This week I had a final on Monday morning, a 15 page paper due on Tuesday afternoon along with a presentation, an 8 page paper due Wednesday morning, an 8 page paper and presentation at noon on Wednesday, and an oral presentation in Italian on Wednesday evening. Needless to say, it was a very stressful week and I only got two hours of sleep on Wednesday night trying to finish my work! Study abroad is not always fun and games – sometimes you need to study
Thursday May 11
Our last trip! It is bittersweet…but mostly bitter. With the semester winding down we wanted to end with a bang and spend it in Barcelona. With a rough three days of exams, papers, projects, and presentations I deserved a break before taking finals.
Thankfully we booked this Ryanair flight a while ago so it was soooo cheap and Jordan and I flew into Girona on Thursday afternoon and met Nathalie who was already there staying with a family friend. Jordan and I stayed at a hostel just this night since Molly couldn’t come until Friday morning.
We woke up early, packed, printed tickets at LdM and got money out of the ATM before catching a bus to Pisa. The night before was the first time all semester that we went to one of the biggest clubs in Florence called Space but we were feeling great. The flight was short and then we took a bus into Barcelona.
It was raining cats and dogs on the bus in, but as soon as we pulled up to the station in Barcelona it cleared up and there was clear skies! This was the first sign that it would be a great weekend. The sun was out, it was warm, and the station was next to this park where there were a bunch of dogs running around and strange green parrots.
Neither of us had working phones and didn’t have a map of Barcelona downloaded so it actually took some time and patience to navigate to our hostel that was only a few blocks away from the station. We were out of the old town so all of the blocks were these big octagons (like Milan) and it takes awhile to walk to the crosswalks and see the street signs because they didn’t have corners.
After walking past the hostel twice, we made it and 360 hostel was really nice. The people there were so chill and super friendly. Lots of young people were sitting around the main lobby area and invited us to join in on the activities that night. We dropped our stuff off quickly and told Nathalie we were coming to her.
Nathalie had only booked this trip the week before because she was unsure whether or not she could leave work in Germany. It worked but she was staying with one of her mom’s friends on a glitzy street called carrer pau claris. After we met her we quickly found a tapas place because none of us had eaten and it was around 5pm.
The tapas place was pretty touristic because it was off of this nice street and it had pictures on the menu of the paella and all the tapas. They even offered us all of the menus in different Asian languages even though we asked for the table in English? Nonetheless the food was delicious and we shared a pitcher of sangria. We had a little room left and walked a couple streets to find filled churros and they were soooo yummy. We were being indecisive and the guy working there was funny and just picked which ones we should get. I got a cream filled one, Nathalie got chocolate and Jordan got dolce de leche.
The three of us walked around awhile and sat near the arc de triomphe and people watched. It was 9pm and the sun was still out and it was warm. I really liked the big boulevards over in this neighborhood and they had cool benches and parks along the streets. I already loved Barcelona and we had just gotten there!
When we all went back to the hostel, all of the tables were pushed to the middle of the room and it seemed like the whole hostel was playing cards while drinking sangria. So, we went to our room to change and met some of our roommates. One was from Chile, one from Montreal and one from North Carolina. No one else was sitting in the room while we were there but I think it was a ten bedroom. We were so tired but rallied and joined in on the fun in the lobby.
The sangria was in a huge pot and it was pretty good. They were playing kings cup and there were so many people so it was hard to hear what was going on. The girls next to me were from Galway and were really nice. There was a girl from Arizona that we also hung out with all night. After awhile, the people working at the hostel who were also playing games told everyone to grab their stuff because we were going to a bar called the Mint.
We left all of our things except €10 in our bras because Barcelona is notorious for pickpocketing and our phones didn’t even have service. We walked a long time through some hip neighborhoods in the gothic quarter and made it to this bar. It was so cool! We went to the basement and took up a table. The rule for this bar was not to get more than 2 mojitos because they were so strong. We got a discount on the mojitos because we were with the hostel and they were extremely strong. Surprisingly some of the Irish girls had to leave because they got sick – I thought the Irish were supposed to be good drinkers?
The funniest part was that one girl had a huge crush on this British guy, Ben, who worked at the hostel and he wasn’t having it. She tried kissing him and was all over him the whole time and he was running away and using us as a shield. She eventually had to go home too. After sharing a mojito and a couple free ones from Ben because he gets them free we were having a great time and the now smaller group made our way to the club – Opium.
