The curtains of Occidental Atenea Mar Hotel in Barcelona smells. I chose it because it sits to the South East of the sprawling city and only a road— Ronda Litoral—separates it from the sea. We got a corner room overlooking the rooftop swimming pool, the deckbar with tanning tourists on lounge beds and the rooftops beyond.
The sky constantly remained blue because it was summer. The thing with staying at hotels during holidays is that you hardly ever stay in them.
You are always out, sight-seeing the whole day and only coming back at night to sleep. So what you need is a clean hotel with a good bed and pillow and in an area where your wrists won’t be broken for your watch. Occidental Atenea Mar was a good hotel in spite of the smelly curtains. We had drinks in a sunken bar around the block called Tras Paso.
The streets of that part of town are mostly deserted, which is great. There are small parks where you can catch your breath while you look at Spaniards walking their (mostly) ugly dogs.
We would take the metro train (Sh2,000 for a 48-hours ticket) into the heart of the city for long walks in the wide streets of Barcelona and maybe some ice cream.
We saw what you would see in that city; the architecture. We saw the Sagrada Familia, elaborate in art, Casa Batilo, La Pedrera, and some cathedrals like The Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar and Basilica of the Sagrada Familia.
Bars at sea
Architecture —no matter how intricate and awe-inspiring—bores me quickly because all you seem to do constantly is look up.
Thankfully there are Rickshaws to take you around, so we would take one most afternoons to La Barceloneta, a triangular neighbourhood by the beach in Ciutat Vella, Catalonia. They even have their own flag, yellow in colour.
There are numerous tapas restaurants, bars and nightclubs, all overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
Everybody there was either shirtless, riding a bicycle, rolling on a skateboard, walking another ugly dog or just holding hands. It was a sunny carnival with an irrepressible mood.
The sun didn’t set until after 9.30 pm after which by that time you could have had enough paella, tapas and a whole lot to drink.
Then off we would go to the nearest metro station and back to the hotel where we would not be able to resist one drink in the bar which wasn’t much to write home about.
The fourth night we moved into Hotel Acta Atrium Palace. It was a chic boutique hotel located in the centre of Barcelona on Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, one of the city’s main thoroughfares only a stone’s throw away from Passeig De Gracia, Placa Catalunya and Las Ramblas.
You have to walk down to Las Ramblas, it’s a tree-lined street popular with tourists. I bought a fridge magnet.
We sat on a bench in the sun at Placa Catalunya square and watched people feed doves.
Trees surround the square and it’s marked with fountains, monuments and sculptures like the Frances Macia honouring the president and a sculpture of a sunbathing woman in the centre of the pool called La Deesa done by Josep Clara.
The next day we were told to visit the famous Dancing Fountain or Font Magic. It’s Barcelona’s biggest ornamental fountain and is about music, water acrobatics and lights generating over 50 kind of shades and hues. Tourists love it. I didn’t.
Maybe we should have just headed out to the jamming session at Jamboree club at Placa Reial featuring jazz session in an underground “musical cave.”
The jamming session starts at 9.30pm and they play music until 1pm when the real party begins.
By that time we would have left because my bones no longer allows me some pleasures. Plus Spaniards don’t use tot glasses to measure whisky, they just pour.
If you are into shopping, then you have to hop into a bus to La Roca Village some 40 minutes away from Barcelona.
It’s an upmarket luxury outlet with top international brands with some good bargains. The people who go there are mostly trendy and worship clothes. I bought a Nike running shoe for a great bargain.
On the seventh day, I left Barcelona. If you are thinking of some place to visit in Europe, go now.
Go when the weather is still lovely. Go if you love the beach, good food and a glass of wine at 2pm in street cafes. Go if you don’t care about calories.
Lastly, go if you don’t mind dogs.