The 3 days I spent in Barcelona last weekend make it clear to me why it is considered one of the world’s most beautiful cities. It’s just romantic – I think that’s the best word to describe it. Astounding architecture, beautiful landscapes and parks, and the Mediterranean Sea…I’m not sure what else you could ask for from a city.
I left class early on Friday morning to catch a bus to Santander, a city about 1 ½ hours away from Bilbao. Ryanair (a really cheap European airline) had a flight from Santander to Barcelona for only 6 euro, so my friends and I jumped right on that. Unfortunately, after we had booked the flight, we realized that although Reus was advertised as a “Barcelona” airport, it was actually 2 hours away from the city and that the bus ride was 14 euro. We all decided that we would never, ever be going to Reus again. Booooo!!!
By the time we all checked into our hostels (we were spread all over the city because we all booked at different times) and reunited, it was well past nightfall, maybe around 8 or 9 o’clock. We were all hungry, and we decided to do something that I had previously considered a mortal sin…eat at the McDonald’s euro menu. All those voices in my head that were saying “YOU ARE BETTER THAN THIS!” slowly died down as I absolutely and thoroughly enjoyed my cheeseburger sin pepinillos and some mediocre gazpacho. Afterwards we just walked all over the city, walking all the way down Las Ramblas (the main street through Barcelona) to the marina at Port Vell. Walking down Las Ramblas you see all kinds of street vendors, tourist shops, street “magicians”/performers (a.k.a. those people that paint themselves gold and stand perfectly still), and all kinds of interesting things. Two of my friends lost 40 euro each to a street magician they thought they could outsmart…big mistake. There were amazing, luxury mega-yachts anchored at the marina; I could not believe how big they were. Definitely the biggest boats other than cruise ships and barges that I’ve ever seen. WAY bigger than most people’s houses. I was fascinated, especially since my selfish dream is to live on a mega-yacht and sail the world for all the days of my life.
Enjoying our Micky D’s euro menu in Plaza de Catalunya
The best picture we could get of me with the Lady Britt…my floating mansion?
Old Bareclona City walls.
As much as I loved Barcelona, I am glad to be studying in Bilbao. This is a shot of the mildly sketchy Barcelona metro. Bilbao is much cleaner and, judging by the prostitutes that tried to grab my friends (traumatizing) and creepy men constantly trying to sell us beer and drugs, quite a bit safer.
I don’t know how far we walked that first night, but it had to be several miles. We saw the famous statue of Christopher Columbus “pointing towards the new world” except he was definitely not pointing toward the U.S., ancient walls from the old city, and Plaza Espanya complete with it’s fancy government buildings and the Magic Fountain that we kept missing the show for. We went to a gigantic bullfighting ring that has been converted into a 14-story mall and got a nice view of the city before catching the metro back home to rest up for the next day. Kristen and I stayed at a hostel called Lullaby and it was a pretty nice place right on Las Ramblas, filled almost entirely with Americans and a group of wildly inappropriate Irishmen drinking Jamison whiskey in our lobby (they were kicked out about 5 minutes after we arrived).
The next morning we awoke early and ate some free cereal at our hostel before heading to Barcelona’s most famous market, La Boqueria. It is gigantic and has essentially everything you could ever desire in the realm of food. We met up with some friends, enjoyed some fresh-squeezed fruit smoothies, and set out to explore some more of the city dressed in our FC Barca jerseys that we had all bought the night before. We walked all around, stopping by some of Gaudi’s most famous works that are scattered around the city and spending some time at Sagrada Familia, an amazing cathedral designed by Gaudi that has been under construction since 1882 and won’t be finished for several more decades. After adding Park Guell and Barcelona Cathedral, it was time to head to Camp Nou…home of FC Barcelona. This game was probably one of my favorite things I’ve done since arriving to Spain. We had great seats, Messi had 3 goals right in front of us, and we watched Mallorca get destroyed 5-0. Besides watching the World Cup, which I love, I don’t keep up with fútbol, but I think it’s safe to say I’m a Barcelona fan for life.
Fresh-as-you-can-get smoothies in La Boqueria
In front of the Sagrada Familia…tough to get the whole thing into one picture!
Part of Park Guell and an overlook of Barcelona.
Our group after the game!
The next day we set out to explore La Barceloneta, a little community by the beach that we all fell in love with. The weather was supposed to be a little chilly and rainy all weekend, but it ended up being HOT on Sunday, and when my friend Jesse and I saw the Mediterranean Sea we decided that we could not leave without swimming in it. Since I was wearing jeans and a light sweater I couldn’t exactly jump in in my clothes, so I ended up buying one of those little blanket cover up shawl things, wrapping it around me like a strapless dress, and going for it. Nice to meet you, Mediterranean! It was definitely worth the salty/sandiness I endured for the rest of the day.
After enjoying an amazing meal on the beach, we decided just to get lost in the city. I’ve found since I got here that sometimes it’s fun to start walking and see where you end up (except for that time I ended up in the ghetto of Bilbao…anyways…). We just started weaving through the streets and alleyways of downtown Barcelona and came upon the most beautiful churches, wine and cheese markets, and restaurants. I felt like I was in a movie. We ate the best gelato I’ve ever had, sat and watched street musicians for a while, and watched a break dancing show as the sun was setting.
All in all, an amazing weekend I’ll never forget.