It is truly a sad day. As of 2:00 this morning, I’ve finished traveling with the friends I’ve made abroad. I’m back in the UK, where I’ll remain until my family trip through central Europe in three weeks, and once I go through passport control in Munich, my time in the UK will be over.
Barcelona was one of my favorite cities. Period. Aside from the fantastic weather (just cooler than the at times overheated Lisbon), the culture was unlike any city I’ve seen this semester. Something that I was grateful for was, crazily, my early morning flight on Thursday. Since I only got about two hours of sleep the night before, having to wake up at 3:00 a.m. to catch the bus to the airport, getting into Barcelona around 2:00 in the afternoon made me want to nap just in time for siesta. We immediately adjusted to the very different time frame that Spaniards enjoy.
Kate and I woke up at 8:00 that evening, following a 5-hour nap, just in time for some tapas and sangria. Rian and Sam got to the hostel around 10:00 that night, which was perfect timing for a real dinner in Spain. In Lisbon, I tried a (pseudo) paella, hoping to sample authentic Portuguese food, but it turned out to be pretty disappointing. This was immediately rectified by this first dinner in Barcelona, which was true chicken paella. I’ve never had more delicious rice in my life.
I was on the verge of staying in, experiencing a drowsy state even after the long sleep. It took a good deal of encouragement and a really nasty shot of tequila for me to decide that I couldn’t go home after that. You’re only in Barcelona once, right? We went to the coast where the clubs are, and tried one called Opium, which is apparently one of the best, and somehow managed to get in for free. We basically ended up paying cover anyhow after buying one 10-euro drink, but what can ya do.
Our first full day in Barcelona was drenched in sunshine. We got up just before noon, and took the metro up to Park Güell, which is a garden complex filled with architectural works designed by Antoni Gaudí, who seems to have basically built half of Barcelona with his rather distinct style. The park was a combination of beautiful landscapes and samples of Gaudí’s work, and the top of the hill in the park gave us our necessary full view over the city and onto the beach in the distance.
After the park and some lunch, we took the metro back toward our hostel to the Sagrada Família, which is, at least as far as I could tell, the most iconic structure in Barcelona. And rightfully so. The church was beautiful, also designed by Gaudí (who else?). It was nice to have a change of pace from the typical churches, cathedrals and basilicas. I know the point is to worship God but let’s have some personality, shall we? The inside was filled with fantastical pillars, wall patterns and a full spectrum of vibrant colors pouring in from the stained-glass windows. I’m not an architecture buff by any means, but I loved Gaudí’s style.
Following the misguided clock (it’s 6:00, or does it feel more like 3:00?), all we knew is that we were tired. With a reasonable dinner hour several hours off, we went back to our hostel just off Las Ramblas to relax, get ready and perhaps drink a little before the night. Luckily, between the four of us, we had several close contacts who’d studied in Barcelona, so we had plenty of local secrets and hotspots to try out. Something that we came to hear from more than one person was that there was a tapas bar nearby that was considered the best in Barcelona. Even at 11:00, the wait, we were told, was 40 minutes. It was nothing a liter of sangria couldn’t fix to pass the time.
The food was delicious, very reasonably priced, and it seemed to just keep coming. Chicken croquettes here and some calamari there, a Greek salad or two, different kinds of bread, I particularly enjoyed sampling Kate’s fried artichokes. We topped off the hearty meal with “Catalonian-style cream” (crème brûlée), and some hot chocolate cake dish. It was arguably the best (and definitely one of the cheapest) meals of the weekend.
Following dinner we went to our second night club of Barcelona, this one called Shoko, which we also happened to get in for free (name dropping club promoters provided by aforementioned close contacts for the win).
Our second full day we woke up even later, and headed straight for the third staple in our self-guided Gaudí tour of Barcelona. We toured the Casa Batlló, which was a house originally designed for a family in the city in the late 1800s. I loved it, from the colors to the unique arches to the lack of straight lines almost everywhere in the house, and each room had its own personality. Each room was likened, according to my audio guide, to different elements of plants and animals. It felt like a house out of Alice in Wonderland or Whoville.
With all of our main sightseeing out of the way, we wandered around the city, back from Casa Batlló to Las Ramblas and toward our hostel for a late lunch. We bummed around the marina, taking in the beautiful seaside aspect to the city, and eventually stumbled upon Barceloneta, or the main beach. It was wonderful, having the city literally on the edge of the beach. We wound up back that way for dinner (a somewhat less impressive paella than on the first night), before finding a shot bar called Chupitos (stories not for public blogging), and our final club venue for the weekend, one called Razzmatazz.
We didn’t need to leave for the airport until approximately 6:30 yesterday evening, so waking up just before noon gave us plenty of time to do just about nothing. We leisurely strolled from our hostel toward Barceloneta, stopping to eye the street vendors and performers, before plopping down in the sand for a good few hours. It was a terrific way to end the weekend, and more so, the semester of traveling.
Aside from the fact that Kate and I hit about five different bumps in our travel schedule that may have hindered us from actually getting back to London last night, I arrived at a deserted Farringdon Road at around 2:00 a.m., exhausted, and saddened that my travels had come to an end (that is, until I travel with my family after the program. Don’t worry I haven’t forgotten about you).
I have just less than three weeks left in London, it’s time to get some serious work done on that bucket list. I’m happy to be here, knowing I’m not traveling for one of the largest stretches of the past three months.
Love London part three.