Barcelona: Sun, Sand, & Sangria

You can breathe in the music this city makes, move by the rhythm the gypsies play. Deep inside, it comes alive. There is a whisper that feeds your soul. Words so beautiful like a spanish rose. ‘Til you’re hypnotized that’s when you’ve arrived.

Although there was no Angel and guitar on every street corner to sing to us and say: “Siganme y descubran mi Barcelona,” the elementary school me finally got to live out her Cheetah girl dream and experience Barcelona.

The entire 5 days that I was there, I had to keep pinching myself because no way could all this be real.

My first meeting with Barcelona was earlier this semester. A quick recap: I was so ill that I lost my voice, carrying around a backpack twice my size and half my weight, running around Plaza Catalunya looking for a bus to the airport since the metro was already closed. Then, it ended with an overnight stay in the Barcelona airport before our flight to Munich later that morning. However, I knew after tapas and the first view of Casa Battló that I had to make it back there for the proper Barcelona experience. One where I wasn’t dying.

The second time was spent in the back of a taxicab rushing to the Barcelona Sants bus station.

The other times I was in Barcelona was just to pass through. And every time I told myself that I would make it back there.

Barcelona is only a 3 hour drive from Toulouse, which is like the drive from San Diego to LA (including traffic) that I’ve gotten so used to doing. I would have regretted it forever if Barcelona never happened this semester. It’s literally right there, and I would have missed out on so much.

Wednesday was the last day of the semester, and Wednesday night was the Erasmus gala. After quite a long day and an even longer night, four of us left for Barcelona Thursday morning.

Let’s just say that 3/4s of us were hungover from the night before, and I wasn’t one of them. The car ride was fine for me, but I can’t say the same for the others. It was pretty rough for them. It didn’t help that there was a lot of traffic due to there being a bank holiday in France and everybody was going on holiday for the 4-day weekend. Though, we all definitely needed that siesta when we got to our hostel later in the afternoon. Then, the real fun could start.

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Our evening started with “the best tapas in town” and some sangria at Ciudad Condal. With some fuel in our systems, we then ventured over to the magic fountain and some views of the city lights.

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Friday – viernes 

After breakfast at our hostel, we started our day by visiting Park Güell.

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Barcelona – and Spain in general – is known for the sun, but this day was all about the rain. It was a shame to have to carry an umbrella as we were walking around Park Güell, but at the end of the day, I didn’t mind because it was Park Güell. One of the iconic spots in Barcelona- with the mosaic seats and mosaic dragon.

Our next stop was La Sagrada Familia, another Gaudí masterpiece – that still has yet to be completed. The completion date is looking to be around 2018 now. Will they ever finish it?

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To say that Antonio Gaudí is a genius is an understatement. He and all his artwork were way before his time. The outside of this basilica is amazing, but the inside is another world. And he drew up everything about it. I honestly did not know what to expect walking into the place. It is just breathtaking, and we were all speechless as we looked up to the rainbow of stained glass as the sun shined through. It was as if Gaudí himself wanted the skies to clear just so we could see that phenomenon. By the time we left, the rain clouds were rolling in again.

In fact, it was pouring as we got off the metro at the Plaza Catalunya stop. It didn’t help that we took the metro exit that we weren’t familiar with, so we walked around the entire plaza before we got our bearings. The whole wanting to avoid the rain puddles like at Park Güell – because I was wearing canvas shoes – yeah, that went out the window because it was impossible to stay dry. I wish I had pictures, but taking out my phone was the last thing on my mind.

After drying off and taking another little nap, we were off again to have dinner with Vanessa who was arriving from Toulouse. We wanted to go to this tapas restaurant, but it was an hour and a half long wait and it was already 9 or 10 in the evening.

Desperate for food, we walked around the area and asked friendly locals for recommendations nearby and eventually found a cheap place. It was quite funny though because every person we asked recommended the restaurant with the hour and half wait – we felt obliged to check that place out and ended up going there the next night!

Saturday – sábado

On our second full day together, we hit up the Gothic Quarter, La Boqueria, Las Ramblas, and the beach.

