Trains were sold out so I took a bus from Cuenca to Valencia and then take the train to Barcelona from there, which meant a bit of a walk through town – quite nice though, would like to go back and see Valencia itself but couldn't fit it in this trip. I got in to Barcelona about dinnertime and was pretty unimpressed when the hotel I'd booked for the night booted me across to their sister hotel a few blocks away – they paid for a taxi but I was meeting one of my friends at my original hotel. It turned out she was actually in the waiting room when I arrived there but didn't notice my voice when I was speaking in Spanish! Anyway, there we were in Barcelona, home of lots of cool Gaudí works (and some confusing street names).
So she walked over to meet me again and we went out for a few drinks and a few tapas at the local bodegas and the not-so-local bodegas once they all closed. After wandering around for a bit I realised we had actually been going up and down around Las Ramblas which I'd been warned off – but no-one stabbed us or nicked our stuff so no worries :).
The rest of the team arrived the next day and we checked into a nice apartment called Bartok which was in a fairly good location – the Eixample district seemed a sensible place to stay if you're going to be wandering around town, and we also did not get stabbed or our cameras nicked there. There were some cheap and nice sounding places down by the docks which is not recommended if you have to walk through at night!
You may have a little difficulty matching up street addresses online, they are sometimes written like “Calle Diputacion 167, 1º 2ª Barcelona”. This is the address written in Spanish. Unfortunately Barcelona is in Catalonia and in Catalonia they have their own language, Catalan, which is almost as close to French as it is to what we call Spanish.
They do of course speak Spanish everywhere there, and until Franco finally fucked off, they had no choice – Catalan was banned (along with Basque and all sorts of other regional languages) in the name of forcing everyone to be exclusively Spanish. But that was a long time ago, and they've been able to go back through and replace all the street names and things with the original Catalan.
So anyway, when you try and look up Calle Diputacion in Google Maps – it won't work. The best it comes up with is a Calle de la Diputación in Piere which is a different town miles out of Barcelona. So sadly, you're going to have a lot of trouble if the hotel gives the address in Spanish but all the maps work in Catalan. You can try replacing “Calle” (street) with “Carrer”, but it looks like a lot of the time you will need to transliterate the name too – the “Calle Diputacion” given by our hotel is actually “Carrer de la Diputació”, not very easy to figure out!
Barcelona streets are nice, by the way – lots of nice old buildings, and they relatively infrequently smell of urine (ah, Europe) :).
(The 1º 2ª in that address above stand for primero (1st) and segunda (2nd) – floor and door/apartment number respectively. See this summary of Spanish-language addressing for more on abbeviations.)
So we pretty much spent several days eating and drinking the whole time we weren't walking around looking at stuff. Our best food was a lunch we had at a restaurant with lots of excellent Catalan cuisine – I had a fantastic Pollo a la Catalán (Catalonian chicken), and they'd been really helpful with getting us a table, everyone's food was good…. and then a guy rushed over to pick up the plates just as we were about to go, and promptly flipped a dish of oil into the lap of one of my friends.
So that was not awesome. He didn't apologise at any point (no tip for you!), though he did rush off and rush back with a spray-plan that he promptly sprayed onto my friends' crotch, coating it with a dusty white substance.
It's actually good stuff – it sucked the oil out of the fabric and turns into a dry powder which you can then brush off, and it got maybe 80-90% of it out. However there is nothing quite like having a strange man spray stuff on your crotch to end a meal on a bizarre note :).
So we were drinking a fair bit of vino and the inevitable touristy sangria, which is basically punch made with red wine and served to people who think that it's what you drink in Spain even though the Spaniards wouldn't :). Red wine, fruit juice, lemonade, ice, and some citrus fruit (and other fruit if you've got it).
Personally, I'll take a rioja any day, but punch does have its place when you're sitting around with friends :). I hate on tourist bars though… go somewhere nice and local! They don't really do the free tapas with your drink thing in Barcelona – though really tapas are only native in one of two parts of Spain, and the bigger places don't do them free anyway – but it is fun going around and seeing what they've got.
So when we weren't eating and drinking we were wandering around looking at the art museum and the amazing Gaudí stuff – Parc Güell, La Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló and Casa Mira, all amazing!