Barcelona : Day 0

After that insane bus journey, we emerged next to the Arc de Triomf in Barcelona. ( There are quite a few around the world! There’s one in India too, in New Delhi! That’s what I thought when I saw the Arc de Triomph in Paris. Ha! That’s just like the one back home )  Just as I entered the city, I could feel something was up. There were a lot of people on the streets, waving this peculiar flag that I had seen before, but I knew that it didn’t belong to Spain. Something like this :

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It was really energizing to see such a crowd! My first reaction was : maybe this place is even more lively than Paris! We moved to our hostel, which was about a half an hour walk, checked in, utilized the free Wi-Fi to search for the Sandeman’s Free Tour in Barcelona! (Ha Ha, yes, again! ) The time right now was 1:00 PM, and the tour started at 2. Good timing, man! The others wanted to rest in the room for a while, so I was off again, solo, map in hand, to the start point of the tour! Reaching at 1:55 PM, without a prior booking, I saw about 90 people in line for the tour. Reservations only. What? Seriously? I literally ran all the way here so I could be on time. I talked again to see if they would let me join in, but unfortunately not. Still not welcoming the idea, I followed one of the guides to the first spot on the tour, about a minute from where we started, keeping my distance, but I could feel that this wasn’t the experience I was looking for. So I went back to the start point and talked to the representative standing there. He was nice enough to tell me what was going on : It was 11th September ( Now I know two 9/11 s ) which is the National Day of Catalonia. The day they lost in the Spanish Siege of Barcelona, 1886. Right now, they are protesting for their independence from Spain. It felt really exciting to hear this, and the representative, Tommy pointed me to the general direction of the crowd, where all the action was. That’s where you’d find the most number of people, that is where it’s all going on.

The disappointment of not being able to attend the tour this day didn’t last very long! I figured, today is the National Day! I should be experiencing it while it happens, I can find out all about the city the next day, on the same tour! ( Right now, I feel really grateful for this, that I couldn’t find a place in the tour. ) So, “on y va!” Let’s go there. The flag? Catalonia. The people? Speak Catalan. This was an entirely different experience I hadn’t been exposed to, yet!

The eternal flame to respect the dead
The eternal flame to respect the dead
En route, I ventured into Citadel Park, as well as El Born, a preserved ancient market here in Barcelona. The park had a really huge fountain, which looked something like this:

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I climbed up because it seemed like a cool place to see the city from. Indeed.

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Moving on, I again reached the Arc de Triomf. I would later find out, that it looked like this only on this day. Glad I got a photo!

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On other, regular days, sans the white stalls, sans the flag of Catalonia in the middle. Here, I checked out the stalls to find something to eat, as I was famished! Hadn’t had lunch, yet. It was slightly difficult to communicate, as my vocabulary in Spanish was limited to “Gracias, Por favour, Hasta la vista, Chickos!” Haha, I tried this amazing chicken pizza, and tried to ask them their speciality, was pointed to the most expensive item, and I had to pass 😛

I went to where all the crowd was heading. This busy boulevard to the north east, at the place with the Wavy building. En route, I could feel the energy, the music and the chants of the catalanians! Someone handed me a flag, I joined in! I still have it, safely tucked in my suitcase! Ah, I just realised wordpress doesn’t let me upload videos. But you got to see this. Youtube, to the rescue!

I didn’t realise how far I’d walked, and when I did, I was like oh, crap! I’d have to go back a long way, and my phone was about to die. 1%. (There was no working charging port on the bus) The tiredness was starting to kick in, and I wanted to go back, rest for a while and venture out again during the night for round 2. There was a concert scheduled at the Arc de Triomf for the night. No way I was missing that!

Consulting the map, I realised that the Sagria Familia would fall on the way. Why not check it out as well? Contrary to what I’ve heard about it, seeing it, I wasn’t impressed.

Intricate, kind of.
Intricate, kind of.
True, that design is very intricate, the detailing is insane, it is a construction marvel; but why are there cranes on top? Why are you still building it? I don’t think it’s useful, building it now. It’s like, going back to the ages using the modern tech to complete what was left unfinished. But what’s the point of it? What are you going to achieve out of it? I’d have preferred watching it without the cranes, left the way it was when the chief architect, Antoni Gaudi, died. ( Or maybe a hundred years later, because that was a long time ago)

Moving on, I finally reached my hostel! Sat down in the common room, charged my phone and interacted with the people over there. It’s always fun to do this. Making new friends. This time, I met a girl from Iran, who was also on vacation. It was really nice talking to her ( and solving that Sudoku together 😉 ), learning a bit about her story. ( Do you remember this site? I’m not sure if I mentioned it 😛 )

She left after a while, and I finally met my college mates. They had gone out to the beach and had just returned! I wasn’t very much in the mood for beaches as I’d been to Andamans just a little while back. After resting for a while, I decided to leave again, and only one other guy decided to come with me.

