Reluctantly thrilled

So I’ve been home from Finland for a whopping 12 days… aaaand I’m thinking it’s seriously about time I flew across the Atlantic in a tin can again!


I am leaving for Barcelona on Saturday to go to an environmental health conference. Yes, that means I am taking FOUR transatlantic flights and crossing a total of 34 time zones in the span of little over a month. Yes, I am fully aware of the irony of an environmental health researcher spewing enough carbon into the atmosphere to personally increase the temperature of the planet by 0.0003 degrees. No, I didn’t realize when I was booking it that I will be traveling on the 10th anniversary of arguably the worst day in the history of air travel.* And yes, I am truly looking forward to coming home and doing nothing for a month, but no, I am not complaining.

And yes, I do frequently have conversations with rather bitchy and demanding imaginary friends.


Everyone I speak to ranks Barcelona as one of the the “best places they’ve ever been”** and those who haven’t been are dying to go. Until now, I had no idea of the world’s love affair with Barcelona, but since buying my Lonely Planet Barcelona guide I am beginning to see what the fuss is about. With its lovely home on the Mediterranean, unique architecture, and amazing food and wine, it does sound like a gem of a city. Even despite its complete disregard for anything resembling a biologically acceptable sleeping and eating schedule.

One tidbit I learned in my guide is that  restaurants don’t even open for dinner until 8:30 or 9 pm. WHAT THE WHAT? Umm… if I had it my way, I would eat dinner at 5pm. Six at the latest. I guess that would be considered lunch over there. And clubs (not that I expect to be attending those) are apparently hopping from 2 am to 6 am. I can’t remember the last time I stayed up till 2 am. That’s when things are supposed to close. When do you people sleep?? At least the time zone change is already the equivalent of throwing my body clock out of a twenty story window and then driving a tank over it, so I imagine screwing up food and sleep schedules further won’t add any noticeable damage.

Speaking of a diet change, I also read that maintaining a vegetarian diet there can be challenging. Even when you request a salad without meat, it may appear with one of their favourite vegetables – pork. I have been eating vegetarian for a number of years now (due to the environmental impacts of meat production – though at least cows don’t take transatlantic flights) and in that time I have learned a few things, chief among them being that the rest of the world is not quite like the hippy-dippy West Coast. Apparently not everyone thinks vegetarianism is a perfectly normal dietary choice and yes, of course we have organic tofu grilled on local micro-greens to give you instead.

I learned this lesson really hard when I went to a conference in Mexico City. It was a bad trip all around, but the crowning glory was having to eat terribly unhealthily the whole time. It made a miserable trip nearly unbearable. Food matters and the lack of decent food can really start to beat you up inside, physically and emotionally.

Since that trip, I vowed that I will never again starve myself for the sake of strict vegetarianism. I don’t crave meat, nor will I specifically seek it out, but avoiding it all together in places where the alternative is highly unpleasant/non-existent is absolutely silly. Since that eye-opening realization I have eaten reindeer in Finland, Guinness beef stew in Ireland, and other meats here and there when it suited me. (Since I do consistently eat animal protein in the form of eggs and milk, meat doesn’t bother my stomach.) I plan to do the same in Barcelona and I’m really looking forward to sampling their apparently delicious food.


I will have two days to explore the city on my own before the conference starts. I am relatively used to traveling on my own, but it’s definitely not my favourite; I feel like I need to experience the sights and the sounds with someone else to make them real. But I am excited – how could I not be? I’m even willing to overlook my curse of doomed conference travel*** and go in hopeful that it will all go smoothly. And hey, if you’ve been there and have ideas for me, I would love to hear them!

All images from Barcelona Turisme.

* My flight departs on September 10th but arrives in Barcelona on the morning of September 11th. Yay.
** This despite the fact that apparently they’ve all also been robbed there – everyone and their dog has told me to be careful of petty theft.
*** There was this trip to Mexico City. Then there was the trip to Ireland where I felt a UTI start right as I arrived at the airport in Vancouver, meaning about 16 hours of sitting on planes with that fun and then half a day searching for a clinic to get my hands on precious, precious antibiotics.

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Posted on September 8, 2011, in Life and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. I LOVED Barcelona. And the dinner thing is no joke. They will laugh at you if you make a 9-10pm reservation. Buuuuut, there are tapas and that is what you will eat from 4-8pm. Yum.

