So my sister Jaclyn and I were sitting outside eating a phenomenal lunch at a place called Restaurant Litoral on Barceloneta Beach in Barcelona this past weekend, having an amazing afternoon just fully taking in the beauty of the day. We thought, and have been saying that, besides Rome (because we absolutely love Rome), that Dublin was our favorite city we’ve traveled to so far. “So far,” is definitely the key word in that statement, because we hadn’t yet been to Barcelona.
A few weeks back I was sitting with a group of Temple Rome students in the architecture studio studying a map of Europe and searching possible places to travel to for a weekend away. The flight to Barcelona through Ryanair was so cheap that I had to book it, and in the process of doing so I convinced four friends to come along with Jaclyn and myself.
We arrived late Thursday night and ended up staying with a Temple student that our friends knew who is studying abroad for a semester in Barcelona. The following day we were all up and ready to go in the early morning, and we took our time walking down La Ramblas (one of the main streets in Barcelona lined with restaurants, shopping, entertainment and tons of people) and exploring the giant market packed with stands of fresh meats and fruits and vegetables and all types of different foods. We spent time hanging out and enjoying the sun at Port Vell, then getting lost on all the wonderful streets of the Gothic Quarter. We stopped for a traditional Spanish lunch, did a bit of shopping, and really just let the day unfold itself.
For dinner we ate at a really great restaurant that gave detailed explanations of their food and where all the ingredients in each dish came from in their menu, and we spent the evening at this bar called Dow Jones. The place functions like the stock market, so once you purchase a beer the price will typically go up for the person who purchases that same beer after you. How do you choose your beer? There are screens all over the bar that have the current prices of each drink, and they are continuously changing. When there are enough people constantly buying drinks, eventually the “market” crashes, and then a loud siren sounds and everyone makes a mad dash to the bar where the drinks, for five minutes, are insanely cheap. This was the most interesting concept, and definitely up there on my list of favorite bars.
Jaclyn and I booked a hostel just off of La Ramblas the day before so that we weren’t all cramped into our friends apartment for the entire weekend. We were with good friends, our hostel was surprisingly nice and in the best location, and we were really enjoying ourselves in Barcelona. Unfortunately, we had booked our flight home for 6 a.m. Sunday morning because it was the best price, so when we finished getting ready Saturday morning at our hostel, we hit the ground running and tried to see as much as we possibly could in one day. We started the morning off by walking Antoni Gaudí’s Park Güell and fully enjoying this famous and incredible park. We headed next to the Segrada Familia, and though this church is overly amazing, we were disappointed by the amount of construction that was taking place because it really obstructed our view of just the church.
I guess we weren’t the only ones who decided to take a little trip from Rome this past weekend, because the Pope was in Barcelona at the Segrada Familia as well. Because he was there blessing the church, we were unable to go inside, so we hung around outside and admired the inside of the church from the big Teletrons outside that were set up for the Pope.
We worked our way down to the Arc de Triomphe and spent some time at the Cascade fountain in Parc de la Ciutadella and then passed the zoo. We were overly excited to finally get to the beach, and we couldn’t have asked for a better day. Our entire time in Barcelona was warm and sunny, which was a nice change from the cold in Dublin, London and Paris where we just were on our fall break. Walking the beach was by far my favorite part of our time in Barcelona.
The beaches were just stunning and the atmosphere was so enjoyable. Our last stop for the day were the Gaudi houses, La Pedrera and Casa Battlo. We spent a ton of time walking through the apartment and hanging out on the roof of La Padrera, and we made it up to the roof just as the sun was going down so we were lucky to get such an incredible view of Barcelona at sundown. We met back up with everyone we came with for dinner at this very popular tapas restaurant and we talked about the experiences we’d had all day and shared pictures of the things we saw.
Because our flight was at 6 a.m. the next morning, everyone decided to get some sleep for the night, including my sister. My mentality is that I may never get the chance to go back to the cities we’re visiting, and so I like to take advantage of my time in each place as much as I possibly can. I wasn’t ready to sleep, and there was more of Barcelona that I still wanted to see. I sat at the port for some time, admiring all the boats at night, and then I made my way down to the beach to enjoy the sky, clear and lit by millions of stars. As I was walking back towards town a young guy stopped me and began asking for directions in Italian. With my limited Italian I was able to give him directions and it turns out he and his friends are actually all from Rome. Ended up that we were headed in the same direction, too, so we all walked together and checked out the club, Shoko, which was a total blast.
As I was walking back from the evening with my new Italian friends I thought about the conversation that Jaclyn and I had earlier that day. We were talking about how our study abroad experience (and any experience, really) should have its peaks and valleys, or if you will, its ups and downs. We decided that if we were to chart the last two months on a graph (the scale being the level of amazement and wonder we’ve stumbled upon), that it would be a line with a constant slope up. I think maybe I was under the impression that after a period of time the novelty of traveling would sort of just wear away, but in all honesty this semester abroad gets better every day.
Each time we go on a site visit for class we seem to say, “This is the greatest thing I’ve seen so far,” and it goes the same for our weekends in Rome and our weekends of travel. So while Barcelona is now my favorite place that I have been to, given our track record I am going to have to make sure I say it is my favorite place that I have been to… so far.