Unique Barcelona Bars

Barcelona is a city filled with tons of hidden gems. There are hundreds of places for you to explore down the narrow streets of the Gothic Quarter, Raval, and even the quieter neighbourhoods like Eixample, so here are some of my favourite spots that didn’t quite make the list of Cheapest Drinks.
Sometimes you gotta treat yo’self!  Continue reading “Unique Barcelona Bars”

Carnivale in Sitges 

Apart from the trip I made to Madrid and Valencia when my parents were visiting, I haven’t left Barcelona. Not once in the 6 months I’ve lived here. So this weekend we’ve decided to switch it up and go to Sitges! The town is an easy 30 minute train ride south of Barcelona, and is known for hosting a boss ass Carnivale parade. 
Carnivale is totally different in Spain. It’s more like our Halloween, actually. Kids dress up and wear their costumes to school on Friday afternoon where they have a little party. Then, parades are held both Sunday and Tuesday to celebrate the beginning of lent. Never having thought too much about it, I always assumed Carnivale was a Brazilian thing. Clearly they throw the coolest party, but I’ve learned Carnivale actually originates from Venice, Italy. Somehow the tradition went from opera masks in Venice to dancing half naked in what seems to me like the most random locations around the world. What places can you think of that throw the most rad carnival parties? New Orleans, Rio, Trinidad and Tobago…even Toronto has a super fun Carnivale inspired week that we call Carabana…but it’s also in June and doesn’t seem to have much to do with lent so now I’m just hella confused. Point is, I’m going to a cool parade this weekend. 

We hit up a costume store for something festive and affordable to wear. Apparently costumes are not really optional, they’re a must. We walk in without a plan or creative idea for a squad costume, which results in the boys buying old school sailor outfits, while Lindzee and I buy sequinned opera masks and feathery wrist cuffs. 

Sitges is a famously gay-friendly town in Spain, which is probably why they throw such epic parties. I don’t think John and Adam understand how much they’ll be hit on and/or assumed to be a couple in their costumes. It’s going to be great. 
After our Spanish lessons on Saturday morning we all meet up and head for the train. It’s pretty jam packed with people in costumes or covered in glitter, but we manage to find 4 seats together. I have a deck of cards on me at all times, and we’ve gotten into the habit of playing basically everywhere we go. We were told to stop by a manager at a bar the other night, which was weird. We make a little table out of our backpacks and play a few rounds of President to pass the time. 

Our version of President is different from your version of President (or Asshole or whatever other names have been given to this game). I taught the game to Lindzee and John one night without really remembering the rules. When Adam got back from the rig he told us he played by a totally different set of rules. I assumed it was just a Kiwi thing, but we’ve since played with other people who’ve all said my rules are wrong…but what’s learned is learned. This is how we play now. 

We arrive in Sitges and walk up to our Air BnB. It’s about 20 minutes from the centre, and all uphill. It may have been a slight mistake to have booked so far away, but it was way cheaper. We’re trying to keep our weekend as budgety as possible, and booked an Air BnB for 2 guests with the intention to cram all 4 of us in there. It’s just for one night. 

I thought we were getting the whole flat to ourselves, but turns out the owners are home too. Whoops. Clearly they notice we are 4 humans, not 2, and charge us an extra 15€ but are super nice about it. Still cheaper than staying in the centre. Carnivale is the busiest weekend of the year in Sitges. Air BnB and hotel prices were going up well over 100€ per night, while this one outside the centre was just 45€. Okay, 60€ with our extra charge, but still significantly cheaper. 

After making dinner we head down to where the party’s at! It’s still pretty early so we sit by the water and chill for a bit before hitting the main street. Sitges is your classic tiny beach town, so it’s easy to find the place to go for all the bars, we just follow the music and the people. Its legal to drink in the streets in Spain, and every bar is jam packed full of people, so the parties are literally pouring out into the street. It’s chaos but it’s good fun. 




People’s costumes are hilarious. One group has dressed up as Donald Trump, a group of Mexicans, and the wall. Pure gold. 

We all have a crazy time, and spend the next morning recounting the events of the night, and dying of laughter while laying on the beach in the sun. Spring is finally here and I’m so looking forward to more good weather! 

