What does one do while they're on Spring Break in Europe? Travel, naturally.
It kinda blew my mind when I woke up on Thursday morning to realize that later that evening, I would be leaving for my spring break trip to Barcelona. I'm almost halfway done with my time here in London. Ish. I'll be here until May 28th, but my classes end April 30th (I'm here so late because of how the exam schedule works for the University of Westminster). According to my countdown as of today, March 6, I have 83 days until I board a plane back to New Jersey, back to my friends, family, dogs, bagels, pizza, and Dunkin Donuts iced coffee. That seems like a lot of time, but it's not. Every week seems to get shorter and shorter.
Besides being moderately shocked, I was PUMPED. I've always heard absolutely amazing things about Barcelona, mostly from my older brother who had visited it this past summer. That, and I was just really ready to be in the warmth of the Spanish sun.
After our flight was delayed for about an hour, we were off in the air to Barcelona! The flight was quick and easy (Thanks, Vueling) and we hopped in a taxi to our AirBnB. It was about 1:00 in the morning when we got to the flat, so we didn't want to bother with public transportation. If there was one thing I learned during our stay is that BARCELONA IS HUGE. The taxi split three ways ended up being €13 each for about a 30 minute ride. Simple, easy, direct, and safe.
Our AirBnB ended up being on the eastern end of central Barcelona on Carrer de la Llacuna. Although the place itself was very nice and our host was amazing, it was pretty far out of the way. It took us about 45 minutes to walk to the Sagrada Família and about an hour to walk to Las Ramblas. Not too bad, and you really do get to see more if you walk, but a more convenient location wouldn't have been terrible.
Day one started off pretty calmly! We wanted to actually relax a little on this trip and experience things, not just see them. Our group was 5 people this time around, so we ended up staying in two AirBnBs. Although we were worried that this might be a pain at first, it actually worked out just fine and we save a bunch of money! Half our group was staying near the Sagrada Familia, so we decided to meet them there for breakfast. We ended up walking about a mile in the wrong direction at first, but eventually got there!
Where we ate was a little cafe on the Avenue de Gaudí which try as I might, I simply cannot recall the name or find it on the internet. Google has failed me. It was great though!! Super cheap, delicious, and we were able to eat al fresco (it was about 65 degrees out and sunny) with views of La Sagrada Família. Spaniards usually eat sandwiches for breakfast, so I got a spanish omelette sandwich which was essentially two slices of a baguette spread with some sort of tomato relish and with a potato and egg omelette in between. Even though it sounds simple, it was delicious. And how did we top that off? Another classic: Churros con chocolate! Those were DIVINE. I would have gotten them at every meal if I didn't want to refrain from becoming a walrus.
One of my favorite parts about the meal was something unexpected- how long it took! We were sitting outside in the sun for upwards of an hour and a half, just talking and enjoying ourselves. Every meal ended up being like this, long and relaxed.
Although I probably could have stayed there for the rest of the day, we decided that we probably should actually be productive and go do something. We toyed with the idea of seeing the Sagrada Família, but the lines were long so we instead headed on a hike to Park Güell. I'm not kidding. It literally felt like a hike.
It took us at least 40 minutes to walk the mostly uphill 2.5 km to the park, but it was more than worth it. Park Güell is in my top three of favorite things I have done while abroad, hands down. If you don't know anything about it, Park Güell is UNESCO world heritage sight that was built by Antoni Gaudí in the early 1900s as a housing development. It never actually "developed" into one and instead was made into a municipal garden! It is one of Gaudí's greatest achievements and is absolutely beautiful. Musicians were playing music on guitars and flutes (and other people were trying to sell us stuff, but not too aggressively).
When we finally got there, calves aching from our climb, we paid €7 each to enter the "monument" section of the park, aka where most of the Gaudi architecture is. You can buy tickets in advance and they are given for a certain time. We ended up getting to the park around 1:30 pm or so and our ticket was for 2:30 pm, which ended up working perfectly. There is plenty of the park to see without the ticket, so we did that first! Lots of hills, but all on a steady incline so it wasn't too bad. There are stairs as well, but we opted to stick to the path.
