Barcelona – great vacation despite political unrest

We got a great deal and bought plane tickets to Barcelona on a whim last March.  In preparation for the trip, we watched with baited breath as Catalonia voted to separate from Spain and waited for the fallout.  Should we go through with the trip?  Is it safe?    The answer is “Si”.

 

Currently the disputed president of Catalonia is in Brussels, Belgium.  Last weekend he turned himself in to Belgian police after Spain issued an EU-wide arrest warrant on grounds of rebellion.  He has since been released without bail. While people are demonstrating in Belgium, the streets of Barcelona are remarkably calm.   Yes you see Catalan flags and flags saying “Sí” (“Yes” to separate) hung from windows and balconies.  Also abundant are flags of a silenced democracy.  The protests and demonstrators are peaceful in the city itself.   Parents go to work, children go to school, tourists fill the streets.  So here we are exploring this gorgeous city with its rich culture during this time of political upheaval.

 

After reading the news the last month or so, I actually thought that locals would only speak Catalan and be upset with foreigners trying to speak Spanish to them.  Nothing could be farther from the truth, from our wonderful taxi driver to the shop keepers smoking cigarettes in the doorway. The people of Barcelona are kind to tourists.

We feel safe walking the streets at night, and violent crime is almost unheard of in the city.  Petty crime on the other hand is rampant and police don’t respond to theft under €400, so we make sure to watch our phones and wallets when in busy settings.

We are staying at a wonderful hotel about 2 min from the Paseig de Garcia and Casa Batllo which was able to accommodate our 7am check in (thank you Hotel Room Mate Anna!!!).  Thus far we have done a ton of walking through the Ramblas, Gothic Quarter and El Born areas.  In addition we went to  see the Sagrada Familia Cathedral and Park Guëll and learned some history about the famous architect Antoni Gaudí.

 

I have a newfound appreciation for architecture; specifically for columns that are “off-kilter” and for hyperboloids that function as skylights, allowing the maximum amount of light to enter the room.

We also used a new (to us) part of the Airbnb app, called “Airbnb experiences” which paired us with local small businesses who give you a local’s take on the city.   We did a photography tour of Parc Guëll with an English-speaking photographer who gave us a historical tour of the park and took some professional photos of us.

We also took a tapas tour which a friend in NYC recommended and was awesome.  We toured three restaurants and ate tapas, pinxos, Iberico ham and cheeses all paired with local alcohols: cava, vermouth, hard cider and red wine.

 

The tourism industry was hard hit since the referendum last month and news of protests, but we are here and it really seems safe.   If you are planning a trip to Barcelona, don’t cancel it!  It’s worth the visit, but make sure to bring a jacket!

 


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