First stop: Barcelona

Trip Start Jan 08, 2013
Trip End May 05, 2013

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Flag of Spain  , Catalonia,
Monday, March 4, 2013

When we first arrived in Spain, we walked off of the plane and hail was hitting us in the face. Happy spring break everyone. We got on one of the shuttles that would take us from Girona to Barcelona. We got to see a lot of the city on our way in, but just like every other place we have been, it just seemed huge and very overwhelming and not necessarily pretty. From there we got on the metro to take us to Casa Gracia which is where we would. Be staying. For some reason we got on the first train that came in, and quickly realized we were heading outside the city and were definitely going the wrong way. We got off and sat on a bench, really in the middle of no where, and practiced our Spanish until the correct train came and took us to our hostel. Italian and Spanish are so similar so being in Italian class has really made me forget Spanish.

The street where our hostel was, Passaig de gracias, was a very popular area. Parallel to La Rambla, it had many many many upscale shops and cool restaurants and tapas bars. The door was a intricate rought iron design, and the inside had marble floors and walks and really looks quite upscale. Our room was nice as well. We went to grab lunch and began walking down towards the port. The streets felt very similar to Paris, but with more character. There were small booths set up on the street selling handmade things or little local stores mixed in with all of the designer brands. The Barcelona flag was hanging on almost all of the balconies. I hate to admit this, but our first Spanish meal was a wonderful Thai place right off of our street. We say the sign Thai and then just couldn't resist. It's hard to find that in Florence. Then, Amy needed to get a jacket from Zara, so we asked a nice Spanish man with a Zara bag to point us in the right direction. He was happy to help and gave us specific directions in Spanish and English to make sure that we would be able to find it. This luckily brought us to one of the most famous and popular streets in Barcelona, La Rambla. This street was so wide that you could walk, have dinner, dance, or just sit in between the lanes of opposing traffic. Most restaurants had outdoor seating in this area, and there were palm trees that lined the streets. Every three or four blocks there was a large placa with traffic circles and monuments and parks and fountains. It gave the feel of a very clean, friendly, and fun city.

After a while of shopping and walking, we made it all the way down to the port. It was starting to get dark, but you could tell that the water was still so blue. Palm trees lined the dock, and there was three football fields worth of sail boats parked in the dock. We sat on a bench for a while just looking out and admiring the sea. We were starting to get hungry so we made our way back up in search of a good tapas restaurant. We found one with the outside seating and had a nice table next to a head lamp. The waiter was a nice and friendly Spanish man who was more than happy to give us suggestions of what to order. We ordered about 4 or 5 tapas for the four of us, and they were all so good! Spicy potatoes, squids, roasted peppers with goat cheese... And some others that I can't remember. I am a huge fan of tapas I would say. Then we went back to the hostel for a small siesta, a little late, but we decided we would meet up with our DZ friends from school, Marni and Steph. They told us to meet them at the apple store at Placa Catalunya at 12. The night life in Barcelona starts SO LATE. We though Florence was bad when we would go to a bar at 10:30. We went to a bar with some of their friends. The bar seemed very local and there were some American students but also a lot of spaniards. Of course, there was soccer on the tvs. Around 2 am (like I said, so late) we took a cab down to port Olympia where all of the beach clubs are. The taxi drivers only spoke Spanish, barely a word of English. Steph and her friend Ian talked with him a lot in Spanish and I did the same. Not as much though. When we finally got there we had to wait in line for a little bit, but then we had to say we were with "micheal jordan" and then they let us in. It was very different from Florence because you had to have your name on a list or know what name to say to get in. This place was pretty much straight from the movies. It had a huge dance floor, colored lights everywhere. A huge outdoor lounge that looked like it could have been taken right from a tropical resort, and then an exit directly to the beach of the Mediterranean Sea. We touched the water and walked the beach a little bit. We didn't get home until around 4:30, and that was pretty early compared to everyone else. What crazy people!

