As usual, I am here to give you cycling stories as I experience them as NAKANDI
Before I go any further, I want to dedicate this post to a very kind girl – Irene Sanz Prevosti – who has been behind most of the content in this post
And yes, I am currently in Barcelona (BCN), Spain for 6 months and living the life you hope to live at some point in your life – in case you haven’t (transcendence sniffs on my end yooooooo, I gotta brag for a moment 😊)
Also, please don’t take that seriously, I am only testing your sense of HUMOUR
Jokes aside, I am not sure how much you know about this ICONIC city, but I will narrate to you what I have experienced so far
I came to BCN on the 16th of August 2021 to do my first semester of a masters in Biosciences and Bioengineering Innovations in Precision Medicine – yes yessssss, I am very BRILLIANT without a doubt, and yes I know you are thinking in those lines and yes another moment of transcendence 😊😅
I was so excited to come here especially because the few people that learnt about my travel plans prepped me about how I would enjoy the CYCLIST LANES and how convectional it is for women to ride bicycles.
Being the adventurous newbie and excited individual I was, I thought I could check out my neighborhood on the first day of arrival to the city (My excuse was that I wanted to buy something to eat – yoghurt and cake to be exact)
When I went out, my green self was amazed by how totally DIFFERENT everything was: how orderly the vehicles were on the streets without guidance from a traffic officer; the seriousness on people’s faces I passed by; NO BODA BODAS on the streets or someone cooeeing to sell me something or actually telling me that I am their “size” – WOW
Did I mention that the average price of an avocado is 1 euro which translates to about 4,200UGX and my father’s compound has two avocado trees from which huge avocado fruits hang unharvested – story for ANOTHER DAY
There was SOOOO much to be fascinated about that afternoon that I totally forgot the way back home – nothing to brag about here.
Too make it worse, when I eventually (and inadvertently) found my building’s doorway, I couldn’t remember which level or door my “flat” was after entering the lounge.
Messy and shitty can’t describe how I felt at that point in time – I mean I am only new in the city, and I don’t know where I should be sleeping – NOT SEXY AT ALL
And then boooooom, a chic lady walked into the lounge and courteously greeted me saying “hola”,the literal meaning for hello (I later learnt that it’s addressed by anyone to anyone while in the lounge – speaks volumes about the courteousness of SPANIARDS 😊)
“Holaaaa”, I responded as I thought to myself, “this is the time to ask, this is the moment Brenda – she seems nice”
“….ummm necesito ayuda. ¿tu hablas inglés?”(ummm I need help, do you speak English? I naively asked. (In that one day, almost no one I interacted with spoke English and I was not exactly confident with my Spanish hence the question about if she spoke English)
“Sí…yessss!!!” she answered with a bright face brimming with curiosity and decorum of wanting to help a stranger
I explained my case, and even though she initially laughed (I mean I would laugh too if a stranger asked me to give them an idea about where their room was😅), she provided some guidelines about how I could solve the maze.
Story cut short, we became friends and have been hanging out on several occasions including African dance workouts, having coffee, showing me around plus enriching my Spanish language skills
Basically, she has been a linchpin of my smooth adjustment to life in Barcelona
By now you have prolly connected the dots regarding who I am talking about; Irene Sanz Prevosti
While enjoying the pastimes I share with Irene, the enthusiastic extrovert in me always found a way of talking about the topic of cycling in Uganda and my blog about it.
Irene was amazed by this, so much so, that the conversation about cycling reminded her of her youthful cycling adventures
This prompted her to suggest a trip around the city to revive those memories, in addition to using the opportunity to show me around while acquainting me with the dos and don’ts of cycling through BCN streets
“YESSSSSSSSSSSSS!” was my response
Before I go any further, you prolly think showing me around would be = visiting the awe-inspiring or revered destinations in BCN such as Gaudi’s marvels of architecture or Camp Nou(Barcelona FC’s stadium and the biggest in Europe), NOP NO! I would prolly have to visit them all to tell you about it like a Ugandan would
If you are interested in caffeine jitters, tingles from cycling, cognizance of Spanish heritage, tales from experiencing great ambience then this post might give you a taste of each from a perspective of a Ugandan girl
Also, for some words, I will use two dialects used in Barcelona; Catalan and Spanish, the former being a co-official language in the Catalonia region, that has BCN as its capital.
