Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Best of Barcelona

After nearly two months of living in Barcelona, I probably do not have a completely accurate view of what is best and worst about this city. Nonetheless, I'm incredibly opinionated and enjoy asserting said opinions. Barcelona (and I'd imagine some of this could be extended to Spain as a whole) some really awesome aspects. On the other hand, at times things about this city can drive you crazy.

The best parts:

The 'Metro'

At only 39 square miles, Barcelona is a pretty small city. By contrast, New York City is 468 square miles. This small size makes things quite convenient. Most places are walkable, but for anywhere that is not within a reasonable walking distance, you can easily hop on the metro and get wherever you need to go in a very reasonable amount of time. Trains run pretty much always completely on time, and on Fridays and Saturdays, the hours are extended. Nonetheless, getting wherever you need to go in a reasonable manner does not require any sort of personal transportation, is relatively inexpensive, and cheap. Does this mean I don't miss my car? No, but it is a solid second option. Besides, having a car in Barcelona would be completely unreasonable. It's all about the motorbikes.

The Sports

Coming from Philadelphia and someone who loves sports, let me start off by saying that the 6 hour time difference that keeps me from being able to watch American sports would stop me from living in Europe permanently. Despite this, Barcelona is a pretty damn solid sports city. Having the best soccer team in the world (despite their recent loss to Arsenal) is obviously a huge plus. Soccer is not especially popular in the US, but people obviously love it here. Going to a game, you can see why. Similar to baseball, soccer is a sport to watch live in living color. Watching on TV just does not do the sport justice, which could help explain why we in the US don't typically care much for it. Besides thinking that the players are weak and love to dive (which a lot of them do), we do not get the best product domestically. The MLS is sort of like watching the NBDL...or worse, the WNBA. Who wants to do either? Barca plays a style that is incredibly exciting to watch, rarely turning over the ball, and scoring goals at a record pace. Besides, watching Messi play live is not dissimilar to watching any other great athlete play live; it is an experience.
The most underrated aspect of sport in Barcelona is the basketball. The Spanish league, the ACB League, is arguably even superior to the Euroleague. Like soccer, Barca rules. The Barca team has many solid players that either could or have played in the NBA. They recently beat Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey (foreshadowing the same for soccer?), and are 4-0 in the Euroleague round of 16 heading into their matchup against Maccabi Tel Aviv this Thursday. In the ACB League, their record stands at 18-3. Probably the biggest reason to see this team play is because of Ricky Rubio, the #5 pick of the Minnesota Timberwolves in 20005. He has not been especially impressive statistically this year, as he has struggled with his shot. The statistics do not tell the whole story here, as the European game is played much differently than the US game, and Rubio looks like someone who would be most apt in a fast breaking offense, dishing to cutters down the lane. If he develops a better shot, he can be a really solid player in the NBA...that is if he would ever come. I am not as down on him and some in the US are, and think that any team who gets him will get a pretty solid point guard.

The Weather

Hearing about constant snowstorms and freezing rain, slush, weather, etc back home makes me appreciate the consistent weather in Barcelona. No, it is not especially 'warm' here at the moment, but I'll take 60 degree weather during weekdays in February. In Philadelphia, the high today is 45, probably with a windchill. Today, a not notably warm day, the high is about 60, and feels that way for most of the day. It makes it a lot more pleasant to walk around the city when you don't feel like exposing any part of your skin to the outside world will freeze you instantly. Missing out on the winter at home is an experience I won't forget!

The Wealth of Supermarkets

It seems like there is a supermarket on every corner! Sure, they are not as large and well stocked as a typical US supermarket, but I can walk out of my apartment with 5 different options for shopping. Most places have just about the same exact things, but there is some variation in the prices. Stores typically have a solid selection, and you can buy meats and bread (staples of life) for pretty solid prices. I do miss the huge supermarkets at home, but it is actually really neat to go in a store and note all the differences between there and home.


I know these are popular in many countries, but Kebaps are pretty damn good. Why we do not have them in the US is pretty much beyond me. A sandwich type thing that comes with meats shaved from a big-ass chunk of meat, some salad type stuff, and some sauce. Pretty simple, but filling and easy on my wallet. You can find McDonalds and Burger Kings here, but the food at Kebap places is definitely better tasting. Probably not the best for you, and definitely not 'authentic' Catalan cuisine, but this stuff is good.

Menu del Dia

I don't have money to go out and eat very often, but the Menu del Dia (Menu of the Day) is pretty solid. It gives you an appetizer, main course, and desert for a pretty reasonable price. It honestly feels like food just continuously comes to you. It typically tastes pretty good, and makes me wonder why people think American food portions are so large. I'm not sure I could finish a traditional Catalan meal.

Presence of English

As a single language speaker, the presence of English in a lot of places makes my life much easier. The amount of English here is much greater than the amount of any other language in the US (Spanish speaking places notwithstanding). The English is not always translated perfectly, but it is easy to figure out. Plus, many people speak at least a few words, allowing for simple communication. Barcelona historically has many international influences, which make the city very interesting. I know about as minimal Spanish as you can know (never a single Spanish class in my life), but I have no issues in getting what I need. I can't converse with people, but fortunately numbers and names (ie Metro Station Names) transcend language. It's kind of nice to be on the other side of the language barrier at times, and makes me appreciate how difficult non-English speaking people in the United States must have it. It also makes me incredibly impressed listening to non-native speakers speaking fluent English.


  1. What is it that you do in Barcelona? I lived in Milan for four months while in law school and visited Barcelona and loved it. Now that I have graduated, I have actually been looking for a way to find some work in Barcelona. Any information you have would be really helpful.

  2. True. Barcelona is a solid sports city with so much passion from its people as many would expect to have. This is why it does not come as a surprise that the city as chosen to host the Euroleague Final Four, which is due to take place in a little over two months from now. This will undeniably bring in lots of tourists from various parts of Europe in the hope of witnessing this one of a kind basketball action that will forever be etched in league history.

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