Archives for category: barcelona

With only final exams between me and a flight back to the U.S., this whirlwind of a semester is finally coming to a close. My return to America is definitely bittersweet… maybe a little more bitter than sweet. I can’t even put into words how much the people I’ve met, places I’ve been and things I’ve seen have impacted me. So instead of writing a sappy paragraph or two about how much I love this place, I’m just going to post some of my favorite pictures from the entire semester.

I’ll be seeing you, Barcelona. Thanks for an amazing four months.

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This weekend in Barcelona confirmed one thing: I never want to leave. Two of my roommates went to Paris, but I hate Paris and Alexa already went, so we stayed for a chill weekend in Barca.  The combination of sun, bikes and good food made it one of the best yet.

On Friday we woke up pretty early (for us) and headed to Barceloneta. For the past three months, everyone in Spain has been bundled up in parkas and boots, no matter what the temperature, but on the first of April everyone finally ditched the layers for some more appropriate attire. The beach was packed, and everyone was in bathing suits. We went to Champagneria for lunch, where you can get a bottle of champagne for 5 euro, and really good sandwiches for only 2 or 3. Then we went back to the beach for a few hours. Before this weekend, I was the palest I’ve been in years, so I’ve never been happier to have tan lines.

Saturday we started with brunch at Milk. Best brunch I’ve had in Barcelona. Everyone in the restaurant was eyeing my french toast when it got brought to the table. Then we did the one thing I’ve been wanting to do since we arrived… rented bikes! There a ton of places in Barca that let you rent a bike for 5 or 10 euro, so we finally did it. It was almost embarrassing at first because I hadn’t ridden a bike in forever and couldn’t stay balanced to save my life, trying to weave in and out of the crowds. I almost got hit by multiple cars and almost took out multiple old ladies, but eventually I got the hang of it. We rode from the beach to our apartment by Sagrada Familia, back down through Parc de la Ciutadella, along la playa, and past Port Vell. After returning the bikes, we walked around El Born, one of my favorite districts in Barcelona. We stopped at El Magnifico for the best cup of coffee in town, then wandered around until we found Princesa 23, where we ate an amazing dinner. Most productive day I’ve had in Barcelona yet. And, sorry mom, but I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to come home.

I came to Spain because I wanted to be fluent in Spanish. I’ve taken Spanish classes since I was 13 and was nowhere close to speaking fluently, so obviously Spanish classes in the States weren’t cutting it. So I looked into a couple cities – Barcelona, Madrid, and Sevilla – and settled on Barcelona. I can’t really even explain why I chose Barcelona. Spanish isn’t even the first language here, Catalan is. But everyone I talked to who went abroad in the past said Barca was their favorite city they visited, plus I knew a ton of IU kids that were planning on coming, so I figured why not.

I remember the very first day I was walking around with Brittany and we stopped in at Zara. When we arrived in January it was their huge after-holiday sale season, so of course it was jam-packed. We kept bumping into people, and “Oops, sorry!”or “Excuse me” immediately came out of our mouths. Then we got awkward because we didn’t know if we should be speaking in Spanish or not. After, we met up with some other girls from school for lunch. Ordering was a nightmare, not only because we were so jetlagged, but also because our brains couldn’t process what we wanted to say. It came out something like, “I want las patatas bravas con una Coca-Cola por favor. Thanks!” Umm, what? Talk about spanglish. And that’s how it went for the first couple weeks. I would try to speak Spanish, but quickly resorted to English when someone didn’t understand or I got frustrated. The only time I ever spoke confidently was with my taxi drivers at 4 a.m., for obvious reasons.

Making friends with Spaniards at Espit Taberna.

Three months later, things have changed. While I’m still guilty of speaking English almost all day, every day, I don’t freeze up when I go to the grocery store and the cashier asks me a question. I’ve had casual conversations on the metro, and I’ve had hour-long conversations in Spanish at the bars. I wouldn’t say I’m fluent by any means, but in a better place than I was when I got here. And I guess that’s all I can really ask for.

My friends from home booked their spring break flight to Barcelona in October. We had fairy tale fantasies about how absolutely amazing their week in Barca would be, and it was all we could talk about it. Now the week has come and gone, and it was amazing, but nothing ever goes quite according to plan.

Constancia, Laura, Sarah and McKenzie were supposed to get here on Friday, March 11, but flight delays and cancellations courtesy of American Airlines postponed their arrival until Sunday. Strike number 1. We surprised them at the airport, brought back their bags, and showed our jet-lagged friends around the city. We walked down Passeig de Gracia, through Placa Catalunya, on La Rambla and ended at the beach, where we stayed for most of the day. It was a great start, but it didn’t make up for the two days they missed.

We had big plans for the rest of the week, but the weather rained on our parade, literally. Strike number 2. It never rains in Barcelona. Before this week, it had rained five, maybe six days out of the more than 70 days we’ve been here. But this week it rained Monday, it rained Tuesday, it rained Wednesday AND it even rained a little bit on Thursday. We had fun, but it was hard to see a lot during the day when there was a monsoon outside.

Things turned around by Thursday afternoon, right as our friends from Florence arrived. We celebrated St. Patty’s Day, spent another day at the beach, saw the fountain light show and ate paella at La Fonda. Playing hostess to nine people was beyond stressful, but it was unreal to reunite with 17 of my best friends in Spain.