The concert was awesome! There were a lot of people, a lot of bands lined up, the only catch being : they were spanish / catalanian. I didn’t understand what they were saying. But judging by the number of people that were singing along, I would say the band was really famous. Or they were doing a cover. Oh, and there were a lot of pretty girls around. 😀 In between artists, there would be certain quotes for Independence by various political leaders. Have you ever seen such a mix of political cause and music? Fantastic!

We decided to check out the Barcelona Casino, as we had a voucher for a free drink in it, thanks to the hostel. What we didn’t know was that, it was way too far. We stopped mid way to witness a true sense of the city : A street soccer match. Oh my, that was just like playing street fifa! I loved watching that a lot. A real taste of Barcelona. After about half an hour, we walked back home, for a much needed good night’s sleep. Extremely eventful Day 0. Thanks, Barcelona!!

Walking back home, after the parades.
Walking back home, after the parades.
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Paris encore : Day 0

What happens when one fine wednesday, you realise that Thursday and Friday is a holiday?

I don’t know about you, but I spent the entire day figuring out how to leave tomorrow for a cheap vacation! Yes, that’s what happens when you’re travelling, unlike when in a “normal” college. 20 hours later, at 11:50 AM, having considered 7 crazy options, I found myself with my 4 college-mates waiting at the platform for a train scheduled to leave at 12:54, to Paris.( What? Again? Paris? Why?… Hold on! )

Getting a bit hungry, we decided to go back to the hostel ( 20 minutes walk), have lunch, take any stuff we had forgotten, and come back. That would give us about 20 minutes for lunch? Ambitious, but it meant we were going to save on paying for lunch in Paris. ( Phew!) If only, all of us could eat in time. Having heard about the punctuality of the trains here, we finally got to experience it. Only 3 of us made it to the train on time. Damn, the other 2 had to take the next train, but it also meant they would not be able to the extra bit of sight seeing that we would be doing.( For the others, this was the first time to Paris)

Moving on, I decided to do what I had left the last time : Sacre Coeur ( Sacred Heart, a Cathedral to the North) which is pretty impressive! Really grand, situated on top of a hill. However, it pales in comparison to Notre Dame.

Sacre Coeur
Sacre Coeur

We roamed around a bit, and then decided to check out the red light district here, and the famous Moulin Rouge. Oh, this was the first time I entered a sex shop. Mixed reactions, let’s just say I would have tried to figure out what people do with the stuff if the scent in the shop hadn’t been so suffocating. Haha, some other time perhaps!

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Moving on, we walked to the Arc de Triomph. If you trace this journey, you’d see that we never ventured into the city center. From the Gare du Nord, we simply walked west. To Sacre Coeur, Moulin Rouge, and finally Arc de Triomph. It’s a long and tiring walk, but there’s a very specific reason why we chose this route. ( Hold on.)

This time, the line to venture to the top of the Arc de Triomph was pretty small! Oh, and it’s free for me! Simply because I’m a legal resident in France with < 26 years of age.

Pro Tip : When you buy the tickets for Arc de Triomph, Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Invalides, show your visa to see if you’re eligible for a reduction in prices! My entry was free to the Arc de Triomph, the Louvre as well as the Museum of Invalides.

We ascended to the top, where we spent about 2 hours, taking in the atmosphere and getting ourselves clicked with the Eiffel Tower! This is also where we finally met the others. They walked directly from the station to Arc de Triomph. ( Why buy a metro ticket when you can walk? 😛 )

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And one with all of us :

With Puskar : The Selfie Expert
With Puskar : The Selfie Expert

Okay, now for the real reason why we took this peculiar route. Another kilometer to the west of the Arc de Triomph, is the bus stand. The bus stand for buses going all sorts of far off places, like London, the South of France, and the even more southern countries. We were to take one of these buses, at a reasonable 40 Euros, considering we booked it a night ago, to :

Barcelona!
Barcelona!

