July 20, 2013
Molly and I stayed in an 8-person room in a hostel in Barcelona because we couldn’t afford much else that was in walking distance to the metro. I believe we stayed with 2 Australians, 2 Germans, and 2 Californians. The 2 girls from California were studying abroad in Madrid, and the 4 boys were backpacking around Europe. I’d been a little nervous about staying in a hostel, but everyone was nice enough, and it could’ve been much worse. The hostel was clean, modern, and just a few blocks away from the nearest metro station. I think I’d still prefer to stay in a hotel next time, but as far as hostels go I’d say this one was really good for being so cheap.
Molly and I woke up at a decent hour, went by Starbucks, and then took the metro for a short distance to the Sagrada Familia! My mother made me watch a 60 Minutes episode about the church before I left for Europe, and I’m so glad she did. It was the main thing that I wanted to see in Barcelona, and I didn’t care how long I had to wait. There is a way to buy tickets ahead of time online, but as you could imagine, we had been a bit more concerned in the previous days with simply getting into the city. We waited in line for about an hour and fifteen minutes, then purchased tickets that included an audio guide. Despite my fear of heights, I’d been hoping to go into the towers, but it was a 2-hour wait! I cannot talk enough about how beautiful this basilica is! The wait in line was worth it; the nightmare of a time getting to Barcelona was worth it! My favorite part of the church was the different colors of stained glass that threw a rainbow of colors onto the walls and floor. The columns branch out like trees near the top to resemble a forest, and it truly did have a relaxing atmosphere about it – like you were in nature and not one of the world’s largest cities. Molly and I walked around with our audio guides, took pictures, and sat and admired for over an hour (maybe closer to two). My pictures don’t do it justice at all; it was truly amazing!
After seeing the Sagrada Familia, Molly and I took the metro to the closest stop to Parc Güell (also designed by Antoni Gaudí). It was quite a hike up to the park, but once again it was totally worth it. It’s probably the most whimsical looking park I’ve ever seen. I wish I hadn’t been so hungry and tired so I could’ve appreciated it a little more. Molly and I had a late lunch of a peanut butter sandwich and peanut butter crackers on a park bench. From one point in the park, you can see the vast expanse of Barcelona below. After a while we made the hike back down to the metro and back to our hostel. We’d thought about going to Casa Batlló (another structure by Gaudí), but were pretty tired and weren’t interested in paying the fee to go inside.
Instead we decided to take a leisurely stroll through the shopping district on La Rambla. We shopped at the local Zara, explored side streets, got gelato, and stumble upon the St. Joseph food market. We’d seen an indoor food market in Avignon, France, but this one was a bit bigger and was full of fresh fruit, spices, and seafood! I was especially happy to see all of the fresh fruit, a part of my diet that always needs improvement when I’m in Wilmington.
After shopping for a bit we took the metro to the beach. It’s probably been my favorite beach we’ve visited so far, simply because it had actual sand instead of small pebbles! The one thing that was rather unattractive about the beach was that there were small bits of trash washed up along the shore. I really wanted to help clean up the beach, but my hands were full and I didn’t even know if there was a trashcan nearby. I think I’ve been taking the beautiful beaches of North Carolina for granted all these years. I never realized how good we had it – sand, nice waves, little pollution.
We had dinner at a restaurant not far from the beach. They were having a nachos special (which I’ve been craving for quite awhile), but when push came to shove I decided to get the vegetarian paella instead. I can have all the nachos I want in a week’s time, but I don’t know many places back home that serve authentic paella. Dinner was delicious! I’ll have to look up some vegetarian paella recipes when I get back.
Even though we only had a day and a half in Barcelona, I think it’s been my favorite weekend trip! I definitely want to come back again someday to see all the things that I didn’t get to this time around. I’ve been thinking about it from time to time while in Marseille, but I think I’d like to try and get better at Spanish. Although I’m very out of practice, it comes back easy enough, and I wish I knew more vocabulary and grammar to better communicate with others. I liked Barcelona though because I was able to understand more of what other people were saying, but if I didn’t almost everyone we met spoke English too. My main concern with the language now is that I’m going to confuse Spanish and French on my French final this week. Hopefully with a bit of studying, everything will be ok.
Barcelona is one of the most amazingly beautiful and fun cities I've ever seen! If you ever have the chance to go to, you definitely should!