Best Bars in Barcelona

I started writing this post before the news of the attack. To target tourists, and a beautiful city, is horrible. But it should never put people off from having fun in this city – not that I think it ever will.

Tripode

Passeig del Born, 17

A small but nicely decorated bar – it quickly became my friend and I’s favourite due to never staying sober there for more than ten minutes. The cocktails are all great, but the best part were the staff who quickly made us feel at home, and were always happy to see us. Probably because we spent so much.

Pipa Club

Plaça Reial, 3

This one is a secret club, you have to pass the bouncer and go up stairs. But you are graciously welcomed and shown a seat. The cocktails aren’t cheap but very good – and their own recipes are always worth trying. The bar is huge with lots of rooms, and in the Gothic Quarter you’ll find people from all walks of life.

Nevermind

Carrer d’Escudellers Blancs, 3/Carrer dels Tallers, 68

Two of these bars (one in Raval and one in Gothic) but both essentially the same – except the Raval one also has a little skate rink to chill on. These punk themed bars I would have died to visit when I was a teen. It has a fun vibe and chilled out atmosphere – even with the music blaring into your eardrums.

Dow Jones

Carrer del Bruc, 97

A bar with a stock market theme – prices go up and down and crash and so on all night – so it kinda decides your tipple for you.

Espit Chupitos

Everywhere

These shot bars boast over 600 different shots – and some are quite outrageous. Think head massages, syringes, and many more. Not just flaming shots. Order with caution, or lack of shame.

Born Voraz

Carrer de la Princesa, 33

Really, this is a rooftop bar on top of the hotel next door to the restaurant (also a great place to eat) but it seems to be shared by both. Although the views of El Born aren’t much from above, it is still nice to enjoy the sunset or even the little pool up there.

Sub Rosa

Carrer d’en Rauric, 23

My sister would always insist people go to this bar, so if she’s reading this: LOOK I MENTIONED IT. But to be fair, it’s a nice little bar hidden away in the Gothic Quarter, and its happy hour prices are very nice indeed.

 

There are of course so many more, but these ones have seen me at my worst (or best).

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Shakey Wakey

Slumville sunrise
Nobody cares or looks twice
Shine away in the morning
Across this place where I was born in
Every bruise, every flower
Illuminated by the dawning

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I decided to photograph Wakefield – at least the centre to try and capture its vibe accurately. Although it is not my favourite city in the world, it was where I grew up so will always be a part of me.

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The bus station

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The street Westgate is well known for its bar crawl “The Westgate Run”, and for being where all the clubs are. When I was 18 all the “safe/non dodgy” clubs were just on one side of the street, nowadays its more mixed up and the clubs I used to go to have closed down. I feel old.

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The infamous pie shop opens late on weekends, so most drunken locals end up there.

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Fernandes is possibly the most well-known bar in town. Popular with the middle aged functioning alcoholics.

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Our theatre – when I was a child a Christmas treat would be to see the pantomime with school, and my mum would take my sister and I to McDonald’s after (usually McDonald’s was a strict no)

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British people across the country were outraged when BHS went into administration.

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Grind cafes are found all over the city – it’s a chain, but why only found in Wakey I don’t know.

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The Polish population has increased over the years, which has resulted in great cafes and shops, as well as a more multicultural community, but also an increase in xenophobia *eye roll*.

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The cathedral, which is always easy to spot.

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When I was an awkward teenage punk, all the “alternative kids” would hang out outside the cathedral. Not as much these days.

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Trinity Walk shopping centre opened a few years ago – very clean looking, but still surrounded by less clean looking shops.

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Barbara Hepworth is a renowned artist from the city.

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Trinity Walk came at the expense of The Ridings shopping centre – although still functioning, its shops are constantly going out of business.

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Still have a Blockbusters…

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Despite some places being very run down, we also have plenty of trendy bars, cafes, and restaurants constantly opening.

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The yellow block of flats at the back is almost as recognisable in the area as the cathedral (the skyline is basically the cathedral and two of these block of flats).

