Barcelona Day 3 – Tapas, Tentacles and Tremendous amounts of Talking

I know I keep bleating on about hostels but I need to do it again. They are in most cases great, and given the wealth of information on the internet there is almost no excuse for landing in a bad one. I did my research before I booked both hostels and the first one was definitely a hit. The second turned out to be what they call a “party hostel” and I somehow failed to realise this. At party hostels there can be lots of loud music, lots of drinking and lots of late nights. Claire and I have stayed in a few and they don’t really suit us.

It took a while to find the hostel too. I had it marked on a map (not the “stolen” map) but it was so inconspicuous that I walked straight past it twice. I then asked a postman, utilising my limited Spanish rather well, but he sent me off on a wild goose chase. In the end I was so desperate for a pee that I dived into a Subway. They guy would only let me use the toilet if I ordered something, so I ordered a coffee and he told me the 6 digit code to get into the toilet. In Spanish. Somehow I managed to both remember the number and not piss myself before getting the door open.

The coffee got me some free wifi time which meant I could track the hostel down. Using Streetview I recognised it as the place I had stood outside whilst scratching my head about 20 minutes previous. In my defence it is a little inconspicuous.

Hostel One Paralelo in El Poble Sec, Barcelona
Hostel One Paralelo in El Poble Sec

The proprietor of the hostel was a Spanish guy who looked like a smooth gangster from a film that probably might star Robert de Niro. He did a fantastic job of telling me about all the sights in Barcelona, but didn’t do so well at understanding me when I explained that I had been in the city for three days already. I don’t think many people move hostel. Better the devil you know I guess.

The dorm at the previous hostel slept 6 people, but at the new hostel I opted to pay about 20 pence more to only have to share my room with 3 other people. This was my room. Note that the camera was held right in the corner of the room and also in the room was a door (obviously) and 4 bloody great lockers. Cosy!

Dorm Room at Hostel Paralelo One
My 4 bed dorm at Hostel Paralelo One. Even the tortoise was left speechless

I felt a little rough that morning so once I had offloaded my stuff I headed out for a quick bite to eat to see if I could shake myself up a bit. The guy manning the front desk of the hostel recommended a tapas bar close by. After 3 days I was yet to eat anything particularly Spanish, aside from the Churros, so I took his recommendation. The tapas turned out to be absolutely fantastic, as I expected, because you always get good recommendations at hostels. Time for some food shots…

Tapas in El Poble Sec
Tapas, cheap and delicious inEl Poble Sec
Mini Beefburger Tapas! Wooo yeah!
Mini Burgers! Somebody told them I was coming surely?
Tapas complete!
The left over sticks are used to calculate the bill

This was tapas that comes on a tiny piece of toast. The sticks without the red bit on top signify a cost of 1 Euro (about 75p at the time) and the red sticks were 1.80 Euros (about GBP£1.35). They were delicious. The system of tapas is great too, once you get the hang of it. You just help yourself and the bill is calculated based on the number of sticks left on the plate. So my bill came to 6.60 Euros plus a drink. Everything was delicious and I was stuffed after only 5 of them.

As I sat perched on my stall I noticed that everybody else was handing their chosen tapas to the girl behind the bar to warm up under a grill. A schoolboy error on my part, but it gave me a reason to return. For the record, nothing was raw, it just could have done with some melting.

A full stomach in Spain can mean only one thing so I went for a siesta. My decision was helped along by the fact that it was raining heavily. I slept for a while and was woken at some point when a new guest arrived and climbed into the bottom bunk opposite. As an indication of just how small this room was I felt obliged to shuffle over a bit.

The new arrival turned out to be a young girl by the name of Helena from Belgium who had just arrived by coach. After we both woke we started chatting, in the dark as the curtains were drawn. She spoke excellent English and having just arrived she had plenty of questions about the city. We spoke for about an hour and then she went off to have a shower. Shortly afterwards I turned the light on in the room and started to ready myself to head out. As I was leaving the room Helena re-appeared and I was astounded by what I saw. She was pretty much as tall as I am. It isn’t every day that you meet a woman who is nearly 6ft 4inches, or 195 centimeters for any overseas readers and my mate Dave.

