Hello blog readers! It’s been a while since my last post… but now I finally have some free time to write all about my reading week trip. This first post is dedicated to my two days/three nights in Barcelona, Spain!
First of all, let me just say that I was so incredibly stressed about trying to fit eleven days’ worth of clothes into a carry on backpack and had a mini break down the night before leaving (thanks for calming me down, mom). Ryannair (a great cheap airline to travel around Europe) unfortunately has extremely strict carry on restrictions when you fly with them, so even a regular rolling suitcase that everyone typically uses in America won’t work with them. I finally decided to just check a larger duffel bag (for an extra fee that turned out to be completely worth it) and a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. There was no way I could fit all those clothes into my backpack. No way!
Night 1: 11/1
So besides my mini freak out on packing everything, the rest of the trip went extremely smooth. I travelled with two girls from UNCW, Megan and Kelly, and we had such a good time. We landed in Barcelona on Nov. 1 at night, found our way to the hostel (Mediterranean Youth Hostel), checked in and grabbed a really late dinner at a restaurant down the street. My first meal in Barcelona was a tostada with ham and cheese. Tostadas are popular in Spain and were on almost every menu! After dinner we went back to the hostel, made a game plan for the next day, and went to bed.
Day 2: 11/2
We woke up early the next morning and wandered around two main streets of Barcelona before joining a free walking tour of the Gothic City section. Our hostel was just two blocks away from Passeig de Gracia, one of the most popular streets for some upscale shopping, eating and seeing pretty buildings. We then ventured to another really awesome street called La Rambla which is lined with pretty trees and lots of kiosks for tourist shopping. That street is always so crowded with people no matter what time of day/night it is… there is so much going on there that the street never dies down. There are tons of bars, shops, and restaurants on La Rambla too so it was definitely one of my favorite places to explore. Off of that street, there is a market called La Boqueria which we quickly walked through since we were trying to get to the starting point of the tour on time. However, we got a chance to really explore La Boqueria market the next day and it was honestly the coolest market I’ve ever seen. It was so insanely colorful and there were hundreds of booths selling all food imaginable… fish, fruit, juices, cheese, chocolate, bread, spices, grains… everything! It was SO crowded inside this marketplace but I loved walking through it to see everything inside the huge tented area. Our tour guide told us that the best stuff and cheapest prices could be found towards the back of the market, so that’s where we went to buy something. Kelly, Megan and I ended up buying some chocolate from one of the booths and spent way too much money on these little pieces of sweets without realizing how expensive it was (kind of disappointing, but you live and you learn). At least we had chocolate!
We made our way to the starting point of the Gothic City (also called the Gothic Quarter) walking tour and spend the rest of the morning and early afternoon learning about some old buildings, cathedrals, and architecture while walking through some long winding passageways in the city. It would have been really confusing to get around that area if I lived there… the streets were dark, narrow, and all looked the same. The tour was interesting and I learned some cool historical facts about the area. The area dates back to the Medieval times as the first Roman settlement of Barcelona. One thing that I found interesting is that the quarter used to be highly populated with Jews, a section called “El Call,” which was attacked and now occupied by the Spanish. It was really cool to see an old Jewish synagogue where I least expected it.
After the tour, we made our way towards the beach and stopped at a restaurant for the most traditional Spanish dish: paella! It’s a really good rice dish in a skillet with meat and/or fish and some spices. A must-eat while you’re in Spain. After devouring our paella, we took a relaxing walk on the beach and I was just so happy to be in the sunshine with the sand between my toes. It wasn’t warm enough to lay out in a bathing suit (though there were a few crazies doing it), but we spent a good half hour sitting in the sun thinking of the Wilmington beach, and missing being so close to the coast.
On our long walk back to the hostel, we stopped at an ice cream place highly recommended by our tour guide which was called Gelaaati! Megan, Kelly, and I each got our own order of waffles and ice cream and it was honestly the most delicious thing I’ve had since I’ve been in Europe. You seriously can’t go wrong with waffles and ice cream! YUM. I’m still dreaming of that dessert now…
That night we decided to go out for drinks and a late dinner with three boys, Dan, Alex and Blake, who we met at our hostel that afternoon. They are also Americans studying in London for the semester (who go to Pitt in the states) and happened to be in Barcelona that weekend too. We used our T-10 metro pass to get to the beach where the club scene was, walked down the Barceloneta Beach boardwalk and made it into a club called Shoko, where we spent a total of maybe ten minutes inside (it really wasn’t that great). The end of the night consisted of grabbing some beer and sitting out on the rocks on the beach, talking and watching the waves crash on the shore. We had so much fun talking and getting to know the guys from Pitt!