Bunkers

The bunkers. An activity listed pretty high up in all of Barcelona’s tourist guidebooks. No idea what they are, but today we’re going. I really haven’t done anything touristy in my time here. Sure, I’ve wandered around the city and looked at all the beautiful Gaudi buildings from the outside, have become pretty familiar with the beaches of Barceloneta and the winding side streets of El Born… but I have yet to enter a museum. I can justify this by saying I’m waiting for my parents to visit at Christmas. They’ll want to do all the touristy things anyway, so there’s no point in seeing them twice!!
I currently have a 4 person squad. They are the only people I spend my time with, no lie. Lindzee (obviously), John (who we met a couple weeks ago and have seen almost every day since), and Adam (who was the first person I met here, but he disappears to work on the oil rigs in Angola every other month).

The four of us meet at our designated halfway-point metro station and make the journey up to the bunkers together.

We take a long city-bus ride to the bottom of the…hill? Mountain? I don’t know what to call it, it’s somewhere in between. Not an epic hike, but I’m out of shape af so it feels like a more painful journey to the top than it really is. It’s only about 10 minutes.

The bunker itself doesn’t seem so special (though it’s dark and I can’t see much of anything), but the view of Barcelona is incredible! I would argue that it’s even nicer than the view I experienced from El Tibidabo, because from here you can actually make out landmark buildings and main roads. It’s much closer. It’s a beautiful night so we sit with some cheap convenience store wine and enjoy the view.

Odd Jobs

I heard the term “imposter syndrome” for the first time the other day, and it’s exactly how I feel here as an English teacher. The woman who said it was using it to describe her own feelings about her occupation as a travel blogger (which I ALSO relate to), and was saying that she basically feels she is winging it every step of the way. Sames, girl. Sames. 

However, the “syndrome” part is key, as she pointed out that real imposters wouldn’t stress about it the way we do. That gave me a little bit of comfort, but still doesn’t actually say anything about my ability to be a GOOD teacher. 

Each of my classes is different, I’ve received no training or even so much as a guideline…so I just show up to these people’s homes and try to teach them stuff. I have no idea what I’m doing. The first few weeks were fine, you play some games, build some vocabulary, get to know each other. I’ve basically been hanging out with these kids. Trying to be a “cool” teacher…but am I even a teacher? One parent referred to me as a professional once and I found it alarming. Me? Not me. Then realized that I’m an adult and that IS how they should see me…it just SO doesn’t feel that way. I’m hardly an adult let alone a professional anything. 

I have a job interview with a company that provides online English lessons to business people in Vietnam. I would get paid in American dollars and work as many hours a week as I’d like. They provide lesson plans for me to follow, and I am given a random student for each 45 minute session. Seems pretty legit. I did a quick Google and found reviews of the company from other teachers. Apparently it’s super easy but I’ll hate my life in 4 months. That’s okay, though! I just need money now! 

The interview is actually more of an info session, but I’m “hired” anyway. I have to go through some un-paid training first, but it’s not like I am low on spare time. Por qué no? 

I also picked up another job as an “app tester”, but it’s not as glamorous as it sounds. My job is to walk around Barcelona and input shop information. Like a sad version of the Google Street-view guy. The game-to-be is called Forbidden City, and I think my job is to create something like the pokéstops in Pokémon Go. Any restaurant, bar, convenience store, fruit market, etc. that I find, I input the name, address, telephone number, then take a photo of the entrance, and categorize it. Super easy right? True, but I look like the biggest weirdo when I’m standing outside of a laundry mat, taking a photo of their sign, and can’t explain to the disgruntled employee/probably owner what I’m doing because I don’t speak any Spanish. On the bright side, I’ve learned to ask for a business card in Spanish, because phone numbers can be pretty hard to find for the smaller shops. Now I know the words for both card and business. On my way to full fluency, I tell ya. 


Oh yeah and I get paid 0.15 per shop. Yup. If I log 500 shops in 2 weeks I am paid 0.30 for them all, but that seems extreme. I’m sitting at like 60 and I’ve been at it (kinda) for just 5 days. Whatever. Even if I make an extra 20€ a fortnight, I’m happy. 

