Catalexit. What is going on?

Writing this post goes against some vital life advice my Dad gave to me from a very young age. 

No, it isn’t ‘don’t ride on a moped’ or ‘no more tattoos’

It was actually a phrase that has always served me well and kept me from destroying old friendships and from preventing new ones.

‘Never discuss religion, money or politics’ My Dad (ledge)

Seems pretty limiting for conversations right? Dad was right though, littering conversations with these social hand grenades has caused disasters and fall outs between many a loved one (Did someone say Brexit?) 

However, the situation in my current home Catalonia is hitting the headlines globally and to be frank, there isn’t a lot of independent information out there about the facts.

 

We’ve been bombarded with images of brutality, doubts are held about the legality and cries of ‘Independencia’ are heard across the region.

 

Now I’m no political broadcaster, nor am I deluded enough to think that after a month of residency that I can begin to empathise with the Catalan people or stand with Madrid, but I am present. Present in a time that is a turning point in the history of Spain. Living amongst the sounds of pots and pans clanging at night as a voice for the people. I have watched the Kings speech (not the film) and have spoken to those for independence and to those against it.

 

So I might only have a Btec and I might still have to mentally repeat ‘righty tighty, leftie Lucy’, when opening a jar but that’s beside the point. The aim is not to make inflammatory comments or support a side but to post a balanced and unbiased account of what is happening and why it’s a pivotal moment in global history.

 

So sorry Dad, I’m about to throw that wise advice aside, here goes…

What is Catalonia?

 

Catalonia is one of Spain’s 17 regions in the North East of Spain, resident to 7.5 million people. The regions capital, Barcelona, often referred to Spain’s second city was home to the 1992 Olympic Games, which with extreme regeneration has become the epicentre for Spanish tourism.

Catalonia brings in 20% of Spain’s income and this is often redistributed to the less successful areas, causing friction. Catalonia itself has an economy as thriving as that of Portugal. Catalonia has its own language, food and customs with Catalan being taught in schools alongside Castellano Spanish. Signage and documentation is written in Catalan and is often described as a mix of French and Spanish. One of the reasons behind the Spanish civil war was the push to again become independent from Spain, the infamous Franco crushed the liberties of the Catalan people and the language was forbidden from being taught or spoken until democracy took hold in Spain in 1975.

A new constitution was created in 1978 and Catalonia was given the right to self govern to a degree but the current Catalonian leaders do not believe it is sufficient.

In 2010 Catalonia was presented with the opportunity to increase its autonomy but this was rejected by the courts, increasing tension and divisions in the region.

 

The build up 

 

I arrived in Barcelona on the 3rd of September and from the moment I arrived the buildings were adorned with ‘Si’ banners and people wearing the Catalan flag on their back.

The topic was on everyone’s lips and most had an emotive stance on independence.

The Catalan people had scheduled a vote for the 1st of October, to ask the people if they wanted independence or if they did not.

However, according to the constitution this is unlawful.

Here’s what it actually says

 

 

The constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, the common and indivisible homeland of all Spaniards; it recognises and guarantees the right to self-government of the nationalities and regions of which it is composed and the solidarity among them all.”

 

In layman’s terms, it’s unconstitutional to ‘divorce’ from Spain, therefore illegal.

 

So to simplify the very complex situation (so I can bloody understand it) it is an argument of ‘Democracy vs Constitution’

 

 

To add fuel to the fire, days before the vote, 14 political leaders were arrested and nearly 10 million ballot papers were seized. This was thought to be the total amount of vote papers.

Reports of this led to mass marches on the streets with cries of ‘fascists’ and the clanging of pots and pans to demonstrate the regions dismay.

 

 

The vote

 

 

The vote pushed ahead and took place on October the 1st. There is ambiguity of how these votes were cast and some have asked questions on how the vote can be credible if it is not independently adjudicated. The ballot boxes were held in schools and people camped overnight to protect them from being taken by Spanish authorities.

Videos were shared across the world of the national police preventing the vote which led to nearly 900 injuries.

90% of those who voted, voted yes to independence which equates to approximately 2 million votes.