Day 3: 11/3
Megan, Kelly and I woke up early with the intention of getting a good spot in line to tour Sagrada Familia, the absolute biggest tourist attraction in Barcelona. Sagrada familia is a huge church designed by Antoni Gaudí who is famous for his brilliant architecture. Apparently the inside of this place is completely incredible, but we didn’t get a chance to go inside. The line was so freaking long (literally about five hours at least) and we didn’t want to waste almost an entire day waiting in line, so we grabbed breakfast and came up with another game plan.
The Pitt boys told us that Park Guell was another really awesome spot to check out, so we took the metro there and made our way up a large hill (with outdoor escalators, thank goodness!) until we finally made it to the top of this amazing sight. Park Guell consists of two parts, the first with an incredible view of the entire city of Barcelona. We made it all the way to the top and got some awesome pictures… we could see out to the ocean, over to the mountains, and everything in between, including the city’s largest buildings. The view was something I could admire all day. The second part of Park Guell is an area with tons of Gaudi’s work… beautiful mosaics and buildings that look like gingerbread houses. This area was probably my favorite part of Barcelona. It was interesting to people of all ages, kids loved the atmosphere and adults were fascinated by the Gaudi’s creativity.
One funny story from Park Guell is when we saw all the street vendor guys run away from the area. There were TONS of men all around selling tourist merchandise (magnets, key chains, figurines) laid out on large white cloths. All of a sudden, I heard a whistle and the entire group of vendor guys quickly grabbed their sheet stuffed with their products and bolted out of the area. It was so crazy to me… one whistle and everyone was gone. It didn’t take me long to figure out that what they were doing was illegal… two police officers came strolling through about a minute later to check out the scene. One guy had dropped his sheet of stuff in a hurry and half of his merchandise was left broken on the ground, which the police had to tend to. So crazy! When the police left after ten minutes, all of them were back in their designated places, re-setting up their stuff. It was definitely amusing to watch.
After Park Guell, we took the metro to another stop (Espanya) and wandered our way to the coolest mall I’ve ever seen, called Arenas, which looked like a mini Colosseum and used to be a bullring! We ventured inside of the massive mall and it literally had everything you could imagine in one shopping center (grocery shopping, restaurants, department stores, a movie theater… EVERYTHING)! We ended up eating lunch at the very top level of the building at a cool diner-like restaurant. The view from up there was awesome too!
After lunch we made our way over to a beautiful looking building that we saw from the rooftop of the mall, which happened to be a really cool museum called MNAC (Museo Nacional d’Art de Catalunya). Lots of the exhibits inside were captioned in Catalan so I didn’t understand most of it, but it was really nice to walk and look around the place. The outside of the building was absolutely gorgeous though.
Our daytime exploration ended with watching the sunset at the NMAC building and outdoor garden area right near it (with a big, authentic amphitheater). The MNAC building overlooked a lot of the Barcelona city as well, and honestly that view at sunset topped off an amazing adventure-filled day. We went back to the hostel to shower and chill before our last night out in the city.
Our last night in Barcelona was spent with the Pitt boys again, where we decided to go out for a late dinner at this restaurant/bar/club place called 7 Sins that Kelly found online. I got a burger and it was probably the best one I’ve had overseas so far. Us girls ordered a pitcher of sangria (which we should have been drinking long before our last night… it was SO good!) and we all just had a great time laughing, chatting, and eating some good food. Because we had a 5 AM flight the next morning, Megan Kelly and I decided not to go to sleep, and left out hostel around 2 AM to make our way to the airport en route to ROME! Check out my next post for adventures in Italy!
Things I loved about Barcelona:
THE BEACH, the warm beautiful weather, the upbeat atmosphere, La Rambla market, Park Guell, Gaudi architecture, sangria, pretty sunsets, amazing views of the city. I’d love the chance to get back there someday!