  2. Ohhh you are going to love it in Barcelona, lucky you. It is not only the architecture, there is magic in the city, always some activity. Be sure to go to the CCCB , it is a cultural center and there is always something interesting going on. Since I lived ther I am going to go on and recommend you different places to eat and to go…

    Try this italian cafe-foccaccia place, for breakfast or lunch or a snack. They are all over the city but I would go to the one in Plaça Bonsucces, very close to the Ramblas on the right side when you are facing the sea. (Plaza Bonsuccés 6. )

    http://www.buenasmigas.com/

    If you like greek food (they have lots of vegetarian options) I strongly recommend restaurant Dionisos, it is my favorite place. They are also all over but I would go to the one in Ciutadella, near the big park of the same name, Arc de Triomf and the zoo. (http://www.dionisos-bcn.com/)

    Av. Marqués de l’Argentera 27, Born,

    You have to go for ice cream here, near the Barceloneta, where the nautical history museum is, the old post office building, and you can walk by the sea-harbor and maybe go to the aquarium.

    http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.com/2011/08/ice-cream-world-tour-barcelona-bonus.html

    And if you want to see a neighborhood that catalans themselves love you have to go to Gracia, to a small artisan italian place, the address is Plaza Revolucio de Setembre 1868 you can get there with the green metro line, I think the stop is Fontana or otherwise with the FGC (Ferrocarrils generals generalitat, it is a train that goes within the city ) to the stop Gracia. They don’t have a website but I found this. When you are in Gracia you can go to Cinemas Verdi, they always have artsy european films in original language. (http://www.cines-verdi.com/barcelona_ca/cartelera.php)

    http://www.qype.es/place/634506-Elaboracion-Helados-Artesanos-S-L-U–Barcelona

    If you like parks, aside from Ciutadella and Park Guell, you should not miss the Labyrinth park in Horta, it is a bit outside the city but totally worth it .

    http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parque_del_laberinto_de_Horta

    you can get there with Metro Mundet.

    And just walk in the old center. It is beautiful, medieval, the life of the city will capture you. While you are in the gothic part of the city (center, to the left of the ramblas) you shouldn’t miss the most beautiful street I ever saw , carrer del bisbe

    and go inside the cloyster of the cathedral, also beautiful. Another nice place not to be missed if you are into buildings with a history is a library that used to be a hospital, and used to be a convent with a bar for students inside in Carrer de l’Hospital, 56. Also near the Ramblas on the right side (Raval). Just go there during the day, it can get scary at night. You can read more about this place here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Library_of_Catalonia

    Love those orange trees.

    Oh and by the way I am sorry that your vacation in MExico was not a good experience…

    • Wow this is amazing – thank you so much! I will definitely print this out for easy reference. And thanks especially for the food recommendations, I tend to get overwhelmed with choice and often end up going to any old place just to pick already!

      And I really can’t blame Mexico City for the bad experience – it was just an unfortunate mix of circumstances.

  3. Ooooh!! Have fun!!

    (I had a trip with a UTI like that. I now carry ClearTract at all times to head it off.)

      • Yes! And you can get that over-the-counter analgesic stuff to dull the pain until you can get to a doctor. It turns your pee bright yellow, you know what I’m talking about. Tho, on second thought I don’t think you can get that stuff in Canada! It’s crazy. I carry it with me all the time and when I got a UTI in Canada and mentioned it to the Dr. he was lamenting that it isn’t available there.

  4. Damn, jetsetter! I’m very jealous of you :)

    Craig and I are considering a trip to Spain for our anniversary, and these pictures got me pumped up (although it would be in the winter for us, a bit different). Barcelona is such a unique experience…have a great time!

    And BTW, that thing about the UTI, on the plane, for 16 hours? I will be having nightmares about that, thank you…

    • I know right? I was seriously scared when I realized what I was going to have to do. In panic, I took advil thinking it might do something and lo and behold, it did. I was by no means comfortable – I should have taken more – but for future reference, ibuprofen does work.

  5. There was a series of posts on Braising Hell recently about food in Barcelona:
    http://braisinghell.wordpress.com/?s=barcelona&submit=Search

    They write about meat a lot, but even as a mostly-vegetarian, I still found them very interesting and it made me want to explore food there. For example, they talking about tomato bread that sounds delicious:
    http://braisinghell.wordpress.com/2011/06/29/ode-to-tomato-bread/

    Mmmm….

  6. Also, about meat: At least you can come eat meat at our place without a guilty conscience. Our meat actually helps the planet (hooray for grass!)

    • Oh that’s fantastic! I bet it tastes way better too. There’s a sustainable farm in Virginia I seriously wanted to visit (the farm Michael Pollan writes about in Omnivore’s Dilemma) but maybe I’ll just visit yours instead! I have a feeling we could talk each other’s ear off on this topic.

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