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Although I criticise Wakefield a lot – most people do – it does have its charms. The people are friendly enough (most of the time), and it has its nice places, and all are very down to earth – no pretentious people welcome here. I just know I don’t want to settle here myself. But it’ll always be a home to me, even though every time I visit it has changed slightly, and will continue to do so.

Why nice guys are the biggest fuck boys

As seen on TV…

But seriously though, it would appear that beloved TV shows who present nice guys as the central character, perhaps unintentionally offer instead a fuckboy in disguise. And, in my opinion, the worst of fuckboys because it is they themselves who insist they are nice guys, and believe they are entitled to whichever girl they want (until the next pretty thing comes along and they quickly move on). They are seen as devoted, caring, and a romantic. But really, they are possessive, manipulative, and often not even that attached to the girl.

So who are the culprits?

(Warning – although most mentioned are well known shows, if you haven’t seen them there are spoilers at hand)

Ross – Friends

The most well known and criticised of them all. Whilst many of us grew up cheering on the Ross/Rachel relationship, now we are older and wiser, we realise just how possessive and manipulative Ross was. He idolised Rachel when they were in high school, and therefore believed he was entitled to her. That she gave up a career for him is now criticised. The post that inspired me to write this article even argues that Rachel’s relationship with Joey was much healthier – read here

Ted – How I Met Your Mother

The whole premise of this show was about how he found his true love – or so we thought. That aside, it has been questioned how the premise is essentially Ted telling his children about all the girls he banged and screwed over (at least, some of them), but he retells it as a long, deep quest for love. When really it is the ramblings of a guy with serious co-dependency issues. Nearly every girl he dates he declares could be the love of his life. And there are quite a few of them.

Gus – Love

I watched this recently as it is praised as a modern telling of love and dating. Well, Gus is constantly described as a nice guy but all I saw was him sleep with the main female character, and when she started to show an attachment to him he immediately became frustrated with her. Simply because another pretty girl wanted to sleep with him. He also went super creepy on one date and tried to follow the girl to the bathroom. In fact he tends to get creepy around women (especially women in groups), as though he is just going through puberty, not a man in his early thirties.

All male leads – The Big Bang Theory

They’re not even subtle in being a show about how nerdy guys who cannot talk to girls, all somehow magically end up with girls way out of their league. Even though they are rude to one another and the girls, are sexist, and at times downright perverted.  This post highlights just how downright dangerous TBBT attitude towards women is.

Larry – Orange is the New Black

Arguably presented as a fuckboy on purpose, unlike the other shows. Larry is first seen as totally supportive to say his fiance has been sent to prison. That is, until he realise he can use her situation to get his writing “career” finally off the ground. Then she cheats on him constantly so eventually he leaves her for her best friend. Fair’s fair. But even so, not a cool guy.

 

And why am I hating on these characters? Well to me, they mostly seem to be created by guys who see themselves in the characters: nerdy, not so cool in school, probably ignored by girls growing up. And this seems to be a kind of fantasy fulfilling, self-redemption: let the nerdy guy get the cool girl. Let him suddenly be desired by lots of cool girls. But it’s not wrong of the guy to screw the girls over, because he’s a nice guy, as we are constantly told. He deserves it, it would seem. And these are the guys girls are supposed to want to end up with, even though they are whiny, needy, rude, condescending, and will always be looking for a prettier girl.

And the danger of that, is that pop culture reflects our society, even helps shape it. If girls watching these shows are told that is what nice guys are: someone who will treat you like the love of their life until the next girl comes along, well, I’d rather have to deal with fuckboys. At least with them you and they know the truth. With nice guys they convince themselves that their actions are justified.

You Know You’re a Spoonie When…

Disclaimer: I know some people don’t like the term spoonie, because they find it belittling or that the spoon theory doesn’t fit their experiences. I also find it is not the best metaphor for my fatigue, because to me it sounds like you can plan and manage your energy resources whereas sometimes you can’t. But anyways, I like it as a term every chronic illness warrior recognises and can use. Also these are from my own experiences, but as any spoonie knows, everyone has a different experience.

Your pharmacist knows you, and treats you like a special customer

I’ve been given a nicer bag to carry my meds home in, and even trusted when the card machine wasn’t working to come and pay another day.

