Like most large Spanish cities, Barcelona is Metro obsessed. It's a city of 1.6 million people (Merseyside runs to 1.3 million) yet there are eleven Metro lines. Plus regular rail lines. Plus trams. Plus funiculars and cable cars. Basically, it's got the kind of public transport network that makes me cry with joy and wish we had in the UK. And it's still growing: they opened a new section of line only last month, plus there are further extensions and routes under construction and on the drawing board. It adds to the breezy, laid back air of the city, pulling people underground and dropping them exactly where they want to be, rather than filling the streets with tense, stressed out commuters. Traffic is someone else's problem.
Of course, I was with the BF, so my Metro riding was limited. He's tolerant of my train-related antics but if there's a glowing sun and a glorious sky and an outdoor cafe, he can't quite get why I'd want to disappear beneath ground for hours on end. The mad fool. So here's a list of stations I visited, rather than an exhaustive gazetteer.
Aeroport T2 L9 Sud
And here is that brand new line, in gleaming, glorious, shiny colour. The L9 will eventually cross Barcelona from east to west, but at the moment it's just two flailing ends, the L9 Sud and the L9 Nord, waiting for the tunnel to be built inbetween.
It's a stark, metallic, space station future, glass and steel and marble floors. At the moment it's also surprisingly underused. There's still a direct rail line from the main station in the city to the airport, and that seems to be attracting the traffic, but I'm a Metro-head. How could I resist this?
Platform edge doors below ground and air-conditioned, calm, silence. Lovely.
The trains are comfortable, even if the Europeans remain unmoved by the charms of moquette. Because it's the airport line, the announcements are in Spanish and English, and for some reason, they've got Lord Haw-Haw to do the English bits. He's hilariously pompous. Maybe this is revenge for Manuel from Fawlty Towers.
You can hear a little boy, only a toddler, making excited noises in that sound clip. He took great delight in repeating "train to" after the English announcer and giggling every time.
Collblanc L5 L9 Sud
Collblanc is the nearest station to Camp Nou, the home to FC Barcelona, or at least it is for the time being until they build a dedicated station on the L9. Here is the stadium, if you're interested in that kind of thing:
I didn't go in. There was a fee, and it was hammering it down with rain, and if even the BF, who likes football, couldn't get up the enthusiasm for a tour, I wasn't going to break my neck. Instead we had a coffee in the cafe and used the toilet then got back on the Metro. Still worked for me.
Collblanc opened in 1969 and for forty odd years was just another stop on the L5: one that had to put up with a fair amount of football traffic, yes, but still just a standard station. The arrival of L9 has seen a whacking great interchange added onto the side.
There are six flights of escalators from the L5 level down to the L9. It starts to get a bit Mouse Trap after a while. Down a flight, turn round, down another one, turn round. And because no-one's using the L9 yet, it's all played out in eerie silence.
I mean, it's lovely, but it gets a bit relentless.
Catalunya L1 L3 L6 L7
Sited underneath Barcelona's principal gathering place, the Placa de Catalunya, and at the top of La Ramblas, Catalunya's unsurprisingly an important and historic station. Its entrance even features a chandelier:
Above ground, though, there's not much to see. Most of Barcelona's metro stations are basically holes in the ground. Access points, rather than stations. Steps and escalators but not much presence.
Sagrada Familia L2 L5
Obviously there's a station right by Barcelona's most famous tourist attraction and, as it turned out, right by my hotel. The station was originally opened in 1970 for just L5, but, in a clever piece of forward planning, they built the space for the L2 line at the same time. Unfortunately, by the time they actually got round to connecting up the station to L2, the plans had changed and the platforms were in the wrong place. The city had to build a whole new set for the line. Good effort though.
The ticket hall at Sagrada Familia contains a bakery, selling all sorts of tasty warm bread goods. This seems to happen in metro stations all over Europe, and it's something the British really should adopt. Not a drab little Pumpkin or another Upper Crust, but a tiny spot filling the station with the smell of cakes.
Mind you if the British did adopt this idea, they'd probably end up being a Greggs and all you'd smell was Steak Bakes.
At the bottom end of La Ramblas, Drassanes is interesting for its smooth, THX-1138-style design.
The floor curves into the walls, which curve into the ceiling; it makes you feel like you should be running along the corridor, holding hands with Jenny Agutter and fleeing the Sandmen. It's retrofuturesexy.
The signage up in the street is not so good. There seems to be some kind of burger war going on in Barcelona, because every other street featured an ad for McDonald's or Burger King. They were inescapable.
I went to Barceloneta station but all the pictures turned out to be blurry so here's a picture of the tiled entrance and my stupid face.
Universitat L1 L2
There's so much space on Barcelona's metro. Stations are built with plenty of room to get about. Different directions of traffic are separated wherever possible. Huge concourses are provided so you're not overcrowded. There's space for bookstalls and bakeries and even, at Universitat, Iberian ham stalls.
Incidentally, good luck visiting the city if you don't eat ham. It's in practically everything. It's hard to be kosher in Barcelona.
During rush hour, all this room must be great. At night, when I was visiting, it became a little eerie. Cold.
Still beautiful though.
Espanya L1 L3 L8
Sited under Barcelona's other big public space, the Placa d'Espanya, Espanya station is a sprawling complex. It's the most London Underground-like of all the stations I visited, opening in 1926 for the International Exhibition and looking a bit rough round the edges. Main line trains terminate here too, so you're sent scurrying up and down steps, round corners and along corridors to find exits and platforms.
Espanya was the location for one of the biggest disappointments of the whole trip. We'd wandered down to the platform, ready for a train back to our hotel, when I suddenly noticed something glorious on the opposite side.
A bar! A fully working bar in a metro station! It's like the transport Gods have been listening to my prayers. Unfortunately a train arrived at that point and whisked us away before I could get properly hammered underground.
You know I said British stations should have a quaint bakery in them? Ignore that. Put a bar in them all. I'd use Merseyrail a lot more if there was a pub at Birkenhead Park.