Bitter Sweet Taste Of Barcelona

It’s been 19 years since my first and last visit to Barcelona. Teenager back then and in a large group, I was less interested in architecture and more in having a good time. We were on a single day trip to Barcelona from Lloret de Mar where we were for a week.

It was a warm late summer day, everything was nice and green and we were transferred to everything as a group. No lines, no time spent buying tickets, pure fun. I was delighted, Barcelona looked like the nicest place I’ve ever been to. We were told a myth about some famous water spring in the city centre where apparently if you drink water from it you will for sure return to Barcelona some day.


I was sad as we never got a chance to stop by that spring as I really wanted to return to Barcelona again.

Even without that sip of water I was here again. This time I’ve arrived a bit older, with quite a solid number of visited countries and places, so it might be that I’ve raised the bar too high, or I just expected too much from Barcelona.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Barcelona is one of the nicest cities in Europe, with unique architecture, great weather and very nice food. What do I need more you’ll ask, and you might be right.

But let me start from the beginning.

The whole trip was one nice collection of annoying things that made my stay in Barcelona a bit of a let-down.

It all started even before Barcelona where my printer refused to print boarding passes because it lacked “magenta” ink, and of course – I wanted to print in grey scale. Downloading boarding passes to “smart app” on the phone did not work, at least not very intuitively as I’d expect it to be.

Day One

Well, O.K. I’ve left that behind us, we boarded the plane, and just about when we expected a standard message from the pilot “prepare for take off”, he informed us that because of the mess in Barcelona airspace he can’t get a clearance to even start flying there, and that we have to sit and wait for an hour.

Since we just arrived from Croatia the night before, we tried to use that time and take a nap. An hour passed and we flew off to Barcelona – El Prat. When we finally landed and got out of the security zone – Bam! There’s nothing. Empty airport, couple of hardly visible exit signs and that’s it.

I was really disappointed with the Beauvais airport in Paris, but that’s a small backup airport in Paris, and it’s just one small building. El Prat is not small, but arrivals or at least the part where we arrived is a bit off main building, and there’s no one to ask, get directions, buy train or metro tickets or at least get a map.

Yeah, I know, who needs paper maps today, right? Well, I kinda collect them, put crosses and draw lines where I’ve been. I am an IT guy, but I like paper much more. 🙂

After a walk from arrivals to main building where we finally found a sign for the trains we got to the train station. We stood in line to buy tickets and to ask “what’s the best connection to the place where we are staying”. Our apartment is located in Barcelona’s El Born neighbourhood, one of two old and central parts of the city, we displayed a map on the mobile phone to a ticket guy and asked “What’s the best station to take off the train”, without even trying to help, without checking the map, he immediately rolled his eyes and said “I don’t know”. Then we said, OK – give us tickets to the city centre, we’ll ask there. He printed tickets and said “fourth station” showing four fingers.

Luckily, “City centre” was just 15 minutes walk or 5 minutes taxi ride through narrow streets of El Born, so in fact we arrived where we needed to, but that “I don’t know” was just the beginning.

Very first afternoon we wanted to sit and have a break in one extraordinary pancake house, but we came during the kitchen break. As soon as we entered guy told “Kitchen is not working”, but since I was still “outside” I’ve heard only “not working” and got confused as I can see people in there. So I kinda asked “can we sit just for a coffee” which was obviously “asking too much” as the answer was very nervous and unpleasant “YES YES YES YES” with rolling eyes and “I am so annoyed buy tourists” tone.

And grand finale for day one – At the dinner, we went to one of recommended good restaurants in the Port Olimpic area. At first it all looked OK, we were nicely greeted and seated, but as soon as we ordered “paella only” (with sangria aside) waiters started looking at each other and talking in Spanish or Catalan. Our order was obviously not taken seriously and manager came to ask us again what we want. We said “but we ordered already” and then our waiter appeared and asked in a very rude way “Just Paella?” – “No starters? Nothing?”.

I repeated “yes, just paella please” and after maybe 10 minutes we got bread dipped in tomatoes and some olives. It was our first time, but later we learned that it’s one of typical tapas and you can order it, so it was not a cover charge it was – “you are having starter just because I decided so”.

One of the waiters brought one big paella and started serving it on two plates, and since his hands were “full” he showed without words in very aggressive way to Dina, waving his hand in manner “move that plate, can’t you see I’m serving you a second dish”.


And as I did not have enough that day, when I asked for the bill and wanted to leave, waiter decided that it’s not time to leave yet. He told us in Spanish that we should wait as he will bring something on the house. And we got apple syrup for Dina and some sweet liquor for me with Spanish bread. That would be kinda nice, but we had to wait for almost twenty minutes for that, and then ten more minutes to actually bring the bill and take our money. After paying with the card, again in Spanish waiter said something that sounded like “service is not included in the price” and he stood maybe 1.5 meters away from me, waiting for the tip. I never experienced something like that in my life.

Besides, that soggy bread with tomatoes was on the bill as a starter.

