What a mad couple of days I’ve just had. Barcelona is an amazing city, it truely is 24/7 and a bit mental. This was my third time there and each time my main reason for visiting is to see my mate Helen. She’s been a constant mate in my life for 17 years. The dynamics of the relationship has changed over the years, naturally of course as you grow up you rely on your mates for different things. What’s great about it though is I can meet up with Helen, drop all worries and just have a great time! It may be due to the fact that the cities I visit her in are class which is why they’re always mint but It’s probably due to her being mint as well. Having a mate living there is great and I know that if I visited her in other places it may not be the same.
I arrived in BCN early Thursday and had a few hours to myself before meeting Helen. I took this time to meander meaninglessly through the streets, taking in all of the senses that they had to offer. I particularly enjoy getting lost and then stumbling upon interesting places and views. I’m like the anti tourist when I’m by myself. If I see a sight then great, if I miss out, then I’m sure I’ll see it some time later the next time I visit.
Exploring is my main draw of running around a city, the ability to see more of a city than you would if you were walking. I had, despite ryanair’s baggage policy of only allowing the smallest bag possible to go on as hand luggage, managed to bring by running trainers and kit. Walking around on Thursday I got a feel of how the city is orientated and was calculating in my head a route I could take to run, not street by street but general sights or areas I would try and take in.
Thursday night was great, catching up with Helen is always a whirlwind of chat that takes us all the way back to the last time we met. We also enjoyed reminiscing and pondering what ifs and singing. Singing random shit songs that are in our heads and generally having a mental time and a laugh.
As I’ve said, this is where Helen lives and she knows people and so it’s good to meet these people but it’s always a challenge as I speak little Spanish and no Catalan so these conversations are usually in Broken English or using Helen as a translator.
We met a Canadian guy who’d come to visit a mate of Helen’s mate but she’d had to go so I spent most of the time in that bar chatting to him in English while Helen caught up in Catalan. I enjoyed sitting out in the open air, warm air and drinking cool beer. Helen and I managed to catch up again after in a random bar where she knew the barman.
It was an earyish night which was great for me as I was tired from travel and had thoughts of running the next day.
I woke up late, and had the whole day to myself. I decided to do some sightseeing and then prepare for a run later in the day. The day before I noticed a patisserie across the road and I went there and purchased a chocolate croissant with a coke.
I then went to the Sagrada Familia. It’s an amazing Cathedral that is still being built and was designed by Gaudi. I’d highly recommend standing in a queue for an hour as it is worth the wait!
I’d made sure due to the heat that I was constantly getting hydrated so that I’d be able to run without water later on. It was 30C which is about 15C warmer than my body likes!
Off I set on the run, I had no destination or distance in mind, I just ran where I thought looked interesting. I ran past the Arc de Trimof, a massive brick arch in the middle of a boulevard. Thankfully it’s not like the French Paris one where you have to cross a stupid mental roundabout to get to it.
I then focused on a park in the distance and took a path that looked like it could take me somewhere nice, and it did. It took me to a lovely fountain. I ended up at a dead end next to the zoo and decided to run around it. I found myself running down a dual carriage way road that wasn’t very exciting so decided at the next opportunity to get away from it.
I spied a footpath over the road which went over a railway line and thought that it would take me somewhere cool? The steps were a bit ominous and I had doubts as there was over grown vegetation on them and it seemed unkept which is not like most place on the beaten track in Barcelona. On top of the steps it opened out to a park with a water feature and was directly on top of the railway lines. No one was here, it looked like a bit of urban generation that was great in it’s time but had been left to overgrow.
A quick google just now showed it was Parc de Charles I. My suspicions at the time was that it was built for the Olympics back in 1992 and I was right as it was just next to the Olympic Park where housed the Olympic Village.
This area seemed fairly quiet and off the beaten track and almost forgotten, made me think about the London Olympics and what may happen to the park after 2012 and in 20 years time.
