Last weekend, two of my friends and I went to Barcelona, which now qualifies as one of my favorite cities in Spain, despite the Universe trying to persuade me otherwise.
It all started on Thursday night. We had decided that the cheapest and most efficient way to get to Barcelona was to take the Thursday night train there (an 11-hour journey) and fly back on Sunday night. We were all a little nervous about this because we hadn’t booked beds, so it was not going to be easy to sleep, but we were prepared with our neck pillows, sleeping pills, and a good book. The problem was that when we arrived at the station, we soon discovered that there was a nation-wide strike that affected the trains, so ours was canceled. Our only option, after much debate, was to take the next one at noon the next day, losing an entire day of our trip. This was incredibly frustrating, but we were optimistic when we realized that we could change our tickets to those of the AVE, the speed train, and arrive by 8 pm on Friday. We trudged home and slept well in our beds before returning to the train station the following day.
The ride was actually quite nice. We had a chance to really see the Spanish countryside, learn more about each other, and catch up on Harry Potter- Spanish version. We arrived in Barcelona and took a taxi to our hostel, where we discovered problem number 2. It was closed for construction. We had put down a 15 euro deposit on the hostel and they hadn’t even notified us that they weren’t open! At this point, we began to get a little bit nervous, as we were three girls alone in a strange city at night without a place to stay. But we remained calm (something I never would have been able to do a year ago- thank you study abroad!) and found another hostel only a couple of blocks away that had an open room with three beds. Turns out, it was cheaper and more private than the one we had chosen originally, and we had our own bathroom. The owner was really nice, too. Maybe this was good luck after all. And then the fire alarm went off.
It wasn’t a big deal, the owner told us as we rushed out of the room. It’s only that people are smoking in their rooms. Great. We decided to get dinner somewhere close and inexpensive, so we wandered into a Turkish/Armenian restaurant and ordered something delicious. The waitress came over and gave us a plate of fries, and we were really excited because we hadn’t realized our food came with fries. (Little victories were necessary at this point.) After we ate a few, the waitress informed us that actually the fries belonged to the table next to us, so she took them and set them on the other table. An incredibly awkward situation avoided if they didn’t see us eat some. I’m pretty sure they saw us eat some. We finished our food and left quickly, almost knocking over their drinks on our way out.
We went to bed early in the hopes of waking up to a new day, a fresh start. After the strike, the closed hostel, the fire alarm, and the fries incident, we still were fairly positive about the experience. But then we woke up to a huge storm, with pouring rain and fierce winds. We decided to proceed with our plans. We went to Starbucks and bought tickets for the Hop On Hop Off bus for the Barcelona tour. It’s a cheap way to see the whole city without wasting time trying to get from place to place.We bought our tickets, I bought an umbrella, it broke after five minutes, and we got on the bus. It was a great idea, except that we could barely see anything because of the rain. It didn’t matter to us though- we had places we wanted to see and we were going to see them! A broken umbrella, an iPhone temporarily ruined by the rain, and boots that let all the water in weren’t going to stop us!
First stop was the Sagrada Familia. It’s absolutely incredible. The architecture completely astounded me, and that was only from looking at it from the outside. We decided to wait to go in until the next day, so we hopped back on the bus and continued to Parc Guell. I was absolutely in love with this as well. The architect of both the Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell is Antoni Gaudi and the way he plays with geometry is completely unique and marvelous.
We made a couple more stops before we arrived at the Plaza de Espana, my favorite part of the trip. I had never seen anything so breathtaking before in my life. There were levels of waterfalls leading up to a beautifully constructed museum, surrounded by red and orange and yellow trees. We arrived thirty minutes before dusk, so we had the opportunity to see it before, after, and during the sunset.IMG_3874
When you get to the top and look at the museum, you can turn around and see the best view of the city.
Our last day, we spent an hour and a half standing in line and visiting the Sagrada Familia. It was as amazing as everyone had promised. The inside was like a forest and it was the most interesting church I’ve ever seen!
There are other important details of the trip that I should mention, like the fact that we saw the Barcelona soccer stadium and that almost every meal we ate was bad, but somehow those details aren’t going to be remembered. What is important is that despite everything that could go wrong, we had an amazing time and saw some of the coolest architecture in Spain.
This trip also was kind of a representation of my study abroad experience. There are a lot of things that are different, strange, and uncomfortable about studying abroad. There are days that are really hard. But when you look back on it, it was an incredible experience that you wouldn’t do anything differently. Plus, without the challenges and hardships, the good things may never have happened.