Back to the story
On the eve of our trip day – which happened to be a big weekend for the Fiestas de la Merce (La Mercè) celebrations, we had a full evening in a coffee shop that’s about 10 minutes away from our building.
Irene had curated destinations for our trip based on the things she reckoned we would enjoy together as we go for this long-awaited trip
As we treated ourselves to the outstanding orgasm – generating feeling of drinking coffee(only coffee drinkers will get this), Irene gave a brief background of each of the places we were to explore the next day and how she hoped the day would go.
You see, I am always EXCITED to go for a ride; to experience life on a bicycle.
But hearing from a cycling mate that they didn’t catch sleep because of a following day’s cycling adventure you will both experience is a true yardstick for how right your company is
This was Irene the next day
She narrated to me how unnecessarily alert her mind was as she tried to catch some sleep the night before, while on our way to the bicycle renting shop – the cheapest we found in the city
The bikes we got were the feminal vintage Dutch kind that reflected how eased-up our ride was going to be
On testing that they were perfect, we set out to start our trip with Irene as the lead
Destination 1: Sirvent Parliament
Colored with yellow patterns and imbued with a chill ambience, this street has the shop with the best ORXATA(in Catalan) drink in Barcelona – as highlighted by Irene
The drink is made of chufas (tiger nuts), water and sugar, whose quality as you prolly guessed, is determined by the quality and quantity of tiger nuts
This drink in my opinion tries to match the unique BUSHERA taste commonly drank from western Uganda and millet flour as the main ingredient(Very different ingredients, I know but hey this is what my taste buds decoded on my first sip)
Irene explained that as much as the drink is commonly consumed by locals in Barcelona, its origin is from Valencia – another city in Spain.
While we enjoyed the refreshing taste of orxata, another symbol of Barcelona hit our eyes – the Panot pattern
The panot – which Irene wore as a bracelet, is a symbol of Barcelona and enamelled on slabs you cannot miss on most pavements in BCN streets (I bet you didn’t know this and yeah, you’re welcome🤗)
Destination 2: Montjuïc
Almost anyone I know that has been to BCN and to Montjuïc will narrate to you about how monumental this place is and OBVIOUSLY recommend that you go not just once while on a long stay in Barcelona
I can’t agree more
Being a birthplace to the city of BCN, this place is home to the outstanding antique MONTJUÏC Castle with the pathway leading to it having a series of fountains in different locations and a variety of different-sized medieval staircases and sculptures. Within the castle, is the National Museum of Art of Catalunya (Catalonia in English)
Its strategic location gives a complete view of the span of the city of BCN, while at the top and for someone travelling on foot, the stairs are the obvious route to the MAGNIFICENT view
While using a bicycle however, it’s not that obvious to get to the top, even with GOOGLE MAPS
As we approached the vicinity with the terrific attributes I hinted on above, the most obvious thing to do was either carry our bikes and use the stairs (definitely not what I would go for) or look for a cycling lane to get to the top – easy peasy right
The directions from google maps only led us to a dead end and away from the actual destination
But was that reason to fret?!
Not at all!
Not with the various options we gazed upon as we entered the rabbit hole: Watching horses for example for Irene was something exotic since these are known to be rare in BCN and obviously expensive to ride; The Barcelona Olympic Park in Montjuïc that was constructed in the wake of 1992 Olympics games in BCN that led to displacement of poor inhabitants at that time, and currently purposed for sporty activities
And as much as I was glad we got lost, we still had other places to go to let alone the top of the castle which we eventually made it to, at last
The beauty of this place is BEYOND BELIEF, which I guess attributes it to being one of the most frequented places in BCN.
The melodious notes from buskers coupled with dripping-water sounds from the fountain close to the top and mumbling from people of different ages in different languages is a symphony of its own; let alone the sights it offers, is definitely an exceptional experience worth doing either solitarily or people you enjoy spending time with.