Day two we woke up to take a free walking tour through Casa Gracia that started right in the lobby. Our tour guides name was Pepe "pepper" and he took us all through town showing us a lot of the Gaudi architecture buildings. His architecture was so unique that only the pictures that I will attach can explain them. One building had accents on the top that resembled storm troopers from Star Wars. Pepe thinks that that is where Star Wars got the design from. We continued walking through a storefront area and into the more gothic part of the city. We saw some ancient roman ruins. The place where people were buried had holes in the top so that loved ones could feed the spirits with wine and food. That was really interesting amongst such a busy metropolitan city. We walked through a little art plaza were local artists came daily to display and sell their art. Right after that was a little food plaza with the best goat cheese that I have ever tasted. I contemplated just buying that for lunch. Once the tour brought us back to la Rambla, we ducked out of the tour and stopped in the market. This was very similar to the market in Florence except much much larger and much more touristy. We really loved the fruit juice that they sold for 1 euro. It was freshly squeezed juice of all different flavors. I got papaya and coconut and it was so delicious. Also they had quinoa! That was exciting. But really they had everything from fruits and veggies to chocolate and candies, to meats and fish.

After lunch we went to Park Guel that is known for all of the ceramics. We took the metro and walked a little bit through a very residential area that really had the Spanish feel to it. We walked up a big hill and finally reached the park. It was much bigger than I had expected. It was up on a hill and from certain points you could see the Mediterranean all the way out to the horizon. The paths winded up and around the whole hill with different attractions in each area. There was a stone tunnel where Americas Next Top Model had a fashion shoot one time, and a lot of decorated ceramic stairs benches, and pillars. We sat on a bench for about an hour just looking out at the sea and talking. Once the sun went down we thought it was probably time to head back down.

For dinner we went to a restaurant that our roommates recommended to us called La Fonda. It was right off of La Rambla and was known for having authentic paella and sangria. It came in one big huge pan for the four of us, but it was so delicious. It had ribs, chicken, shrimp, mussels, and squid (I think). For desert we ordered crema di Catalunya, which was just a much better version of creme brûlée. We eat a lot when were traveling because we have to try all of the local foods, but we never feel as full as we do after a dinner out at home because the food here is just much lighter and fresher.

Day three we woke up and headed towards the cathedral to see the traditional dance that is performed outside every Sunday morning. When we got there, mass was just getting out and everyone became to congregate in little circles. The orchestra that I presume was the same as they used during the mass came out and set up on the steps of the cathedral. All of a sudden the music started playing and all of the circles grabbed hands and began dancing perfectly in unison. The performance lasted about 10 minutes, and then they did it all over again! This was a very cultural experience and I am so glad that Amy's grandma told us it was a must see. We walked down la Rambla again to the water and walked along the port past all of the sailboats and boats. We turned down a street that led towards the ocean and tried all of the samples at the food festival. We got authentic Spanish churros that were nothing like the ones that we have at home. When you ask for chocolate flavored things in Europe they tend to think that you mean you want an entire cup filled with hot fudge like pudding stuff, so thats what we got to dip the churros in. Heavenly.

Final stop, La Segrada Famiglia. We walked through the park with the Arc de triumph on the way. This is where the general would work under upon returning from a successful battle at war to signify that they were the victors. A few blocks further and we came to the back side of La Segrada Familigia. This part looked nothing like the pictures. It look clean and new. The construction of the church began 200 years ago with Gaudi as the architect, but he died before the church could be completed. Since then, they have had a lot of trouble competing the church and different architects have tried their best to complete the task. When we walked around the the front, this is when we recognized the dark face that seemed to be melting away which is why the church is so famous. It's crazy to think that it has been under construction for over 200 years. For dinner we had sushi. I'm not proud of it, but boy was it delicious. We still had more time in other Spanish cities to enjoy the local cuisine.
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