09 Jan Barcelona: Hola, 2016
I’ve had some bad New Year’s Eves.
I’ve spent huge amounts of money on very disappointing nights out, I’ve been to many a boring house party, and I’ve even gone to bed before midnight and woken up at 3 a.m. to go and pick my little brother up from a party where he was having much, much more fun than I was.
I’ve also had some really, really good ones.
There was Madrid on my Year Abroad (which you can actually read about here), there was a Mediterranean feast in Greece in 2012, a beach picnic in Cape Town in 2013, and a reggae beach party in Barbados in 2014.
You may have noticed a theme in my “good New Year’s Eves” list: I always have more fun when I go away.
The best thing about going on holiday for New Year’s is that you don’t actually have to do much for it to be really fun. In South Africa and Barbados, The Greek and I didn’t really do anything – we just got some food and wine from the supermarket, went down to the beach, and sat there smugly, enjoying not being in freezing Europe. There were no parties, no expensive dinners, and definitely no ridiculous expectations. And it was wonderful.
This year, my usual New Year travel buddy was in Greece, so I took the opportunity to visit a friend/basically just sister of mine in Barcelona who I’ve been wanting to go and see since she started her very own Gap Life over a year ago.
Luckily for me, this particular friend is from Gloucestershire and was also back for Christmas, so I had the added treat of a sleepover the night before we set off and someone to talk to/pass out next to on the flight from Bristol.
When we arrived at Becca’s house, after hauling our suitcases full of random English foods across Barcelona, we decided not to go out and see the sights immediately, but to first spend 5 hours throwing away half of her belongings as she’d been inspired by a How To Be a Tidy Person book that she’d got for Christmas. Possibly quite a weird way to spend the first day of a trip, but I’m not complaining – quite the opposite – I had a great time supervising the efforts from the comfort of her bed.
Our New Year’s celebrations were very chilled. After a delicious Mexican meal at Rosa de Raval, we drank wine and chatted in Becca’s house while we waited for the famous countdown from Madrid to come on TV so that we could get our 12 lucky grapes down, and then went out for a drink with one of her friends in a (strangely empty) bar a short walk away. It was exactly the kind of New Year I love – no ridiculous expectations, no drama, just friends and wine and happiness.
After that, I still had 3 days in Barcelona and wanted to see the city, preferably without having to do anything too naff and touristy.
Becca is in a similar situation to me, by which I mean she lives abroad, is having a great time, but can’t afford to do anything. This, of course, makes her my ideal holiday friend, because neither of us particularly wants to spend 11 euros to go and look inside a church, even if that church is the Sagrada Familia, but both of us accept that eating is a necessary part of life so we’re happier to spend money doing that.
So, we ate our way around Barcelona.
We walked – a lot – and saw some of the famous parts of the city, but stopped off regularly for amazing sandwiches, Vietnamese food at Bun Bo, the best churros ever at Granja Viader, tortilla, and quite a lot of café con leche.
I loved Barcelona, and not just because I spent 90% of my time scoffing my face with delicious tapas.
Like Madrid, where I spent 4 months of my Year Abroad, Barcelona seems like an awesome place to live, and has a lot of the “English” type things that I sometimes miss in Italy – cute coffee shops like Cosmo, free WiFi everywhere, and restaurants which are open all day and don’t leave you to starve to death if you forget to have lunch before 2.30.
It’s a really pretty place – the old part of town reminded me a lot of Genoa, another city I adore – and Barcelona is certainly a lot less cold than Northern Italy, which has to be a plus. It also has loads of great foreign food – something sorely lacking in Torino. Obviously, your impression of a place is always influenced by who you go with, so it helped that one of my best pals also acted as my personal tour guide.
The nice thing is, although I had such a fun few days and would happily have stayed for longer if I could’ve done, I didn’t get the sad end-of-holiday feeling when I came back to Turin.
Barcelona is an amazing city, and I think I’d be really happy living there too (although I’d have to work on my now literally non-existent Spanish…) but, despite the lack of free WiFi and the irritating lunchtime opening hours, Turin still has my heart.
And so, I’m home.
Happy 2016, folks!