Shaheen Rajan, at Platja del Somorrostro, Barcelona, Spain

Last weekend, N and I travelled to Barcelona for his birthday. I had every intention to keep this trip personal (and not work), and went off social media for the same reason as well. While I managed to keep the pappz under control for the weekend, I just had had to pen this travel diary because everyone needs to know of Barcelona – a city that is a lot more than just a destination.

From Berlin to Barcelona

As I had planned this trip as a birthday gift for N, I had booked our flights and hotel 5 months in advance (and hence saved a pretty penny). We flew from Berlin to Barcelona via RyanAir, and flew back with Easyjet. Though both journeys were uneventful, I preferred the latter ( because of baggage policy and leg room).

Nouman Zakir, Shaheen Rajan, at Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport

Getting Around Barcelona

Upon arrival, we looked for train connections to our hotel. We had decided to get a 72-hour Hola Card (which allows unlimited access to metro and buses for the validity period, and can be bought from ticket machines in the metro station or tourist information desks). There is another option to get to the city as well – A1 and A2 buses. They depart from main terminal (whereas for trains you have to walk for about 8 minutes or so). They are not included in Hola Card, and cost 10.90€ for a return trip. We stuck with Hola Card.

Train Station in Barcelona, Spain

Hotel in Barcelona

Our hotel, Hotel NH Barcelona Diagonal Center, was a great choice in retrospect. It’s a small, modern property, with nice rooms and delicious breakfast buffet. Check-in and check-out were both swift, service pleasant and has access to both the bus and the train (though the L line we took the most was good 9 mins by foot).

Food Matters

We were famished by the time we got off at our station, so decided to eat at one of the restaurants near our hotel. After going in and out unceremoniously from 3 cafes, we agreed on Sonora Sport Tavern. It’s a cute and cosy sports bar, with your usual fast food menu – average in taste, at best.

Rest of our meals during the trip were rather basic, so I will skip them altogether. Not worthy of a mention.

Anyway. We were pretty tired by the time we reached NH, and decided to take a nap. Now the problem here is that nap can mean different things to different people – for N, it’s a power nap of 30 minutes. For me, a snooze of two and a half hours.

By the time I was up and dressed, it was already dark outside. We went to a nearby grocery store to get water and snacks, dropped them back in our room, and then went to explore the city.

La Ramblas

First stop, day 1 – La Ramblas. It’s a shopping streets, with high street labels flanking both sides of the road. It was here that I first saw men selling fakes on the sidewalk, from Gucci to Nike and MK. It’s a pretty street, with fairy lights, tall trees and one too many gelato kiosks. It stretches for about 1.2 kilometres, with numerous dining options as well. I have seen many such streets during my recent travels, and was less fazed that many 5-years younger self would have been. So, we decided to explore the smaller, perpendicular streets instead. We walked by many graffiti adorned shutters (it was late), a few gigantic government buildings, two enormous statues at different junctions, and lots of people enjoying the beautiful evening, just like us.

Did I mention that it was rather cold and windy that evening? Barcelona had a yellow wind warning, and strolling around was getting more and more difficult with every passing hour. We continued walking for another 2 kilometres, towards the harbour, then had a burger with fries, before getting on a train to get back to our hotel.

One would assume that after a two and a half hour long nap during the day, one would have difficulty sleeping at night. But not your girl here – I was passed out within 10 minutes flat.

Our second day in Barcelona started with a hearty breakfast. This is my number one reason for staying in a hotel over Airbnb. I am a sucker for a good breakfast spread, and NH did not disappoint. After stuffing my face with scrambled eggs and mini croissants, we got on with our exploration.

Camp Nou

As this was N’s birthday trip and football used to be his favourite sport, I bought us tickets to Camp Nou (please deliver the best wife trophy to my new address, thank you). For those of may not know, it is the home stadium for FC Barcelona (Spanish professional football club), and is the largest stadium in Spain and Europe, and the third largest football stadium in the world in capacity.

I am not a football fan, nor cared about it until I discovered David Beckham. So, my review is truly ridiculous and unnecessary, but I will share it anyway. The museum has walls decorated with trophies and golden boot/shoe. In the centre are pictures and text about the history, challenges, achievements and such. I had never missed Instagram to kill time as I did then. There is another floor, with more of the same, and a three-floor souvenir shop.

The highlight of my visit was when we got to the benches of the stadium. Access to the field was unavailable for the day, as there was a match in the evening (with Messi!). I was equally happy being a bencher to be honest.

As it was a beautiful day, we decided  to go to the beach and make most of the blue skies. It wasn’t a warm day, but definitely less windy than the day before.

Platja del Somorrostro

We arrived at Platja del Somorrostro (beach) and I almost cried. I hadn’t seen anything as beautiful as this in a long long time. Water met skies on the horizon, there was sand and pebbles on the shore, palm trees doubled up as a fence between the beach and a strip of hotels, apartments and restaurants. It was Karachi, Dubai and LA, all rolled into one. I stood there for good 5 minutes, just soaking it all in (and trying not to cry). It was a melange of my two loves – beach and high rises.

Then, we walked on the shore, trembling a little with both the excitement and chill in the air. Hand in hand, we feasted our eyes, willing the time to stop so we could stay there longer. We reached the pier and sat on the edge for a while, reminiscing about the days when we would sneak away to the beach for a date in Karachi. We would sit atop rocks, and talk about nothing and everything. It often used to be dark, with danger lurking around the corners, which we didn’t really pay attention to (but should have). It was the highlight of my first trip to Barcelona – sitting on the edge of a pier at Platja del Somorrostro, looking out to a sea so vast, letting the breeze bring back memories and the setting sun promise happiness and content for future.

We sat there for as long as I could take the cold, and then walked back to the shore to sit and stare for a little while longer. We also took this downtime to decide on where to dine, and the plan for rest of our evening.

To be continued…