Salaries are paid monthly here, unlike what I’m used to at home where I’m paid every 2 weeks. Having to budget yourself (especially when you’re broke af) for an entire month is really really hard. 

Jumped

I am jumped by a man with a knife on my walk home from the bar. He grabs me by the arm and holds the knife up to my neck.

Turns out it’s a plastic knife, and just some kind of HORRIBLE Halloween prank, but terrifying all the same. Lindzee is with me and of course once we realize what is going on we erupt into a fit of laughter with my almost-murderer. Realistically though, that shit is not okay. In North America, especially right now as murderous clowns are roaming the streets of the USA, that’s a prank that could get you arrested. I love how relaxed Europe is when it comes to hosting things like the Correfoc, but not so much when it comes to making me feeling like I’m about to be stabbed. I need to learn how to swear in Spanish.
But of course this is only happening because Halloween is coming up! Spain doesn’t actually celebrate Halloween, they have another holiday called Castanyada. Stalls are set up along the streets, where people sell chestnuts or sweet potatoes roasted on open fires. Panallets (a dessert featuring pine nuts) are also a tradition of the occasion. I will be eating a lot of fun snacks this coming Monday…

The day after Castanyada, November 1st, is a public Holiday specifically for people to visit graveyards and the resting places of their loved ones. Children sometimes get the day off for Castanyada, but both schools and workplaces are cancelled on November 1st. Which means I won’t have classes. There are SO many holidays here in Spain.

Halloween has only become a thing here in the last few years. Globalization, am I right? I’ve spoken to a lot of my students about it and the degree of celebration varies. The rich kids with the yacht are wearing full on costumes and trick or treating around their neighbourhood. The really young ones have made some Halloween themed crafts at school but won’t be trick or treating, and some of my students barely know what I’m talking about. Best believe there are a ton of epic parties going on this weekend though. Clearly geared towards expats, every clubs and bar is going all out with decorations and prizes for the best costumes etc.

I can’t really afford a true costume, so I’m going to H&M or Pull and Bear to purchase as much cheap gold stuff as I can, and will go to a convenience store to find a toy shovel…making me… a gold digger! GET IT GUYS?!? If this doesn’t work I’ll just be extra lame and purchase a generic gala mask…but I’m trying not to be THAT boring.

1€ Yoga

Waking up for 10:30 feels impossible, which is pathetic because I went to sleep at midnight. Well, I tried, but with my job starting at 4pm or later every day, I’ve been staying up late. Today, 10:30 feels like 6am. I’m apart of a Facebook group specifically for TEFL teachers, and someone posted an ad offering 1€ yoga classes. This is what has brought me up at such an ungodly hour. I need to start doing something fitness wise, because between all the time I spend sitting on the metro, and my inability to cook causing me to eat basically nothing but sandwiches…things aren’t looking good for my health. Not to mention all the Estrellas… 

Lindzee and I meet at our half-way point metro station and head down to the address listed on the Facebook page. I was expecting someone’s damn basement or like a park or public space, but somehow it’s in a legit studio. Way too cute for this to be 1€, I don’t understand. Especially when it’s a class of 5 people. He’s not exactly profiting here. 

All of the instruction is in Spanish so I spend a lot of time peeking at what other people are doing instead of focusing on my breathing and such, but I think that’s okay. I pick up a couple of Spanish words in the process. 10/10 would (and will) do again. 


I find myself walking through the shopping area at my home station of Clot. I have -5847373€ to my name, so I can’t really buy anything but I accidentally purchase a cheap necklace and a cat hair lint roller thing. At least the second purchase is practical. I’m really not used to having cat hair on ALL of my shit, and I’m not a fan. Having a cat is fun, but it’s not as glamorous as it seems. 

Then onto my Monday lessons. I did some rearranging and instead of having the 3-back-to-back-class-Monday-of-death I’ve had for the past two weeks, I now only have 2 classes. My evening class switched to Thursdays and I’m stoked. 

