Easy, Breezy, Beautiful

Trip Start Aug 19, 2013
Trip End Dec 13, 2013

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Flag of Spain  , Catalonia,
Monday, August 26, 2013

Immediately upon landing in Barcelona I felt like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders. There was an aura about the city that seemed slow-paced and laid back. Compared to Paris, where we felt as though everyone was in a hurry running everywhere, the change was welcome. People in Paris were uptight and snobby, but those in Barcelona were welcoming and friendly. Neither one is wrong, but they are very different. It is also the least prepared I've ever been on a vacation. We arrived at the airport not knowing how we were going to get to our hostel. We had no specific must-sees. My mantra this whole time has been "go with the flow". Needless to say, this "plan" fits in with the culture seamlessly.
Day 4 (of pre-travel): Got up at the crack of dawn and trekked across Paris to the airport. Once we finally made it to the airport and got all settled in the airplane, I was immediately passed out with exhaustion. We arrived at the hostel by taking a bus from the airport to the center of town, then walking the rest of the way! One of the girls' luggage wheels were falling apart so it needed to be carried the rest of the way. The friendly staff at the hostel showed us to our room and around the place. It is clean!!! Hostels, if you don't know what they are, they are a cheaper version of a hotel. It's a social environment. We have 4 bunk-beds in our room, so the 6 girls plus two other roommates. We've had some weirdos so I like to keep my stuff locked up and put away, even though it's a hassle. Often there are backpackers who are travelling all around Europe on a budget. People come here alone and end up meeting people so it can get loud around, even at night. I feel like I'm living in a dorm room, or a camp. After we got all settled in at the hostel we went out for a dinner a nearby restaurant named Scorpio. A guy from the hostel came in a little after us so we allowed him to sit down and eat with us. I was feeling adventurous so I ordered veal and a gin-tonic. To be honest, I didn't know what to expect from Spanish food. I was thinking more Mexican, but it really isn't like that. Even after spending 4 days here I don't know what to characterize it as. I think it's a mix of many things--like Minnesota. After we finished eating with Tyson, the man from the hostel, who is also in the Marine Corps, we all walked to the beach together. We walked through a beautiful park and saw amazing structures. Turns out they have an Arc just like the one in Paris--with a Spanish flair! The beach was beautiful!!! :) The water was beautifully blue and quite warm. My favorite part was that there were no crowds. What a night!

Day 5: Today we went on the walking tour through the city. We used the same tour group (New Europe) as in Paris and are quite impressed. I would recommend to use them if you go to Europe any time soon :) They don't charge anything so try to impress you quite a bit so you tip them well! The man who showed us around is British so the accent in itself was entertaining. We walked around and saw a lot of beautiful architecture and history. The thing I remember the most is his interpretation of Barcelona as a city of reinvention. Anytime something in the city was damaged from this or that, the Spanish had gone in and made something better from it. It's a lesson of transformation that tugs on any heart. Make something better from the ruins. For example, the Jews were persecuted and cornered into a section of the city (like they were in all of Europe back then) yet they ended up using the gates keeping them in to keep others out. They made a business of banking because citizens couldn't give out loans to other citizens. It's all a part of doing what you can with what you have.
After the tour, we went to a department store called "El Corte Ingles," ironic because we were in a Spanish culture going to an English store. We walked around a little bit then went back to our hostel to chill for a bit. Then we got ready for a night out on the town! We walked down to the beach which had a great boardwalk! Some of the restaurants though had freshly dead animals outside of the store. I don't know about you, but seeing a dead fish laying in ice doesn't exactly make me want to eat it. We ended up going to a Mexican restaurant, mostly because that's the kind of food we expected to eat in Barcelona. It was delicious and we stayed for 2 hours talking! After that we went further down the boardwalk and got some cocktails. Clubs and bars were giving us VIP passes because we are 6 adorable girls :) We went into a couple of clubs and started dancing and had a great night! We met some nice guys from other parts of Europe; two from the Netherlands and one from Denmark. The music was an interesting mix of American (like completely, all English), American music and Spanish lyrics, and some Spanish. We did know a lot of the songs though! And some Zumba music too, to my delight :) It was a blast!!! Barcelonian culture at it's finest.

