Homage to Catalonia (and the rest of Spain)

I decided to start this trip in one of the greatest cities in Europe; Barcelona, Spain. I got off the overnight express plane from Montreal and caught a bus to Plaza Catalunya (Catalonia is the region of Spain where Barcelona is located, but I’ll get to that later). From there I found a hostel close to the main square, at the entrance to La Rambla, a main pedestrian thoroughfare (called the spine of the city by many locals).

Being my second time in Barcelona, I thought I’d try to learn more about this fascinating city. I met up with Xavi Masip from a local group called Amics de la Rambla, which in the Catalan language means Amigos de la Rambla in Spanish, or Friends of La Rambla. We took a walk down each Rambla, a series of pedestrianized streets from Plaza Catalunya to the Mediterranean sea. I was given the historical and cultural significance of this public space to Catalans, and found it interesting to hear how it has been almost completely overrun by tourists visiting Barcelona.

I spent my time in Barcelona visiting many sites, almost too many to recount. Of course re-visiting all of Antoni Gaudì’s architectural gems; La Segrada Familia, Casa Batllo, Le Pedrera, as well as Park Guell, which has a stunning view of the city’s skyline (dominated by La Segrada Familia).

Also, I re-acquainted myself with the many facets of life in Barcelona. Barceloneta, Gracia, Eixample, Raval and the Gothic quarter. All as interesting as the other, offering different glimpses of life in this great city. I went to Can Paixano, an amazing and cheap sandwich shop in Barceloneta, the Picasso museum in the Gothic quarter, which houses many of the artists’ early works, and enjoyed walking through Raval and the old city.

Everywhere you look in Barcelona you see the Catalan flag. But one thing to notice is there’s actually two. The first is the basic red and yellow stripe Catalonia flag, which symbolizes the cultural distinction of Catalonia from Spain. The second flag you see has a star to represent a republic, which is flown by those wanting independence for Catalonia.

Up next was Valencia, Spain where I arrived in the middle of a Halloween party all through the streets of the old city. It was quite a spectacle to arrive in at 2am and see everyone dressed in their costumes, drinking in the streets and partying. I quickly dropped my bags at the hostel and joined them out on the streets. Agua de Valencia and hortchata were the drinks of choice with all the tapas I ate during my time in Spain’s “City of Arts and Sciences.”

At last, I spent my last few days in Spain visiting Andulusia; Sevilla, Granada and Malaga. Three interesting yet completely different cities. Sevilla is home to Europe’s third largest Catholic cathedral, where Christopher Columbus is buried. Granada is home to Islamic-influenced architecture as seen in the stunning ancient Moorish palace known as Alhambra. But what most visitors don’t know about Granada is it’s home to cave dwellers, a few hundred citizens who actually live in caves on the edge of the city near Sacromonte, the former gypsy quarter outside the historic city gates. I took a stroll through the caves and saw life at its most humble.

Adam Bemma is a journalist, humanitarian, and media consultant based in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

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