One day in Barcelona? The weather was positively balmy, the sky a glorious shade of Mediterranean blue and the streets were quiet on the last Sunday of September. The conditions were perfect, so we shelled out €30 each for the hop-on, hop-off double-decker Barcelona City Tour.
Settling down in our seats on the top deck we plugged our earbuds into the jacks and picked our languages. Naturally, the commentary is available in about eight languages. I chose English, to give my brain a rest. It wasn’t long before I switched back to Spanish.
We set off to discover the spectacular sights of this lovely city as we listened to the ‘fascinating’ commentary, which included a host of facts and anecdotes. Why, oh why, won’t my brain shut down when I’m not at work? I found myself picking the obviously translated soundtrack to pieces, grinding my teeth when the speaker said that the roof of a building was ‘isolated’ by a sheet of water instead of ‘insulated’, becoming increasingly annoyed as she delivered boring, obvious information in cheery voice.
“Barcelona has a 4.5 km coastline”, she said. “The beaches are popular with people who come here to sunbathe, swim or walk along the promenade”. Duh! Thanks for that information Hop-On, Hop-Off bus tours. We already know what people do at the beach. In another street we were told that the benches are used… wait for it… for sitting on!
Okay then, so what kinds of things would I have liked to hear about if obviously boring dates and information are out of bounds? To start with, I would like demographic information about the city, its universities and medical facilities. I’d like to know about its industries, the volume of cargo handled by its port, where the prison is! I’d like to know about the different nationalities who live there, the number of cruise passengers who visit every year and how much income they represent. How many hotels are there? Which is the most luxurious one? Which famous people live in Barcelona and in which districts? Which are the most famous restaurants?
Actually, I can think of masses of information that I would have been fascinated to hear. The world as presented to tourists is globalised and ‘samey’, when what travellers really want is something real and genuine.
We managed to spend almost the entire day viewing Barcelona from the bus, travelling the eastern and western interconnecting routes to see the Gaudi Buildings, the football stadium and stopped off for a walk around the lovely Park Güel (if you are going, remember, it’s undergoing some building work). The verdict, at €30 it’s expensive, but I can’t think of any other way to see such a lot in such a short time. Money well spent!
Writer: Juliet Allaway