You start to learn about your specialists life

My specialists in Spain in particular, I learnt about my rheumatologist’s bad back, and his personal life. Frankly, it helps being on chatty terms with your doctors.

You eye up fancy pill boxes on Amazon

I have a bog standard one for am and pm, but you can get some with nice patterns and that look less like pill poxes. I’m thinking of buying one with a zip, as sometimes my current box can open and meds go everywhere when travelling.

You follow fellow spoonie blogs

It’s great to know there is a huge community out there, especially if you can’t make it out of the house. They are funny, relatable, touching, and eye opening to other people’s struggles.

You need to rest after breakfast

I hate waking up and knowing it’s going to be a tough day for fatigue. And that I struggle to be functioning before the afternoon, because I’ve ended up resting after breakfast or a shower and can’t move.

You’re at hand with medical advice when a friend is ill

And often painkillers or other at hand, you walking pharmacist you. In Spain I was the one friends would ask about registering at the doctors, or getting vaccinations.

You have doctors numbers saved onto your phone

And when, like me, you spend time in different places (or countries), the list is divided by location as well as type of doctor.

You’ve given up on webMD

No point worrying yourself when you’ll be seeing the doctor soon enough and can ask them. Plus with so many tests, anything concerning will pop up in the results.

You have gone over to someone’s house just to nap

Not on purpose (usually), but sometimes you get there and realise you cant keep your eyes open. They usually offer you a bed to lie on.

People always seem surprised at the amount of meds you take

And the “you must be rattling!” joke often follows.

You have days you are sick of being sick

Sometimes I can be at the pharmacy, the waiting room, or just as simple as taking my meds in the morning, and I get a sudden urge of being done with lupus. Find a cure already, I’m tired of having it being the biggest, most controlling thing in my life. Then I get on with my day, because there’s no point moping about things out of our control.

But you’ve also forgotten what “normal” is

This time next year I could be on next to zero meds. Which as exciting as that sounds, it’s also scary to think that could be a reality again. No funny side effects? Potential discharge from specialists? Is that normal life? Not to mention your daily aches and pains are so natural to you, you almost welcome them like an old friend. My dodgy joints are mine, I know how to take care of them.

And so many more…

Whitby

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As a post-birthday treat my Mum and her boyfriend took me on a day trip to Whitby, North Yorkshire.

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I haven’t been in years, but it is a picturesque seaside town.

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There are the famous 199 steps up to the church and well known abbey.

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The abbey is famous because of Bram Stoker’s Dracula – it was a key location for the classic gothic novel.

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Although Whitby is a prime location for its gothic themes, it is also a great example of a British seaside town – fish and chips, cute shops, sweets, arcades, cottages and amazing views.

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Snapchatting a Spoonie Day

I’ve been back in the UK since Monday, and have been feeling pain in the chest since, which at first I thought were asthma related, but it felt similar to pericarditis (inflammation of the heart), so I went to the GP this morning.

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Sending a random snapchat because I was sulking about being back in the doctor’s waiting room.

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But then, to be on the safe side, the GP sent me to the ambulatory department of my nearest hospital to run some tests for inflammation and/or blood clots.

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I decided to continue the snapchat story, partly because I was bored, by myself and attention seeking, but also so I could document glimpses of what an unexpected trip to the hospital could entail.

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It was mainly waiting for tests – blood tests, EGC scan, and a chest x-ray

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And a cafeteria bought lunch for the waiting room.

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4 hours after my GP appointment I was free to go – nothing to worry about, they suspected the flight home may have triggered some pleurisy (inflammation of the lungs), but it should clear up in a few days.

 

Although it can feel a little strange, knowing I have pains and something not quite right, but the doctors don’t seem concerned anymore, it’s better than having something much more concerning. And now I am home, with TV, cups of tea, a bath, and cuddles with my dog planned for the rest of the day.

Tips for being a student with lupus

I feel really lucky that four months after my diagnosis I was able to begin my masters degree in a foreign country – not everyone gets that pleasure. Often lupus forces people to quit school or university, with hope of maybe returning when things are a little better.