Back to the run and I ended up on the beach. Envying the athletic looking people on the beach I ran a bit faster hoping that this would turn me into an athlete! haha! I ended up at the end of Barceloneta Beach at the big W hotel. Great views along the beach and out to sea. It was hot, but there was a cool breeze coming in from the sea which was great!
I retraced my steps along the beach as I fancied running barefoot along the sand. It was great running barefoot on sand, it makes your muscles work differently which is good for posture but not so good on the soles of your feet if you’re not used to it!
Running on solid ground I thought I should make my way back to the hotel, this time I headed in a direct away from the Sea which I thought would take me to a road I recognised and be able to trace my way back to the hotel. I was right but I got lost a few times before finding said road. I found myself running through random parks and then onto roads but realising I was running in the wrong direction I’d go back and find a different route.
Eventually I saw sight of the Sagrada Familia sticking out above the buildings and realised I knew where I was. I arrived back at the hotel 11km later and about 2lites of sweat lighter. Here’s my runkeeper route..
It was almost time to meet Helen again for a night of debauchery and fun at a festival. It was my first festival, after a good feed of tapas we arrived at the venue. Pointed two rude eastern europeans who were off their faces toward the entrance and headed to the main stage where Iggy Pop was on. That was an experience, one that required alcohol. Estrella Damm acquired and we were ready for him jumping off the stage into the crowd. In the process of this, he’d head butted some reveller and bust open his lip. The rest of the set he was spitting out blood all over the stage and front row of the crowd! nice! Thankfully, Nnecke (spelling) was more tame – although annoying when speaking, she was class at singing. We’d met up with some of Helen’s mates again speaking in broken English we got by and my alcohol intake kept me happy and in the zone.
Unfortunately my run had tired me out and it was clear I wasn’t going to last till 5am when the festival ended. At 2am I made my way home with Helen, feeling a bit shit as she prob would have stayed longer but she felt she had to look after me!
The next day, slightly hungover we made our way to the beach to chill out, chat and drink some more. No more running for me as I was like death warmed up but glad I managed to get that run in when I could. That night was mental, to go into every detail would take ages but it is probably just a normal night in Helen’s life. To my british standards it was mental, different and potentially worrying! It involved more tapas, drinking out in the street, chatting in English to more of Helen’s mates and then off to an Absinthe Bar. I wasn’t 100% bought into the absinthe thing but before I knew it, four were ordered and there I was drinking it. Not as bad as it is made out to be, but very strong. The bar was cool, each wall was covered in drinks cabinets with what looked like old spirit bottles in them, covered in cobwebs and dust. The whole place needed a lick of paint but that’s what made that place awesome.
Absinthe gone, we left holding onto each other tight in the prostitue infested street and made our way to another bar where we stayed til 4am, the owner kicking us out by playing shite songs. We then tried hard to find and after party, which are illegal bars open til the wee hours of the morning. We found one, knocked on the door and the doorman grunts and lets us in, I held on tight to Helen as my white skin made me stand out like a sore thumb as someone who probably shouldn’t be there! Helen’s tanned skin and demeanour makes her look local. The girls went off to find a toilet and I did the same. This was the worrying part, I joined the queue and the guys in the queue had been drinking a lot and were being very friendly. Eventually, inevitably I was talked to in Catalan (I think). I replied in crap spanish that I didn’t speak Catalan or Spanish. They didn’t speak English and that was that. I really wanted to pee and get outta there as it was a bit awkward! Then some guy pushed in the queue and i couldn’t very well complain as, he was bigger than me and also what would I say? I only knew how to sound angry in geordie!
Anyway I managed to pee and find Helen and her mates. We left the party and parted ways. Thankfully on Saturday nights Barcelona has metros running all night.
That was me, getting lost in Barcelona while running and drinking!
It was great catching up with Helen and I know I’ll be back again.
Here’s some pics..
Me and Helen
On the Beach running – bit red!
Running in the sand!
The Absinthe Bar