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Bail on Barcelona?

Yikes! I've already paid $1070 nonrefundable for our lodging in Barcelona (Priority Fira Principal Apartment between Sant Antoni and El Poble-Sec) at the end of January. I'm not sure what to think, much less what to do. We (55-year-old woman and a 13-year-old girl) will be arriving in Barcelona from Naples and heading to Gatwick on the tail end. I suppose I'll start looking for an alternative location/country and hold it in my back pocket. But I'm not sure what events would trigger a decision to bail on Barcelona.

Posted by
4248 posts

I'm not sure what events would trigger a decision to bail on Barcelona.

A mass round up of tourists?

Unless you're going to get involved in demonstrations I wouldn't worry too much.

Posted by
891 posts

We were there three weeks ago and one of the days was a demonstration day. It was impossible to avoid it; protesters were everywhere. I have to admit that it was a bit, no a lot unnerving. Fortunately, there was no violence that day, but subsequent protests did turn violent. I personally would not want to be in the city again if there are protests going on. That being said, I would imagine this will be resolved by January? I would just keep an eye on how things are going by January before you make a decision. Good idea to have a back up location.

Posted by
635 posts

You're worried about the end of January? New elections will be held by then. Protests will undoubtedly be held before, during and after. I expect that by then the situation will have settled down. Personally, I'd wait until much closer to my travel date to worry about making a change.

Posted by
34 posts

I appreciate all your replies and give special credence to the personal account. Thank you.

Posted by
436 posts

No one knows what the eventual outcome of the situation in Catalonia will be. We all hope it will be peaceful, but there is no guarantee of that. Having said that, it seems to me that it would be prudent to pay close attention to the developments in Spain, bide your time, and make a change if and when you feel your concern or stress about traveling to Barcelona would prevent you from enjoying it. For some it may be continued large protests, for others disruption of public transportation. Certainly violence is a game-changer. Only you can decide what that tipping point might be for you. There are many more places to experience if you can't visit Barcelona during your upcoming trip.

Posted by
48 posts

We'll be arriving in Barcelona on Tuesday, October 31st. I have been monitoring the situation very carefully and we intend to go on with our travel plans as arranged. As with any journey, we'll pay close attention to our surroundings and continue to monitor the situation. We are treating this as being witnesses to history and are really looking forward to it. Whichever path you choose, safe travels.

Posted by
34 posts

If you'd take the time to post about your experiences, Wendy, I'd be very interested.

Posted by
326 posts

Hi, understand it's a difficult decision.
Things are moving here hour by hour — what was certain yesterday will no longer be certain tomorrow.
I understand your anxiety. However, life goes on.
You'll find most Catalans peaceable, sensible folk, the buildings you came to visit will still be here, the bars and restaurants you came to experience will still be open, the weather will be as it always is in January (save for quirky, unexpected anomalies due to climate change). Life goes on.
Impossible to say what will be occurring on the streets in January 2018 — but, then, the vigorous dynamic of Barcelona, and Catalunya, is a very large part of its appeal to visitors. None of us know what's going to happen next. The future is unwritten.
My daughter and son, the most precious people in my life, are going ahead with their plan to visit for Reis (Jan 5 & 6). They do not fear the feeble bluster of governments — and, with respect, neither should you and your family.
Enjoy your visit to Barcelona.

Posted by
5624 posts

End of January is a long time off in terms of political developments. That said, refundable options or alternatives that can be canceled with reasonable notice give you options. You will just have to stay aware of developments and only you can assess your risk tolerance. But given that you are responsible for a minor child, you are responsible to her well being and may want to apply a different risk standard.

One anecdotal story appeared in our local paper. A Southern Oregon couple had a complaint about United Airlines service in getting them home form Puerto Rico post Hurricane Maria. The relevant story is as follows:

When Hurricane Irma hurled toward their Sept. 16-23 vacation
destination...the couple considered canceling. When they called the
resort, they learned they wouldn’t get a refund, but they were told
they’d lose only a couple days of outdoor fun due to the weather, so
they decided to go and perhaps even find a way to help with cleanup
efforts.

