Amelia, Maggie, Elisabeth, Emily, and I got to Barcelona late Thursday night and we didn’t check into our hostel until after 1am. Although that is considered early in the night for Spaniards, it was late for my old grandma soul. The hostel was only 12E a night/person (most hostels in Barcelona are at least 25E), so I was a little nervous that it was going to be disgusting or sketchy, despite the good reviews. But, it turned out to be nice, clean, and in a good location. The owner was helpful, which was great to have throughout the weekend. This was my first time staying in a hostel and it was definitely different than I expected (though I don’t really know what I expected). I think what surprised me the most was the sense of community between all the boarders. People came from all over the world and just hung out together (made dinner in the basement of the hostel, explored the city, went out, etc). Although we really didn’t spend time with the other boarders since we were on the go the ENTIRE time, I think it’d be a cool experience to have at least once.
We spend the majority of Friday aimlessly wandering throughout the city and getting a feel for what it was like. Although it rained on and off throughout the day, it could have been a lot worse. Honestly, we lucked out! As we walked through the different districts of the city, I realized just how big Barcelona is. Some parts of the city reminded me of Chicago (especially the main shopping drag), giving me a taste of home!
Friday was a national holiday, el Día de Hispanidad. As we roamed through the streets, we saw people wearing both Spanish and Cataluñan flags around their shoulders. They were all walking in the same direction, so we followed them and ended up in la Plaze de Cataluña. In this central plaza, there was a big demonstration going on with crowds of people, music, and police monitoring all the activity. For those of you that don’t know, Barcelona is part of the autonomous community of Cataluña. There are many independence movements in Cataluña and the population is split over the question of whether Cataluña should remain part of Spain or not. This divide was clear at the demonstration. About half of the people there were were Spanish flags and holding signs promoting the unity of all of Spain, while those wearing either Cataluña or Barcelona flags obviously wished otherwise.
The divide between Cataluña and the rest of Spain was obvious in other aspects of Barcelona as well. Although Spanish is one of the official languages of of Cataluña, the primary tongue of the people in Cataluña is Catáan. As a result, all of the advertisements, store names, and menus are listed first in Catalán. Only sometimes are they then translated into Spanish. The fact that the primary tongue of most people in Cataluña is not Spanish further contributes to this great divide.
Other highlights from Friday included walking through the street markets on one of the main drags, las Ramblas. I love looking at what all the vendors are selling, but it’s definitely hard to resist buying everything in sight. I treated myself to a cute scarf and bought my mom a pair of earrings 🙂
Friday night, we went out for tapas at a place near our hostel. The portions were small and the prices were quite high, so we all were a little disappointed. But, we ended up at a cool bar after called, Dow Jones. Basically, this bar is a simulation of the stock market and Wall Street. The drink prices fluctuate depending on demand and every half hour or so, the “stock market” crashes. During this time, the drink prices drop 40-50% and everyone rushes to the bar to order drinks. It was super fun and a neat concept. Somehow, we ended up surrounded by about 30 Duke (ick!) students–what a small world!
We started off on Saturday with touring la Sagrada Familia. The line to get tickets wrapped around the block, but luckily, we heard of a nearby ATM where you can buy tickets and skip the two hour line. This trick definitely saved us quite a bit of time! I know I rave about the buildings we tour every weekend, but I don’t think any of the ones I have seen can trump la Sagrada Familia. I don’t think any description of this monument can accurately describe just how AMAZING this building is. Gaudi is seriously a genius. I didn’t realize that it wasn’t finished yet and it isn’t expected to be finished until at least 2050. I can’t imagine what it will look like once all of the windows are filled with stained glass. If you ever go to Barcelona, make sure you go inside of la Sagrada Familia. A must see!
We continued our day by going to la Boquería, the famous food markets in Barcelona. Clearly, this was one of my favorite places to stop. There were hundreds of vendors selling everything from candy and dried fruit to the most exotic meats. We ate lunch at a stand called “Organic is Orgasmic.” I had stuffed eggplant, paella, and salad–which was out-of-this-world! We then all had smoothies for dessert–let me just say, the food at the market did not disappoint!
We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the city and visiting different “touristy” monuments. Our stops included the olympic stadium, the national art museum, and a giant water fountain show at dusk. The fountain show occurs every night from 7-9pm at the fountain is located in front of the art museum. Basically, there was music (including selections from Titanic, E.T., and Starwars) that played as the water in the fountain “danced” and different colored lights illuminated the city. So beautiful!
After a late night out at the discoteca, we were all exhausted on Sunday morning. How could we tell? We were all dead silent (including me…I know, surprising!) as we were walking through the city. We first went to el Parque Güell, one of Gaudi’s works in Barcelonas. This park had some amazing views of Barcelona, but I was honestly underwhelmed (which can probably be attributed to la Sagrada Familia blowing away any other building or monument).
After lunch near the pier, we headed over to el Museo de Picasso (bonus, free entry on Sunday afternoons) and then, for a little gelato at one of the city’s most famous heladerías (believe me, we do our research on this stuff).
Overall, it was a great weekend! We literally did not stop and I know, I definitely paid for that yesterday since I absolutely exhausted in my classes. Studying abroad has made me realize that traveling is awesome, but also very emotionally and physically draining. At the end of every weekend that I travel, I’m always ready to get back home to Sevilla!
I spent last night packing up everything for Amsterdam, Brugge, and Brussels. I’m sleeping over at Mari and Agustina’s apartment tonight and we’re leaving for the airport bright and early tomorrow. Very excited, but also can’t believe I’m leaving already! Should be an adventure! I get back Sunday night and then, Molly comes to Sevilla on Tuesday! BUSY BUSY BUSY!
Hope you all had a fabulous weekend!