Day Two

Day two was more or less OK, the only guy that made me nervous was some short Croatian from Zagreb that was trying to get the “best” place on Montjuïc fountains to “see things better”. Well another let-down was the celebration of the new year. Twenty minutes of drums and lights on the sky, with 10 minutes – nothing special – fireworks after midnight. We’ve spent barely thirty minutes waiting for something to happen, and that “something” was nothing, some guys banging on some barrels, then countdown in Catalan, fireworks and then almost 2 km walking with the enormous crowd until we finally found an open metro station and got back to our apartment.


Day Three

On day three we’ve set into some fancy restaurant for dinner, and since again “we did not order enough” waiters kinda ignored us. Since original portion of tapas was small and not enough, when I wanted to add some more food I waited for almost 15 minutes to order, and additional 20 to actually get some food.

Day Four

Day four looked again more like day one. First, on the Camp Nou, holly ground for every Barça fan (like me). We were lucky enough to enter the stadium before the crowd appeared so we’ve seen everything in peace, but then on the exit you have three spots where “professional photographs” will take your photo against the green screen, and then that photo can be mounted on different backgrounds. That would all be fine if the asked price for one photo would not be 20 Euro as well as if photographs would really be professional. We bought just one photo, and only because it’s with the Champions League trophy (replica of the trophy). I would buy other two photos if they were photos. It’s a terrible collage that every amateur would fix better and make it look better.


Then in the Barça Mega store. I’ve picked a training jacket with the “Barça” printed on the back and asked for “XL”. One of rare pleasant guys in Barcelona explained to me that I’ll have to wait for thirty minutes as they need to get it from the storage. After thirty minutes, another guy arrived and gave me my jacket, and left immediately. By the time I turned the jacket it was to late, there was no text “Barça” printed. I’ve spent again 5-10 minutes to catch one of the workers there, and when I found one he told me that “there are no problems, as this jacket is anyhow five Euro cheaper”. It was like that I’m talking about 5 Euro not about the fact that it’s not what I asked for. When I finally explained that it’s not about the money, but the text itself, he pointed to the stairs and said “you can get it printed for five Euro downstairs”, turned around and left. So, 45 minutes in the store of my favourite club, and yet another disappointment.

And like that was not enough, we’ve set down in the restaurant here next to the stadium, where once again we felt how unpleasant the waiters in Barcelona can be. Luckily, we were very hungry this time, and food was good, so after our third order and obviously figuring out that we are actually “good guests” we suddenly got server by three waiters at the same time, and they became friendlier.

Later in the afternoon that day, on the funicular from Montjuïc to Barceloneta an older German photograph (can be in his fifties) stepped in line for funicular in front of me pushing me aside like I don’t exist and took position to take photos and then tried to squeeze in the funicular between me and Dina. I was already fed up with all the negativity in the past few days so I just pushed myself in front which caused him to bounce into the funicular doors. Well… That’s what happens when you pretend that you don’t see an elephant and step in front of him. 😀 Prick.

Day Five – Let’s just go home

And then, on our last day, some more situations. 🙂 We went to Parc Guell, which was lovely, but even though we came relatively early in the morning we got tickets to get in in three hours. The crazy logic here says – you can get in when time on your ticket says so, but you can stay as much as you like. By the time we finally entered the paid part of the park, it was so crowded with rude Russian and Italian tourists that most of them caused security to remove them from the famous sculptures and balcony. Taking decent pictures or actually enjoying the place was impossible.

Grand finale of the day happens around lunch time when we were reading a price list on one of the restaurants in the centre and waiter first nicely tried to invite us and sell us “fresh fish”, but when we said it’s a bit overpriced he turned into a rood eejit, explaining us that “if you want to dance, you have to pay for the music”. Well, you know, if standard prices in hot touristy destinations are 10-15% less than in Dublin, and you are asking for 20-30% more than in Dublin (as one of most expensive cities in Europe), than that music should be really good.

After lunch we picked up our bags and headed toward the airport. I was so fed up with all these small annoyances that I really did not care any more about staying and seeing anything else. But yet again, when we arrived to the El Prat airport we found utter chaos. There are no lines or anyone to ask, as soon as you enter the building (coming from the train) there’s a line for the security, and in that line everyone. Those flying, those crying and saying goodbye, kids running around but no one from the airport staff to actually ask them if we are on the right place.

After that we had just 4 hours delayed flight, of which again 90 minutes sitting in the parked airplane and then biggest ever line for taxi on Dublin airport where we waited for almost 90 minutes to get a ride home. Instead of 10 PM we arrived around 3 AM

All in all, I expected lovely memories from Barcelona but all these annoyances made this one of those trips that are to forget as soon as possible.

Sure, Barcelona is still beautiful, there are many lovely streets, gorgeous buildings, and food is really delicious but people… people need some change.

It might be that Dublin spoiled me a bit, because in these 2.5 years here we never experienced anything like this. Oh yes, we did, I got pissed off by the bill only once. It was in a Spanish Tapas restaurant. 🙂

I’ll put up some nice posts about food and lovely sights we’ve seen soon.

In the meantime – Have you experienced something like this in Barcelona, or was it nicer when you were there? What are your biggest travel let-downs?


P.S. I took two free maps and bought two maps of Barcelona, and none of them have all information needed like you can find in all other cities. 🙁

Till the next one.



Comments are closed.