 

“We have not seen such a brutal and disproportionate use of force since the death of the dicatator Franco”    Puigdemont

 

 

 

The days that followed.

 

On the 2nd October a strike was declared and schools were closed. People once again took to the streets and chants of ‘Franco is back’ were shouted.

 

Subsequently King Felipe made a rare television appearance but this has only antagonised the situation further. The king was accusatory of the Catalan government and made no reference at all to the disturbing images of violence.

“attempting to break the unity of Spain and eroded the harmony and co-existence within Catalan society itself, managing unfortunately, to divide it.” King Felipe

 

As the broadcast went out, I could hear a strange noise. It engulfed the neighbourhood and is nothing like I had ever heard. After a few messages to friends, those who live with pro-independence families, I was told that was the sound of people jangling their keys to express their disdain.

 

What could happen next?

 

The Spanish Prime Minister, Rajoy has refused to rule out invoking article 155.  This is unprecedented and would mean that central Government would overthrow the regional government seizing control.

 

Puigdemont, The leader of Catalonia has said this would be the “ultimate mistake” and has said that each time the Spanish government tried to stop the vote that the cause had grown stronger.

 

With tensions still running extremely high and with “Spain supporters” arriving in Barcelona on the 8th October to stage their own protest, there are fears that the situation is becoming out of control. Many international leaders have condemned the violence displayed and there has been criticism of how Rajoy has handled the situation.

 

 

Piugdemont spoke to the BBC following the vote and stated he was waiting for the votes from overseas to be counted before declaring independence. This is thought to be either this weekend or the start of next week.

 

 

If the total tally is declared on the same day that “Spain supporters” arrive there is likely to be huge flash points in the street and disorder. Enric Millo, a Spanish government representative in Catalonia has on the 7th October apologised for the violence used against the voters on the 1st October but this has done little to rectify the situation.

 

Numerous cooperation’s including Banco de Sabadell (who own TSB) have announced they are moving operations to Alicante following the yes vote, CaixaBank, Spains 3rd biggest bank has also indicated it will move. This is a blow to those who support independence but the political landscape has appeared to have changed. It was never just about money or culture or freedom. It was about democracy and the people having a voice. The voice has been shouted over with the power of Madrid.

 

For fear of gaining splinters from sitting on the fence, it appears to boil down to an argument of legality vs democracy or law vs human rights.

What side you agree with is a personal matter, but indifference to the situation is not a choice.

The situation has been called a domestic issue, a matter for Spain and the EU has allowed the situation to snowball out of control.

For fear of belittling the issue, to me it appears to be like an estranged couple in the midst of a bitter divorce with their dinner party friends, turning a blind eye “not wanting to interfere”

 

Now is the time I will offer up my only opinion in this entire post. It is time someone interferes. I am aware the EU has made it clear that they are unlikely to do this as they want to respect the constitution of the country.

With respect, the safety of the country and its people are more important than the rules that are written about it. Mediation is required and without action quickly, there seems to be no happy ending for either side.

 

Love and Peace,

 

Clo

 

xx

 

 

 

Old Town Barcelona for €10 only.

We’ve all been there, one minute you’re sipping champagne sangria, rolling out 50’s like there’s no tomorrow. Except, there is a tomorrow and a next day and a day after that. You’re down to using smash and there’s far too much month left at the end of your money.

So what do you do? Sit in your hotel, abuse the free wifi and eat a pot noodle made with the travel kettle in the room, that you were dubious about anyway as you read recently that people have been boiling their knickers in them?

Ignore that last tangent (you can see that this has deeply disturbed me) No, you get out there, armed with screen shots of this post and you explore.

But lets be real, Barcelona as gorgeous as it is, is huge and can be expensive. So unless you want to spend your day hopping on and off the metro, try and explore the areas by neighbourhood.

Your fitbit will be thankful for it and you won’t feel guilty for putting away another Magdalena.

Old Town

barcelona cathedral outside
Courtesy of @_Lexi97_

What is the old town and how can you get there?