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In the Gothic Quarter, the Cathedral is the main sight to see besides all the nooks and crannies in the neighborhood itself. La Catedral de Barcelona is designed in the traditional Gothic-style, and as you can tell in the pictures, is nothing like Gaudí’s basilica. Still breathtaking and beautiful, but a different type if that makes sense.

After, we walked some of Las Ramblas to hit up La Boqueria, aka my favourite place in Barcelona because fresh fruits, smoothies, and FOOD.

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The market is full of color, food, and people. It makes sense because food is a universal language that every tourist and local speaks.

If you ever make it to Barcelona, of course there are all of Gaudí’s masterpieces to see, tapas restaurants to try, and beaches where you can swim and sunbathe. But you will be missing out if this marketplace doesn’t make it on your agenda. On my two trips there, I got seafood paella, a chorizo burrito – not like the ones you get at a Mexican place in San Diego, a mango-passion fruit and a mango-coconut smoothie, and a gorgeous fruit cup of pineapple, cantaloupe, coconut, and cactus flower. Needless to say, I died and went to heaven.

After, we went to the beach and it wasn’t even an hour before we started to hear thunder and see lightning. So, that had to end early. Our poor Canadian Amanda missed out on the Barcelona beach sunshine because she would be leaving the next day.

For our last night all together, we checked out Catalana – which was an hour wait, but worth it.

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In food comas, we walked over to Las Ramblas again to see it at night. Little did we know what was waiting for us there.

The past week there were riots and protests in Barcelona against the mayor’s decision to kick out the homeless. Saturday was supposedly one of, if not the last, nights of the protests and we were right in the middle of the action.

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We were just watching a street performance when all of a sudden we heard chanting and saw the flashing lights of the police cars. Thankfully, it was a calmer one according to what Vanessa’s friend was telling her. Apparently, the protesters would take bats and destroy the poor vendors’ stands, knock over trashcans, and the police were even throwing teargas at the crowds. That wasn’t the case this night, but the protesters were still very loud and came in numbers.

It was an experience that was all too familiar for our Brazilian girls, but it was surreal for myself. I’ve never seen something like that before. I actually can believe that something like this happened while we were there because something always happens when I travel with these girls.

Sunday – domingo

Vanessa and Amanda were leaving back to Toulouse this morning, Stuart later in the evening, while Jess and I had one more day.

This day was dedicated to the beach because clear skies and sun were on the forecast.

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Jessica, Stuart and I spent four hours at Barceloneta and I have the tan-lines to prove it.

The beaches were packed with people, and it makes sense because it was such a beautiful day. We were all so content, and if I didn’t tan so easily I could have easily spent the entire day there. “Vamos a la Playa” was in my head the whole time. I’ve missed the beach – I think when I’m back home I’ll go more often.

We had to leave though because Stuart had his ride to catch and we needed to eat.

After a delicious burger at Bacoa and a goodbye to Stuart, Jessica and I checked into our other hostel and decided that we wanted to see a Flamenco show for our last night in Barcelona.

And then there were two.

Monday – lunes

Our last day in Barcelona :(

Jessica and I wanted to go where we weren’t able to over the weekend. We couldn’t fit in both Castel de Montjuic, Parc de la Ciutadella, and Tibidabo; however, we could fit in one, and the winner was Ciutadella.

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I read that this fountain was designed like the Trevi Fountain in Rome, or is Barcelona’s own version of it? I’m not sure, but it was gorgeous.

The entire park was gorgeous. It reminded me a lot of Balboa Park in San Diego: a nice, green refuge in the middle of all the hustle and bustle of a city.

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Our last hours in Barcelona were spent having lunch at La Boqueria and souvenir shopping on Las Ramblas.

Everyone who’s visited Barcelona has told me that it was their favourite city, and now I fully understand why. Barcelona had the big city feel, but also a sense of community where you don’t feel like you’re alone. Cities like New York and Paris don’t give off that same effect.

I am so happy I experienced Barcelona properly. After seeing Casa Battló that night in March, despite being sick, sleep-deprived, and wanting to die, I knew I had to come back. And I made it happened. I can’t help but feel so blessed.

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And I couldn’t have asked for a better group of friends to explore the city streets with. My true “Amigas Cheetahs.” ;)

What a way to kick off Summer 2014.

xx

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