Last night was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my entire life. The parade in Barcelona was cool, but Carnival in Sitges was absolutely amazing.

Sitges is about 30 minutes outside of Barcelona, 25 miles south along the coast. We got to Sitges around 9:30 p.m., and the parade had already started. There were huge floats, and everyone was decked out in extravagant costumes and soo much glitter. It was the Barcelona parade on steroids.

The people in the parade weren’t the only ones dressed up, though. Every single person there was wearing the most elaborate costume I have ever seen. Halloween has nothing on Sitges Carnival. Some people were scary, some were funny, and a lot were in drag, but no one was in street clothes.

After the parade, everyone moved to the beach. Words can’t even describe what it was like to be there. There were probably half a million people, from the wall to the coast, from end to end. The DJs blared music and lights came and went over the crowd. I don’t think there was a single person there that wasn’t having the time of their life.

Worn out, we finally headed back to Barca around 4 a.m. Carnival was an experience to say the least.

This past Thursday was the beginning of Carnival, the Spanish version of Mardi Gras. This is their time to let loose before the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday. I had talked about Carnival in most of my classes, but I didn’t realize how big of a deal it was. The kids have a full week off from school, and you can find someone in costume at any point during the day.

Saturday night we went to the Gran Rua de Carnaval, or the Big Parade, on Parallel in Barcelona. I was definitely different than I expected. There were thousands of people lining the streets, and another couple thousand in the parade. Each “barrio” in Barcelona had people in the parade, often representing their native countries or something else they are known for. It was very entertaining, but I can’t wait to see how Sitges celebrates Carnival tomorrow night.

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I can’t cook. My meals in Barcelona have consisted of cereal, quesadillas, grilled cheese and pasta. But for Valentine’s Day, we decided to cook a real dinner for the first time in the 5 weeks since we arrived at Lepant 317.

Brittany’s mom gave her a recipe for pasta with artichoke sauce, which we attempted to make. Actually, Brittany attempted it, and Grace, Alexa and I watched. There was only one minor glitch – way too much salt in the sauce. Thanks to the Lepant-Open convenience store downstairs, we were able to throw a potato in the pot for a few minutes to soak it up and everything was fine. We also made appetizers – french bread with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and prosciutto.

I’m not usually a huge fan of Valentine’s Day, but this year’s wasn’t so bad. A few bottles of 1.99 Vina del Mar and great food made for a pretty successful night.

Placa CatalunyaThese last two weeks have been a blur. I boarded the plane in Newark almost three weeks ago, and have since been going non-stop trying to adjust to life in Spain. I’ve gotten way too little sleep and spent way too much money along the way, but it’s been quite the experience.

I wouldn’t say that I’ve had a hard time with culture shock or homesickness, but the language barrier has proven harder to deal with than I expected. I’ve taken Spanish classes for eight years, but it obviously wasn’t enough to be able to speak conversationally with native speakers. This proved especially true the first weekend we were in our apartment.

Let me preface this story by saying we live in a really, really nice part of Barcelona. Our apartment is literally 3 minutes away from the Sagrada Familia, which might be the most well-known landmark in the city. Everyone says it’s a good, safe area to be in. But the first Friday we were here, we had an “incident.”

Around 10 p.m. someone buzzed up to our apartment from outside. My roommate Alexa looked down from the balcony to see who it was, and it was a man that none of us had ever seen before. Long story short, he buzzed up for a good 30 minutes. After he made eye contact with one of us who was out on the balcony, he held the buzzer for more than five minutes straight. At this point we started to freak out a little bit. My roommate Brittany went to the phone to try and talk to him but instead accidentally let him in the building.

When he started banging on our door, we started to panic. When he shut off our electricity, we started crying hysterically. I’m not sure why we didn’t just try to talk to him, but that didn’t seem like an option at the time. Instead, we all huddled together in Grace’s room, crying and holding kitchen knives. Smart.

We ended up calling CEA, who called the police. But dealing with the police was an absolute nightmare because they didn’t speak a word of English, and we were all too frazzled to speak coherent Spanish. Basically all we could get out was that “Hay un hombre que…” and then proceed to use hand motions. A man showed up who spoke both English and Spanish, and he explained to us that apparently the guy was an old tenant who was looking for an ex-girlfriend or something. Regardless, the whole experience proved that if there ever is an actual emergency we’re, well, screwed. Definitely time to brush up on my Spanish and learn some phrases that may actually be useful, not the random vocabulary we are taught in high school Spanish class.

Aside from this minor run-in with the police, I have been able to take in a lot of Barcelona and have loved every minute of it. I’ve seen the Sagrada Familia, visited Gaudi’s beautiful Parc Guell, shopped on Passeig de Gracia, walked down La Rambla, cheered on FC Barcelona at Camp Nou, and spent many nights out until sunrise. I can’t even express how lucky I am to be able to do everything I’m doing, and I couldn’t have asked for a better start to an amazing four months (except for maybe the whole police thing).

I will be updating this blog a few times a week for one of my classes at CEA – Journalism 2.0. So keep checking back as I continue my adventures throughout Europe and learn more about the new journalism that is Journalism 2.0.