Mrs Spartacus kindly arranged a surprise birthday trip for me to Barcelona.
Our hotel was located along Las Ramblas, adjacent to the Barrio Gotico. We had a driver pick us up from airport and he spent most ofthe journey informing us how unsafe Las Ramblas was for tourists and how it was very likely that we would be pickpocketed. He reassured us that if we were robbed an least it wouldn’t be at knife point.
You will be pleased to hear that nothing untoward happened throughout my stay although I did see tourists getting bilked by con men with varieties of “guess which shell the pea is under”. To be honest this scam has been going for thousands of years so if people haven’t woken up to the fact that you will always lose then more fool them. Consider it a gullibility tax.
Our hotel (Bagues) had a very strong Spanish gothic aesthetic, gothic as in lots of black marble, granite and baroque metalwork. Our balcony looked out onto to las Ramblas and we were able to see it morph in character as the day went on. In the day it was a torrent of tourists weaving through amputee beggars, pavement vendors selling tat and “living statues” (I wonder who was the first person to come to realisation that their vocation was to stand still for a living?)
By night the pimps came out to play, along with the dealers bilking tourists with talc, aspirin and liqourice (if you were lucky). Last thing at night me and Mrs Spartacus would stand on our balcony, Mother Fist by Marc Almond playing on the iPod dock and watch the whole theatre play out in front of us.
We came home one night to find a really half arsed attempt at a living statue. It was a guy in a wedding dress, white face paint and cardboard wings. He didn’t bother to paint his arms and apparently found it too taxing to maintain a statue pose for more than half a minute. Most of the time he would pester passerbuys for a light for his chain smoking or try and molest any guapos who wandered into his vicinity. To be honest, I felt perfectly safe on La Rambla so I think it’s reputation is a little unfair and shouldn’t put anyone off visiting. Just keep your wits about you and don’t have your wallet poking out of your back pocket and you will be fine.

View from my room