Barcelona: the Spanish Paradise
I’m just gonna skip last week. Nothing really happened outside of the ordinary.
So we left Liege on Thursday afternoon for our first trip outside of Belgium, to go to Barcelona. We were all pretty excited because Monday-Wednesday of last week was a snow storm in Liege, and we were pretty desperate for some beach weather. I did not know much about Barcelona other than it is situated on the Mediterranean coast, and of course La Sagrada Familia. Really though the beach was a good enough reason for me to go by itself so I was not really concerned about it. I also had 3 years of Spanish back in high school so I was anxious to finally try it out (after 4 years of no lessons…).
We flew out of an area south of Brussels called Charleroi, and met a few of Samir and Pascale’s friends who are also from Canada. Their names are Alex, MC, and Melissa. Anyways our plane left around 8:00 and arrived in Barcelona close to 10:00. That night we all checked into the hostel, which was located right in the heart of the city, and then spent the rest of the night wandering around the city exploring the streets and buildings. Matt and I both immediately liked the city because the roads are wide just like America which is a treat after all the cramped little roads of Liege. That night we did a fair amount of walking around, covering at least a few miles in a relatively short amount of time. The city was mind-blowingly gorgeous and great to look at from every corner. I’ve found that I really hate trying to take pictures of these cities that we visit because the camera just can’t touch actually seeing it in person.
The city is in a pretty tropical climate so there are fun things like palm trees to look at even though it was still cold by Spanish standards. Until Thursday I don’t think I had ever seen a palm tree in person before. I should really get out more in America. What else is new, most people that just visit America have seen more than I have, because they don’t just chill in Missouri all the time. Anyways, the city streets were made mostly of concrete which was great news for our feet that are pretty tired of cobblestone at this point. We explored the city until about 3 in the morning I think, and agreed to meet at 9:30 the next morning to start our first actual day.
Our group consisted of 7 people the first day, and we were waiting for a bunch more to arrive in Barcelona so we did not really attack the city on the first day. We began walking in a direction until Samir proclaimed that he wanted to get closer to a skyscraper off in the distance that would be later dubbed “the thing”. We walked for quite a ways before giving up on getting any closer and settling for a pretty good view of the building from a theatre/park where we stopped for a photo-opp. Afterwards we went to a park and chilled for a bit while Pascale and Melissa disappeared to buy Samir a soccer ball, which he was overjoyed to receive.
Once we left the park we found the Barcelona zoo and park. The park is really nice, full of tropical trees and plants, as well as having a really long path to an Arc de Triumph. We stayed there for some more photos much to my delight. Once we had our fill of pictures and harassing strangers on the sidewalk we headed for lunch. Samir has been to Barcelona before and had a restaurant in mind where they make sandwiches on grills and sell a type of red champagne called Can Paixano for less than 3 euros per bottle. It tasted very similar to port from the Episcopal church, only sparkling so I liked it quite a bit. The real reason in my opinion to go to the restaurant is the sandwiches. They were unbelievable. I’m not even 100% sure what was in them, but they were exquisite, and cost less than 4 euros. Combining the sandwich with some great chorizo and the Can Paixano put all of us in a very good mood heading to the beach.
THe restaurant is situated pretty close to the pier and the sea so we only had a 10 or 15 minute walk from there to the beach. Along our walk we caught glimpses of statues and cliff sides, including a statue of Christopher Columbus pointing out to sea in the direction of North America. We were all very excited to see the beach. I had obviously never seen the Mediterranean, but neither had Matt so it was a new experience for a majority of us.
The beach was awesome. There was plenty of space since it is the off season for tourists and the water was pretty calm. Myself and few of the guys bought cigars earlier in the day as a special occasion for making it to the sea, so once we got there we lit up and just sat on the beach drinking our Can Paixano and taking a ton of pictures. It was paradise to just sit there and relax without a care in the world. To top it off (as if it could really get any better), we met a German guy named Bjorn who wanted someone to go workout with him at an exercise station farther down the beach. I was more than happy to oblige him since I haven’t had a proper workout since leaving the U.S. and I’ve been really missing the gym. So clearly I was on cloud 9 having gotten an actual workout while looking out at the sea. That was nice.
Shortly after our workout when we got back to the group we decided to head out and leave the beach. We had thought about taking a trip to Montjuica which can only be reached by a cable car through the air, but the line for the car was rumored to be a very long wait so we abandoned that idea. At this point Samir was fairly obsessed with his soccer ball and began passing it around to people near the beach. At one point he passed the ball to Alex who turned and ran straight into a light pole. Literally ran into it. It was hilarious. I think even Alex thought it was pretty funny and he didn’t seem to be hurt so no real harm done.
We decided to just chill at the beach some more since we really had nowhere to be. That meant a few more hours of taking pictures of the beach, which was fine by me. Anytime I can tool around with my camera for an extended period of time is great, especially at such a beautiful location! We basically spent the rest of the day just lazing around the beach until dinner time when we headed back to the hostel to meet with the rest of our group. Once we met with the likes of Renaud, Roberto, Nabil, and a few others we headed out to a buffet near the hostel. After all that walking a buffet was perfect. It even had an ice cream machine that we all took advantage of. I should also mention that Alex did end up hurting his ankle after another pass from Samir came too high and Alex tried a sort of karate/bicycle kick and landed badly. He was on crutches the rest of the trip, poor guy. Worth mentioning.
