My trip started bright and early on the morning of Friday, October 21. I was up at six to take the metro to the starting point for an hour-long shuttle that then took me to the way out of the way Beauvais (Ryanair, y’all) airport. By noon, I had landed in Barcelona and met up with my friend Nicole!
The first afternoon it was just the two of us while we waited on everyone else. (I’m just way above having class on Friday, what can I say….) After a delicious lunch at a cool, very modern-feeling burger place (mmmveggieburger) called Kiosko, we wandered down to the beach, through a park, and then around the Gothic Quarter, where our hotel was.
I would like to eat this again, right now.
Someday, I’ll stay at this hotel and laugh about my hostel days.
favorite european fountain thus far
Barcelona’s Arc de Triomphe: the Arc de Triomf. Yup, kid you not.
That night, our friend Amanda arrived! We all went out to dinner at this funky atmospheric restaurant. I split risotto and an awesome salad with Amanda, but I didn’t take a picture because these were the early days of the trip when I was young and foolish. It was great, but we were tired. Exhausted. Early night.
The next day involved lots of wandering and sight-seeing. The day started like all my days start in my dreams:
Doubling fisting Starbucks and a cup of fresh mango from this cute little market we wandered through. Well, I guess it’s not technically double fisting, because as you can see in this picture, yes, my hands are giant and my fingers are weirdly long and thus I am able to hold both cups in one hand. I fondly describe my fingers as “piano fingers”. Most of my friends fondly describe them as Salad Fingers. Okay, fine.
From there, we walked over to La Rambla, the famous pedestrian thoroughfare in Old Barcelona. We made a beeline straight for this place:
Here is where I died of happiness. This place is right up there with the Harrods Food Halls and the Kensington Whole Foods. It’s the largest open-air market in Spain, and it was absolutely incredible. It took a lot of a restraint not to buy…everything. I’m going to let the pictures do the talking, because honestly my mind sort of glazed over with happy memories when I started remembering this place.
Second double fisting of the day: Sangria and fresh fruit juice. Yes, it was noon. No, I’m not kidding.
If you can’t tell, I went pretty snap happy. My friend Nicole pointed out that even though there are lots of incredible markets in France, none of them come close to being anywhere near as colorful as this one. It was a feast for the eyes…and a feast in the traditional sense. We loved it so much that after we tore ourselves away to go meet our friend Heather, we came right back.
Once we left for good, the four of us walked all the way down La Rambla towards the water. It was an absolutely beautiful day, and we had so much fun wandering around. And goofing around.
We walked around looking at the boats for a bit before we all decided we needed a break and sat down on the edge of a dock. We probably spent an hour or so just sitting there, looking at the boats, chatting, and trying to come to terms with the amazing fact that somehow the four of us had managed to reunite…in Spain. We were in Spain? We couldn’t get over it.
Butttt we were still in the mood to do some more sitting around and gabbing after that, so we just changed locations. We wanted to go to the beach anyway, so walked up to one of the many restaurants located right in the sand and enjoyed some drinks and hummus. It was heaven…so relaxing, so beautiful, so nice to be with these amazing friends I hadn’t seen in way too long.
I’m just now realizing how done-in we apparently were on this particular afternoon (I’m pretty sure we were all coming right off of a week of midterms), because after our little aperitif, we went back to the hostel for a power nap. I’m not usually much of a napper, but I was OUT. I woke up feeling fresh and ready to enjoy the most amazing dinner EVER…
At this brightly colored little gem of a place. It’s called Juicy Jones and it was VEGAN…apparently I’m making this whole vegan restaurant thing a little bit of a theme when I’m traveling. I didn’t take pictures, but we shared the yummiest tofu and peanut sauce appetizer, and then for dinner I ate a delightfully fresh salad, some sort of pasta bake, and apple crisp. It was quite the spread, and I was in heaven.
Happy faces! (Except I don’t think Nicole was nuts about the place. I wish I had a euro for every time she asked “what do they have if they don’t have meat or cheese?” The girl’s lactose intolerant and probably eats more cheese in a day than I do in a week. Respect.)
Our night also included an awesome bar that’s housed in the horror wing of the wax museum. It was like a different world in there. For any Chattanoogans reading, imagine the Yellow Deli, but creepy (in a horror way, not a cult way). My pictures all came out blurry, but I’ll share anyway.
It was awesome. We closed down the bar. Which is less impressive than it sounds considering the relatively early closing time. But the atmosphere was so fun here and we had the best time chatting while we sipped on giant goblets of sangria. And then the funniest thing of my life happened on my way out…but I fear the story would be lost in translation. Or it’s maybe one of those things only the four of us think is funny. Then why mention it, you ask? Because someday when I’m eighty and I re-read this blog post, I want to remember that. That’s why. I took a video of Amanda telling the story (she tells it best) so that senile me really can’t forget anything.
Sunday started with a run that was supposed to be a casual four or five mile leisurely jog by the beach. But, me being me, I got lost. After a truly hilarious series of events that included me being directed to the starting line for a race occurring that morning and endless sprinting through small Barcelona side streets, I finally made it back to the hotel, nine or ten miles later, exhausted, dehydrated (I brought no water, oops), and just in time to take the world’s fastest shower, gulp down some cereal, and make it the the hostel lobby in time to join in on the free Gaudi walking tour the hostel was offering.
