The free weekends were starting to dwindle, and how could I study in Spain for four months and not make it the Barcelona? This was absolutely unacceptable. So after a wonderful week with my sweet boyfriend, I hopped on a plane Saturday morning bound for Barcelona, where I would finally get to see my sorority sister and one of my best friends, Imogen! When I got off the bus, she and Shannon were there to sweep me off to lunch. They really know the way to my heart…FOOD!
Some of Shannon’s friends from Madrid had their name on the list at a popular restaurant in Barcelona called Brunch and Cake. They had been waiting over two hours, so we joined their reservation and were seated in 30 minutes. Bad luck for Shannon’s friends. Good luck for us. It was absolutely delicious. I had a giant bagel with bacon, spinach and eggs with a mimosa. Talk about the perfect arrival.
After lunch, our tour of Barcelona began and Imogen was our fearless leader. She first took us to our hostel, which was right near Sagrada Familia…perfect location, awful hostel. Then she walked us to the Arc Triomf where we took the necessary photos.
She took us to the Park de la Ciutadella, complete with a beautiful fountain designed by not other than Antoni Gaudi himself. We walked through a nearby neighborhood and enjoyed the small alley ways full of unique clothing shops and restaurants. Christmas lights hung from wall to wall overhead in the alleys and made the streets look like a scene out of a movie.
We walked down the famous Las Rambas and made a stop in La Boqueria. This is a huge (semi) outdoor market with everything from fruits and vegetables to fish and meat to sweet treats. After all the walking, we were exhausted and in desperate need of a drink…so we stopped in a small bar for some freshly made Spanish sangria. ¡Que riquísima! Then it was back to the hostel to shower and rest before our night on the town with our tour guide, Imogen.
If you are ever in Barcelona and want to go to unique bars, I would suggest the places we went:
- Soda Bus– The bar has a giant double decker bus on the inside and they serve drinks in giant fish bowl glasses. One drink is enough to share between 2-3 people.
Word of Advice: They will say each person has to order something. DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT, order a fish bowl glass for each person. Just order an extra shot to add to your drink…or to not drink at all.
- Le Serrano– This bar is owned by an older couple native to Barcelona. Imogen likes to call them mom and dad. You pour your own drinks starting at the low price of 4 euros (and the price increases depending on what quality of liquor you order). Then the bar is full of young Spanish locals and study abroad students who mingle in the well-lit and casual bar setting. There is no loud music, no over-priced drinks, and no dark rooms. And even more importantly, for those of us who like to eat, they provide you with unlimited popcorn. And as if I didn’t love the place enough, they give you a free shot and a free water bottle on your way out the door.
The following day, we woke up bright and early and walked a short block to visit the famous Sagrada Familia. I suggest you buy your tickets ahead of time, because the line is massive. It is massive if you have tickets ahead of time, but double-massive if you don’t. There is so much to see at this beautiful cathedral, you could spend an hour just admiring the front façade. The side where we entered is the façade where the cathedral gets its name. It is dedicated to the holy family, or the sagrada familia. The opposing side is purposely less vivacious and extravagant as it reveals the story of the crucifixion. Inside the columns support a beautiful and decorative ceiling with vibrant stain glass circling the sanctuary, where a crucifix is suspended above the altar. Below the church is a museum full of information and demonstrations about how Gaudi and the architects since have constructed this beautiful masterpiece. The groundbreaking of the cathedral was in 1882 and the final cathedral is expected to be complete in 2018.
Following our visit to the Sagrada Familia, I was starving (shocker) so Imogen took us to an amazing restaurant called Milk. Every day from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., they serve their famous “Recovery Brunch”. I think this was the best meal, if not then one of the best meals, I have had during my time in Europe. We all started with a cocktail: Shannon with a Bellini, Imogen with a Bloody Mary (it was sooo good!) and me with a mimosa. I had the Triple Whammy Breakfast burger and “whammy” is right! It was a burger cooked to perfection topped with smoky bacon, cheese and a soft fried egg all within a toasted sesame bun with seasoned potatoes on the side. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. I would travel back to Barcelona just to have this burger again, except this time I would order the Bloody Mary! Imogen ordered the BB Deluxe burger and Shannon ordered the Huevos Rancheros. Both, also, very delicious.
Stomach now happy, we walked to the docks where hundreds of beautiful yachts, waiting for us to ride in them, sat anchored in the bay. Unfortunately, none of the yachts (or their owners) got to enjoy our presence. But next visit! We sat on the steps where a music group played native Spanish songs and danced for on-lookers. With the sunset, the ocean breeze in our hair, and full stomachs, this was the perfect setting. We also wandered the man-made beaches crowded with entrepreneurs trying to sell you fake Ray Bans or a “Gucci” purse. Nevertheless, another beautiful site to see. Imogen, not on vacation, had to head home to work on homework and Shannon and I ventured via metro to Parc Guell.
The famous park, as seen in Cheetah Girls 2, with Antoni Gaudi’s house and some of his most well-known work. We walked around the park and toured Gaudi’s house. Unfortunately, we were under the impression we had tickets to the benches…but naturally we didn’t and the wait for the next round of tickets was over 2 hours. So instead we just utilized the zoom on our cameras.
Word of Advice: Tickets to the actual benched area with the famous mosaic tiles are 8 euros. However, after closing at like 6:15 p.m. access is free. So, A. Ensure you have tickets for the time you want to go ahead of time, or B. Save some money and go after it closes.
Then in traditional Spanish form, we went to the local Irish pub and got nachos, chicken tenders, wings, French fries and a few beers before the big Real Madrid v. Barca game started. Unfortunately, our Sunday night train back to Madrid impaired our ability to watch the game. Probably for the best because Barca ended up winning.
Overall, Barcelona was a great experience. I ate wonderful food and spent quality time with two of my best friends. For tourists, Barcelona is definitely more contemporary than other Spanish cities. If you want to experience true Spanish food, culture and traditions, travel to Madrid. This is the best way I can explain it… Madrid is New York City, traditional and iconically American. Barcelona is Los Angeles, funky, free and unique in its own style. Nevertheless, if you get to travel in Spain, carve out a day (or two) to see the beautiful city of Barcelona.
Visit Imogen and See Barcelona: Double Check. To hear more about my study abroad experience, check out my special spring break blog, The Spring Break of the Century: Our Roman Holiday.