The Barcelona Heat!

Trip Start Feb 07, 2008
Trip End May 08, 2008

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Thursday, March 6, 2008

This past weekend I got to experience the Barcelona Heat in Spain---it was amazing! Last week, we finished up our Block 1 Intercultural Communication course and were awarded with a four day vacation so we all decided to go to Barcelona, Spain. There were three different groups of us that went separately as it would probably be a little difficult to travel with 28 people! My group consisted of Sarah, Mackenzie, Jessica, Katie, Jen, Nikki, Matt & myself. As usual we had to wake up early early to catch our 6am train from Maastricht to Eindhoven where we caught a bus to the airport for the 2 hour flight to Spain; but turns out we didn't fly into Barcelona like we thought--we flew into Gerona, Spain where we had to get on another bus for an hour into Barcelona. We are becoming masters at European public transportation if anything I guess :)
Of course the first thing we did when we got to Barcelona was pull out the map and try to find our hostel, which we found successfully in the center of the city (hence the name Centric Point Hostel) It was a pretty hopping hostel and a man with long shaggy dreadlocks helped us check into our 12 bed bedroom. The Hostel had a bar, a computer area, free breakfast, and a lounge in it where we got to meet some people from all around the world-most of them studying abroad just like us. We got to drop off our backpacks and we headed out into the city to explore.
La Ramba is the "main drag" of Barcelona and I could have spent all four days on that street along just checking out all the cute little shops and watching the many street performers on the side of the walkway. We found a cool Market where they sold a whole bunch of fruit, vegetables, meat, cheese, bread, and of course, candy and we stocked up for a later meal. We came across a cool church that was stuck in the middle of a maze of narrow side streets that was pretty impressive-I think it was called de la Cathedral?
Like most of Europe, many buildings were under construction and there was scaffolding everywhere we turned. They were creative though and cover up the works in progress with a huge canvas of what the building is supposed to look like....those tricky Spaniards...
Exhausted from the long day of traveling and walking, we chilled in the hostel for awhile and found they had a Tappas and Flamenco tour that sounded really interesting. We signed up and departed with our tour guide Juame who Jessica thinks could possibly be her soul mate. He guided all of us to a little bar/restaurant where they had a big buffet of Tappas ready for us. Tappas are what we call appetizers in the U.S. Ours were bread with various toppings on them like cheese, vegetable loaf, chicken nuggets, salmon, salami, and some other mystery foods. We also got a delicious glass of Sangria with lemon and lime-it was the perfect Spanish snack!
After the Tappas we headed off to another bar where the Flamenco dancers would perform-I've never really seen Flamenco before so I was thoroughly impressed! The video I hope does justice for how talented the dancers and musicians were. The performance was short, but still worth it and just hanging out afterwards in the bar was pretty fun. We don't really do a lot of guided tours because it's fun to find things on your own sometimes, but I was really appreciative of this guide as we would have never found the unique places we visited with Juame. He was pretty excited to take us all out for a crazy night of "clubbing" (the metro/subway is closed from 2am-5am in Barcelona, so it is normal for people to stay out at the clubs until 5am so they can catch a ride home on the metro) but as I said, we were all pretty tired and the 10 Euro drinks weren't really agreeing with my wallet so we called it an early night much to Juame's disliking.
Sarah woke up the next morning with an ear infection and had to go to the hospital to get medication, which I heard was pretty interesting because they had to have a translator in the doctor's office with her-she is okay now though and it is probably a good thing she did go. The rest of us set off to find the Pablo Picasso museum and proceeded to get lost again. It turned out okay though, and getting lost is one of my favorite parts of traveling because you find all sorts of things that you didn't expect to find-we stopped by a cute little fan shop where a nice lady was hand painting paper fans...I couldn't not get one! We did indeed find the museum though and it was really impressive-probably my favorite museum yet. I studied a little of Picasso's work last year at school in my art class, so I kind of knew a little more about what I was looking at which helped. His sketches really make me feel that as long as somebody puts emotion into what they are doing, the final product is going to be breath-taking, no matter the detail or the accurateness of facial feature placement.
After reuniting with our group, we hopped on the metro to the Parc Guell, a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the city. To get there however, there was of course, stairs....but turns out somebody really smart invented escalators some time ago and the Spanish like them-I love escalators!! The view from the top of our climb was amazing and I caught my first glimpse of the Mediterranean Sea. It reminded me of hiking in the Black Hills of South Dakota except instead of pine trees and snow there was a lot of cactus and sand. In the park there was a flat area where we found the longest park bench in the world...yes the world! It was all curvy and covered in mosaic tiles-prettiest park bench I've ever seen! Gaudi was the designer of a lot of the unique architectural elements of Barcelona, including the bench; he had some pretty crazy ideas but he made them work.