Old town is one of the oldest and most extensive medieval areas in the whole of Europe. The area itself is split into the following neighbourhoods;

El Ravel

Barri Gotic

La Ribera

Port Vell

Barceloneta

The most famous avenue, in Spain, perhaps even in Europe is “La Rambla” and contrary to the advice given by Ed Sheerhan I will not “La Ramblas, I’ll meet you” because its 0.7 miles long and packed with people 24/7.

Anyway, I digress.

Here’s my guide on how to spend less than 10 euros in the Old town in one day.

You will need the following;

A portable charger (your phone will die, from taking gazillions of pics)

An outfit that covers your shoulders and your knees (bring a scarf if you’re not about that)

A bottle of water

Comfortable shoes

Talcum powder (for the chub rub)

Also, to be able to take advantage of all the freebies, make sure your visit incorporates the first Sunday of the month when the majority of attractions are FREE. Top tip right there, yano.

11 am 

The Spanish are not early risers, it’s a fact. However, by getting out a little bit earlier, you can get some beautiful pictures before the hordes of people arrive and ruin your Insta-shoots.

Head to We Bistrot on Ronda Sant Pere, It’s at the north of the neighbourhood itself and can be accessed from a short walk from the Arc de Triomf Metro.

group we bistrot.jpg

We Bistrot opens at 8am on a Sunday so you will be able to pick your seat in this small but stylish café/ restaurant. There is seating outside, wide enough across the street that you can people watch but never feel that your space is invaded. The staff are warm and hospitable, happy to take pictures for you and if your Spanish or Catalan isn’t great, were happy to meet you half way with their English (please do try to order in Spanish or Catalan though) The food and drinks are very reasonable, with a coffee at 1.50, which considering where you are in Barcelona is very reasonable.

They offer vegetarian and gluten free options, with a vegan chocolate cake that is amazeballs but you are on a budget here, so perhaps opt for something that is more filling and will set you up for the day. Remember to order your coffee as “caffe con leche” if you like your coffee with milk. They’ll serve it without as default otherwise.

candid coffee.JPG
Just a candid coffee shot, yano, no effort.

Cost of Coffee with a sandwich (think a 6 inch sub size) 6 euros

 

12:30 

An hour and a half for a coffee and a sandwich seems long, but in Barcelona it’s all about taking your time and enjoying the good life. Mañana, mañana isn’t just a phrase, it’s a way of life.

From here, head to the Arc De Triomf, its approximately a 30 second walk from breakfast and you can’t miss it. Many countries have an arc de triomf, Paris and London spring to mind. However, Spain’s addition is notably different.

arc
How anyone gets a picture without scores of people I will never know,

It was constructed in 1888 for the universal exhibition held in the park.

It is constructed in the classical shape and is momentous in its proportions but Josep Vilaseca decided to build the arch from brick and decorate it with Spanish Moorish style friezes.

Side note, a frieze is a posh word for a border. It’s used in architecture to describe a broad horizontal band of sculpted or painted decoration on a wall near to the ceiling. Extra side note, the one you had in 1998, from the bang on the door brand, doesn’t count.

If you look closely, then you can see that the frieze overlooking Passeig de Sant Joan shows Barcelona welcoming all nations to Barcelona #feels.

The frieze facing the park depicts the city presenting medals to those who participated in the exhibition. At one end is illustrations of agriculture and industry with the opposite symbolizing commerce and art.

It is a truly breathtaking spot and costs absolutely nothing to marvel at its architecture and snapchat to your hearts content (check your roaming though!)

It is also wheelchair accessible for those who need it.

 

13:00

Take a stroll down through to the Park de la Ciutadella. It is popular with locals and tourists alike.  It was once the site to a huge Citadel which was built for Felipe V intended to house soldiers. It was never actually used for this purpose and became a prison during the Napoleonic occupation. The city of Barcelona hated this site and it was eventually pulled down by General Prim in 1878 and the park was given to the city.

top of the fountain
Again, dozens of people.

