It was easy to choose Spain as Travel Fare’s first country. Sarah and I went to Barcelona as part of a 3 week, 5 country trip for our Christmas break in December, 2011, and fell in love with the city. To really give you an idea of how we ended up in Barcelona, I should probably start with some background about the trip we went on (especially since, I promise you will be hearing about this trip – a lot).
In December 2011, Sarah was living in London, our friend K was living in Scotland, and our friend E and I were living together in Atlanta. We were all graduate students and decided to spend our break together in Europe. We carefully planned out which cities we wanted to visit, got through our final exams for the semester, and had the greatest adventure ever! I finished my exams a week before E so I was able to fly over to London to spend some extra time with Sarah before we all met up in Vienna.
Barcelona was the 2nd city of the trip, and was really the city that I chose. I had wanted to visit Spain since I was little, so Sarah and I found a cheap flight from London, booked our hostel, and headed out! After a very early morning, we landed in Barcelona where Sarah was very surprised to see that signs weren’t in Spanish, and hear that people weren’t speaking Spanish. I had been warned, and probably should have told Sarah, but I didn’t even think about it! (Sorry, Sarah!) Barcelona is in the Catalonia region of Spain, and many of the people there speak Catalan, in addition to Spanish. After some initial surprise about the language we hopped on the metro and headed into the city center. It took us what felt like forever to find our hostel, but once we did (after an interesting adventure with a Spanish pay phone) we got settled in and laid out a plan to see as much as we could in a few short days.
We started out wandering toward Passeig de Gracia, one of the main streets in Barcelona to go see La Pedrera and Casa Batlo, both buildings designed by Gaudi. On the way, we found “our” chocolate shop, La Rambla, beautiful parks and buildings, and impressively long lines of people waiting to play the lottery. After checking out the buildings, which we did not pay to go in, headed back toward La Rambla. I had read that there was a huge market located on La Rambla and, being the foodies that we are, Sarah and I knew we had to check it out.
We reached El Mercat de Sant Josep, or La Boqueria as it is commonly called, and we were in food heaven. There were tons of stalls where people were selling fruit, meat, cheese, vegetables, bread, and most importantly, chocolate.
The market was filled with a mixture of tourists taking pictures and Spanish people actually out doing their shopping. Sarah and I quickly got delicious fruit smoothies and chocolates to enjoy while we explored. We even ended up buying various fruits, breads, and a Belgian waffle to call dinner. For our first night, we turned in pretty early. We had been up around 3am to get to the airport and we were exhausted.
Day 2 in Barcelona began with chocolate croissants at a bakery near our hostel and was spent exploring again. We visited La Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell, El Barrio Gotic, and the Chocolate Museum! On day 2 we also learned about the surprise roads of Barcelona. Sarah and I were walking down what we swear was a sidewalk – really, there were other people walking on it too! – when a car came down it out of nowhere. We thought maybe it was a mistake, but it happened more than once throughout our trip! Day 2 also brought the interesting experience of walking into a restaurant and trying to explain to the people working there that, yes, we were there to eat. I studied Spanish all through middle and high school, and even some in college, but hadn’t really used it in a few years. I managed to explain that although it was not dinner time, we did want to eat. To be fair, it was almost 7pm, and we were hungry. It was our dinner time, even though it was still early for most people in Spain.
Day 2 ended with Sarah and I deciding to go wandering at about 10:30pm. We ended up at La Rambla del Mar in Port Vell. It was beautiful at night, and we just relaxed and talked… until we decided to have a dance party! It was just the two of us, acting crazy, but it was a blast! We even found some nice people to take our picture.
Day 3 was our last full day in Barcelona and we spent it going to Montjuic, an old fort on top of a huge hill, and the Palace in the morning, followed by more wandering and a visit to a Christmas market in the afternoon. My Mom collects ornaments and I was determined to find one for her. I didn’t quite succeed but I did find a pretty candle holder that says “Bon Nadal” (Merry Christmas in Catalan) on it. After shopping, Sarah and I visited Santa Maria del Mar, a beautiful old church, and did some more exploring before dinner.
On our last night in Barcelona, Sarah and I had decided that we had to make sure we had tapas. This was easily our best meal in Barcelona. We had Spanish tortilla, patatas bravas, and chorizo, and I ordered a glass of sangria, which was delicious! After dinner we headed back to the hostel to meet up with K, who was flying in that night so she could fly to Vienna with us the next morning. Sarah and I loved Barcelona. There is so much more of Spain to explore, and I can’t wait to get back!