Little did they know that Hurricane Maria was just a stone’s throw
behind Irma.

“We got two good days of weather and fun before Hurricane Maria came
roaring through"....

“The night of Maria, our doors were clanking loudly and the floor even
felt as though it was moving....
http://www.mailtribune.com/news/20171010/couple-blame-united-after-stranding-in-puerto-rico

Point of the hurricane story is writing off non-refundable cost can be the right decision given hindsight knowledge.

Posted by
646 posts

We have tickets for the 27th of January to the 3rd of February. We got them after the Catalonian vote but before the Parliament's vote.

I'm not exactly sure how I feel about the political situation. An uninterrupted trip would be best, but we will watch rather than struggle against demonstrators. There are advantages to being there at a unique time. Should there be real danger (unlikely) we will flee to Madrid.

I only feel stupid for getting our apartment too early. Prices are dropping.

I haven't been to Spain so I don't really know anything, but we aren't worried.

Posted by
743 posts

I have a friend who's been in Spain the past week or so, and in Barcelona the past couple of days. She and her tour group avoided the demonstrations with a little on-the-fly anticipation and visited museums and other sights as planned. I haven't been to Barcelona and I'm not an experienced international traveler like many others on this forum, but I'm guessing that, while protests like this get major media attention, they really encompass only a very small part of the city.

Posted by
25 posts

We were in Barcelona between 19-22nd this month, and staying on Paseo De Gracia - one of the roads that seemed to have some demonstrations. We faced no issues at all, and went about our itinerary as planned. The people are absolutely lovely, and welcoming, and the sights to see so many, and so wonderful! The only minor issue we did face was that Paseo De Gracia seemed to be shut for public transport so we had to walk a little extra in order to hail a cab. The demonstrations were peaceful, and it was exciting to be part of such a historic moment in Catalonia. We were mindful of the current events, and kept an eye out for any potential issues- but had a safe, and enjoyable trip.

Posted by
2353 posts

Only you can really decide what your comfort level is. Do keep an eye as things develop - as everyone has stated a lot can and likely change by your trip.

Along with possible protests keep in mind how you deal with potential transportation issues (strikes), possible closures of places you wish to see, and a possible general tension throughout the city. The Catalans have maintained a peaceful pursuit of independence for years now and there is no current indication that will change but you do still need to consider your options.

In 1997 we ended up in London the weekend of Princess Diana's funeral. While it was an amazingly historical time to be there - London was not London - we were not able to experience what the city is normally like.

Hopefully for all things will be sorted sooner rather than later.

Posted by
34 posts

I do appreciate the many thoughtful responses. There's an awful lot to consider. If you happen to think of this post in the coming weeks as the situation plays out and if you can offer further insights, I'll be grateful to read them. Thank you.

Posted by
1 posts

Do NOT cancel your trip. Yes, these are interesting times in Barcelona, but it’s totally safe. My wife and I have been here for several days and it’s completely fine. We were definitely caught up in Sunday’s demonstration, as well as the smaller one by Jaume I, and they were boisterous and enrhusiastic but peaceful. As an interested observer with little knowledge of the Catalan independence issue, I’m actually glad we are here to witness all of this.

Tourist sites and restaurants are open. The food is awesome. It’s such a great city, probably our favorite in Europe, even over Paris and London. I strongly recommend that anyone thinking of canceling their plans due to the current events to stick with your plans and come here. We would stay an extra several days if we didn’t have to get back to work...and, oh yes, our teenagers.

Posted by
295 posts

We are spending November 9 thru December 21 downtown, near Placa Catalunya. You will be fine. We've spent three months at a time there and know our way around. But even at 70 we feel comfortable being there this coming month. Mark Twain said something to the effect that he worried about seven disasters in his lifetime, and one of them actually happened.

