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Barcelona

Updated: Apr 22, 2023

A week or so ago, my ISC (Italian Student Companion), Silvio, had about ten of his friends over for dinner.  I am happy to report that I was actually able to carry a conversation with them and understand the general ideas of what they were talking to each other about.  We even played the Italian version of the game, Mafia.  This was quite a challenge, but a great and fun experience!


Changing topics completely, last weekend I went to Barcelona.  I arrived late on a Thursday night and took a train from the airport into the city center.  By the time I got into the city center, the metro had stopped running (after midnight) so I had to take a taxi to my hostel.  My hostel had a 91% review on HostelWorld.com, but, when I arrived, I realized that I never confirmed the hostel had bathrooms in each room!  The common bathroom was fine, but it is a lot harder to carry all your clothes & key into a different room when you have to shower.


On Friday, I took a free walking tour to see the architecture of one of Barcelona’s most famous architects – Gaudi.  His buildings made me feel like I was in Whoville and a world of Dr. Seuss – they were very unique compared with the “traditional” architecture I have grown to expect as I travel throughout Europe.  The admissions of cost of 18 euros to go inside was excessive, so I decided that the views from the outside were good enough for me.  We also saw a church that he designed around 85 years ago that is still being built.  It is a very complex church and they say it will not be done for at least another 25-30 years!

One of the houses that Gaudi designed

One of the houses that Gaudi designed

Another house that Gaudi designed

Another house that Gaudi designed


The Sagrada Famiglia: Nativity Facade. This is one of the three facades of Gaudi's church - only two are finished.

The Sagrada Famiglia: Nativity Facade. This is one of the three facades of Gaudi’s church – only two are finished.


Sagrada Famiglia - Passion Facade. The "Glory Facade" just started construction.

Sagrada Famiglia – Passion Facade. The “Glory Facade” just started construction.


After my walking tour, I took a hop on-hop off bus tour to see all of Barcelona.  Barcelona is such a spread out city that the bus company had two different lines.  It took me 6 hours to complete both lines, but I was happy I did it.  The highlights were seeing the Olympic Stadium & Las Arenas, the bull fighting arena!

Olympic Stadium

Olympic Stadium


Las Arenas - Bull Fighting Arena

Las Arenas – Bull Fighting Arena


On Saturday, it poured the whole day.  By this point, I had become a pro on navigating Barcelona’s metro and decided to go to the Picasso Museum.  The Picasso Museum was a homage to Picasso’s older, less known works.  All I knew about Picasso before this was that he painted “Scream,” but was very intrigued by his life story.  He moved around a lot and changed his artistic style about once or twice a year.


After the Picasso Museum, I found a restaurant that specialized in typical Catalonian food – tapas.  They are basically a bunch of small samples, so you order two or three dishes and try a bit of everything.  I had ham & cheese croquets and something very similar to sesame chicken.  It was really, really good.


Then, even though it was raining, I embarked on my voyage to find Barceloneta Beach.  By this point my map was destroyed due to the rain, so I decided to follow the signs to the beach – big mistake.  I wound up 3 kilometers out of my way and had to backtrack to see it.  I was happy when I finally got there, though.  It looked like a scene out of the movie “2012” – the waves were about four feet high (pretty high for the Mediterranean Sea.  Despite the rain, I saw a surfboarder walking away from the sea with a big smile on his face.

Barceloneta Beach in the rain

Barceloneta Beach in the rain


After this, I decided to walk and catch a metro back to my hostel.  After an hour rest, I went to the only bar in Barcelona that was showing the Penn State v. Michigan State game for the Big Ten Semifinals.  I think I managed to find the only empty bar in Barcelona, but a combination of a Penn State win and some nostalgic food like quesadillas and chicken tenders was enough to make my day.


Sunday finally brought the weather I expected Barcelona to have!  It didn’t rain, the sun was out & I was able to leave my sweatshirt at the hostel.  I woke up early in the morning to walk the “La Rambla” from start to finish.  “La Rambla” is a very famous tourist promenade where artists and cafes line the streets.  I decided to grab a seat and order “Churros and Chocolate” and people watch.  The churros were delicious & the chocolate was served warm and so thick that the churros could stand up in it!

La Rambla

La Rambla

Chocolate & Churros

Chocolate & Churros


Another view of La Rambla

Another view of La Rambla


After that, I took another walking tour of Barcelona.  This one was a tour of Barcelona’s historical center.  It was beautiful and reminded me a lot of Rome.  I gained some insight into the history of Barcelona that was absolutely fascinating like the fact that Barcelona used to be occupied by the Romans when it was a walled city (hence why it reminded me of historical Rome).  Also, I learned that the people of Barcelona actually consider themselves to be Catalonian, not Spanish.  They speak Catalonian and Spanish and are constantly protesting the Spanish government for their independence.  I also was able to see where the King of Catalonia greeted Christopher Columbus after discovering the New World.  The final piece of trivia I learned was that Barcelona could have built the Eiffel Tower instead of Paris, but the government thought it was too weird looking and built an arch instead – big mistake!

Narrow street in the center of Barcelona

Narrow street in the center of Barcelona


The steps that Christopher Columbus ascended when he brought the news of the New World to the King & Queen of Spain

The steps that Christopher Columbus ascended when he brought the news of the New World to the King & Queen of Spain


After the walking tour, I took the metro to Park Gϋell – another one of Gaudi’s projects.  It was declared a World Heritage Site a few years ago, so I figured a trip to Barcelona would not be complete without seeing it.  Getting there was a difficult task.  After taking the metro, it was a kilometer walk to a series of eight escalators to take you to the top of a mountain.  At the top of this mountain, you had to walk down hill about a half of a kilometer to get to the park.  By this point, I was exhausted, but it was worth it!.  I saw the longest bench I have ever seen and a bunch of other cool looking houses, sculptures, and architecture!

View from Park Guell

View from Park Guell

Houses in Park Guell - I think Dr. Seuss would have loved it here!

Houses in Park Guell – I think Dr. Seuss would have loved it here!

Overhang at Park Guell

Overhang at Park Guell

Main Entrance to Park Guell

Main Entrance to Park Guell

On my way back to the hostel to grab my bag, I found a Dunkin Coffee (they don’t call them Dunkin Donuts over there) and splurged on the biggest ice coffee I have ever had.  In Italy, I can only get an espresso – they really do not have American coffee.  It was probably the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had (probably because I haven’t had one in so long).  I topped it off with a ham & cheese panini and a chocolate frosted doughnut with sprinkles – the icing on the cake.

Every once in a while, it's okay to have a nostalgic snack

Every once in a while, it’s okay to have a nostalgic snack


Note: This post was originally published on March 13, 2011 in a blog entitled “Romeing Around Europe” which chronicled my study abroad experience.

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