“Oh, you are so pretty!” I don’t know if it was my swollen eyes, zombie walk, disheveled hair, or the eerie darkness that surrounded me, but that is how I began my Barcelona trip… at 03:45. After I grunted a “…what?” and painfully crawled into the backseat, the airport shuttle driver sped through the empty streets of Budapest to get me to the airport in time for my 06:45 flight. Upon boarding, I ran to a window seat and, without shame, passed out before take-off. I was awoken by clapping and cheering – apparently the pilot was a level 99 plane lander and had the smoothest touchdown ever. The difference between Budapest and Barcelona was instantly made apparent. I left grey skies and lows in the 40s (4-9 degrees Celsius) to palm trees, blue skies, and a rather warm sun. It was then that I embarked on my mission to find my sister, her friend James, and his friend Tony. A nurse, a film director, and a lawyer. This was the group that I, a teacher, decided to travel with to Barcelona. Kevin Hart, one of my favorite comedians, once talked about “staying in his financial lane.” I did not take heed to his advice. I threw money away, but I [almost] feel like it was worth it – Barcelona, you took my heart along with my wallet!
If you have read my Paris entry, then you know that I have previously had trouble staying in the same places as my friends. Surprise, surprise – another mishap was in the works. I ended up staying in two hostels while my sister and company snuggled the nights away in a hotel a couple of blocks away. I did not mind at all, but from now on I will just assume that I have absolutely no luck in crashing with friends.
I might as well add the tagline “The Home of Gaudí” whenever I speak about Barcelona – Antoni Gaudí’s works dominated the landscape. The first day I was there we went to both Palau Güell (a mansion) and Parc Güell (a park). Before coming to Barcelona, I was skeptical about liking his work due to the fact that I am not usually one for anything modern. My skepticism quickly dissipated upon seeing everything in person. The man was an absolute genius. I would like to compare his work to images from a dream – the intricacies are mindboggling.
View of adjacent flats from Palau Güell’s roof.
The next day we paid homage to one more site – Sagrada Família. Sagrada Família (Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família) is an unfinished basilica that has been in the works for 131 years. Gaudí died before it was even a quarter of the way complete. Due to a fire which destroyed many of his blueprints, what you see today is largely a mass interpretation by Gaudí scholars of what it would have looked like had he been able to see through its completion. We paid (meaning my older sister paid for me) to go to the top of one of the spires. The view was breathtaking.
The Nativity Facade. It was one of the only parts finished during Gaudí’s lifetime.
The night before, after waiting for this ridiculous[ly large] structure to light up, we strolled down to the sea (I had not seen the sea in over a year) to grab a bite to eat. I struggled with the fact that dinner is casually eaten from 21:00-22:00, but that’s another story in and of itself. I desperately needed to use the toilet/bathroom/wc when we stumbled into Parc de la Ciutadella – a park that we instantly knew would be fantastic during the day. After leaving Sagrada Família, we went back to the park. It was more beautiful than anticipated. Maybe I had rose-colored glasses on, but everything (except the price of things) was marvelous. We rowed a boat in a small pond on the premises. Again, if you are not a new reader, you already know that I love boats. Versailles? Check. Bled? Check. Barcelona? Check!
James and Tony rowing the boat – teamwork makes the dream work.
Now to the topic of food. I ate dinner today at 16:45. The sun had already been set for forty-five minutes. Yes, it is early even for me, but dinner is usually consumed around 18:00. In Spain? That’s probably a late lunch. My body despised me – especially after the numerous attempts to finish my churros (xurros) and hot chocolate. I had churros for the first time (along with tapas) in Barcelona. I also fell in love with arepas too. If you go to Barcelona, I fully recommend eating at La Taguara Areperia and ask for number five. You can thank me later.
James (the film director), Maricel (my sister, the nurse), and I spent the rest of the day meandering through the Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic) and Las Ramblas. Like most places that I have been to, the land in which Barcelona can be found on today was once home to the Ancient Romans. I saw columns from the Temple of Augustus and parts of the original city wall. Overall, the Gothic Quarter was the most charming to me. It felt so real. That night, we met back up with Tony (the lawyer) and met for the first time one of my sister’s friends, Pie – pronounced pee-uh – who lives about an hour away from the city. My sister chanced upon Pie during a study abroad in Norway several years ago. We first watched a traditional Catalan dance called Sardana performed by the locals. I wanted to jump in, but I did not pick up the footwork fast enough. Later we strolled to get tapas and talked about everything – the state of the European Union, differences between the different regions of Europe, etc. I love conversing with people who actually know what is going on in the world around them. Oh, and we also purchased handmade bar soap from Sabater Hermanos – Fábrica de Jabones. I fully recommend buying a bar or two (or three like James). It is a family-run shop that is in its third generation. I forgot what the name of the scent I purchased was – all I know is that it is gold, shimmery, and smells really nice.
Part of the original city wall.
Damage caused by bombs and bullets.
On my last day, James, Maricel, and I went to where I wanted to go to the most – Camp Nou! I am an avid football (soccer for my states-side readers) player/fan, so of course I wanted to see the stadium of my favorite club! Unfortunately I did not get to see a match, but one day… oh, one day.
Afterwards we strolled down (took a taxi) to the water just to run back to the arepa dining establishment. Somehow we stumbled upon a pigeon haven. A woman was making a fortune selling bird seeds to anyone desperate for a photo opportunity… meaning that the three of us all purchased bags. I was terrified of bird poop, but somehow we were all graced by the bird gods.
With tired feet and sad goodbyes, I soon parted ways with James and my sister. Again, I ran to a window seat and watched my eyelids for a while. It took me over two hours to get from the airport to my flat – I slept the whole time I was on the night bus (risky, but I suppose I am a daring individual). Barcelona was definitely one of my favorite cities that I have had the privilege of visiting.
A Lesson From Miss Jennifer: If your backpack started breaking before departure, safely assume that it will break completely in transit. Just buy a new backpack already.