Pardon my blogging hiatus, but it seems as though when you use your reading week- a week meant to catch up/get ahead on coursework-to travel instead, you end up having a lot of catching up to do once you return from said travels. Although my holiday through Amsterdam, Switzerland, and Barcelona was amazing, I had to come back to reality sometime, and that reality is that I am in fact here to STUDY abroad. But now that my reading is caught up and assignments are turned in, I have a bit more free time to do as I please and catch you up on my most recent adventure-Barcelona.
The beginning of the trek to Barcelona started off quite rocky. By this point I’ve already explained some of my travel blips (taking wrong buses, missing train stops, etc.) but Barcelona-a place where I had already been before-proved to be quite problematic to navigate (I blame the city but really, it was my own fault). Saturday, the 25th of February began with me almost missing my plane from Zurich to Barcelona, but luckily I made it in just the nick of time. On the plane I sat in the very last row, next to a very friendly Canadian man named Wade. He and I talked the entire 1.5 hour flight to Spain and covered subjects ranging from travel, to politics, to relationships, and so on. Normally most people wouldn’t talk about certain subjects with a complete stranger who was at least 25 years their senior, but I had no problem opening up to him about my life, and learning about his. It made the plane ride that much more pleasant. When we arrived to Barcelona, Wade and I bid each other a goodbye and I caught the aerobus from the airport to Catalunya, simple enough. I then agreed to meet my friend Sam at our hostel, and I typed the address into my phone to follow Google Maps to the location. I then walked 31 minutes and ended up in this strange alleyway-where the address I had typed in was. After realizing that Google Maps had lied to me, I typed in the name of the hostel, which was a 41 minute walk in the direction I had just come from. I decided to cut my losses and take the metro, and met up with Sam a good hour or so after we were supposed to meet. After all of our traveling mishaps, we were both in need of a tall glass of sangria.
We ended up checking into our hostel, the “Kabul Party Hostel” and setting off to La Boqueria, the outdoor market in town. After surveying the numerous aisles of raw meats (goat head is a common thing there), fruits, gelatos, and lots of other foods, we stopped to eat on the patio of a restaurant that was in the market, called Sukaldari. Since I’m all about trying the native foods of the cities/countries I visit, we ordered chicken and seafood paella with red sangria (because you can’t go to Barcelona and not try sangria). As we enjoyed the amazing cuisine, we were serenaded by a Spanish band that was walking around the market-the whole experience was quite nice. Afterwards we decided to get some gelato at one of the many places in the market before heading out to explore the city.
With happy tummies, we set out to Monjuic to watch the magic fountain show. This had been one of the first things I had done on my Barcelona trip over two years prior, and I found it fitting that it was one of the things that kicked off this trip as well. The fountains danced with bright, vibrant colors as we sat on the steps overlooking the city-the whole scene was something truly magical. After the show ended, we walked up the steps to the museum at the top, then continued meandering around until we found ourselves at the Olympic Stadium of Barcelona. Since it was late, everything was pretty much shut down, but it was still fun to look at some of the monuments. We walked around a bit more until we found ourselves at a tapas bar in the more “local” part of town. We sat down and had some drinks and nachos, a very typical meal at a tapas bar. Afterwards we headed back to the hostel, where we met one of our Argentinian roommates who invited us out with her and her friends. We agreed, and the six of us went out and stumbled upon L’Ovella Negra Ramblas (The Black Sheep Bar). It was packed, even for it being almost midnight on a Saturday. What made things even more interesting was the fact that it was Mardi Gras/Carnival Weekend, so people were definitely wearing some strange costumes and outfits, and it was quite the interesting evening out.
The next morning, we woke up to blue skies and sunshine-a rarity from what I’ve gotten used to the past month and a half. We took the opportunity to take a nice metro ride/walk to Park Guell, one of Gaudi’s many architectural masterpieces throughout the city. It is filled with beautiful flowers, buildings, and is just an all around wonderful place to spend some time in. I’ve loved revisiting these places that I visited years ago and seeing how they’ve changed or remained the same, and how my perspective of them has changed as well. We left the park to find some food, and stopped at a place called El Dorado Chicken. We ordered a full chicken dinner for two with fries and salad for only 15 euros, and it was well worth it. Everything was so tender and well cooked and it hit the spot (Spain definitely knows how to do their food). We continued on to Sagrada Familia, the old cathedral designed by Gaudi-which is still unfinished close to 100 years after building started. Honestly, not a lot of improvements had been made on it in the past two years, although it was still a wondrous sight to see.