Once you are in the park marvel at the entertainers who gather to perform musical styles from across the globe. Head to the bandstand situated near to the fountain. The bandstand was erected in memory of Sonia, a transexual woman who was brutally murdered by neo-nazis for her gender identity in 1991. The city of Barcelona condemned this horrific crime and erected this bandstand in her memory. Not only is this a beautiful and thoughtful thing to do, the bandstand brings true joy as music plays and couples dance salsa in the sunshine. Feel free to participate or just enjoy the beautiful moment.

fountain

This again costs nothing, but the bandstand is elevated. The park is wheelchair accessible but the bandstand is not.

Cost absolutely nada.

 

Right next Sonias bandstand is a magnificent fountain. It was designed by Josep Fontsere assisted by a then young Antoni Gaudi. It isn’t wheelchair accessible but it is very beautiful from ground level. You can spot some of Gaudis beloved dragons in the fountain and it is thought to have been inspired by the Trevi fountain in Rome.

sonia
Can you see Sonias bandstand just next to my shoulder?

 

Continue to walk around the park, enjoy the orange groves and the boating lake. There is plenty to see and do in the park for all price brackets but if you want to, you can enjoy this beautiful space without spending a cent.

 

15:00

You may be starting to feel a bit peckish at this point, but wait, you only have 4 euros left (I apologise in advance that I keep typing the word euros, but i’m not sure how to insert the symbol haha) Do not fear! Leave the park and head to La Ribera. Its only a few minutes away and its full of winding streets and brightly coloured murals and art.

Head specifically to Carrer del portou nou, and marvel at the locals hanging their washing from the gorgeous balconies. About 100 years down on the left stop at Forn De Pa Maria Martos. It’s a small little bakery with a whole lot of love.

spanish lil ribera

“Abuela” the Spanish word for grandmother will be working behind the counter. Stopping here for a bite to eat is like stopping at your own nans house. She tells you, that you look hungry, laughs and jokes whilst introducing her family or showing you pictures. I select the ham and cheese pizza which is served whole, its about 4 British slices in size and she wraps it in tin foil, before warning you that it’s hot. The cost of this pizza is 2 Euros and it is out of this world!

You can take up a seat and chat away to “Buela” or sit out the front and people watch. I personally like to keep on the move as there’s so many independent art stores, or beautiful bars to explore and discover.

mescladis
One of the beautiful bars, you’ll find in La Ribera. This one is a not for profit,

Money left- 5 euros

 

Start to walk to the Gothic quarter but take your time, stop to take countless photos. Drift in and out of small independent shops and soak it all up. Barri Gotic, is the heart of Barcelona. It is the oldest part of the city and dates back to 27BC. Placa de sant Jaume is now the seat of Catalonia’s government but was once where the Roman forum stood. This part of the city effortlessly blends the old with the new. The medieval architecture juxtaposed with people on Segway’s, taking in the vibes.

gothic quarter
courtesy of _lexi97_

The walk itself is a ten minute walk but with all the shops and stores you will want to discover, I would allow yourself an hour and a half to do this comfortably and at leisure. You can of course do it quicker but remember nothing here is rushed.

wall mural
This wall smelt of urine,

 

16:30

Take yourself to Placa de la Seu and marvel at Barcelona cathedral. People often mistake La Sagrada Familia as Barcelona Cathedral but they are two very different things.

barcelona cathedral outside
Barcelona cathedral, _lexi97_

Barcelona Cathedral dates back to 1298 when work began on the foundations of a roman temple and a Moorish mosque. The cathedral was not actually finished until the start of last century when the central spire was finished. Free entry in the afternoon begins at 17:15 but by arriving at 16:30 it gives you a chance to take pictures without hordes of crowds and to be at the start of the queue.

