Barcelona, great, except for your comment "utter Spanishness" Of all the cities in the state of Spain, Barcelona, as capital of greater Catalunya is the most unspanish (don´t know a word for the opposite of "utter")
To the traveler, "Spanish" suggests bull fights and flamenco. In Barcelona, flamenco is only for tourists, and there is a current struggle with Madrid regarding the Catalá speaking parts sof Spain attempting to ban bull fightss.
In Barcelona, the majority speak Catalá in the home not Spanish. As in my village in Mallorca, if a tourist speaks only Spanish, and is not from Spain, to be polite we communicate in that language. However, here, and in
the non package tour parts of Barcelona, if a tourist from speaks Spanish, people pretend not to understand or they respond in Catalá.
"has repeated ly attempted to secede" should be changed to is currently attempting to seceed.
"to become its own <<NATION>>, Catalunya, by definition is already a nation, what you mean "to become its own <<STATE>>.
Sadly, for German and English speakers, Barcelona has (not earned) a "reputation as a party town". Sad, because to many tourists at the low end of the scale, this becomes an excuse for bad behavior.
One can "party" anywhere, for the discriminating tourist it is a "festa town" quite a different thing.
As a musician, and member of several groups, I am in Barcelona often, and have noticed that the proportion of tourists at festes is much lower then one might expect compared to locals.
There is a reason for this. Festes are gratis, but the international tourist industry, actually discourages participation because they make more money shuffling tourists to pseudo events that bring them money.
Example: on the Monday of St Eulalia´s festa (one of the two largest in Barcelona, the other Mercé in September) I had a free day, and decided to visit Montserrat. On my return I got into conversation with
4 Irish university students. I asked them if they had enjoyed any of the Eulalia events over the weekend. [Blank faces] What was that, I explained, and asked how they had spent the weekend, and they gave
be a list of non free things they had done, at the suggestion of their travel agent, and the tourist info offices in Barcelona.
In Barcelona, one of the best places to visit, to get a feel of the people, culture, history is sort of a rectanble, bordered on the west by the Ramblas running from Plaça Catalunya south to Columbus column. following she harbor East
to Santa Maria del Mar, then north to the Seu. With one exception, all of the week long (actually 9 days - novena) festa took place within that area, sufficient to inform and entertain, and "party" if one wants - all for free.
These Irish young people were not aware of any of the events. Generally, the area is known as the "Barri Gotic". With that as a base, the majority of other things to do in Barcelona are within two metro stations distance from it.
As this is a travel site, a word of advice I adhere to. My concept of a "package" is transport, and first and last night at a hotel. I usually purchase a guide book, I recommend "Insite", read it in advance and rate ll the events on a scale of
1 (must see) down to 5 (see if it is free, raining, and on my to somewhere else). With this information, I am free to ignore the list if I see or hear of something more interesting. In Barcelona, purchase a metro pass providing unlimited
rides during the length of my stay, in other places, go to the local bus terminus, and ride a local bus. Remember that many of the tourist office, guide book, agency recomendations are based on kickbacks and have nothing to do with
my reasons for visiting a place. I specificly avoid recomended shows and restaurants, prefering to go to those where locals outnumber tourists. Another warning, your government representatives (consulate-embassy) are also in on the
game, not only recommending unofficially, but warning their nationals from some places as dangerous.
Yes, Barcelona has "a deep sense of cultural identity", but most tourists never experience it, go to the approved places, and come home with the same photos and predigested experiences.
Here is another example of the problem. My sister was living in Italy, north of Rome, so one easter I decided to take my first (and last cruise) starting from Barcelona its last port before returning was Palma (my capital)
1. At the beginning of the cruise, using the excuse of limited vacancies, the crew attempts to pre-sell package tours at all the ports - no refund if you change your mind.
[all of these follow the same pattern as I mentioned for Barcelona]
As I did not purchase any, the people at my table who had purchased some, were curious as to why not and I explained the above, and added that the cruise line
makes more money if one never leaves the ship. After docking a lot of time is wasted organizing the tour, deboarding, loading the busses, and getting back early
[so as not to be late for departure].
2. When we got to Ostia (for Rome) my plan was to walk on my own to the train station, take train to Rome, transfer to a train north to visit my sister.
I calculated the schedule, so that I had an hour to walk back to the boat from the original station - total cost - train fare. I convinced some at my table who accompanied
me as far as Rome, walked to St Peters, and as they left, saw the tour from our boat just arriving. Bought a street map, talked to some Romans, who recomended a restaurant
not in any guide book, located in a piazza where there were no tourists. On return, discussing with others who had taken the tour, they had saved almost 50€ per person, and
seen a lot more places, and gained three hours on land, they would not have had if they had taken the "approved" tour.
3. So for Palma, our penultimate port, 8 hour stop, my table of 9 was convinced, and since this was my town asked me to be their guide.
I contacteds Hertz on the net (cost 30€ because of a slow connection) and arranged for a minivan to meet us at the guard house (unapproved vehicles not permitted to drive
to the gang plank). The official tour 40€ perperson, was merely a 3 hour series of photo ops. My tour 6 hours, saw all the same places, but got inside the castle for a concert, inside
the Cathedral (free 30 minutes before or after mass - other times 6€), and a restaurant of my choice, set menu 10€. We had dropped the Hartz guy at his office, and picked him up
on returning to the ship. Including me, 10 people, the official tour would have cost 400€ (not including meals). My tour, free for me as the others paid for the van, computer time, my dinner,
came to 60€, divided by 9, came out around 8€