Posted by
136 posts

"Fortunately, there was no violence that day, but subsequent protests did turn violent."

I think it is important to clarify this statement. Our daughter lives in Barcelona, and we were there recently. The only violence has been between the Spanish police and protesters. The Catalan protesters on either side have been notably peaceful in their protests. Unless tourists are participating in the protests, they should be safe. It is always possible that the situation could deteriorate, but the prevailing feeling is that it will not be through violence, as the Catalans are committed to peaceful demonstrations. So life goes on with little or no disruption for residents of the city and visitors. If it were me, I would not cancel. I would just stay away from areas where people were protesting. Barcelona is a big city, so this is not hard.

One way you can keep an eye on the situation is to visit the website of the US embassy and consulate: Currently there are no travel alerts or warnings, but if there are, you will find them here:

https://es.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/security-and-travel-information/

Posted by
2530 posts

... to clarify further, the only violence has been that of the Spanish police exercised against peaceful citizens queueing to vote on Oct 1st. Period. There has not been any (generalised) violence against police in any demonstration.

Anyway, it is very likely there'll be trouble ahead regarding disruptions and stoppages. Today there are already some roadblocks all over Catalonia, and this will continue.

Posted by
2 posts

My husband and I just returned from a 2 week trip to Spain at the end of October. This included 4 days in Barcelona. I also had some concerns initially but we experienced no issues. There were a lot flags hanging off balconies and a demonstration or two but those were easily avoidable and peaceful. There were lots of other tourists in Barcelona as well and from my perspective, it seemed like a "life goes on" attitude by the people that live there.

Posted by
3677 posts

Enric, would you care to explain impact of roadblocks you mentioned ? Though perhaps not of current consequence for OP, some folks drive the countryside, others travel by bus. Will this affect long distance trsvelers or just in city traffic? Like general strikes, many readers don't u derstand the impact of such things. Not meant to be stupid questions, but inexperience. Thanks.

Posted by
2530 posts

Hi again!

To keep you all abreast of developments so you can better assess by yourselves what to do and thus make your own decisions:

Firstly to mention that this is an unusual situation we're in, with a hijacked government, a legitimately-elected Parliament that has been unlawfully disbanded and direct rule imposed upon Catalonia, therefore events unfold very (very!) quickly and not always follow "procedure" if you understand what I mean. So bear with me when I present this information, which is always subject to changes.

This next week, 6-12th Nov, has been labelled as "Week for Freedom" and there'll be significant events both in the political and the social arenas:

Tue 7th
Over 100 mayors of Catalan cities will go to Brussels to support the Catalan President exiled there. There might be impromptu support demonstrations in many towns and cities in Catalonia. In this country, demonstrations have to follow a protocol (by Law) by which they're announced X days in advance to the authorities and the place and itinerary are then negotiated. Being "impromptu" means they have not followed any protocol, just a bunch (which can range from hundreds to tens of thousands!) of people gathering to protest, thus details about where and when are not pre-announced but often viralised in the social networks, which means it can be anywhere. Having said this, they tend to be in emblematic places. These sort of demonstrations are normally in response to what's seen as "attacks of the Spanish apparatus towards Catalonia" and it's "the" way most Catalans have to protest (as opposed to using violence). In Barcelona, with over 1.6 million inhabitants, the pro-indy camp easily gathers tens of thousands in impromptu demonstrations, thus they tend to be held in important avenues/streets either in Ciutat Vella or in l'Eixample. Still, given the plans for the rest of the week, I do not forecast large gatherings (if any) on the 7th.

