First Trip Outside of Italy

Posted by Madeline on April 22, 2018 in Barcelona, studying abroad, travel

So unfortunately, the wishes of my last post did not fully come true, as last weekend I went to Barcelona and it rained almost the entire two days we visited! To note, of course on Sunday morning when we left, the weather forecast was sunny and 68… perfect timing!! Ah well, we still had a good time and made the most of it! Flying in on the lovely Ryanair, our already late-night flight was delayed an hour, so by the time we got to our airbnb it was almost 2am! My roommate, Jesse, and I went right to bed since we wanted to get up and rolling early the next day. Before our planned 9:30 visit to La Sagrada Familia, we stopped at a place called Granier Cafe to grab a little breakfast to go. They had a deal offering 3 muffins for 1.50 euro, and the muffins were called Magdalenas,so it was fate! They were light, moist and lemony, and we ended up getting them the rest of the mornings of our trip!
La Sagrada Familia was really cool to see outside and in. With construction still going on, the outside is slightly harder to appreciate with cranes and structures blocking the full cathedral though.

Inside felt more modern with the tree-like structures stretching to the ceiling and geometrical stained glass windows moving through the colors of the rainbow with each progressing window. We enjoyed reading the signs about Gaudi too, with his goals to make a bright, inviting church to encourage people to come worship. Jesse and I talked about our own feelings on religion, and how it can be hard to figure out what we believe.
Next on our itinerary was a visit to Park Guell at 1pm. Since it was only about 10:30, we decided to walk there, stopping at a viewpoint of the city along the way and then a supermarket for snacks. We arrived at the park well before 12 and sat on a bench to eat our crackers and cheese. With so much time to spare, we walked to stand under these arches of a cave built into the hill where a 4 man band was playing. Two played guitar, one played a mix of hand held instruments, while another drummed or danced. Their unique energy and style was fun to watch. Right around our time to line up for our time slot, it began to rain, then pour. That made me unashamedly pout, but thankfully the monument part had a covered area, and then the rain let up a bit when we went to see the mosaics.

On our way out, a wall of checkerboard mosaics framed the stairway down and I liked the individual mosaics and altogether as a pattern. It reminded me of quilts.

By the time we left, we were both veeery ready for lunch. We knew we wanted paella, so I googled and found a place near another spot we wanted to see. The restaurant, La Fonda, was right off a famous street called La Rambla, where there are many touristic shops, but it’s a beauriful, wide-set street with two lines of trees surrounding the central walking path.

The restaurant ended up looking much fancier than I’d imagined, but it wasn’t too badly priced for us to split a skillet of paella with clams, calamari, shrimp and pork. It was nice to get a small break from Italian food, even though I love it, don’t get me wrong! But I enjoyed having a different type of food. We sat next to an older couple that I don’t think said a single word to each other the whole meal. Once they left, Jesse and I both commented on how sad that was to see! We both agreed we never want to end up in a relationship like that. They looked miserable, we both hoped it was maybe because of a fight rather than how they are all the time, but I’m not convinced it wasn’t the latter. Next, we stopped at the market nearby along La Rombla. The covered space had many vendors, some selling fruit -whole and in cups to go, or smoothies, others with meats, fish, crepes, nuts, burritos..more than I can name! I got a cup of mixed fruit, while Jesse got one with just mangoes -I think I should have done the same because hers were so fresh and sweet, whereas my mix didn’t seem quite as good! Then we shared a kabob of strawberries drizzled in chocolate:)

