At the beginning of this year long journey we decided not to plan too much ahead of time. This leaves us the flexibility to stay longer in places we love and swerve off track when someone gives us an interesting local recommendation. The approach has steered us to a few dodgy spots. It has also pole vaulted us into some magical situations…like late night cooking with the Spanish Kramer.
Barcelona is just three hours by fast TGV train from Carcassonne where we had been living for the month studying French. We decided to zip down for a few days and explore Gaudi’s architecture, the Picasso Museum and munch on a few tapas. Not knowing Barcelona’s different areas well and having a fairly tight accommodation budget we booked an AirBnB in the El Raval section of town. As soon as we got off the metro and started trying to find our apartment we realized that perhaps this was not the best location for family accommodation. I’m all for cool rustic spots but this area had the vibe (and smell) of real poverty, petty crime and inner-city grit. Once we located the apartment and met our host, Melisa the sax player, we felt a little better. She told us the pick-pockets were graceful but not violent. “Don’t leave your mobile phone on the table at restaurants and just hold your purse like a baby and you’ll be fine”. The third floor walk-up had been refurbished (inside not out), was very clean and had an enormous double bolting lock on the door. The family below us had 7 children in a similar small two bedroom apartment. I know this because I could hear them yelling at each other through the paper thin walls. Continue Reading →