Occasionally the BigBarcelonaBlog finds himself in conversation with his readers (otherwise known - at least to the BigBarcelonaBlog) as The Globbies. These lucky people are fortunate enough to have the golden nuggets of invaluable tips and hard gleaned insight brought to their living rooms merely for the cost of an idle click of a button. So you would expect that the Globbies when encountering the BigBarcelonaBlog in person would respond in kind to this selfless generosity and insistently ply him with a combination of cool compliments and cold cervezas.
You would be mistaken.
I will pause here for you to be astonished.
For instead of the cool compliments and the cold cervezas the BigBarcelonaBlog is usually rewarded for his pains with the following...
“I read your blog. It’s good but...it's a bit long.”
And when you are repeating this statement to yourself because it is so incredible that only a number of iterations will render it comprehensible to the human mind please remember when restating the final part to do so with a tinge of whining toddler in your tone.
I mean I could point out the clue is in the title...BIG being the bit I’m referring to.
Just so you know, the BigBarcelonaBlog's entries come in at about 1000 words - it's hardly War and Peace. It's not even War and Peas (Tolstoy's much shorter, greener and less successful first draft which saw Russia’s conflict with Napoleon through the eyes of a greengrocer). And yet some of its readers are so stretched by the discipline of reading a full entry they feel the need to take a break halfway through, recharge their optic batteries and come back later. What, I ask you, does it say about contemporary society when adults can't take more than three jokes about modernist architecture, Gaudi and the irrationality of Spanish verb rules before they need to lie down with a cold compress on their foreheads?
Is it any wonder we are in a crisis? The BigBarcelonaBlog thinks not.
Nevertheless after hearing an increasing number of “It's a bit long”s (don't forget the toddler whine) the BigBarcelonaBlog has decided that though it goes against all his prinicples he is going to have to take the criticism on board. I am resolved to pander to these short attention spanned spammers and their minimal desires by producing a brief, punchy, pointed entry that will take no longer to read than it took Puck to put a girdle round the Earth.
The tour bus...
or to be more accurate the tour buses.
These set off from Plaza Catalunya at regular intervals offering to show the newly arrived traveller the very best of Barcelona. The BigBarcelonaBlog has one sentence of advice for you on the subject of the tour bus:
Don't blink or you'll miss it.
Do not get on one! Ever!
Of course you're not. Now you “it's too longers” see what you were mssing. Would you cut the Fool from Lear? Satan from Paradise Lost? Alan Shearer from the Match of the Day panel (OK there's a case for that one).
Of course you wouldn't. You want the BigBarcelonaBlog's justification. You want his extended views. You want a joke about Gaudi. Anything else would be Hamlet without the prince. Or at least without Osrick.
So why shouldn't you get on the tour bus?
Because Barcelona is the very last city you ever want to go round in a bus. You will miss the following things: the Barri Gotico, El Borne, the Raval, Gracia. In exchange for missing these highlights you will receive the following: Plaza Espanya, queues and the opportunity to appear in a number of extended shaky handheld videos made by baseball cap wearing middle aged men channeling their inner Spielberg. You think the BigBarcelonaBlog is long? Try watching someone's unedited video of their recent mini-break.
True it goes to some places the BigBarcelonaBlog recommends. But it does so in the least Barcelona way possible. Contradictory as it sounds, people who use the Tour Bus want to see Barcelona without actually seeing the city.
But if that's not enough there is an even greater reason not to get on the bus. Hold off with that cold compress for a moment while I tell you. Because every time you get on a tour bus or the like you are betraying a lack of faith in yourself. You are saying “I cannot explore, I cannot discover” - I want someone else to do it. Somebody who knows the right answer. But cities are not Maths problems (except for Milton Keynes). There is no right answer. Everybody sitting on the open top bus as it painfully inches its way up Via Laitana is crying out “I want to see the same Barcelona as everybody else. I want the approved version, the tried and tested version, the one without any surprises.” But what you get is the unimaginitive, the safe and the stodgy.
Now, BigBarcelonaBlog I can hear you crying, you are being too harsh. What is one soulless bus ride between amigos?
Ah but there's the rub. Because the choice to take one bus ride now will have repercussions further down the line. I will say but one word.
You think you can just step on and off a bus but you cannot step on and off a state of mind. Bus rides lead to coach tours lead to guided tours lead to cruises. And if you don't want to find yourself in thirty years’ time standing by an all you can eat buffet at midnight discussing the merits of elasticated pants while forcing down a bread roll you have no real need for then the time to make a stand is here.
Turn your back on the easy. Turn your back on the safe. Embrace the unknown. Trust yourself. This is Barcelona. You’re not clever enough not to find something worth seeing. So what if it isn’t in the guide book. So what if Time Out don’t claim it’s a must see. This is your trip and your life.
So live it!
There you are. The all new ShortBarcelonaBlog. What do you think?
I’m worried it might be just a bit long.