Or so I thought. They text me two hours before their lesson would have started to tell me that they’d like to start their new schedule next week instead, and still want me to come tonight. They’re by far my favourite and most chill class, so I forgive them, but now this means I have to run around all over Barcelona tonight. At least I know it’ll be the last time. 

In anticipation of my soon-approaching first pay day, I do the math for all the hours I worked and am relieved to find that I’ll have enough money to cover my rent! Success!! 

…Do I Have a Pimp? 

Another day on the grind. Workin’ that hard 11 hour a week life here in sunny Barcelona. NOT so sunny today, actually. An epic thunder storm hit last night and woke me up. This place is just the worst, I tell ya. 
Today my first class starts at 4:15, about a 45 minute commute from my house. The metro system here is such a dream that I don’t even mind. In some ways, all these private lessons I’ll be teaching are a great way for me to see the whole city of Barcelona. So far, it’s been a lot of chi chi neighbourhoods. Yesterday I taught a lesson to two young boys, and was let into their home by a Filipino nanny. No parents were home. These kids also mentioned that they had a yacht, and have definitely been to more countries than I have. Pretty sure there English is better than mine, too. (I did that on purpose, don’t worry.) They’re living the life…and they’re just 7 and 9 years old. 

I also taught a group of adults yesterday; a family, actually. Two parents and their 25 year old daughter, who teaches English to primary schoolers. It’s the most chill vibe ever. They invite me in for tea and we just discuss politics, travel, Spanish culture, and other random stuff. I don’t even need to be paid for this, but I mean, please do. 

I don’t know anything about these people until I get there. I am only given a name, age, and address from Caroline. Then I show up to provide…my service…OMG. Do I have a pimp? I have a language pimp. I wonder how much her cut of this pie is.  These rich people are probably paying 50€ /lesson and I’m being tossed 17€…

meh, I’m still down. 

Today’s lessons are with sisters, each have one individual hour back to back. The first girl is easy as pie. She’s super outgoing, has 100 things to talk about, and a great level of English. Her sister is much quieter and I struggle a little bit to find topics of conversation, but we get through. I make a note to come up with some games or something to do next time. Just to have something in my back pocket if it gets awkward. 

I rush from these lessons to my last for the evening. My metro card is getting a work out. This is one of the classes that I’ve had to cancel in order to accommodate my new job, but I told them I’d complete this week. I feel bad explaining to my class that I won’t be there next week, but I do my best to make a ton of notes for the next teacher. Realistically, they’re probably getting an upgrade. 

I even get paid! I wasn’t sure this would happen, but I’m given 45€ cash in hand on my way out. That’s 22€ per lesson, which is super legit. It feels SO good to be paid for something!! Some income!! 

Paycheques in Spain (or at least for my job) are sent out monthly, not bi-weekly like at home, so that’ll be an adjustment for sure. I won’t see any more income until November. Pray for me. 

I go home and hit the grocery store on my way. Groceries are mad cheap here. I don’t pay more than 1-3€ for any item. Like a whole bag of spinach is 1€. That’s blessed. This will be a huge game changer in my quest to save money, assuming I actually decide to cook. I can’t cook for shit, but somehow survived Australia with what little skills I had. Granted, I also got pretty fat. So many Mr. Noodles. New goal: cook healthy meals at home, cut out Mr. Noodles. Save money. Save myself from obesity. 

Adult Lesson

I’m feeling pretty shitty about these jobs I’ve had to cancel. I’ve told my Tuesday/Thursday class that I won’t be able to continue, but that I can work this week until they find someone new. They’re surprisingly chill about it, but I still feel awful. I tell my Monday/Friday class and they just don’t respond to me at all. Fair.

I take the afternoon to get my life organized, plan a lesson, and get some lunch. Realistically, I should go grocery shopping, but the little market across the street from my house is closed, and I don’t feel like going to a big grocery store today. I walk in that direction, but I find a sushi restaurant offering a Menú del Día for 9.50€. Hard to say nah.
Most epic Menú del Día of all time. I get a drink, salad, miso soup, tempura (like proper tempura with shrimp and everything), 6 pieces of maki, a dessert, and a coffee. WHAT?! I don’t even take the dessert or coffee because I’m too stuffed. I will be back.