At that point in time, I remember the eyes of the typical Ugandan girl in me being contented even after covering half the journey we had planned
Not our bellies though (Irene and I), as we had exhausted our bodies’ fuel sources which dictated our next destination
Destination 3: Ciutat Vella
Our next destination was Ciutat Vella (in catalan) whose literal meaning is Old City
The idea was to go through this next route to a food place while visually pleasing our souls, the place being home to several notable places with Spanish heritage.
While we pedalled through the streets, Irene cautiously told me to ALWAYS keep right (the Ugandan local in me had previously assumed that the left-hand British standards worked everywhere in Europe), and in places with no traffic lights, cyclists had the RIGHT OF WAY to cross such roads in presence of cars and surprisingly, the cars seemed to follow this subconsciously – wowwww, will this ever be a THING in Uganda?!🤔
Some of the places we saw include (in the order of the route from Montjuïc):
Drassanes; a place near port Vell (a port in southeast BCN) where ships and boats in the old city were built, repaired, and maintained from. With my eyes, all I could see was civilization. Uganda too has a port called Port Bell similarly pronounced as the one in BCN, execpt fot the “r” in port that is more pronounced in Spanish than English. I am not sure why there is a similarity, and I didn’t bother to ask why.
Columbus’ Monument; that was erected in memory of the famous Christopher Columbus or Cristóbal Colón in Spanish and with his help, Spain was able to have colonies in South America. The whole idea of having a sculpture of someone like him in present day doesn’t sit well Irene and I remember this sculpture sparking a conversation about capitalism, a topic that she will ardently talk about any day any time.
Plaça Reial (in Catalan); Literal meaning for this is Royal Place which in the past was a place for community gatherings and on that day, had a concert going on in commemoration of the La Merce celebrations.
Catedral de Barcelona: Pretty sure this is obvious. What stood out for me is that this is the only cathedral in Barcelona and one has to pay to enter😀 (no matter their intentions for visiting), just like other churches in BCN.
Buenas Migas (in Spanish):– Literal translation being “good crumbs” and a place with great bread-based foods whose main expertise is in thick-breaded pizzas of different kinds(focaccia in Italian).
The place had different continental foods in their display, and I would be lying if I said I knew 50% percent of them.
My eyes could only recognize the cakes and the yoghurt (you prolly know my comfort food now) and the pasta, may be
When time for ordering reached, our choices were based on what delighted our eyes most, which by the way was a hard task for me because everything looked super delicioso
Destination 4: Libraries
From our meal, we embarked on going to the last destination of the day which was libraries.
First was an English bookstore called Come in, for me to pick a book I didn’t complete reading before I came to BCN and then La Central, another library that was not only bigger but also had a nice comfortable open-air outdoor facility for enjoying coffee while reading or having a book club
Everything seemed to go smoothly, untilllllllllllll…….well until the following happened
While inside the latter library, it dawned on us that Irene didn’t have her phone on her and neither could I find it in my bag – not a beautiful feeling especially after losing a wallet a fortnight before.
I could relate with how she felt especially the part for her heart missing a beat at that point in time
Lucky for her, she was not as dramatic as I would get when I lose something
Instead, she INSTANTLY did what driven individuals like herself would do: trace back her steps that led her to her bike’s basket.
And she did, with me running behind her
And yes we fortunately found it QUIETLY waiting for us – so much for loving to be found by the right owners😅
Imagine how relieved we were!
This we further reminisced about, amidst other day’s activities while indulging in one of our bonding rituals – COFFEE
At some point, in the presence of the sun, it started to drizzle which according to Ugandan lore, is a sign that a LEOPARD is giving birth and for Spain according to Irene, WITCHES combing their hair.
By the day’s end, my expectations for the trip were met to the hilt or even surpassed and totally worth Irene’s sleepless night.
I mean, we did more than what I have mentioned in this blogpost but I will save you from reading an even longer post
If you have any questions or concerns, you know I am ALWAYS HAPPY😊 to address them in the comments section below.