The new hostel was in the south west area of the city in the district of El Poble Sec. Interestingly the first hostel described El Poble Sec as not worth bothering with but I loved it. There was a long pedestrianised shopping street near the hostel with plenty of shops selling cakes. Nice.

When exploring the old city on the first two days I had restricted myself to the area east of the famous La Rambla shopping street. Which left me with the El Ravel district to explore.

El Ravel was a little more structured than Barri Gotic and the rest of the old town, but still interesting enough to get well and truly lost in. I eventually found my way to the Mercat de la Boqueria, a famous market selling fish and fruit along with cheeses and sweets. Weirdly my main reason for wanting to visit the market was to seek out this fantastically named bar.

El Quim at Mercat de la Boqueria in Barcelona
El Quim. If you are scratching your head then can I suggest a visit to the Urban Dictionary

But the market turned out to be great. The stalls were all lively and colourful and I eventually succumbed and bought a strawberry, banana and kiwi fruit smoothy, which was made in front of me at incredible speed. This awakened my hunger so I sat down at one of the fish bars and ordered some Tapa Rabas. The guy seemed to think I had made a mistake and tried to persuade me to have something else. But I insisted and got this delicious pile of tentacles.

Fried Octupus Tentacles at Mercat de la Boqueria, Barcelona
I can think of at least 10 people who will turn their nose up at this.
Bar Boqueria at Mercat de al Boqueria, Barcelona
The excellent Bar Boqueria at Mercat de la Boqueria, where you can watch your food being cooked.

After that I returned to the hostel. One of the selling points to me of this hostel was the fact they provided a “free” evening meal, and in return they asked for donations to fund the meal on the next day. In the 60 minutes leading up to mealtime more and more people appeared and by the time 9 o’clock came I was sat at a long table with about 20 other guests.

The food was nothing special. Pasta with some ham and tomato sauce. But the company was great. I spent 3 hours chatting with what I thought to be a very typical cross section of hostel guests :

  • An Australian couple in their late 20’s, halfway through a 9 month trip around Europe
  • An Australian girl who was due to fly home in 2 days. She had been living in Grenada and had overstayed her visa by 6 months
  • Helena from Belgium
  • A retired woman from Crystal Palace
  • A young girl from York, on her first ever trip on her own
  • A Canadian guy on a trip which seemed to have no end date

We chatted and drank beer for 3 hours. Conversations in hostels are strange. The longer term travellers don’t speak about their home life – from experience I know this is because they aren’t ever thinking about home.

I particular I enjoyed chatting to the Aussies. The couple had been to Morocco and he had hated it. We reached complete agreement on the totally illogical Moroccan approach to roundabouts. We demonstrated this to the rest of the table using an upturned dinner plate, salt and pepper sellers and beer cans. I’m sure i’ve included this in a the blog before but I can’t find it, so let’s skip over the Mediterranean for a moment to the roads of Morocco….

In Morocco it seems to be normal for drivers already on a roundabout to stop and let waiting cars onto the roundabout. This has the hilarious/frustrating outcome of creating a queue around the roundabout which means that the person who is being let on to the roundabout can’t actually got off of the roundabout. The result is a permanent traffic jam. inspired.

The other Aussie girl was genuinely scared of what would happen at the airport when the Spanish authorities discovered she had overstayed her visa. She looked relieved when I suggested that they might throw her out of the country on the plane she had already bought a ticket on and which was departing shortly thereafter.

All the time we were watched by an American guy who I had seen around the hostel but not chatted to. He had been happily talking to 1 or 2 people at a time, but at mealtime he sat on his own in the corner and opted not to eat the food. I figured he was just uncomfortable with large groups, which is understandable. Though my weirdometer topped out the next day when I overheard him telling the Aussie girl how he has to shave his whole body every day.

At midnight the staff at the hostel announced that it was time to go out. To a shots bar. I declined and went to bed where nobody got naked in front of me.

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