Spring Break. Every college student’s favorite time of the semester. Over the course of 10 days I visited three cities in three different countries and saw many great friends along the way. To kick off las vacaciones de la semana santa, I headed to Barcelona where I met up with Michael, un gran amigo from high school.
After the one hour flight, I hopped on a bus that took me from the airport to the city center, and from there I walked with 10 days’ worth of luggage to meet Michael and his friends – some from the University of Virginia and others from Valencia. We were all there to sightsee and celebrate his 21st cumpleaños. Not wasting much time, we headed out to grab a quick bite. We got (overpriced) open-faced toasted sandwiches that we ate on the exterior window sill of the Prada store on La Rambla while admiring this famous Gaudí edificio.
From there we cruised over to Park Güell, a stunning public parque and another Gaudí development. Michael, my new Valencian friend Paula and I explored the park’s abstract constructions and gardens. From the top of a large stone structure, we could see almost all of Barcelona. We meandered through the grounds and ooh-ed and awed at the unique arquitectura of the one and only Gaudí.
After Park Güell, we joined more of our travel group at our Airbnb. It was my first time staying in an Airbnb and I loved it! We had a one-story flat with one lofted room where I stayed. After a trip to the supermercado to buy food for the weekend, we headed to dinner at A Gianni and rounded out Day 1 with a copa at a nearby bar.
The next morning we enjoyed homemade panqueques con gotas de chocolate, huevos y bacon on our patio. Our hearty breakfast prepared us for the day’s adventures, which began with a visit to the Museu Picasso. It fascinated me to see the progression of his works from his early years as a traditional painter, to his abstract and modern cubist period, completed by a partial return to more traditional painting. We were also fortunate to visit a special exhibition that featured the relationship, mutual influences and works of Salvador Dalí and Picasso.
The museum is located in El Barrio Gótico so we wandered the quaint streets admiring the gothic architecture and cathedral. Hungry for lunch, we headed to Bo de B, a sandwich shop that was recommended to us. Think Subway on steroids and even more affordable. With our massive subs in hand, we headed to Barceloneta, the main playaof Barcelona. After munching on our sandwiches on benches by the marina, we walked along the sand and caught the beginning of the sunset.
Though the sun was setting, Day 2 was far from over. We headed back to the Airbnb to prepare for our dinner party that evening. A thorough grocery store run complete, it was time to start cooking for Michael’s birthday celebration. There were six of us staying in our Airbnb and Michael had other friends in Barcelona so they joined us for dinner. We made croquetas, chips, salsa and fajitas. Earlier, Paula and I snuck out from the grocery store early and bought balloons, cake and candles for another birthday sorpresa.
Day 3 got off to a late start as we all slept in after the previous night’s birthday festivities. Michael and his friends were leaving that day, though I was staying one more night in Barcelona. Before they left, we visited Montjuic, a famous hill in the city that provides other breathtaking vistas. Some of the hill’s noteworthy developments include Palau Nacional, the Estadi Olímpic (the Olympic stadium) and the Font Màgica fountains. I’ve heard there is a spectacular Magic Fountains show at night, but I was unable to see it. Next time!
I said goodbye to Michael and his friends and set off in search of my my hostel. I reserved a bed in a female only room and only had one roommate – a Korean girl who did not speak much English or Spanish and never left her bed! I was in and out several times, but she stayed there the whole time. However, she did leave around 6 in the morning the next day, so perhaps she was just resting before her early wakeup call.
That evening I asked the hostel for some dinner recommendations and grabbed some pintxos at a popular joint nearby. Though I was staying alone, I never felt lonely. I made friends at dinner and then went to see Austin, my friend who’s on my program in Madrid and happened to be in Barcelona with her family. Austin greeted me at her hotel and we headed to her room where she had the greatest surprise for me: milk and cookies! Her hotel was right on the beach so we dipped and dunked our galletas while admiring sparkling Barcelona and the beach by moonlight.
When morning came, I stomached the hostel breakfast of cornflakes and coffee and set out on my final Barcelona adventure: La Sagrada Familia. I pre-purchased my ticket online, which you have to do, and treated myself to the audio guía. I got chills when I first set foot inside the cathedral. It was unbelievable and unlike anything I had ever seen. In about two hours, I checked out every stop on the audio tour. The exterior is loose and haphazard – it looks like a sandcastle you make when you let wet sand dribble through your fingers. Yet the interior is sharp, deliberate and illuminated by colorful light. More than 100 years after the first stone was laid, Gaudí’s masterwork is not yet complete and construction is ongoing. What an incredible sight!
Having spent four days in Barcelona, I felt I had seen all I wanted to see (with the exception of the fountain show) and was ready for my next stop. After a quick trip back to the hostel, I caught the same bus that took me back to the airport where I boarded a flight to my second Spring Break destino: Londres.
3 thoughts on “Las Vacaciones de la Semana Santa Parte 1: Barcelona – Spring Break Part 1: Barcelona”
love your description of sagrada familia!
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Wow! I didn’t know you got to go inside La Sagrada Familia. Must have been amazing. Barcelona was one of my favorite cities.
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Great post, Kim. You’re lucky you have so much energy to be able to see and do so much in so little time. When I went to Barcelona back in 1986, I was amazed by La Sagrada Familia. At the same time, I was a little disappointed that it was “incomplete”. But since then I have gained some wisdom, and have learned that many of the great cathedrals in Europe took several centuries to complete. Now I can see that building a monument such as LSF is a time-consuming, methodical process that invariably experiences financial delays and other lengthy work stoppages over the course of construction.