Now this club was on the beach and it was cool but I had no idea that it was the craziest and most popular club in Barcelona! It really wasn’t that wild and when we told people the next day that they went there they told us all about it. Opium was really cool, we met some Germans from Cologne and there was a lot of dancing and it was right on the beach. We thought about getting drinks, but a mojito here cost 16 euro! After the power went out for a few minutes we realized how late it was and went to sit on the beach before walking home.
On the walk home I didn’t feel unsafe despite the many warnings about how dangerous Barcelona can be. Same thing with the club – I think people only get pick pocketed there because they get too drunk. Anyways, we walked home and it was really quiet and we walked next to a zoo and heard animal noises – that was the scariest part.
We made it back to the hostel and it was very quiet and dark and we were the last people in our room to get back – also the first ones awake the next morning even though my alarms didn’t work so we slept in!
Friday May 12
Mollys flight left Pisa around 6am and she walked to our hostel to leave her stuff for the day. Nathalie also met at our hostel and they were both there while we were still getting ready to check out. I was sad to leave the hostel though! The people were so fun and we wouldn’t have gone out and had such a good time if they didn’t lead us through it with a group.
We met up with Maureen and Noa who also happened to be in Barcelona that weekend and went to a place called Brunch and Cake. This place is so Instagram famous and everyone always goes here so it was busy. Luckily Maureen and Noa got there first and did all the waiting for us!
We were seated at a table and looking at the menu I couldn’t decide what to get. I would have loved everything on the menu but I got a quinoa burger and a beetroot latte. Everything was so delicious and the portions were huge. We were stuffed. I was also really surprised by the prices: this restaurant is world famous, extremely healthy, and had huge portions… I don’t know how it was so inexpensive!
After an amazing lunch, we all went on a walking tour with our favorite Sandemann tours. On the way to the meeting point we walked through the gothic quarter again and there were so many good shops I wanted to go back to but would never be able to find again.
Our guides name was Yiannis and he was Greek but had been living in Barcelona for many years. He was really funny and a great guide because he teaches preschool during the year and is a history buff. We walked all over the gothic quarter and learned about the whole city. One of the most important things we learned about was about the Spanish vs Catalan history, something most people are unaware of when they visit Barcelona and are confused when people don’t speak Spanish. We had a great time on the tour and he even emailed us a sheet of more personal recommendations.
After the tour we were starting to feel tired but wanted to go up to Park Guell and Bunkers and I didn’t realize how far away they were! We took the bus to the park which took around 40 minutes and we got off at the wrong stop so it took awhile to get there. The park itself was really nice and unique because it was designed by Gaudi. The more iconic park benches were so busy and it cost €8 so we decided it wasn’t worth doing now but would come back in the morning on Yiannis’s recommendation when it would be free and less crowded.
We really should have gone up to see the view from bunkers because everyone said it was their favorite thing to do in Barcelona… but we were so tired and had walked up to the top of the park and it had a very similar view. We skipped it and went back to grab our things from the hostel so we could check into the air bnb. It was nice to say bye to everyone at the hostel since we didn’t see all in the morning. I also loved the area around it – but we walked to the air bnb and it was in such a cool area too! It was near La Rambla on a pedestrian street with cool bars and restaurants. The host was a quirky guy who didn’t speak English but we got what he was saying. Our room had a balcony and we settled in and relaxed for an hour before dinner.
We didn’t actually eat dinner until around 11 and decided to just go walk around and find something – all of the food here is so amazing so you can’t miss. A block away from our place there was a burger place that was packed. I put my name in and it was funny because at first I said “Anna” the American way and he was so confused and eventually I switched to Ana and he was like “ooooh Ana… Espanol!” We waited for ten minutes and had an amazing meal yet again. Fresh mojitos, sweet potato fries, and unique burgers. Mine was a French burger with Brie, caramelized onions and tomato jam on it and I think I have finally decided that it was my favorite burger I’ve ever had.
After eating we decided to meet up with Noa and Maureen at a bar that this group of guys on our tour told us about. The concept was really cool. It was called Dow Jones and there were screens everywhere with drink prices that went up and down. Even though we were all tired we walked over and stayed for about 5 minutes. It had a weird feel and there were only Americans there. We decided to go home and sleep so we could wake up for Park Guell in the morning!
Saturday April 13
After three hours of sleep we woke up at 6am and ran to catch a bus. We missed it but there was another one ten minutes after. Unfortunately there were no shops open and we desperately needed food and coffee. We also made the same mistake and went to long on the bus and had to go the long way around. It was really worth it though because we got in free and there were no people there.