We walked our way onward (we must have walked at least 100 miles over the course of the weekend) and stopped by Barcelona’s Arc De Triomphe (which was slightly less impressive than Paris’s). Just beyond this was Cuitadella Park, a massive open park filled with museums, monuments, fountains, and lots of happy people. There were hundreds of people out having picnics on the grass and enjoying the beautiful weather-families, friends, and couples alike. It seemed as though nothing was wrong with the world and everyone was simply content to be where they were.
We took advantage of the nice weather and headed our way to the beach. Although it was only about 60 degrees Fahrenheit, the place was still pretty crowded with locals, tourists, and people trying to sell trinkets and mojitos. Unlike the last time I visited however, there were no topless sunbathers. We walked barefoot along the beach and sat and watched the sun begin to sink down before walking along some more, eyeing all the different sand sculptures we passed. Some were quite… Interesting. One man had made a sculpture of a urinating cat-that was actually peeing water. Several of the other sculptures had fire in them as well, a bit more extreme than the mermaids and castles I’m used to seeing in California.
Before it got too late, we sat down to eat at one of the outdoor patios near the beach, Carabela cafe. We enjoyed burritos and a pitcher of sangria as the sun finally set over the waters before making the trek back into town. Once we had worked off our sangria, we decided it was time for some churros con chocolat at a little chocolate cafe called Petritxol Xocoa. Since the churros were good (but not good enough) we finished the night with some more gelato at OGGI Gelato. We then took some time to walk off all the dessert we had eaten and toured around the town a bit-Barcelona is a good place to just aimlessly walk around in, you’re bound to happen upon some sort of monument or interesting shop along the way. Since Sam had to wake up early for his flight back to London, we decided to head back to the hostel early so he could get some sleep. I, on the other hand, took the opportunity to go out with one of our other roommates who happened to be a frat boy from Canada on vacation through Amsterdam, Switzerland, Barcelona, and Bulgaria with his cousin. We found it to be quite the coincidence that all three of us had been to the same places so far, and that he and I were both involved in Greek life. Since most clubs in Barcelona don’t really open until 12am, we went down to the lobby to hang out and play fooseball and other games before making our way to Pacha, one of the nightclubs along the beach. This was probably one of the ritziest clubs I’ve been to and although the music wasn’t necessarily my forte (it was all techno) everyone was enjoying themselves. It was nice to go to a club where everyone was actually dancing rather than just grinding on one another. The place even had a nice little patio that overlooked the beach where people could go to get some air and take a break. We didn’t end up staying until the club closed at 6am, but we did stay out until around 5am before getting some shuteye.
The next morning I took my time to pack everything up and head out. Since my flight back home to England wasn’t until about six, I took a leisurely stroll through the city and found myself back at Carabela Cafe. I enjoyed some nachos and sangria and took in all the wonderful sights of the beachy area, knowing it’d probably be a while before I found myself at a beach that wasn’t freezing again. I enjoyed as much of the weather as I could before deciding to head to the airport (I arrived there a solid three hours early to ASSURE I wouldn’t take a chance on missing my flight). During the flight I was able to enjoy both the beautiful sunset over Barcelona as well as the sparkling night lights over London. I arrived back in London Luton airport around seven in the evening UK time.
Everything was going smoothly until I got to customs and didn’t have my proper “paperwork” to show to the customs officer to prove that I was studying in England. I went through a good 10-15 minutes of interrogation before finally getting the stamp to be let back into the country. I definitely learned my lesson to keep my acceptance letter and such with me whenever I travel internationally. Although I’ve gone through quite a few little blips throughout my travels, it’s all been worth it. The experiences are indescribable (although I do the best I can to describe them through this blog) and the blips make for entertaining stories. I wouldn’t change a thing about any of my travels, or anything about my time abroad thus far. But then again, if England had a beautiful, warm beach that was close enough for me to walk to everyday, I wouldn’t be complaining…