Day 6: On Sunday we slept in then walked to the Basilica Sagrada Familia, which is a beautiful piece of architecture towering over Barcelona. It's an interesting piece to see because it started construction in the 1800's but is STILL under construction. There are literally still cranes and equipment at the building itself. Talk about the concept of transformation!! So we sat at the park overlooking the Basilica on some park benches chatting for about an hour. After that we made our way to Park Guell, which is about a mile from the Basilica. How centralized Barcelona is!!! We didn't have to use the metro everytime we wanted to go somewhere! The park features art from a famous artist, Antonio Gaudi. We didn't know what to expect but were pleasantly surprised. The park is huge and features many stone arches overlooking the city. We strolled along the park listening to some funny street performers and buying some keepsakes. The famous mosaic benches were also a treat to see! Guell park was easily my favorite part of Barcelona :)
After strolling through the park we decided to go to Castle de Monjuic, which also overlooks the city--on a mountain. On the way we grabbed some food because we just don't have regular eating times! The priority while we travel is seeing the sights, not eating 3 meals a day. This means that when we eat, we freakin' enjoy it. I don't know what it is exactly, but it feels good to fill my stomach :) Also we haven't had any veggies or milk so far.....sorry mom! We actually had to take the metro at this point. The metro here is much nicer! There is air conditioning on the subway and it's more clear direction-wise. Not that you really care...but I am proud of my public transportation skills. It's crazy how much you can learn when it's necessary!!! Anyways...we got to the Castle which was very cool! The view is incredible! The ocean on one side and mountains surrounding the valley of a city. If only MN had mountains and an ocean....:)

Day 7: Today we had planned to take it easy becuase tomorrow we go to Rome (!!!!!!). We wanted to shop along Las Ramblas, a popular area and then go to the beach and swim and relax. But of course, the one day we make plans and they go awry. We woke up to downpour. Looking at the weather there were no signs of it clearing up. What do you do when it rains and you're traveling??! We make the best of it, that's what :) We did indeed go shopping on Las Ramblas--which is kind of a tourist trap. No worries, I was holding my bag to my chest the whole crowded, suspicious time. It wasn't my favorite place because of the crowds, but they did have a really awesome market with fresh fruit, breads, fish, and candy! <3 There were also side streets with cute boutiques and hidden squares. Much better than sitting in the hostel all day! We didn't go to the beach though! It was about 70 and breezy, a little chilly at times. We enjoyed the cold air though, since Barcelona can get quite stuffy and hot! We really have been blessed with wonderful weather this whole time :) Looking back, the rain was really a blessing becuase it gave me a relaxed feeling, like I wanted to curl up and read a book all day. I pretended that's what I was doing ;)
After Las Ramblas, we came back to hostel and chilled for a while then went out to dinner. We went to a cute pasta restuarant in the neighborhood. You read that right: pasta. We were so close to making it to Italy without having pasta...I just couldn't do it. The food here is not my thing. It was dang good pasta though. I watched them thread the [dough?] through the stringer. At least we are close to Italy??

Tomorrow we leave for Rome and I am beyond excited. Everyone we've talked to in Europe has said that Rome is a must-see and are jealous we get to spend 6 weeks there! I really have had a great time in Barcelona though. I loved the hostel, the environment, and the landscape. I would describe Barcelona as a city combining Florida (for the beaches), Austria (for the European feel), and Mexico (for the Latino culture). I walked around and was often confused that these different parts of the world could be combined in such a way. While I thoroughly enjoyed my stay, I'm not sure that I feel the pull to come back. It's a more liveable city than Paris, but there are less touristy attractions that I'm drawn to or mesmorized by. I like being able to understand and speak some of the language, but I don't love Latino culture. I feel like I'm rambling at this point. Who really knows?! Perhaps Rome and Athens will blow these cities out of the water! My other travels will definitely give me a different perspective of these cities because that's the way it goes. So the point is...don't ask which city was my favorite!!!!! That's like asking whether I'd like to eat hamburgers or chocolate for the rest of my life. Point taken? I hope so :) 

Well, I'd better call it a night! Love you all and we'll talk when I'm in Rome! <3 
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