I, however, am a stubborn individual, so when I was warned by multiple doctors that I should probably put my studies on hold, well, I knew I didn’t want to put my life on hold for a year. Luckily both the doctors and my parents decided to do their best to support my decision. But to gain my degree, and not end up in hospital having a flare up again, or be forced to drop out due to lupus – I knew I had to be extra careful. And there are a few simple ways to manage this.

Time management is key

With university comes deadlines – multiple deadlines. And with students comes the infamous procrastination. Many find that they work best close to the deadline – the pressure they feel makes them excel. But if you have lupus this is a really bad idea. Stress is one of the main triggers for a flare up (and who likes to be stressed anyway). So make sure you write assignments with enough time to relax about them, and go over them to edit. Always plan ahead. A few friends have thought me weird for always getting work done way in advance – but honestly I’ve always been one to keep on top of work, and knowing it will benefit my health gives me even more incentive. Not to mention when I was first being tested for lupus was when I needed to finish my final undergrad assignments and dissertation – if I had left all that to the last minute I would have submitted late and possibly submitted average work due to the stress of hospital visits. Something best to avoid!

Limit nights out

And with student life comes amazing night life. However, the heavy drinking and late nights can take a toll even on the healthiest body. So although it can be hard to say no, especially at first when you don’t want to say no to new friends, it is better to save your energy for the more important social events. After a particular heavy weekend I started getting chest pains like pericarditis again, so lesson learnt – the tequila shots aren’t worth it. You can still have fun, whether it’s sober fun or ending the night with chicken nuggets at 4am fun, just make sure you don’t let it become your life. Friends will understand, even if you say it’s just to save money.

Prep food at home

A healthy diet is one of the best ways to look after yourself. I aim to have a diet high in vegetables, protein from oily fish and legumes, iron rich leafy greens, fruit, and a little bit of dairy. My snacks I try to keep as low in salt as possible, and I limit my chocolate intake. I also avoided buying lunch from the university cafeteria. It wasn’t the most appetising, which helped, but I could predict it was high in salt and low in nutrition. It’s better to learn to make easy salads and pastas, with quinoa and couscous, at home to take to classes. And always have easy but healthy go to meals, such as beans on toast or scrambled eggs on toast (I do like toast) for when you’re super tired but need to get something to eat at home. Stay away from ready meals.

Keep in touch

Friends and family, wherever they are, want to know that you’re doing okay. They can help keep an eye on you, but also they can be there to talk to and complain to, because they know what you’re going through. Touching base is always healthy from time to time, especially if uni work and health issues can become overwhelming.

Let your tutor know

Always let your university know if you have an illness that affects your daily life. Some unis offer perks, like free printer credit or something. But it’s also important to let the university staff who are a main point of contact know that you have an illness that can flare up and interrupt your studies. If you need to push back deadlines, it’s best to let them know in advance this could happen just so you know the protocol, and they know it’s not coming out of just not getting your work done on time.

Story – I missed a day of classes when my medication made me ill and I had spent the night before with my head in the toilet (lovely mental image). I only found out towards the end of the semester one class I missed was in fact a graded seminar. My professor was only willing to give me a 0 for that grade with a doctors note, something I found unfair. So I contacted my personal tutor who spoke to head of studies, who argued my case and got my grade changed. I think it helped I had told both these tutors at the start of the year that I had lupus and it may affect my attendance/grades, so it didn’t come out of the blue, as though I was trying to play the ill card to fix a bad grade. With chronic illness you have to be prepared for its unpredictability, and let others be prepared.

Let your friends know

I didn’t do this right away – I wanted people to get to know me first before finding out I spend a lot of time with doctors and have a rather delicate body. But when I did tell them they were 100% supportive, and it felt like a relief that I didn’t have to feel shady about rushing off to appointments after class anymore. It’s such a huge part of your life, sadly, so it’s good to let the people you see the most know what’s going on. People want to help, and just knowing they understand helps you get through the difficulties lupus throws at you.

 

With good support and a little bit of common sense, if your body is doing okay it should be possible to throw yourself into studies and also have an amazing experience – like every student deserves.