A 14 hour bus journey, but we were prepared for it. Prepared to sleep through the night as the bus got us to Barcelona at noon. See you over there!

Paris : Day 1

After that very eventful and tiring day, and a broken nights sleep, which was weird as I woke up because my legs were aching. What the? It is kinda nice, that feeling. Have you ever felt it?

FIAP Jean Monnet
FIAP Jean Monnet

Getting out of bed, bidding goodbye to my hostelmate, I ventured down, had breakfast, checked out and sat down in the lobby, using the wifi and figuring out the days plan. It didn’t take very long as I already had a faint idea in mind. The girl I met yesterday and I had made plans to go to the Catacombs, during the afternoon. She isn’t a morning person, but I wasn’t going to spend my morning in bed ( because I had 1 day and she had 1000). So, I decided to explore the Cathedral of Notre Dame in further depth. Come back for the Catacombs and then see how it goes.

The Grand Cathedral de Notre Dame
The Grand Cathedral de Notre Dame

Remember how my timing had been so perfect? Well, add another perfect to it! That’s how lucky I got. Just as I  reached the Cathedral, I realised there was something on. It was a Sunday morning. What do Christians do on a sunday morning? Mass. Yes, that’s what I witnessed. The high priest followed by his 4 disciples advancing slowly through the path, cleansing their surroundings, to reach the podium from where the high priest performs the sermon. Correct me if I’ve used the wrong word somewhere, I’m not very well versed with the terms. I sat through it all, which was in French(duh!). Understood bits and pieces, and was so amazed by the beauty of it that I forgot / decided not to take any photos. In the middle I took a short video just for souvenirs sake. There were a lot of complicated procedures in between, involving the Golden Bible and a Chalice. (Judas Chalice?). In the end, I was offered the serving, a weird circular disc, which I ate seeing others do it. Interesting.

Energised with the experience, I left to explore the gardens outside.

The Gardens Outside
The Gardens Outside

Pro Tip : There’s a public toilet (free) right inside the garden next to the Cathedral. Fulfill all your city center needs.

Oh, look at what I found on this bridge! ( not the love lock bridge)

I don't know who you are, I don't know where you are.  What? It's just a statement.
I don’t know who you are, I don’t know where you are.
What? It’s just a statement.


Moving back, I reached the Catacombs at 3, standing in line waiting for Dorothy. She arrived at 3:45 (sigh) and our turn arrived at 4. It was decent-ish. Pretty boring after you see the first few bodies, because it’s simply the same thing over and over again for 1.2 km. Well, we did get to go into the catacombs, so there’s that for the 8€ ticket.

It was about 4:30 or 5, and we hadn’t had lunch! Famished and tired as hell, we took the metro to the subway next to Cathedral de Notre Dame. When you don’t know what to eat and don’t want to spend much, go to subway! We took our subs on the go, sat on the bridge over the water, next to the cathedral. During this time, the place transforms! The Cathedral closes, and performers take over the square to showcase their talents! Roller skaters, dancers, musicians! I witnessed them all. Bloody brilliant! Soon after this, we parted ways and I was sitting at the Cathedral, listening to some amazing music, looking at the beautiful sky and the beautiful monument next to me. Oh, and the million tourists trying to get a nice photo clicked.

Magic
Magic

At 8:45, it was time for me to take the metro to the train station, and again I reached pretty fast. I prefered being earlier than late. This was the last train to Douai. Not. Taking. Any.Chances.

Since I had a lot of time, I played the free piano on the station, which felt really nice. I got a place to rest my aching legs and exercise my fingers. Over the course of these 2 days, I’d walked 50 kms! That’s right, fifty!

Budget tip: This whole trip, including travel to and from Douai, took me 100€. 20€ to go, 20€ to come back, 20€ for the night stay, 8€ for the catacomb trip, 20€ on (unnecesary but worth it(that’s what I’ve been telling myself)) cullinary experiences and 12€ for breakfast, lunch on Day 0 and Day 1. So, if you want to experience Paris like I did, once you get here, all it takes is about 35€ for 2 days! Some people pay that much just to get their photo photoshopped next to the Eiffel Tower 😉

Cullinary Experience #1 : That late night dinner at a chinese restaurant with tricky prices. Ah, well. Be careful about what you order! Confirm prices before hand to be extra sure 🙂

Cullinary Experience #2 : waffles and ice cream at Häagen Dazs.