After deciding I wanted to do more conventions I started looking for ones in Europe that I could go to. Eventually I found Polaris Con, which was held in Barcelona at the end of April. After booking my ticket I decided that if I was going to travel all the way to Barcelona for a convention, then I might as well make a full holiday of it especially when my manager was desperate for me to use some of my annual leave up.
I decided to go for six days, leaving on the Thursday evening and flying back the following Wednesday night. As I was flying out in the evening I decided to get a train to the airport, booking it so that I’d arrive at the airport 2 hours before I was due to fly.
Or at least that was the plan, the first part of my journey went pretty smoothly, and I had no real issues. At least not until the train was pulling into Manchester Piccadilly and we were informed that there was a fault between that station and the airport. What was supposed to be a 15-minute train ride was now going to be at least 40 mins.
To try get to the airport as soon as possible, and keep the costs down, a group of us solo travellers decided to share a taxi to the airport. It surprised and amazed me how quickly a group of solo travellers in a slight crisis would band together, it made me feel less panicked and a lot less alone in that situation. It also made me a lot more confident about travelling alone again in the future.
Eventually I managed to get to the airport an hour before my flight was due to fly and got through security and to my gate just as my flight was starting to board. The flight itself was pretty easy, and I arrived in Barcelona without issue. Once in Barcelona however, I had my second minor panic when I realised I: a) knew very little Spanish, and b) we were in Catalonia, where the primary language was Catalan, not Spanish.
I managed to navigate the subway system pretty easily and despite getting off a stop early accidentally I managed to make it to the Airbnb where I was staying pretty easily. When planning my trip knew money would be tight so I made a choice between Airbnb and Hostels. I decided to go with Airbnb rather than a hostel simply because I wouldn’t have to share a bedroom, and because the Airbnb I chose was closer to transport links and the hotel where the convention was being held.
The next day was my first full day in Barcelona, and knowing I had to be at the hotel where the convention was being held by 4:30 to register, I decided to explore the city a little bit. I got the subway into the centre and then just walked around, following streets that looked interesting, or mentally tossing a coin whenever I hit a junction.
I managed to make my way to the cathedral, which looked impressive, but that had a huge queue to go in, so I decided to give it a miss. I also managed to find a little museum dedicated to the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes that was actually pretty interesting. I also followed a rainbow flag rather like a homing beacon and stumbled across an LGBT/feminist bookshop which honestly made me wish I spoke Spanish. I have honestly never seen as much queer fiction all in one place, it made the tiny little section at Waterstones look pretty pathetic.
Days two and three I spent at convention, which I wrote about here, so I didn’t get to see much of the city. I did however meet some friends who lived in the area who spoke to me a lot about the customs and culture of the area, and even shared their lunch with me, so I got to experience some proper home cooked Spanish food.
Day four was Monday, and Sant Jordi day, which had been explained to me the previous day and I had been told I should go and check out the city centre to get a feel for the atmosphere. It took me an embarrassingly long time to work out that Sant Jordi Day was Saint George’s day which we celebrate in England, in fact it wasn’t until I saw a dragon holding a rose that it twigged for me.
Whilst both days celebrate the same saint the themes were entirely different. Whilst in England we are told the story of how George slays the dragon, in Spain they exchange roses and books with loved ones. I was told it was similar to Valentine’s day, but less focussed on those you love romantically, and more just all your loved ones. After spending the morning wandering the city (and laughing at pigeons bathing in a fountain), I decided to head to the coast to lay on the beach for an hour or so.
Day five I headed up to Guell Park, a park famously designed by Gaudi. Whilst most of the park was free there was some parts that you had to pay to enter but given that you could see a lot of it from the outside, and I was on a budget I decided to give it a miss. I love nature and walking so the park was amazing. I even saw a gecko, which I loved. I think they’re so cute. The view from the top of the park over all of Barcelona was amazing, and well worth the walk.
On my last day in Barcelona I decided to explore in the city a little more and up down in the Marina, where I used the last of my euros on a little boat trip out to see the coastline from the sea. It was so beautiful.
Barcelona was an amazing city, that I think I may be a little in love with. It has it all, a busy city, culture, history, beaches, hills, nature. It even has a feral population of parakeets. I’m already planning when I can go back again. Hopefully for Polaris con 3 next year. If not, it will definitely be a stop on my round the world trip.
P.S. I also managed to add to my travel shot glass collection. Some people collect spoons, others postcards, I collect shot glasses as reminders of where I’ve been.