The whole experience of the park was amazing. Beautiful plants, unreal views... It's better just to see it than have me blabber on:
After we wandered for a while, it was finally our allotted time. The "Monument" section is pretty much in the bottom, center of the park. The iconic part is the terrace with its winding, mosaic benches that form little enclaves around the border. We spent a good amount of time on the terrace, then headed down to the plaza of sorts. Down there is Gaudí's house, but you have to pay an extra fee and the line was extremely long, so we decided to pass on it. Once again, photos do more justice:
It's amazing the amount of detail that went into the design of the park and is really, really something spectacular. We spent upwards of an hour in the "monuments" section, and then exited to climb up to a series of crosses we spotted. This is where we probably got the best view of Barcelona in the whole park. You could see everything: The ocean, La Sagrada Família, Montjuïc, everything. The only thing I didn't care for was a street performer basically shouting and strumming randomly on his guitar. Besides that, it was great!
In total we probably spent three hours in the park, just wandering around and enjoying. Definitely something you cannot miss if you come to Barcelona. By then we were pretty hungry, so we headed to Barceloneta, aka LA PLAYA!!! Which is Spanish for beach. I've seen the ocean a lot during my travels, aka everywhere I've gone so far, but actually being a beach in warm weather was basically like Christmas. The beach was gorgeous and was lined by a bike and pedestrian friendly boardwalk. There were a ton of street peddler here as well, just like at Park Güell. We walked on the beach for a little, but then quickly found some food at "Tapas Tapas".
I have decided that the Tapas life is the best life. Not only is it fairly cheap, but you get to try a ton of dishes and enjoy a slow, relaxed meal. Tapas Tapas is a chain restaurant, as we figured out later on in the weekend, but is pretty good. We got some sangria and I went to town on some fries with egg and iberico ham and croquettes with iberico ham inside. Iberico ham is a cured ham made from Iberian black pigs who mostly feed on olives and acorns. It is delicious.
With enough food to tie us over until dinner, which is typically eaten later on in the day in Spain, we headed back to the beach and sat and talked for a while, watching as the lightness of the day slowly faded away. And a dog playing fetch. Then, it was time for food pt. 2: Restaurant Salamanca.
Under the recommendation of my brother, my friends and I walked down the pier to Restaurant Salamanca for one of Spain's most famous dishes, paella. We were seated in an outdoor tent and immediately served bread with a tomato spread on it, a good that was served at almost every meal we had. We ordered a bottle of wine and paella and were not disappointed! The portions were huge, vegetables fresh, and it was just spicy enough to give you a kick while perfectly melting away in your mouth. Paella is amazing. Do yourself a favor and eat it. A lot. With that, and a complimentary dessert of some sorts (it was like a lemon bread thing and a shot of Limoncello???), we headed back to our AirBnBs and passed OUT.
The next morning we woke up a bit earlier and headed West to Plaça de Catalunya, located in the heart of Barcelona. Our mission today? Good question. We had a list of what we wanted to see, but very much took it hour by hour. We did have one thing planned though and that was to walk down Las Ramblas! On the way though we stumbled upon the Arc de Triomf, which was pretty beautiful. It was rainy so we quickly headed to Plaça de Catalunya!
Once we had met up with our friends, we started our walk down the mostly pedestrian street. Cars can go down the wide boulevard, but there is a pedestrian-only walkway in the center that we walked down. Along the walkway were many vendors ranging from flowers to gelato to souvenirs! It's a notorious spot for pickpockets, however, so I only ended up with one photo of a plaza off of Las Ramblas. Good news though, none of us got pickpocketed!
One place I did get photos however was la Boqueria, one of Barcelona's main markets. I've been to a few markets by now and this one, by far, was my favorite. It felt the most authentic, not just a tourist trap. Locals were buying fresh fruits and fish to make dinner with, the vendors laughing with them. All of the food was so bright and fresh- The fish and shellfish were still alive and flopping around in the ice! I probably could have spent an hour in there just looking and photographing if it hadn't been so busy.
After we left La Boqueria, we continued down Las Ramblas. Thankfully, it had stopped raining so we were actually able to enjoy it. Las Ramblas ends at the water where you have a nice view of the bay and all of the ships. We were pretty hungry at this point and ended up heading to Maremagnum, a shopping center right on the pier. I bought an umbrella because being the genius I was, I left mine in London, and for lunch, due to convenience, I ended up getting my first ever sandwich from Subway! That's right- I've never eaten at Subway before. From what my friends told me, it was just like Subway in the states, so well done Barcelona, I guess!
Our next stop was something very adventurous... A Cable car over Barcelona to Montjuïc. Located about 25 minutes from Maremagnum because it was on the other side of the pier, this cable car adventure ended up being...
STAY TUNED FOR MY NEXT POST, TAPAS LIFE IS THE BEST LIFE: BARCELONA (PT.2)!!!