Barcelona, Catalonia

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Allow me to exSPAIN where I went this weekend. Hola, personas del mundo. I make the best puns.

Myself, Jess, Ally, and Michaela booked a spontaneous trip to Barcelona early last week. We got a pretty good deal on Monarch Airline via the absolute worst website in existence: CheapoAir.com. Allow me to explain. It should have been expected that a website by such a name would be garbage. It was all of that and more. It took us at least 20 tries total to get this flight. Mine wouldn’t go through because it kept insisting that I put my birthday in wrong, when I clearly didn’t. Everyone else experienced other weird hold ups that nearly prevented us from going, but after lots of screaming and persistence, we booked.

We got a flight out of Gatwick for Friday morning at around 6 AM, which required us to be up and awake by 2:15 and out the door, ideally, by 2:30/2:45. This was terrible for obvious reasons. We all got about an hour and a half of sleep and then did the zombie walk with our bags from the dorm to a bus stop off of Baker Street. This bus took us to another sketchy bus stop somewhere on the other side of town where we got into a shuttle van with a bunch of other bleary-eyed people and we were at Gatwick an hour later. For you Boston people, you get that Logan is in the city. IN THE CITY, as in it takes no more than like 20 minutes to drive there from any given point in Boston. These London airports are really not in London. They’re quite a ways outside of London and require travelers to allot quite a bit of extra time to get there. Not a huge deal, but logistically annoying.

We got to our gate without any problems, got on our plane, and we were off! I got probably an hour of sleep. The plane ride was only an hour and 45 minutes. We landed safely and experienced the most laid back, callous border patrol in the entire world. They barely looked at our passport photos. We found a train into the city, then had to locate the Urgell metro station, which proved difficult. Two more hours and lots of confused map reading later, we got to our hostel. Tailor’s Hostel Barcelona, for the record, is one of the most spotless, friendly hostels in the world. We arrived before check in time, but they had a locked room where they said they would hold onto our bags. We collected the things we wanted to carry with us and headed towards the city center where the receptionist recommended a free, guided walking tour. We met at a pub and walked with a couple from Austria, a woman from Moldova, and another couple from England. Our tour guide spoke perfect English, and is – surprise, surprise – a UMass Boston Alumni. He seemed pretty excited that we were from New England. He was a history major and was clearly passionate about everything he was showing us. I was utterly exhausted, but I got some good pictures. At the end, we got back to the pub and got discounted sangrias, because I was already about to fall asleep on the cobblestone and alcohol was going to improve the situation.

We finished the tour and did the zombie walk back to the hostel where we made it just in time for check-in. We were in a room with six other people, three of whom were also studying abroad in London. The girl was from Storrs, CT, and the two guys were from Jersey. They were doing McDonalds for dinner. We picked up a few breakfast-y foods at a local grocery store and put them in a bin in the kitchen that we could label with our name. We opted to nap and then do a late dinner. We found a restaurant with a loft nearby. I got an avocado club sandwich. I don’t really remember it. I had never been more exhausted in my life. Ally, Jess and Michaela decided to go on the hostel’s bar crawl that night, but I opted out of it when I realized the room had started spinning and I was stone cold sober. I got back to the hostel, took a hot shower, and knocked out hard on my bottom bunk. I apparently slept-talk to Ally when they got back a little later that night and I have zero recollection of doing any such thing. One and a half hours of sleep is inadequate. Staying in was one of my better moves.

The next morning we ate breakfast and headed north to Parque Guell. It is one of the most popular attractions/parks in Barcelona, and for good reason. We got off our metro stop, waked a few blocks, and then took a left, like Google Maps instructed us to do. In front of us was a hill the size of Mount Wachusett. For spurts of the hill, there were escalators! On the street Two escalators in, we spotted a coffee shop. They had ICED COFFEE. This was big. We hadn’t found iced coffee anywhere else in Europe, so we jumped on this opportunity and it was phenomenal. We went up the rest of the escalators and stairs and hills and FINALLY got to the entrance of the park. The pictures show the views fairly well, but they don’t really do it justice. It was basically footpaths weaving through trees and cactuses and plateaus and overlooks and awesomeness. If you’re curious, here is the link because I can’t really explain it well. It’s just cool. http://www.parkguell.es/en/portada

From the park, we walked a BUNCH of blocks to La Sagrada Familia, but we stopped at a supermarket on the way there for apples. La Sagrada Familia is a MASSIVE Catholic Church with the most interesting architecture I’ve ever seen. Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi designed the Basilica in the early 1800’s, and it’s breathtaking. I’ve never seen a more beautiful building. Here is the website: http://www.sagradafamilia.cat/ I have pictures above too, but it’s hard to really grasp the vastness of the place unless you’ve seen it in person. It was worth the ten euros to tour it.

After La Sagrada Familia, we got gelato and walked around some of the alleys with shops along the sides. We went into a bunch of cute stores and looked at pretty European clothing. We walked by a place that smelled like Heaven, and I was lured in. I spotted a woman putting out churros onto a hot dish. I ordered some in Spanish and she threw them into a bag and threw sugar on them with lightening speed. They were, in one word: luscious. I realize now that any of the garbage I had eaten in the past that has called itself a churro, is in fact, not a churro. I’ve been ruined.

That night we went to a bar crawl thing, starting at a small place called El Gato Negro, or, “The Black Cat”. It was recommended that we try the Harry Potter shot. The bartender poured some concoction into a shot glass, then placed orange slices and cinnamon sugar on top. THEN, he torched them. They went up in flames and the whole bar cheered. It was mesmerizing. We were instructed to bite the orange, take the shot, them suck on the remainder of the juice out of the orange. I don’t even know what it was, but it was delicious. I mean, as shots go. The next destination was a club called Shoko, then one called Opium. Both were right on the beach. Apparently Opium (the club, not the ancient Chinese drug) is a big deal here. I honestly cannot judge the quality of one nightclub from another. You get shoved around by drunk people as you dance/bob in a vaguely rhythmic manner in an awkward circle and you sweat profusely. The music is usually terrible pop remixes designed to be more upbeat for dancing, but pieced together sloppily into one long, bad song. You can’t talk to anyone because it’s too loud. Nightclubs honestly bore me, but it was nice to go out to the beach between clubs. People were selling beer and water bottles on the beach, which was weird, but they were sealed so I got a water. We didn’t get back until LAAATE that night and I could have fallen asleep on the sand. I wasn’t designed for Barcelona party life. I’m looking for good, live freak folk music, chicken Shwarma pitas, and mango lassis. I digress.

The next day, we sat out in the city center around a fountain and enjoyed the warm sun. We walked around even more, looking at all the shops we had missed. Our total walking miles for the trip was probably around fifteen because we were trying to save money and not take the metro. We got Maoz Falafel pockets which were AMAZING. Some of the best falafel I’ve ever had. We went into the Catedral de Barcelona, another church. Very different, architecturally, but still beautiful. The hostel owner brought her dog into work that day and we played with her. She was a sweetheart. She was adopted from Venice, and responded to Italian commands. We melted. The highlight of the trip (besides the dog)…was dinner that night. We went to a place called Rekon’s and got Empanadas and roasted vegetable salad. The meal ended with herbal tea. It was perfection. We drank some 2.50 red wine back at the hostel and played games with our roommates, and then turned in early. Our flight left at 10:30ish the next morning, so we had to be up by 6. Luckily, we found a shuttle called Aerobus that picked up fairly close to the hostel and brought us straight to the terminal. Twas an amazing weekend.

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