I’m SO glad I miraculously found my way back in time, because the tour was great. Our guide was hilarious and managed to teach us everything about…everything, from Gaudi to what paella should look like to what she’s naming her new puppy to tales of her ex-boyfriend drama. Honestly, I didn’t know that a guided tour would be my thing, but I’m really glad we did this. I think running around the city just to see the Gaudi stuff and then, you know, snap a few pictures and leave wouldn’t have felt nearly as cool. In fact, I might have downright disliked it. But doing it this way was great!
We finished the tour at the impressive Sagrada Familia (above), which sounds like it will be finished…never. I mean maybe my great-great-great grandchildren will take a field trip on their school rocketbus to go see the finished product, but even that seems ambitious. Still, even unfinished, the cathedral was beautiful and impressive and utterly unique. However, when my mind wanders back to this part of the tour, two things come to mind…
Look at that smug chihuahua in his doggles, just chilling outside of Sagrada Familia…he’s cooler than all of us, and he knows it.
Okay, so you probably can’t see the actual baby, but you might be able to make out the nativity scene over the main door. Well. Well. There’s a baby in that nativity scene, obviously. I guess Gaudi was having trouble making a realistic baby on his own, so his totally normal solution? He stole a dead baby from the hospital.
I’m still disturbed. I don’t like to think about it. I probably shouldn’t have told you that. I’m just trying to get this image out of my mind by sharing it with the world wide web.
Anyway. Moving on. By the time the tour was done, we were starrrvvviinngg (me in particular after my unexpected long-distance sprint session this morning…oh goodness). We had a pact to hold out for Italian food until we got to Italy…but yeah, we rescinded on that one and went to the yummiest Italian place. Unfortunately, I have no pictures. I don’t know who I was in Barcelona. Just wait until I get to my Italy posts.
Once we finished lunch, we decided to see some Gaudi sights that weren’t included on the tour and took the metro to Park Guell. Lots of trekking up San Francisco-esque hills and one Chupa Chup later…
Side Story: I learned about Chupa Chups on my tour, too! Apparently the Chupa Chups creator have a patent on the concept of lollipops on a stick. Or did. So every time anyone, anywhere, puts candy on a stick, they have to pay up to Chupa Chups & Co. Insanity.
We ended up with all of Barcelona laid out in front of us, and y’all know I love my views. Probably has something to do with all my past lives as royalty, ruling over kingdoms, view from the top, you know…yeah.
To be totally honest, I love you, Barcelona, but compared to most of the European views I’ve seen, this one was sort of a yawn. God, I’m a spoiled brat. Ugh, can someone please replace this foul heap of concrete with a French Riviera scene? No, seriously, I’m being really unfair to poor Barcelona. The view was fine. Fine! Just…fine.
The real highlight of the park was my Chupa Chup.
Just kidding. The real highlight of the park was hiding in a cave when the rain came. Yup, that happened.
Just kidding. The real highlight of the park was me freaking out at the top of this weird little tower structure and climbing down on all fours. Yup, that also happened. It wasn’t my fault…no one was there to remind me that I hate heights. Heather was smarter…she got halfway up and declared that she “just didn’t want to go there.” I didn’t take a picture because I guess it’s not really a memory I’m all that keen to relive, but here’s the cross at the top of said structure. YEAH, IT LOOKS OMINOUS FOR A REASON, PEOPLE.
Okay, I’m done. (I know, thank God, right?) Here was the actual highlight of the park.
Just look at all that Gaudi gorgeousness!
Also, can someone tell me if this was featured on an episode of America’s Next Top Model? Because I swear it was. You’re not allowed to judge me because I’m not sure, so it’s only 99% embarrassing that I’m asking as opposed to 100% embarrassing.
Didn’t they use that as a runway or something? My sister will totally know.
Here’s my attempt at being America’s Next Top Model…
That’s me, totally pulling off the oh-so-chic drowned rat/wet hair/goofy smile look. Just hanging out in a little nook in the wall. Fierce. I’m doing something weird and hunchy with my shoulders, though, so I think that gets me extra points.
After our park trip, I enjoyed this beautiful snackfeast…
Churros and chocolate! That hot chocolate was amaaazzzing. Second only to Angelina. Ooh, and maybe that hot chocolate I had in Venice.
Flashback…you’ll always have my heart.
Dinner that night was at a place called Sandwich and Friends. There are several of them around Barcelona, and it seemed very…LA-ish, almost? (Los Angeles. Not Louisiana. Pfft, I wish.) One of the cool and unexpected things about Barcelona was that all of the restaurants were very trendy and modern feeling in different ways. It almost felt American, really. They all seemed designed with a particular “feel” in mind, and they all seemed like they were built (or at least redesigned) in the last decade or so. This is completely different from France, where 90% of the restaurants all have very similar but utterly charming and lovely French vibes. A Parisian cafe is fairly indistinguishable from any other Parisian cafe, in my humble opinion. I love that, because that means that all Parisian cafes feel equally wonderful and authentic, but there is a little part of me that misses the variety you find in American restaurants. In fact, even just generally speaking, Barcelona is far and away the most American-esque city I’ve visited thus far in Europe. It didn’t feel nearly as Spanish as I expected it to. (I probably sound really American saying that, but oh well…I mean, I am American, no point hiding it.) I think this would have disappointed me a little if I had crossed the Atlantic with the sole intention of visiting Barcelona, but for a brief weekend trip smack-dab in the middle of a very European semester, it was the perfect little Euro-flavored taste of home! I really loved it. The city is young and modern and funky and cool…I would go back and do it all over again. The one bad thing is that I learned they outlawed bull fighting in Barcelona…and if I go back to Spain, I’m seeing a bullfight.