After dinner we made a game plan for the bars, going with Renaud who said he knew a good bar. The bar seemed to be a local favorite because it was absolutely packed the entire night. It was pretty nice bar though so we weren’t complaining. We spent the night having drinks and having some good conversations. We made it back to the hostel around 2 in the morning, which is pretty early by Barcelona standards. They don’t sleep.
Saturday we got up at the same time and headed for la Montjuic, which is a large hill/mountain in the city that has a castle at the top as well as a perfect view of the city. We rode the cable car up the mountain which was pretty fun and gave me a chance to take some good video for the Europe video in the works. We spent a few hours on the mountain looking at the city from various angles and taking a ton of pictures. Matt was definitely my unwilling model for the weekend since there were so many opportunities for great pictures. He got over it. We also got to take our signature behind my back photo over the city. We will make a collage of all the places we visit this way (we hope).
After the mountain we collected a few more people from the hostel and went to see La Sagrada Familia, which is the famous church built by Gaudi. Like most famous sites it was way more impressive in person than in pictures, despite the fact that there was a lot of construction. Unfortunately we did not get to go inside because the line was too long. The outside was quite impressive though, so it was still a success.
After that we headed back to the Can Paixano for dinner. It took us a long time to get there, but we also got to see a ton of the park by the zoo and the arc so it was nice. This time the store was completely full, so we had to really battle to order our food. The store is very small. But it was just as excellent the second time as the first. Seriously, those sandwiches are the stuff legends are made of. After dinner the group headed to the beach to chill and make reservations for all 14 of us to go out for dinner for MC’s birthday. Matt, Roberto, Renaud and I decided to skip out and head back to the hostel for a nap before the party. It was a good decision.
We got to dinner around 11:00 on the beach at a seafood restaurant. Since we were in Spain 11:00 was actually not a late time for dinner really. We all had a pretty good meal, mine consisting of fresh calamari. It was delicious. Most everyone ate Paella, which is a spanish favorite that is a lot like jumbalaya. I tried some and it was soooo good. Everything there was good, but what else would you expect from a seafood restaurant located on the beach?
After dinner we hit the club scene on the beach, which was pretty hoppin’. We drank and danced until pretty late in the night/morning. That was one for the memory books for sure. Partying on the beach is always a must in my opinion. It was a successful birthday party to say the least.
The next day everyone got up late because of the late night before. Matt and I wanted to go to the Picasso Museum, and we rounded up a bunch from the group who also wanted to go. The museum is in the old gothic part of the city which was extremely cool to look at. The rest of the city was beautiful, but the gothic area was breathtaking. It was truly amazing to walk through. Once we got to the museum we were met with a long line of people waiting to get in. Fortunately, a woman who worked there took pity on Alex with his crutches and let our whole group skip the line. No complaints from us!
The museum was full of Picasso’s paintings from every stage of his career, highlighting his development from a child to the abstract art he is best known for. I kept thinking that Andy should have been there to see it since he has actually studied painting and would probably love it. It was pretty cool to be surrounded by Picasso art, I won’t lie.
Once we finished with the museum we went on a hunt for lunch. We found a little cafe in the gothic area that served pretty good food for cheap, and was decorated in a pretty cool way. After eating Matt and I went on a journey to find the Topman in the city, only to discover that it was closed on sundays. So we regrouped with everyone at the hostel and made our next plans.
A bunch of the guys were going to a Barcelona soccer game, so the group was split a bit. The rest of us decided to go see the Gaudi park. Again, it had an excellent view of the city, which was made even better by the fact that we were there at night. We took quite a few pictures there and then headed back into town to eat dinner. We ate at a Tapas restaurant that was ok. We ate and watched the second half of the game that the other guys were at.
After the game we headed downtown to celebrate St. Paddy’s day at an Irish pub. I had a green beer along with Matt and Roberto, but they were 7 euros each, so we ditched that place pretty quick. We found a very cheap bar that was also celebrating so we camped there for the night. Matt and I decided to just pull an all nighter since our flight out of Barcelona was at 6:30 in the morning, and there was really no point in trying to leave the bar just to wake up again at 3:00 to get to the airport.
We made it to the airport with Marco and Alex (everyone is flying out tuesday morning) and waited at our gate. Matt and I passed the time by watching some truly entertaining figure skating that was shown on a tv in the lobby. Once we were on the plane I slept right through take-off and did not wake up until we landed in Brussels. We got to the train station and took our train back to Liege and arrived around 11:00 this morning. We thought we would just go to sleep, but miraculously we both stayed awake all day, and I am writing this at 1:12 in the morning. So I’m pretty tired.
Honestly, Barcelona was right up there with London for me. I’m a sucker for the beach and tropical environment so it was a great place for a weekend vacation. I will definitely be going back there if the opportunity arises later on in life. It was a really great trip, and I can’t really imagine going to Europe and not visiting Barcelona now that I’ve seen it. So glad we went, it was an insane and fun time the whole way.
We are eagerly awaiting spring break which is in two weeks, and will consist of two weeks of travel around eastern europe and Germany.
I’m gonna go into a coma now.