Europe Trip 2010: “We’ll Figure It Out” (Barcelona)

At long last, here is the tale of our Spring Break backpacking trip through Europe! Written in cafes, on planes, and in several different cities, this post chronicles our sights and adventures. Plus, I’m throwing in a few pictures for good measure!

Barcelona

“Barcelona is an amazing city. It’s beautiful, clean, stately, and enjoys a perfect location on the Mediterranean coast. Complete with spacious shopping districts, packed historical quarters, and trendy tourist/nightlife areas, Barcelona has set the bar very, very high for the rest of our European adventure. It’s interesting to note what I love about Barcelona in comparison to Dublin, Chicago, and MSP (the main cities in my life right now). What do I like? What works for my tastes? What do I enjoy?

“However, our trip hasn’t always been so crystal-clear and fun. Here’s what yesterday (8 Mar 2010) was like.

Day 0

5:00 am: Woke up. Cold shower. No heat.
6:30 am: Caught AirCoach to Dublin Airport.
7:30 am: Arrived at Dublin Airport.
8:15 am: Checked in and waiting at our gate.
9:15 am: Boarding delayed.
9:45 am: Flight delayed.
10:00 am: Flight departs for Girona, Spain.
1:00 pm: Flight diverted from Girona due to weather conditions. We land in Reus, Spain.
4:00 pm: After a three hour wait, the first available shuttle bus departs from Reus for Barcelona. Bus ride is estimated to be one hour. We anticipate a smooth trip and are optimistic, especially since we’d called our hostel via payphone to delay arrival time.
8:30 pm: The bus arrives at Sants station in Barcelona. Yes, that’s right – a one hour bus ride became four and a half, through piling snow in Barcelona’s first snowstorm in over five years. While on the bus ride – trying to call our hostel to delay our arrival time again – we learned my phone wouldn’t work. This necessitated a long phone conversation with O2 (the phone company) while stopped on the freeway in a blizzard.
8:45 pm: We take the subway. HostelEurope’s directions were wrong and implied that the hostel was only a few blocks’ walk from the main station. Not so – the hostel was actually located halfway across town near a different station. At night. In a snowstorm. In a country where we don’t speak the language. The line for the taxi was fifty to sixty people long, so we just had to gear up and take the subway regardless.
9:30 pm: We arrive in the area of the hostel. Again, our directions were wrong, so we count on a phone conversation with the hostel operator to show us the way. At last, we find it!
10:30 pm: Seven and a half hours after our anticipated arrival time, we check in, settle into our room, and finally post on Twitter to let our friends and family know we’d arrived safely. Fortunately, the hostel is swanky, clean, well-kept, and run with our age group in mind – warm and bright, with big common areas full of chatty twentysomethings!
11:00 pm: At long, long, long last, we grab our first bite to eat since Reus at a tapas restaurant on a nearby street corner. Despite our trouble, we’re impressed with Barcelona and excited to be here.

First snowstorm in Barcelona in over five years.

“Today (9 Mar) was just as jampacked with events, but just as awesome and fun as yesterday was awful and terrifying. After a cozy sleep, we hopped up, took warm showers, and took off out the door to see the city! Here’s a rundown of our day.

Day 1

1. Walked up Diputacio to Placa de Toros – a stadium with a monument (presumably for bullfighting). Closed, but the building was gorgeous.

2. Walked up Marina to the infamous, world-renowned Temple de La Sagrada Familia. Sagrada Familia is Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi’s most famous and awe-inspiring work. The cathedral towers high above the city streets, pointed spires glistening in the sun. Gaudi designed the whole place at the precise intersection of math/geometry and spirituality/nature. Construction work made the cathedral impossible to enjoy fully (especially as the stairs to the upper level were barricaded), but the building was extraordinary and the museum was awesome. Plus, we got to enjoy empanadas and orange juice at a little local cafe nearby, so that was awesome and delicious!

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

3. We walked over to Passeig de Gracia and turned south onto Barcelona’s major shopping thoroughfare. Dotted with shops, malls, theatres, and museums (two of which we planned to visit the next day), it was nice to walk, enjoy the sunshine, and check out the city on foot.

4. Making a quick stop at Placa de Catalunya, we really enjoyed the fountains, statues, courtyard, pigeons, and beautiful sunshine views of the surrounding city!

Placa de Catalunya

5. At this point, we really hit our stride and the heart of the city. Our next stop was possibly the high point of my day: visiting the Catedral de Barcelona. This 11th century Spanish Catholic cathedral is hushed, ancient, and enormous. It’s capped off with a gorgeous quiet courtyard sanctuary complete with statues, swimming ducks, and a carefully guarded museum. Bust of all, we got to climb to the roof of the cathedral and view the entire expanse of the sprawling Spanish coastal city from above. It was truly a spectacular experience and one of my favorites so far.

