This past weekend some friends and I went on our first unguided/unsupervised excursion and it was an absolute blast! I must admit that I was a bit nervous to be adventuring into one of the biggest cities in Spain without a single adult, especially after making the mistake of reading the city safety tips located on the bottom of basically every tourist website I visited. I boarded the plane with the anticipation of arriving in a city stuffed with people, all anxiously crowding the streets ready to steel my purse or taunt one of my friends. What I found was the exact opposite – beautiful plazas with fountains and statues, tall buildings with unique architecture, and busy streets that still somehow managed to have plenty of room for walking without a single unpredicted encounter with strangers. I may have instantly fallen in love!! And it’s a good thing I did because if Barcelona really had been as scary as I had pictured, I’m not sure I would have survived the 45 minutes we spent walking in the wrong direction down las Ramblas trying to find our hostel the first night – oops!! Needless to say, we eventually stumbled upon Lullaby hostel, ditched our luggage and headed out to see what Barcelona had to offer. We found our way to a discoteca, danced a bit, and then casually meandered back to Lullaby ignoring the fact that our cellphones and watches now informed us it was 4:30 at night.
With the excitement of a short first night behind us we woke up relatively early, grabbed some free breakfast from the hostel – frosted flakes anyone?? I was actually a tad excited, it’s been a while – and headed to what must be Barcelona’s most heard off destination… La Sagrada Familia. This massive, slightly intimidating cathedral is adorned with cranes and seems like it may never be completed but it is beautiful nonetheless! After an hour of winding around it’s exterior (playing concentration and other middle school games of course) we finally reached the entrance. The inside of the church could not have been more of a contrast to its exterior. It was shockingly white with intricate stained glass, enormously high ceilings, and winding staircases. After an hour of meandering around and gazing at the beauty, we took an elevator to the top of one of its many towers where we found an incredible view of the city and an excellent photo location, as well as a seemingly never ending spiral staircase that eventually brought us back to the ground.
Post Gaudi architecture admiration session 1 we wondered the streets of Barca until we found a suitable looking cafe where we parked ourselves for a three course lunch. It was here that we learned two very important lessons: 1) don’t leave personal belongings on the floor and 2) salmonetes ≠ salmon… yay for scales, spines, and eyeballs. Fortunately our waiter was an adorable dad-like figure who saved us from loosing our cameras and gave us many tips about what we should do with the rest of our time in the city. He didn’t propose a solution for our fear of the fish though, in fact he may have made fun of us for leaving so much behind on our plates – oops. After some well earned cheesecake, we hit the streets again in search of more of Gaudi’s treasures. A few wrong turns and a wasted metro trip later we found both the Casa Mila and Parc Gúell. Both were distinctly beautiful although I certainly enjoyed the park more. What’s not to love about mosaic tiled benches, gingerbread house looking structures, and a panoramic view of the city?? And somehow we managed to make it back to the metro station – learning along the way that in Barcelona “very close” is equivalent to “about a mile”, gee thanks locals!! – without getting completely drenched. Cue a lovely dinner at a tapas restaurant and an evening on the hostel terrace with sangria and some new friends and that was Friday.
Saturday was yet another early morning and this time we headed to the East, exploring las Ramblas, Barri Gotic, and La Boqueria – Barcelona’s famous market. It was the perfect morning for window shopping, postcard buying, sampling smoothies out of shot glasses (only slightly ironic), wedding procession gazing, and enjoying cafe con leche and crescents. When our stomachs started to grumble even more, we headed into the Boqueria, found an assortment of goodies – mine included pineapple, strawberries, and a multigrain muffin, in case you were wondering – and made our way to the port where sat, admiring the beautiful water and stuffing our faces with the delicious fresh food. A short nap later, we were on our way again. This time to the beaches of the Mediterranean sea. Surprisingly, they didn’t look all that different from the ones right by Algorta. When we realized it was already 6pm, we hit the streets and found our way back to good old Lullaby. There we enjoyed Barcelona’s idea of fast food – Pita In – before going our separate ways for the night. While a bunch of my friends were headed to a white-out rave at the olympic stadium called Sensation, my night included a trip to Font Montjuïc – a famous fountain in front of Barcelona’s national palace that “dances” and changes color to a music soundtrack – with Elana, another nice walk through the city ignoring the blisters forming from wearing flip-flops all weekend, a gelato stop on las Ramblas where we were joined by Molly and Miranda, and about an hour laughing at the men trying to sell beer in the middle of Plaza Catalunya – that’s seriously got to be the worst job ever!!
Saturday night was probably the shortest of them all and after getting only 3 hours of sleep it was a little rough rallying everyone to get to the airport by 8am. Somehow we made it!! Settling into my seat on the plane I pulled out my Ipod, ready to spend the hour flight in blissful nap mode only to have my friend Molly knee the back of my seat 3 times and the guy next to me start talking to me in Spanish. Reluctant to pass up an opportunity to talk to a local, I decided against fake sleeping and put my Ipod back in my bag. I soon found out that this kid to my right was also from Algorta and had flown to Barcelona simply to go to Sensation for the night. We talked about our weekends, the classes we were taking, and my future travel plans while he pointed out the Pyrenees mountains and any other distinguishable landmarks through the tiny plane window. Before I knew it we were landing in Bilbao and my hour window for napping had expired – best laid plans. We were welcomed home by some lovely rain and temperatures about 15 degrees cooler than when we left… hello fall!!
After such a busy weekend, this week has seemed to go by pretty slowly, probably due to the lack of sleep that I was running on. Lucky for me, today is a national holiday (a combination of recognition for Spanish armed forces and good old Christopher Columbus) and I got a solid 12 hours of sleep last night : ) Today’s plans originally involved bike riding along the coast. Unfortunately the weather is not so great -> back up plan of postcard writing, homework, and Ireland trip planning. Happy Wednesday!!