It was the first time that we met
How can I forget
The moment that you stepped into the room
You took my breath away
“Is it your first time in Barcelona?“, the receptionist asked.
“No… (I had to think), it’s my sixth time actually. And the third time in Hotel Jazz. You have the best beds, so I keep coming back to you.”
“Oh, good to know“, he replied. “I have never tried them myself.”
Even if your hotel have become f…ing expensive and way too popular on Trip Advisor, I thought. You still have much better beds than your competitors. But what was this smell?! When we checked in on September 4th 2017, the whole reception was smelling intensely of a mix of soap and perfume. Yuck! It did not get any better when we entered the corridor upstairs. And in the room the smell was even more intense, if possible.
“It’s the spray“, I said to André.
“I bet they use this air freshener spray to cover that they sometimes have a problem with smell from the plumming system“.
I think I prefer a hint of toilet odor, I thought and felt like having an imaginary asthma attack. “Can we open the window? I am suffocating!” Fortunately we could and we kept it open for most of the stay.
Later we went down and begged the receptionist to take it easy with the spray. And it worked. Hotel Jazz delivers. Again and again. Just like Barcelona.
And the beds are really good. Which was essential this time. I had just finished my assignment as the project manager for the 13th International Conference on Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OIOslo2017). My job was hosting 250 participants from 40 countries over a period of five days in Oslo. After three whole years of planning. I had lived and breathed OIOslo2017 for a very long time. It was time for a break…
Because two days after the conference ended, my Mac broke down. The day after my e-mail had severe problems. And a few days later, my body came close to a breakdown as well. Finally, I could let my shoulders down, after keeping them too high for a very long time. So my plan for our week in Barcelona was too do as little as possible, without boring André to death. And we managed pretty well. Barcelona is probably one of the best cities in the world to do exactly…nothing.
But of course…nothing means of course something. It means waking up late, getting up even later and then spending the rest of the day wheeling around aimlessly with some wine & tapas pitstops before a late dinner in a good restaurant. Hotel Jazz has a nice breakfast buffet, but we were far too experienced – knowing that we would never make it before the buffet closed. At least not this time. We hate buffets anyway…
Hotel Jazz is situated just five minutes wheeling from Placa Cataluna and there are plenty of options for a snack nearby. And a cup of coffee. If you wheel straight down from Hotel Jazz for approximately five minutes, you come to Placa de Vicenc Martorell – a small very peaceful square with some (I must admit) mediocre cafés. Not even the same cafés as the first time I was there. But I keep coming back for the relaxed ambience.
And even if André found a refridgerator magnet in his ice cream at Chelo Café, we kept coming back there for several days. Not because of the service. Or their carrot cake. Or the alternative “spices” they used. But because their espresso was heavenly. One of the best I had ever tasted. And their bocadillo with Spanish serrano ham was not too bad either. And it was peaceful. Away from the hustle and bustle at la Rambla. Although quieter than normal, which was probably because of the recent terror attack. Besides some flowers at the entrance of la Rambla, the city was pretty much back to normal. The Catalans obviously know how to take their city back. Fear is the path to the dark side…
And this is just one of the things I like about the city. Here’s a list of other qualities I love about Barcelona, which makes me come back again. And again. And again.
- It’s impossible to be bored.
How can you be bored in a city that has something for everyone? Beach in the middle of the city, shopping paradise, fantastic buildings and architecture, charming streets and piazzas you never knew existed, tapas, four times as cheap wine as in Norway, one of Europe’s most famous soccer arenas (for those who care about soccer), Gaudi, bars, the harbor and I could go on…
- The wheelchair access
After Barcelona hosted the Paralympics in 1992 – the city has developed a plan to make the city accessible for all. This does not mean that it is easy to find a hotel with wheel-in shower (the Spanish loves their bathtubs), but if you really need one you can contact Barcelona Enabled. And yes…Barcelona still have their share of shops and restaurants with the famous one step to get in. But they also have a lot of places that are accessible and it’s reasonably easy to find an accessible toilet. The best thing about the access though is the curbcuts. They are all perfect. You hardly have to use any effort to cross the streets and together with smooth surfaces, this makes it very easy to wheel.However – every time I come, I’m equally surprised how hilly the city is. From the harbor up to Placa Cataluna – it is all uphill. And the hill continues from there. It’s not too steep, but it’s a long stretch and the the last meters before you reach Placa Cataluna is always a pest. Especially when you have stuffed yourself with tapas. But why wheel, when you can take the bus? All of Barcelona’s buses are accessible with automatical (halleluja) ramps. This includes the Airport Express and the Bus Touristic (sightseeing bus). And most of the subway is supposed to be accessible as well – although I have never tried it. Tourist attractions are also mostly accessible. If the main entrance is not – try asking if there is another one. It usually works…
Genious or madman? Doesn’t matter. I love his crazy projects, the patterns, the colors, the waves…everything. Go see them all! But not in one day. You cannot do Gaudi in a hurry…
- The tapas
I have a love/hate relationship to the food in Barcelona. Love because tapas can be amazing. Hate…because it can be so hard to know whether the restaurant you are entering is bad or fantastic. It’s very hard to judge by first impressions and local knowledge is everything. Or pure luck. There is only one clear rule – stay as far away from La Rambla as possible! Most (or all) the restaurants around and at La Rambla are tourist traps where you pay twice the price for bad quality food.
- The beach
Where else can you visit a fantastic, totally wheelchair accessible beach in the middle of a city? Few places I would guess…
- The shopping
In Barcelona you can get almost anything you crave. It’s not super cheap, but they have everything from local hipster design to Gucci and Versace (check out Passeig de Gracia) and most other brands you’d care about.
- Watching people
Make sure you have a coffee or a glass of wine at Café Zürich on Placa Cataluna! This is a stayer among the constantly changing restaurants in Barcelona. It’s the perfect place for people watching.Or one of the many outdoor tables in Barri Gotic (the old town). You will encounter the usual suspects like beggars, thieves (watch your wallet!) and street artists. No matter what square you are in, they will find you and entertain you. Or bore you if it’s the sixth time you hear that song. But hey…it’s better than stealing, right? But please, choose another song than “I just called to say I love you” to do your juggling act! You would bring in much more money that way. If you’re into skateboards – go to the area Raval! In the area around the modern museum MACBA there are hordes of them. Obviously skating is the new retro in Barcelona. And breakdancing. Who knew the 80s would get hip again. Or was in 90s? I’m officially old…
In Raval you find more veggie places, more hipsters, less tourists, more marihuana smell, more grafitti, more gay bars, cheaper restaurants and more alternative whatever you’d like. And modern art.
- Getting lost wheeling…
Perhaps not always a good thing. But I do it every time I’m in Barcelona. Doesn’t matter if I’m sober or drunk…I get lost again and again. And again. The narrow zigzag streets makes it almost impossible to keep the direction and GPS is your best friend (although that can also confuse you at times). But the good thing about getting lost is that you constantly discover new things. New streets, new shops, new squares, new cafes and bars (or did it just change from last time?), new art pieces and new places to watch people. It’s like Pandora’s box or Forrest Gump’s box of chocolate. You never know what you’re gonna get…