Quite exhausted and wanting to get out of our damp clothes, we headed back to our airbnb. We climbed into bed and set our alarms for 1/2 an hour. When they went off, we shut them off and woke up about 2 hours later!! I felt so groggy for the rest of the night! Intelligently, before we fell asleep, we’d made reservations at Taverna Can Margarit, suggested by our airbnb host, for 9 pm. It was right in the neighborhood, (Poble Sec) only a 5 minute walk from our place. Jesse and I went along with a girl named Remyah. While waiting for your table, they offer you a glass of their house wines in barrels in the front room. Their wines seemed thicker and sweeter than the wines I’ve had in Italy. It was a cool idea to hang out and mingle with a glass of wine before dinner. The decor of the place reminded me of a cabin. Where we sat, there was a wood beamed overhang in a large yellow room with wooden, wicker-like chairs, and more wooden antiques hanging on the walls. Jesse and I shared a plate of rabbit stewed with onion and garlic.
The next morning, we hiked up tons of hills and stairs to reach Montjuic Castle, a military fortress with views of the sea. We didn’t really feel like paying to go in, and weren’t sure if it would be worth it, so we walked back down, heading to Granier Cafe once again. I ordered a coffee along with the Magdalena and another pastry I wanted to try for only 2.60 euro! We sat by the window, and while we sat, a little girl with a Mickey Mouse umbrella and her little rain boots on the wrong feet, walked by. We waved, and she waved back, then continued back past us along the window to wave at all the other people sitting behind us! Her mom smiled and rolled her eyes, turning the stroller around to go grab her! That made my morning:)
We got on the metro to go find some of Gaudi’s houses. We saw Casa Battlo and Mila, both with the unique wave-like style outer walls with round windows. Casa Battlo had more mosaics and bright colors, so I liked that one better. It started to rain again, so we chose to give up on site-seeing and shop. We didn’t find anything good, so we stopped and went for nachos and tacos for lunch. Then we felt we had to try the churros at a bakery, and they came as a stack of them to dip in a cup of something in between hot chocolate and pudding!
Jesse and I both love soccer, so we decided to head to a bar to watch the Barcelona vs. Valencia game. We guessed at a stop to get off from the metro, then googled ‘sports bars near me’. I randomly chose Dow Jones Bar. We sat down to watch the game since the bartender was watching as eagerly as the customers. At half time I ordered a June Bug and tap water, the first time I’ve had free water in Europe!! It was fun to watch the game at a relaxed bar, and comment on the game with Jesse. At the end of the game (Barcelona won 2-0 btw) Jesse’s friend, Maddie, who’s studying abroad in Barcelona met us there to show us around a bit before dinner. She showed us the gothic district we hadn’t been able to find earlier and the port area, then we went to a tapas bar: Pepa Tomate. We shared dishes of bread with a tomato and garlic juice sauce, mushrooms in a wine sauce, spinach fritters with honey aioli -my favorite, grilled lettuce hearts in lemon vinaigrette and wok vegetables on rice noodles. After dinner, Jesse informed us that her dad was paying for our meal, what a nice treat!
We decided we also wanted crepes for dessert, so we found somewhere nearby that had giant foot-long crepes:) We walked and ate, as Maddie showed us Plaza del Sol, where she said people just go to sit on the stones at night and drink beers.
For our last night, we decided to try out the famous night life of Barcelona. We went to a club called Boulevard -a multi floor club with many different rooms playing different types of music. We met three guys from Finland who we hung out with the rest of the night. They were pretty funny and one was a hilarious, but pretty decent dancer! Around 3, I was getting tired and wanted to leave. Some of my friends still wanted to stay out, but I convinced one to come back and then the other two followed! We ended up going to bed at 4 in the morning and waking up at 8:30 for our travel I felt out of it the whole day, and went to bed at 8 that night!!
Overall, it was a really fun trip, but one thing I realized is that I shouldn’t judge a place so much by pictures on social media. Before I went, my image of Barcelona was so different because all that was in my head was an unrealistic city full of mosaics and bright colors. It’s easy to forget that the little blurbs on social media are only tiny parts of places that don’t begin to make-up the overall picture and feel of the whole city. My expectations of Barcelona were a little too high, which made my adjustment to reality harder. I still had a great time, but I now know I need to be careful about how much I let social media influence my presumptions since you can’t base your expectations of an entire city off of a few pretty tourist attractions.