We decided that since we were in Spain, we would try out this clubbing experience so we got all dolled up and called up our friend Pablo, who was staying with friends in Barcelona who supposedly knew the ropes of the night life. After some interesting directions which were all in Spanish, we found his friend's apartment at around 10pm to find that they hadn't even showered yet. I guess that since they stay out so late, they don't even go to the bar until 1am-they failed to let us know about this! So we sat around for a couple hours and got really tired again (traveling just takes it out of you!) and finally left the apartment with the gorgeous view at around 1am. On the main streets in Barcelona you are always getting little cards handed to you by strangers;  the cards have information about different bars and clubs in the city and some have free drink tickets or cover charge passes. We picked up a couple and hit up a bar only to find that all the drinks in Barcelona are around 8 Euro each! Knowing that we would only get to enjoy about 2 drinks in our budget we made the decision to catch the metro home before it closed at 2am-good decision. Sarah, Jessica, Pablo, and his friends did stay out until 6am and I guess they had a great time, but the Spanish night life just isn't for me I guess-oh well!
Saturday morning we woke up and checked out of the hostel because it was booked for the next night, we planned ahead though and booked two apartments on the other side of town for Saturday night. I've come to the conclusion that apartments are way better than hostels and only a couple Euro more per night. It's worth it to have your own kitchen and bathroom and privacy. We found this with no problem and finally headed to the beach! It was a beautiful sunny morning and we were all glad to be out and about. A small market on beachside caught our eye and we got sucked into the jewelry, postcards, antiques, and scarves that all the vendors were selling. Per Pablo's request, we stopped for lunch in a tiny little sandwich place that served their sandwiches with a bottle of champagne. Everyone just crowds into the aisle and yells out orders hoping that the server would hear them and bring the right thing. Me being the reserved person I am had troubles here and found myself allowing people to step in front of me to order-half an hour later, I got my order and was immediately rewarded with hamburgesa con queso goodness and the best pink champagne I've ever had! Now, off to the beach!
I've been to the ocean in Washington, but that was nothing compared to this-it was amazing!! We all found ourselves running toward the water when we got close enough and kicked off our shoes mid-stride to jump into the Mediterranean Sea. It was a little chilly, but we all took off our jackets and bathed in the sun that was there-I even got a little bit of a sunburn which made me quite happy. We just sat and enjoyed the beach for a couple hours not wanting to move from that perfect atmosphere, but still, there were many things left for us to see in Barcelona, so reluctantly we packed up again and headed for the Sagrada Familia.
Gaudi, the architect I spoke of earlier, was the maker of this amazing church. It's construction started about 60 years ago, and is still not completed. The outside is pretty much done in Gaudi's crazy way, but the inside was still all scaffolding and cement mixers-makes you realize how long these great big ornate churches really do take to complete and all the work that goes into them everyday by many many people. We were prepared to take the hike to the top of the bell-tower here, but to our surprise the stairs closed at 2pm and we arrived around 3pm....shoot...
Our last stop of the day was a visit to the Palace and the Magic Fountain. The Palace reminded me a lot of Aladin and Jasmine J. We didn't go in because at this point in the trip the stairs were just a little too daunting, but the view from down below was impressive enough for me. The Magic Fountain goes off every night for a couple hours so we picked a spot on the stairs ready to be amazed and amazed we were. The fountain was giant and it was incredible to see how much thought must have gone into planning all the squirts and colors and music coordination. There are videos of this as well which I hope convey what we experienced there. As we were leaving we heard some familiar tunes from Disney movies and had a mini dance party to the Spanish version of a Disney song marathon in front of the whole crowd-we probably looked a little silly but I think we were pretty entertaining for them...stupid Americans...
The rest I guess is history, we found our way back to the apartment, had a good nights sleep and woke up for departure at 6:30am the next morning. RyanAir is the cheap airline over here in Europe and we have definitely found out why it is so cheap!! Early flights, small spaces, crazy pilots, and confusing airports make for a unique experience though I guess. Overall it was a wonderful weekend and a great break from school. I have started my Block 2 course, Art, Architecture, and the World Fairs, which seems like it will be quite interesting. Speaking of which, I need to get off to class, so I will post pictures after class and will talk to you all soon!
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fredelthomas on

Hey Kels,

Talking about Spain reminds me of my favorite drama, Gladiator... He was from Spain and good looking!

Sounds like a busy, busy weekend, but fun! Just reading the details makes me a little tired.

Have a great week! We miss you, Fredel

kylieodell on

Maybe it's just because I haven't been able to 'indulge' for so long, but despite your excellent descriptions of the sights, sounds, and beauty of Barcelona, the Sangria with lemon and lime definitely sounded like the best part of your trip to me! Also, I've been thinking a lot about the European candy you've been talking about and I'm starting to get really jealous. Love and miss you tons! Kylie

lesliebogie on

love ya
Well Kels, still sounds like you're living every young adventurous woman's dream - traveling and experiencing such amazing things! I bet you were in heaven at the Happy Pills store. How much did you eat?! Love ya and miss ya lots!

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