It is absolutely breathtaking inside and in the crypt lies the body of St Eulalia who was martyred by the romans in 400 AD.

barcelona cathedral inside
Inside Barcelona cathedral, courtesy of @dan_marie

 

18:00

The heat is cooling off but it’s still buzzing in La Rambla, head to here to take in the atmosphere but do not eat or drink directly on La Rambla. It is ridiculously expensive and the quality of food isn’t the best. This connects Placa de Catalunya to Port Vell. The name comes from when it was once a dried up river bed which in time was turned into convents, monasteries and universities. Enjoy the crowds of people, watch your purse and get caught up in the buzz before heading to Barceloneta.

la rambla.jpg
La Rambla

 

It is approximately a ten minute walk but with all the buzz allow yourself 30 mins. Stop in a supermarket and pick up a bottle of cava for 2 euros, yes 2 euros and a selection of crisps or nibbles for the remainder of the money. Do not worry about not having a bottle opener, every bar I visited was happy to open it for me. If you’re too shy to ask, cap bottles can be opened using one of the benches or if it’s a bottle with a cork, push down really hard with your thumb until the cork drops in the bottle. Top tip there from my Ozzie girl, Kira- Lee, hey boo!

18:30

Head to Barceloneta and stop in a supermarket on the way. Pick up a 2 euro bottle of wine, yes I know that is crazy cheap, but I’ve had worse. Pick up some nibbles and make your way to the water. Depending on the time of the year you will be about half an hour away from sunset.

barceloneta beach group shot
Beware, some areas are nudey!

If it’s a beautiful day you can of course get there earlier, the beach is always free! It’s perfectly accessible for those with wheelchairs, it has toilets and showers in case you do fancy a dip and is quite possibly one of the most vibrant, well kept beaches I have ever been to.

barceloneta water shot

La Barceloneta was once only home to fisherman and those who worked in the metal trade, it was regenerated for the 1992 Olympics which has undoubtedly helped put Barcelona on the map as not only a city break but a beach break also. It is a bustling beach with people peddling all sorts, from drinks, to bikinis, to massages. However it doesn’t cost you a thing to sit there, take in the views and enjoy the sunset.

 

I hope you enjoyed this post and found it useful. This of course isn’t a definitive guide, there are far more places to see and visit but, if you are on a budget and still want to get a good vibe for this beautiful slice of history than please feel free to share away.

 

You can of course follow me on all the social medias and that, all your comments and feedback are always gratefully received.

 

Lot of love,

 

Clo

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101 Tips for solo female travellers


101 things a solo female traveller should learn

 