When we were taking pictures a girl who was traveling alone walked up and asked for some pictures and we got to talking and she goes to LdM in Florence! She was super nice and we hung out with her at the park. The park itself was really unique and I’m glad we went back to it. We parted ways with Lisa and got some coffee and made plans to go to a brunch place that Lisa told us about called Firebug.
Surprise surprise Lisa was coming here to eat too! We had her sit with us and had some yummy food. I ate an Asian salad with shredded vegetables and chicken and it was so refreshing. Also I had some of the best fresh squeezed orange juice ever. It was still early and we had gotten so much done and were soooo tired. We sat at the restaurant awhile to rest and opted to go back to the airbnb to make a game plan for the day and rest.
Later that day we met up with Nathalie who had wanted to sleep in. We did some shopping and I got a pair of swim suit bottoms with watermelon all over them that I had been obsessed with all weekend. We had a funny experience at the pharmacy because Jordan’s stomach had been bother her and the pharmacist looked like he was about our age and he was wearing jean shorts under his lab coat.
We walked over to see two of the Gaudi houses and had planned to go in but wow they were so expensive to do! Even with a student discount they were around €20 each. We admired them from the outside :).
Earlier in the day we had to buy tickets to the Sagrada Familia for a specific time and now we were early because we didn’t do the Gaudi stuff. We had more time to walk around an explore this way so I wasn’t mad. The Gaudi houses were on this huge fancy shopping street that reminded me of the Champs-Elysees so it was nice for walking but not for shopping.
We arrived at the Sagrada Familia finally and it was absolutely huge! There was a mob of Asian tourists that we had to fight to get in. The inside (and the outside for that matter) was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Even if it was unfinished, it was remarkable. I loved how there was a whole rainbow of stain glass windows and the sun was shining in at the perfect moment, so each angle of the room had a different color cast on it. We sat on a bench in here for probably an hour admiring it and trying to figure out what to do for dinner.
There is a restaurant called “Beach House” that is really popular, so we hopped on the underground subway and were there in about 30 minutes. What is funny is a lot of people warned us not to take the subway here because it wasn’t safe or it was sketchy – and we found that it was like any other subway system. The restaurant wasn’t busy yet because we were eating pretty early, so we got a table and a pitcher of sangria right away. Their entire menu sounded so delicious, but I felt like I was being punked throughout dinner: I had such a hard time deciding what to eat and the waiter convinced me to get thing X… ten minutes later coming out to tell me they were sold out of it. Next he told me to get thing Y because that was his other favorite thing…another ten minutes passed and he came out to tell me that thing Y was sold out as well! Finally, I landed on ordering an Asian quinoa salad, the same as a few other people at the table. Everyone’s food comes out… except mine! They had completely forgotten and we had to track down the waiter. The food ended up being really good, but the whole thing felt like prank – I feel like if I were on punk’d, it would be a similar situation messing with my beloved food!
After a yummy dinner, we walked all the way down the beach and sat in a park watching the water. Once the sun went all the way down, it was windy and cold so we found shelter at the Mint bar and got another round of mojitos.
We were really tired and decided we would have a better night spent at home instead of forcing ourselves to go out to the clubs again. So that’s what we did! We bought some treats at a convenience store and went back to our Airbnb for the night.
Sunday April 14
We made plans to get brunch in the morning before heading to the train station, but when the time came the next morning, the alarm clock was turned off immediately and we went right back to sleep. Instead, we went to a breakfast place down the street called “Kale” and got some juices and pastries before packing our things up and walking to the train station.
There was a high stress situation at the station: while Jordan and I bought the tickets to the airport in advance, Molly thought it was ok to get them at the station. The bus was leaving in 10 minutes and there was a huuuuuuge line to get them! A few minutes before the bus was scheduled to leave, we had to abandon Molly and get on the bus. A few minutes later, Molly comes running down! She had some special assistance and someone told the bus driver to hold it for her. Luckily things worked out fine, but that goes to show that you always have to be over prepared because you can’t anticipate everything.
At the airport, we ate McDonalds… not proud of it. We got home to Florence at a reasonable time, landing around 4pm and that left just enough time that night to study for finals! I had a presentation and practical to prepare in the morning.
I absolutely LOVED Barcelona. It is such a diverse city with so many things to do. We didn’t even scratch the surface so I hope to come back sometime soon… for longer than a weekend hopefully. A weekend spent in Barcelona was definitely worth the extra stress cramming for finals.