This week, we have a special week off. Well, actually it’s a five-day weekend on short notice so we have headed to Barcelona,Spain. This is the week when graduating seniors in Hungary have their national exams (like the SAT and ACT), but these are held during the week and in their own schools. Furthermore, it has to be a secure environment for testing, so non-graduating students cannot be there. And since I can’t speak Hungarian I am not a proctor. That means I have Sat-Wed off.
We slept overnight in Budapest for the 2nd consecutive week, since we found a fabulous fare with Wizzair and their flights leave at 6am. That means a 4am checkin!
This week’s airport experience seemed much better than last week’s. Maybe just because we knew what to expect? We got to Budapest around 9 and had time to get a full dinner (most restaurants close at 10pm) before heading to the airport. We arrived around 11 and found a section in the mezzanine that was fairly private, with a couple big tables and about 8 chairs. We used the airport’s free wifi for a little while and ended up going to sleep around midnight. Alarm set for 3:45am.
We seemed to sleep much more soundly this week compared to last Friday night. We took just a few minutes to get to the checkin counter, through security, and to our gate. We had about 45 minutes before boarding so we got some more time in sitting on the floor using the free wifi. I’m not going to bother going into the Wizzair experience. It would sound like I am complaining, because it is a strict, no-nonsense, no-exceptions approach. But that’s because the base fares are so cheap.
Amazingly, I also slept on the plane…for at least 1.5 hours, giving me a reasonable amount of sleep for the night. By the time we landed in Barcelona and even through our day of wandering around, I felt pretty refreshed, alert, and completely different that I did last Saturday in Sweden.
We stayed in a place I found on airbnb.com. It was like a hostel in principle, except that it was a guy’s 4-6 bedroom, 2000+ sq. ft. home in a great part of downtown. It was a good find because it was on very short notice…I reserved it on Friday afternoon, and it was $30 for the “small cozy room.” Each bedroom was available for use, and all guests could share the bathrooms, kitchen, and fast wifi. The owner was friendly, the property was comfortable, the other guests weren’t problematic, and there was no real checkout time the next day.
Saturday’s plan was to see a couple museums that were listed online as free on Saturdays..but one was in renovation and the other wasn’t free. So we wandered elsewhere. We walked along the path/boardwalk near the water, strolled through the El Born and Barri Gotic neighborhoods, and walked on the local mountain (a hill actually) called Montjuic. It’s where the 1992 Olympics facilities were built. We will be taking some free walking tours while here so I will certainly be reporting more on the Barric Gotic (old Gothic Quarter) in the next couple days.
We will also be taking a free tour of the artist Gaudi who designed several quirky (almost Alice-in-Wonderland style) buildings around town. He also designed an enormous church called Sagrada Familia which towers above the city. It has been in construction for well over 100 years, and a steep entrance fee finances the continuation. Our Gaudi tour will take us by it, but we won’t go inside. Just look how enormous it is below!
In just one day, I have decided that I really like this city. In the way that you just get a feeling about a city, I have a good one here. Locals have been really friendly and helpful, there are lots of great food, and for being a major urban city, it hasn’t felt too crowded. That’s an important observation for me because crowds really make me enjoys things less. It’s clear there are thousands and thousands of people out and about, but there is a lot of space here. Numerous plazas, wide sidewalks, and the green areas make the city feel very walkable. The only concern is to pay attention to your belongings a little extra: Barcelona is well-known for pickpocketing schemes.