Notes from Granada & Barcelona, Spain
This is my first time in Spain and I’m happy to say I’ve visited Granada and Barcelona all in one. Some quick notes:
- This is an EU nation, yet you’ll have to fill in some kind of landing form if you’re not an EU national. They don’t ask you to retain the departure card, preferring instead to keep the whole sheet. It proved no issue leaving the country either.
- Churros are meant to be eaten with thick hot chocolate. No wonder people gave me funny looks when I just ate it as is.
- The Spanish are friendly. A fairly good looking person just sat across me on my table at breakfast one morning. Upon looking up only did she realize she should have asked first.
- The cuisine is awesome. Lots of little dishes. Olives stuffed with anchovies in brine. Fried green peppers. Paella served with an obligatory sangria. The list goes on and on. Sometimes though I found some of the tapas a little too salty for my liking.
- Getting an English-language newspaper is a challenge in Granada, on Spanair, in the Barcelona airport lounges. In Barcelona though, international hotels and the Ramblas area will serve up some English magazines as well as the Financial Times.
- Siesta is something I cannot fathom/get used to. Yes, it is a significantly lengthy lunch hour, but I guess its something cultural.
- Speaking English is a challenge. Hotel staff too find it difficult to understand sometimes. And outside of Barcelona/Madrid, it’s going to be hard to find an international chain, so be prepared to speak slowly and explain yourself clearly.
- Pretty much everything (retail) is closed on Sunday in Barcelona. Save for shopping malls. Gasp!
- There are over fifteen Michelin-star rated restaurants in Barcelona. Make sure you get bookings in up to two weeks in advance. Many finer restaurants also have tasting menus (which really are set menus, IMHO).
- Beware the Ramblas area. Plenty of places tell you, you can get three tapas and a drink for a certain sum of money, but the tapas is always limited to what they choose, and the drink tends to be really small. In Barcelona you pay for your tapas, it doesn’t come for free when you order your drink. Don’t be fooled by paella on the streets either — ask what you’re getting (chicken paella is quite a common set menu dish). I found it a nice street to walk on, but eating I picked elsewhere.
- On a Saturday night, within a 10km radius of the Ramblas area, the most popular destination checked-in on Foursquare had 14 people. Not a huge number by any means. Recommendations are mostly in Spanish on the service, so it proved to be hard to decipher for me.
- Finding WiFi is not really common. Of course around the touristic areas many places offer up wifi with a drink.
- Cava is common. Its like Spanish champagne/bubbly. It is also cheap. Don’t hesitate to ask for a glass before lunch/dinner.
- Cafe Zurich at the end of Ramblas is a very nice place to sit and people watch. In fact people sit in a Parisian fashion looking towards the street.
- There’s a market in the middle of the Ramblas area. Reminds me of Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne. They even give you a map. Very colourful, nice to take pictures of, and clearly its a destination in itself.
- Television here is all pretty much Spanish-based. English shows dubbed in Spanish. There usually is some variant of CNN or BBC though for an English-language fix.