and change my clothes. I stayed on the bus until it got to the main square where I caught the subway.
The subway was very easy to use. The problem was that, once I got off at my stop, none of the surroundings looked familiar whatsoever. We hadn’t taken the subway as a group, and none of the 4 maps I had showed the location of the hotel which was just north of where the maps cut off. I tried to use Google maps on my phone, but of course this was the one time it decided to keep crashing. I was starting to get worried and decided that the best thing to do would be to get a taxi even though I was probably really close to the hotel and the minimum charge would be high in relation to the distance travelled. There wasn’t a taxi stand in sight, but luckily I saw a free taxi at a stop light and was able to get in.
I gave a card with the hotel’s name and address to the driver. He didn’t seem to know it, and when he typed it into the GPS, it said the address was invalid. He started driving anyway while consulting a map in this enormous map book of his. After a while, it became clear that we were lost – very, very lost. I don’t panic easily, but at one point when he had driven to a suburban looking area that was not at all familiar, I thought I might start crying. I was worried that he was going to just drop me off at some random place since he couldn’t seem to find it. Combine being lost with not knowing Spanish and the fact that we were warned many times about being mugged, and I was about to have a break down. I tried to ask the driver to call the hotel and ask for directions, but either he didn’t understand what I was saying, or he was just being a man and was afraid to ask for directions. Finally Google maps was working on my phone. The driver and I compared maps and somehow we were able to get to the hotel. I was so happy, I could have kissed the ground! What was probably a two minute drive took 40 minutes. At least the driver didn’t charge me much.
I ran up to my room and got ready for dinner as quickly as I could. I felt like a homeless person, but at least I made it back in time to meet everyone for the flamenco show. It turned out that a similar thing happened to the other two people I had spent most of the day with when they tried to get back to the hotel. They had to get out of the taxi and ask locals for help. Apparently a lot of maps don’t show the tiny side street on which our hotel was located.