I get ready to go teach a lesson. This is a strange situation, because I’m working a job I’ve just quit. I’m honestly unsure that these people are going to pay me, but I’m not sure that I care. I need some experience anyway, and to be fair I just totally ditched them. If they offer me money I will not even politely fake decline it though.

I am so nervous to teach adults. They have expectations and an understanding of the world. I have 4 students; 3 women and 1 man. Two of them are definitely a lot older than me and it feels weird to be teaching them, but that’s not the worst thing that could happen to me. The man starts talking AT me in Catalan when I introduce myself, presumably to explain that he isn’t very good at English. He looks extremely nervous, and his English skills genuinely are a step or two behind that of the other group members, but that’s okay. We’re in this together buddy, I’m terrified too.

I have a loose lesson plan mapped out, including an activity in the homework book, assuming that if we don’t have enough time in class they can finish it at home. Well, about 45 minutes into my 1.5 hour lesson, we’ve done all the shit I had planned. I’m low key panicking. I move to the next activity in the book and am literally reading it as I go, asking people to volunteer the correct answers and hoping for the best. This turns out surprisingly well. I remind myself that I am indeed a master of the English language, and don’t need an answer key for intermediate level English. I got this. I check in with the class to see if they’re bored or want to do an improvised conversational lesson instead, but they’re content working in the grammar book. Aiight homies, works for me.

The next 45 minutes fly by quickly, and I feel relieved but also successful when the lesson is over. I think it went quite well despite my lack of preparation.

I’m kind of sad that I won’t be able to continue with these lessons, actually. Great learning experience for sure. All of my new private lessons are only an hour long, so that should be a little easier too. Children though…

Now, to celebrate my second day as a teacher and not dying, I go to meet Mikaël, Lindzee, and her visitor friend from home at the open mic bar. A lot of the same people are performing this week which is cool. Everyone last week was so rad. There is one new guy that tries to do some stand up comedy and fails miserably. So much so that it physically hurts my body I am cringing so hard. He knows he’s brutal. But I guess that’s part of the fun of open mic! You never know what you’re gonna get.

We then move on to Espit Chupitos, the crazy shot bar, as we’re trying to show Lindzee’s friend all the cool spots in Barcelona. Espit chupitos is fun, but it’s full of obnoxious tourists. It’s always like this, but especially bad tonight. I can say this. I’m a local now, duh.

Two guys from Toronto are there repping ALL the Jays gear, and I’m like to need to relax (but also, Go Jays Go!! It’s the Wild Card game tonight!).

We do a coupled different flaming shots, and one topped with an absurd amount of whipped cream, and then get the hell out.

Next stop is The Mint, where the bartender once proposed to Lindzee. They do 4€ Mojitos that are pretty rad, and because of the recent “engagement”, we’re VIPs.

We end up at Club Opium which I’ve never been to, and is terrible. Everyone looks 16. I suppose it’s only a Tuesday night…perhaps that’s why. It’s funny to me that clubs in Europe are such a thing, because at home, I couldn’t tell you the last time I stepped foot in a place like this. Here, it’s kinda the norm. Maybe not on a Tuesday, but you know what I mean.

Suddenly Everything Changed

Another last minute job interview! A mere 20 minute walk from my place, which is even more fantastic. I show up and it turns out it’s a house, not an office or school. Perhaps this is where I die? I’m so desperate for a job that I almost done care. Upstairs I go. Sorry Mom. 

I meet with a woman named Caroline who is lovely and offers me an assistant teaching position at a school outside of the city. I love the idea of being an assistant teacher, so I can learn what the hell im supposed to do, but I don’t love the idea of a 2 hour daily commute and 600€/month. That’s like 9€ an hour with the hours it requires, and the standard here is between 15-20€. Huge difference. She says she can augment my work with private lessons on the side that pay 17€, so I walk away feeling alright about the job, but not totally stoked. It isn’t official yet anyway, she says she’ll be calling me later in the day. 

It’s also my first day at my first job today! This is the after school program with a “travel around the world” theme, which I clearly love. I’m excited, but of course a little nervous as well. 