Wed 8th
Another general stoppage has been convoked, much like the one on Oct 3rd. For those not familiar: a general stoppage is a sort of joint decision by hundreds of thousands of individuals not to attend work (whether employed or self-employed) on a particular day and to gather in the streets in large demonstrations as a protest. Its results are indeed like a general strike so in practical terms it means a large portion of businesses will be closed. Note that not all of them though, that'll depend (a) on the pressure put by the corporations (especially large chains) onto their employees, especially those more vulnerable and (b) the precariousness of certain small (self-employed) businesses. This means there can be a few businesses open but I would think most of the tourist attractions won't. Obviously, hotels remain open and a few places to grab a bite too. Transportation will probably be affected but I can't still find info on where and when. Those arriving on that day need to understand they won't be stuck, but transportation will be reduced (limited), which means less frequent. Also, some stations (metro/train) in the centre, where the large demonstrations are likely to be held, might be closed to the public for security reasons (ie Passeig de Gràcia) as well as some streets/avenues that will also be closed to the traffic. As I've pointed in the past, this can be a bit of a nuisance for those arriving at their hotels in those areas, but by no means is a problem. If you have to access a hotel in an area where a demonstration is being held, simply be patient and walk thru -tip: take the sidewalk! There's no danger whatsoever from the citizens protesting and they will kindly let you pass without any problem.

--PART 1--

Posted by
2530 posts

Thu 9th
The representatives of the Catalan Parliament (sort of your House of Representatives), including the Speaker, have been summoned in Madrid in front of another kangaroo court and, much like in the previous summoning of the ministers of the Catalan government last week, they might also be imprisoned. If that happens, more impromptu demonstrations will occur, much like last Friday.

Sat 11th at 5pm
There'll be a large (very large!) demonstration in the centre of Barcelona. Details are being planned but I would expect to be around Passeig de Gràcia and Gran Via de Les Corts Catalanes. But again, at this point, it's just my guessing.

Lastly, I shall repeat three things:

  • Pro-indy demonstrations, while adamant, are ALWAYS peaceful, as violence is not in our DNA. Sadly I can't say the same for the other side, while most of the people supporting unity with Spain are regular peaceful folks, the level of tension (and even minor violent scuffles) in their demonstrations is well known and there have been already several "incidents" with far-right small fascists groups infiltrating these and causing, as I said, "scuffles" both against Catalan police but also against other citizens. While it's nothing to seriously worry about -at least for now- I strongly suggest keeping away from these demonstrators. Better be safe than sorry.

  • General stoppages do not mean "everything is shut down". Basic services such transportation, hospitals, police, etc continue to provide service to the citizens, albeit in a reduced manner (ie transportation). It also means that while you can find open eateries and convenience shops scattered across the city, most others are closed. Same goes for attractions. And needless to say, hotels are open to receive guests... what would you want us to do? leave you stranded in the streets? what for?. General stoppages normally last 24h albeit there can be longer stoppages depending on the unfolding events.

  • Visitors are not part of this, they(you) just happen to be visiting. There's no beef with anyone but the Spanish apparatus, so no one "targets" any visitors.

I am aware that other members of the forum might have other opinions, but, to be frank, I'm not posting for them, nor to start any debate or argument. As a resident and someone that tries to keep on top of this matter, I'm just posting to keep visitors abreast of events happening or about to happen and which can affect their travel plans. Period. I will be happy to answer any question regarding practicalities, but I won't enter into any political debate. Thank you for keeping off my back on that.

--END--

Ah yes, those staying these days anywhere in Catalonia you might be surprised at 10pm many nights by the noisy "esquellotada" or also "cassolada" (a sort of noise barrage) that many citizens hold for 10' or so from their balconies, as yet another form of protest: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cacerolazo

Posted by
34 posts

Thanks for your voice from Barcelona. I'll absolutely appreciate further reports from you.

Posted by
2530 posts

LOL!... The "voice from Barcelona", that I'll use for my epitaph alongside the famous "Excuse me, I can't stand up" from G.Marx

Posted by
440 posts

Fear not it will be fine and I am sure your trip will not be affected by any demonstrations.