Sleeping in the sunshine

Cathedral

View from the roof

6. After the cathedral, we walked down through El Barri Gotic (“The Gothic Quarter”). It really is the old city – original walled streets and houses tucked right up to the coast. Thanks to no traffic and cozy, twisting paths, the Quarter was quiet and romantic. In some ways it reminded me of the Spain I’d imagined, an idealized Spain, a land of tiny apartments and sunshine and fluttering white laundry in the breeze.

The Gothic Quarter

7. Next, we walked along the beachfront marina, enjoying the palm trees and statues (including a giant lobster!) before walking down the boardwalk. The boardwalk led to a very Navy Pier-esque shopping area, conference center, and aquarium – trendy and touristy, and rather too expensive for our tastes. So we zipped back on land and headed off towards the park.

We named him "Lobster Friend"

Palm trees and Barcelona!

8. The park is actually bordered by the grounds of the Zoo and Parliament, and is dotted with trees, statues, and wide dirt paths. Easily the coolest part of the park was a gigantic steps/statue/fountain/pool structure – stairs, columns, splashing water, golden monuments, and statues all glittered in the sunset, and it was really beautiful and picturesque.

Beautiful!

9. Finally, we headed up the park towards the Arc de Triomf, Barcelona’s version of the (much larger) Parisian Arc. We finished up our sightseeing for the day by journeying up through the Arc and dallying up the wide pathway. We finished the night by heading back to our a hostel for a much-needed break, rest, and dinner before sleep and Day 2 of Barcelona!

Day 2

1. Started the day at la Casa Batllo – another Gaudi work. Batllo was actually cooler than Sagrada Familia, in our opinion. The place was a lot more homey, natural, detailed, and available for exploration to its fullest extent. The home is a multi-level masterpiece of woodwork, glass, sculpture, and smooth curves – all modeled after water and nautical life! Awesome!

The rooftop!

2. Then we walked up to La Pedrera – yep, you guessed it, another Gaudi! The building is a renovated apartment building and a striking feature of brick, arches, and an amazing rooftop view, affording rich vistas of all the surrounding city.

La Pedrera

3. Next, we passed back through Placa de Catalunya (because it was just so beautiful the first time) and took off on La Rambla. La Rambla is a long, tree-lined tourist shopping lane complete with creepy street performers, flower stalls, and (inexplicably) pets for sale. (?!?) While neither of us were altogether impressed, we enjoyed La Boqueria – the HUGE marketplace! I have never seen a marketplace like this in my life. Meats, cheeses, fish, veggies, fruits, nuits, seafood, spices, desserts, olives, a tapas bar, and a cafe or two made this market a must-see and real treat for foodies like us. We were sorry to go!

La Boqueria

The motherload

4. We walked down the marina waterfront again, but this time we darted off in a different direction: towards the Museu Picasso, a museum dedicated to the works and life of Spanish painter Pablo Picasso. The museum was HARD to find, and we retraced and redoubled our path more than once, but eventually we made it. The museum really showcased the evolution of Picasso’s life and corresponding paintings, and we really enjoyed getting the chance to see it. Plus, on the way there we got to split chocolates from a little chocolate shop nearby a little alley! They looked like buttons! Cute!

5. Unsure of what to do next, we slowed down and let the city take us wherever it wanted us to go. Journeying back over to La Rambla, we enjoyed – no, loved – no, devoured – an enormous hot pan full of absolutely AWESOME paella: rice in a creamy sauce, vegetables, whole shellfish, squid, crab, mollusks, the whole works. Paella is a Spanish food tradition and I was delighted to find it!

6. After dinner, we wandered back down La Rambla and headed down the Barceloneta boardwalk towards the beach. Picking up a couple of gelato cones, we licked our cones and meandered down towards the water. A funny pair we made: ice cream cones and the beach in woolen hats and 38 degree weather! I found a little rock and splashed and played on the sand, nearly getting surprised by a wave in the process!

7. Afterwards, we walked down the whole area, past the occasional rollerblader or sandcastle, and caught a few distant glimpses of glittering Barcelona nightlife. At the end of the night, we caught a final metro subway train back to our hostel for a quick, cozy night’s sleep. That was the end of our Barcelona adventure.

Hopefully these words and photos give some insight into the beauty, fun, tastes, sights, sounds, and experiences of our time in Spain. It was a trip to die for and a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Plus, we brought back some extraordinary pictures, memories, and a souvenir or two, so we’ll always be able to reflect on what an awesome treasure Barcelona was.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: