Isabella Peat recounts her summer spent in Barcelona and the realities of European city travel.
Travelling is a wonderful and exciting thing to do as a young person. It allows you to get to know yourself and the places that are past the small island we call home. It allows us to understand how to manage money, health, and the confusing alleys of the big and vast cities that we all find ourselves adventuring to. Travelling away from Ireland is one of the best ways to truly expand what you know about the world and how there can be so much more to life than what you are used to.
Travelling throughout Europe by bus, train, car, or plane, is all relatively affordable, and I quickly noticed how far one ticket can take you. I realised how modern transportation was, how accessible it could be for people with disabilities for example. Although I occasionally found myself walking towards the workers in train stations, Google Translate on hand, in hopes I could clearly communicate where I needed to go, I managed to orient myself correctly in the end.
My travels this year led me to Barcelona for the summer, where constant humidity kept the wind hidden behind the apartments and shops engulfing the city. I consider Barcelona to be an extremely walkable and lively city but, like all cities, it has it’s faults.
Safety is my highest concern when I travel: I constantly check news on what is happening and look up statistics of issues that would go by unnoticed. Barcelona is not a quiet city, with people out and about till the early morning. While in Barcelona, it is advised to remain vigilant at all times and take great care of your belongings as pickpocketting is commonplace in the area. Once, something has been stolen, it is exceedingly difficult to retrieve. During my time there I witnessed, a woman looking up at the balconies that cover the alleys, enjoying the view. A young girl walked by casually, scissors slipping from her pocket and cutting through the rope that held the phone, disappearing as fast as she had appeared.
Costs and Expenses
The prices instead match the need for income into the country that have never quite fully recovered from the pandemic. Indeed, in 2022 the Barcelona City Council announced it would be increasing it’s “Tourist Tax” in an attempt to minimize the effects both the pandemic and the housing crisis on the country’s housing market
But petty theft isn’t the only issue in Barcelona; like many other places, it is still recovering from the impact of Covid-19. Many tourist attractions were closed due to inactivity and intense restrictions that slowed down businesses. And now that they are opening again, the prices for many of these things have soared - in tourist attractions and restaurants alike. For Cathedrals, such as the Sagrada Familia or smaller ones such as Placa de Catalunya, the paid entry does not match the time spent inside. Although beautiful, I could never justify spending almost €40 on them, although I understand that the beauty and history appeals to others. The prices instead match the need for income into the country that have never quite fully recovered from the pandemic. Indeed, in 2022 the Barcelona City Council announced it would be increasing it’s “Tourist Tax” in an attempt to minimize the effects both the pandemic and the housing crisis on the country’s housing market. A report from Universitat Autonòma de Barcelona revealed that rent in the city has grown over 50% in less than a decade due to extreme levels of tourism. Earlier this year, the City Council’s deputy mayor for tourism Jordi Valls presented the rise of the city surcharge applicable to all tourists as a response to the proliferation of short-term lets and tourist rentals : from 1 to 3.50 euros per night.
As Barcelona is slowly returning to its usual vibrancy, many clubs remain closed and drinks are no longer a cheaper alternative to the Irish standard. Many restaurants have had to hike their prices up, mainly in the more tourist-focused areas. These businesses understand the tourists will pay the prices as they do not think they have anywhere else to go, even myself finding some places charging beers and cocktails for similar prices than in Ireland. Yet, if you do venture outside your comfort zone and become more adventurous you will find places that are reasonably priced and serve extraordinary food that would never have even been heard of if you stayed within Ireland.
Modern travel is not without its advantages and caveats. However, it is up to us to decide whether we chose to see the glass half full or half empty.
Modern travel is not without it’s advantages and caveats. However, it is up to us to decide wether we chose to see the glass half full or half empty.