  1. Call your mother more, she worries.
  2. £7.99 on sunscreen is worth it, sunburnt nipples are not the one
  3. Start talking about ‘we’, just because you’re solo travelling doesn’t mean the weirdos should know too.
  4. You’re a warrior queen, you got this.
  5. If you can’t carry your bag you’re going to regret taking it.
  6. Memory foam shoes, nuff said.
  7. Confident, not cocky
  8. Attempt the language, just because most people speak English doesn’t mean you can be lazy.
  9. You’ve gotta be afraid to be brave, nerves are normal
  10. Respect the culture, look it up, learn it.
  11. Travel scams can happen to anyone, don’t beat yourself up
  12. Be present.
  13. Capture the moment, but actually live it. Some of the best nights, the phones stay out of sight.
  14. Falling in love is inevitable
  15. You don’t need 2 contour kits, trust me.
  16. Bring a portable charger.
  17. Don’t be a travel wanker.
  18. Your passport is your lifeline, treat it accordingly
  19. Tampons aren’t common everywhere, if you use them, pack them.
  20. Get your contraceptive ready before you go.
  21. The best moments can’t be planned.
  22. Imodium, imodium, imodium
  23. Check your destination accepts e-tickets, some still require print outs
  24. Women are still treated like shit all around the world, you’re doing this for them too.
  25. How to drop and squat without getting pee on your clothes #skillz
  26. Packing cubes are a lifesaver
  27. You will not come back the same person
  28. Bottled water, even for brushing your teeth
  29. Wear a wedding band, a simple left hand flash can divert the odd bellend
  30. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone
  31. Check the plugs of the country, or better yet invest in a universal adapter
  32. People come into your life for a reason, a season, a lesson or a blessing.
  33. Don’t be afraid to create a scene
  34. Scarfs are your new bestie; modesty ✅ pillow ✅ cover the gaps in the loo ✅
  35. If you can navigate public transport in foreign symbols at rush hour, you can do anything
  36. Talcum powder for the chub rub
  37. Those eat pray love moments when you are just doing this for YOU are moments which you will remember for the rest of your life
  38. You will find out that the majority of people are good, decent and kind.
  39. Travel insurance is necessary
  40. You can do whatever you want.
  41. You will heal that heart.
  42. Not everyone will understand why, that’s their loss, don’t stress.
  43. You will find out more about yourself, more than you could have imagined
  44. People will try to rip you off and you’ll be smiling because you have no clue what’s happening
  45. Discomfort is necessary for growth
  46. McDonald’s have free wifi
  47. A good book will be your best friend
  48. Airports are the worst place to spend a hangover
  49. You are a representative of your nation, don’t be a douche.
  50. Flip flops in the shower at all times
  51. You will be lonely at times
  52. Get someone with a more expensive camera to take your picture, they’re less likely to rob it.
  53. Not everyone can handle the thought of being alone let alone doing it. You are slaying just booking the ticket.
  54. Dating will be difficult
  55. Pass on good fortune
  56. Trust your instinct
  57. A durable phone case. You will smash it.
  58. Stay in touch with old friends, they’ll keep you grounded
  59. Crying in an airport is strangely therapeutic
  60. Carry a bank card just in case
  61. Carry a whistle
  62. When you’re tipping, check the money. You don’t wanna leave the wrong note.
  63. Research where you’re going but leave a little room to discover
  64. Respect religious buildings dress codes, some don’t approve of leggings FYI
  65. Join a freewalking tour
  66. Learn the art of minimalist packing
  67. Bring fake tan if you wear it, finding it elsewhere can be a ball ache
  68. Be prepared to be alone, finding friends will happen but you may be alone for some time
  69. Put yourself out there, you have to make the first move sometimes
  70. Bring some portable speakers for impromptu parties
  71. Carry details of an emergency contact, someone who is reliable with their phone. Preferably in the language of the place you’re visiting
  72. Trust your own judgment don’t let people walk all over you and be prepared to confront people when needed.
  73. Check visa requirements before you arrive
  74. Take your earphones out, it keeps you safer and you’re more likely to enter into conversations with others
  75. It’s okay to feel low at points, it’s an experience designed to make you grow.
  76. Take lots of pictures, they will be amazing memories for you to look back on
  77. Wear clothes that you don’t mind getting ruined, this is not the time to sport your Louis
  78. Try and buy your alcohol before 11pm, some countries stop selling around that time
  79. Wash your knickers in the shower with you, so you always have clean ones
  80. Nightclub drinks can be well expensive, fill a water bottle with booze, pop the bottle in the sock and place in your bag as a false bottom
  81. Sign up to Facebook pages to get free entry and tickets
  82. Getting lost is the best way to know your way around
  83. Tiger balm heals pretty much anything
  84. Download the google translate app so you don’t have to use your internet
  85. Rome2rio is a great app for working out what public transport is best for wherever you wanna go in the world
  86. Carry a fan for the underground, those places are like the pits of hell
  87. Check your baggage allowance before you go, you may be allowed a laptop bag too, I used mine to stow away art supplies
  88. Bring activities that don’t require your phone: colouring, journaling etc you’ll want to conserve your battery
  89. If you’re going for a long time, get your nails in a good condition so you can go without polish. Otherwise they’ll be permanently chipped
  90. Don’t stand up in a tuk tuk, you may fall out
  91. Some airlines won’t let you fly with a Samsung, you know the model that blew up!
  92. Be aware of political unrest, you don’t want to put your foot in it
  93. Sometimes the things that will make you cry, are the things that will make you belly laugh in the future
  94. Research the best public transport ticket for you. Sometimes they include tourist attractions
  95. However much money you’ll think you need, add 50%
  96. Keep a journal to look back on the experience
  97. If your plans change let someone back home know
  98. Even if you don’t stay in hostels, try drinking or eating in one. A great way to find other solos
  99. Photocopy your passport, if you lose it, it’s way easier for it to be replaced if you have a copy
  100. Download whatsapp, every traveller uses whatsapp
  101. Did I mention Imodium?

 

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