Montjuic

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Montjuic is a hill that sits above Barcelona – looking out to the sea and the city.

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You can either get the cable cars up and enjoy the views, or for a metro ride the funicular.

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Entry into the castle on the top is cheap, but there is also plenty to wander around and take in.

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Barcelona doesn’t offer a very distinctive skyline, unlike London or New York for example. But to many it is home, and beautiful.

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I went with my sister and her friends (and seriously hungover having graduated the day before), but it was lovely to finally visit this landmark and be nostalgic for the city that has been my home this past year.

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I have a Masters degree!

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Disclaimer: I actually still have my dissertation to complete before my degree is official, but we had the ceremony anyway so had to celebrate.

Yes, despite another 10,000 words to write about human rights in the Middle East, and an extra semester in Berlin for the fun of it, my degree is complete!

I can’t believe I passed (with decent grades). I went from studying English Literature to International Relations; changing my style of essay writing, knowledge of theories, and even attempted economics.

After two years more or less in Spain, can I speak Spanish? Not really…

But I am so relieved I am at this point in life. A year ago my doctors were advising me to either take a gap year, or study at a UK university. Not that they were willing to stop me doing what I want, I really have supportive doctors. They were worried the Barcelona weather would make me ill (it does sometimes), I was worried the stress of a degree would trigger a flare, but instead I have lupus in remission, and a fancy diploma certificate one year after being in A LOT of pain, and a not too great kidney.

I have also met incredible people from all other the world. This degree has been eye opening in so many ways, not least for the people I now have as friends, who are just as wonderful as any of my friends. I am spoilt for how lucky I have been.

So what next? If this degree has taught me anything, it’s that unless you’re parents have the right contacts, you’re gonna struggle to find a job worthy of this degree. Yay…

So, I will return to the UK in about ten days (boo), spending the summer spicing up my CV with volunteering in many ways, which I’m VERY excited about (this includes Amnesty International, my dream NGO to work for). Then I will head to Berlin in October for an extra semester! Also very excited about that, I love Spain and Barcelona, but I feel like Berlin will quickly make me feel like I belong there. Will I pick up German just as quickly? Nein…

It hasn’t been easy living with lupus, I’ve seen it affect people to the point of quitting work or university, affecting their grades (it has affected one of my grades which is a huge annoyance, a black dot on my otherwise great transcript), and I’m worried it will one day prevent me from continuing to do what I want – travel, live abroad, have fun, work hard, and basically be passionate about life. But for now, it hasn’t. I’ve had an amazing year, and I have a fun future to look forward to (remind me of this when I’m crying and sending out my 100th job application). I know I’m lucky that the remission has allowed me to do this, for many it isn’t the case. But I’m glad that I can be living proof that resilience (or stubbornness), optimism, self-care, and the support of many good people, shows that lupus needn’t be the life sentence it is. You can still do great things.

Of course, I’m not even 23 yet, so hopefully I have many great things ahead of me.

But for now, I’m going to enjoy my last few days calling Spain my home.

Tibidabo

I have finished  my masters degree! Except for my dissertation, and an extra semester in Berlin (!!!) come October. But for IBEI, and Barcelona, I only now have to twiddle my thumbs.

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So I went to twiddle my thumbs at Tibidabo, a mountain which overlooks the city of Barcelona. At the top you can find an amusement park, and a church. And of course, spectacular views.

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There are a few ways to reach Tibidabo, but we took the T2A bus from Placa de Catalunya, as it is the cheapest at 3 euros each way, and does not take too long.

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The church is beautiful inside and out.

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You can pay 3.50 euros to take a lift to the top, which offers even more amazing views, and dizzying heights.

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The amusement park looked really fun, but was 30 euros to go on the rides, so we passed!

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But really the journey is worth it just for the views.

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It doesn’t even need to take long, half a day and then you have the rest of the day to entertain yourself elsewhere.

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Hola, soy yo.

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What is my head doing I don’t know,

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I’m sad I only have two weeks left in Barcelona, and Spain. So I’m trying to tick things off my list, this being one of them!