Posted by
2530 posts

LATEST

... the demonstration tomorrow Nov 11th at 5pm will be held across Marina Street, a very large and wide avenue crossing Barcelona from North to South: http://www.elnacional.cat/ca/politica/manifestacio-dissabte-barcelona-presos-politics_210792_102.html Several hundreds of thousands of people will be attending, with over 1200 buses and thousands of cars coming from all corners of Catalonia. Train lines will be reinforced. Expect difficulties in mobility depending where you're coming from or where in the city you're going to. Those staying in the Old City area shouldn't notice the huge crowds, albeit it won't be a normal Saturday, by a long shot.

Posted by
48 posts

We just returned from Spain on Thursday, November 9th. We encountered zero issues having to do with demonstrations, etc. What we did enjoy was a wonderful adventure including Barcelona, Toledo, and Madrid. Other than Catalonian flags fluttering from some of the balconies, there were no demonstrations in any locations. People were all very welcoming in every place we visited. We felt safe and secure, and ventured all over the three locations using metro, buses, trains, and our own two feet. Go forth and enjoy!

Posted by
2530 posts

Just a note: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x68tezj ... three and a half kilometres (a bit over two miles) of people, an estimated three-quarters of a million. This happened earlier today (Nov 11th, 2017), in Barcelona, to protest against the Spanish aggression and to support our jailed ministers and activists, also to demand back our usurped legitimate government and Parliament, and our president exiled in Brussels... and to defend our dignity as a nation! Yes, this is a political remark, I know, but this was happening today, and during this month of November we have an average of 55,000 tourists EACH DAY visiting the city. If you were anywhere on the edge of the neighbourhood of Poblenou you've probably stumbled with this demonstration. Mobility in the area was, well, "difficult", as expected, sorry for that :) Ah yes, btw, not a single incident, as always.

Posted by
56 posts

Enric, I am planning a possible trip to Barcelona & Spain next fall, and find your comments very helpful. Please know that your perspective is very appreciated!!!

Posted by
18 posts

We arrive in BCN at the end of the month for several nights. These updates (and any others) are most welcome.

Posted by
34 posts

I'll chime in again, too. Any and all first-hand reports are welcome.

Posted by
2530 posts

As I've already explained in the past, this is a strange situation we're living here in Catalonia now -where independence has been declared, but the authoritarian response of Spain has made impossible to put it (yet) in practice- therefore it's not possible to "forecast" events, as logic escapes these sort of aggressive responses in any self-defined democracy. With that in mind, we're now in a sort of action-reaction scenario and the situation evolves quickly so I can inform about the next few days but not the next few weeks. Anything beyond that is speculative since, as I said, this is not a situation which can be predicted by reason and logic.

So, @Bill, what I can say, as of today, is that I don't foresee any major event that would impact your stay at the end of November. Beyond that.... I don't know.

Yet there are several variables, such as the sudden death earlier today of the Spanish Attorney General, which had been viciously trying to eradicate the Catalan government (no tears will be shed here, trust me!); the major protest in Brussels, on Dec 7th, which is expected to gather thousands of Catalans in Europe's capital to demand the EU Commission to stop looking the other way in front of these attacks to civil liberties; the suspicion the Spanish might try to rig the election on the 21st, etc. that might provoke "changes" one way or another which, in turn, can either calm down or can also ignite the situation.

In any case, and I will not stop insisting, the pro-indy demonstrations have been happening for years and there has never been any incident (so far) so, other than the natural "inconvenience" that a large gathering might cause in terms of mobility, there's nothing else to worry about.

Posted by
22 posts

I live here and the manifestations are not violent and are not against people passing by.

Posted by
34 posts

@Bill: How long are you in Barcelona?

I got an email notification about your post outlining the Dec 21 vote, but it's not showing up here. Could you tell us more about that vote, please?

Posted by
18 posts

Here’s a link to a Reuters article about the snap regional election. It may not amount to much but protests and major events tend to be tied to these sorts of things.