I show up early, even though I know that is not the way in Spain. It’s funny, because at home I am almost NEVER on time, but here I’m consistently too early. Who would have thought? 

Just as I’m about to go in and get a run down of todays activities with the kids, I get a phone call from Caroline. I’ve thought it over and am pretty ready to tell her I can’t work full time for 600€, when instead she says she’d prefer to offer me strictly private lessons. She’s made up a schedule for me, with 11 hours a week, and says she will probably up it to 15 when more students enroll. 

And suddenly, everything changed. Now it’s looking like I’ll be able to make 1000€ a month, which is much more appealing. I agree to take it and ask her to send me the schedule. She asks me if I can do a lesson TONIGHT, directly after this class, but I’m like, lady, no. I literally wouldn’t be able to make it to a 5:30 class across the city when I’m out at 5:15. She seems fine with that and says she’ll call me later. I’m feeling great about this new, living wage job. 

Now for my first teaching gig! We walk from the office to a nearby public school. “We”, being the organizer and another teacher my age named Joe. He’s been teaching kids for a year, and assures me it’s really not that hard. I’m comforted a little, but not entirely. 

I enter a class room full of kids 9 and under. Joe jumps in and starts introducing himself and being a pro, I try to follow suit but am feeling awkward and terrified as hell. Kids can smell fear, so I try to pretend I’m confident. We split up into two groups, and thankfully I get the smaller, older group of just 5 kids. We start a fun little craft of making a passport. I teach them to say “I am from Spain” (or Bolivia, or Morocco…which I did not anticipate), and how to introduce themselves. We fill in the appropriate boxes on the passports, and they draw a picture of themselves as a passport photo. Then they cut them out (I was originally terrified of giving scissors to children) and glue them together. 

The four girls in my group are angels, ask lots of questions, and want to succeed. The boy is an animal. Do I know how to discipline another humans child? No. Later, however, when the organizer comes around to see how we’re doing, he disciplines him s little, and tells me not to be afraid to yell at them if I have to. Alright mate. 

The hour and fifteen minutes flies by. The next thing I know we’re leaving the school and I’m watching the kids run to their parents saying “My name is____” which is kinda fun. Overall decent class, I believe. I didn’t die, and no one impaled themselves with scissors. 

Joe and I go for a coffee (or tea, for me) after class. Everyone here smokes and drinks coffee. I am not a smoker but I can’t pretend there isn’t something undeniably cool looking about a European smoking and drinking a cappuccino on a patio. 

During this, I get another call from a Caroline. Now she’s asking me if I can get to the lesson if it’s later; now 6:30 instead of 5:30. I tell her I’ll do my best, ask for la cuenta, and get to the metro as fast as possible. I have to get across town and transfer to a line I’ve never been on before, which is fine but hard to gage how long it will take me. I get to the house at 6:50, and buzz up to the apartment, starting with an apology. They are kind about it, but tell me it’s too late and they’re now having dinner. I feel awful, and am worried Caroline will be pissed, but instead SHE apologizes to ME, and tells me I’ll be paid for the lesson anyway. Sick, homie. 

I go home and look over my new schedule. It conflicts with BOTH of my other jobs. What a nightmare. I e-mail her back and explain which classes I need to move, but she says she can’t do anything about it, and doesn’t want to hire me for only a few classes a week, she’d rather give me full time. While I totally agree, I’m not sure how I’m supposed to cancel on not just one, but two other jobs I’ve already commit to. I have a moral crisis. I call Ma. 

Honestly, at the end of the day I decide I have to look out for #1, and need to do whatever I need to do to make a living here. Caroline can offer me 11-15 hours, while these other jobs combined only offer me 5. 

I make an excel file of all my hours to start sorting out my life. Every lesson is at a different address, so I also pull up a subway map and start highlighting the stations I’ll need to get to. 

I’m going to have to invest in a monthly metro pass and a bike membership* STAT. 

* Barcelona has a sweet bike rental system similar to Bixi bikes or whatever they are in Toronto, but instead you pay 40€ for an annual membership, and get to use the bikes all over the city whenever you want. And they’re literally EVERYWHERE. Europe is so much cooler than we are.