Hola Friends and Family,
I’ve just gotten back from the most amazing trip to Barcelona with my friends Bianca, Korrin, and Kylin. I am feeling so happy from how much fun we had. I think it’s safe to say Barcelona is my favorite city that I’ve visited in Europe. The city has something for everyone with sandy beaches, mountain top views, city life, and magical architecture. Not to mention, we loved the Spanish culture as the people there were fun, casual, and really friendly. We had the most magnificent weather while we were there considering the forecast was calling for rain as we lead up to our vacation. The skies cleared and the sun shined down on us, and we never once had rain. I am so grateful for all the adventures this trip allowed us to have and the people I got to share them with. I’ll give you guys a run-down of all that we did on our vacation.
LA SAGRADA FAMILIA
Whew! Where to begin on this one? First let me start by introducing the architect, Antoni Gaudi. He is wildly famous in Barcelona, and his works are the most inspiring and creative things I’ve ever seen. All of his buildings are like art work and saying they are ‘outside of the box’ is a gross understatement. He built a building with wavy walls! You know how people ask you, ‘If you could invite three people to dinner who would it be?’. Well, for me Antoni Gaudi would be sitting at the table right next to me and Ellen DeGeneres (I haven’t narrowed down a third person just yet). It would be so fascinating to pick his brain, and hear him talk about all his creations. I would love to know what inspired him.
The church itself is absolutely massive and is still being built! Keep in mind that it’s already 133 years old! They’ve been building it this whole time, and it’s expected to be done by 2026. You might be wondering how this could be possible, but let me put those wonders to rest. This church is easily the most intricate and detailed structure that I’ve ever set eyes on. Words simply can’t describe, but you know I’ll try. The front of the church looks to me like it’s melting with all different kinds of figures, and there’s even a Christmas Tree at the top of one of the towers! HA! On the side of the church there are fruits that top the towers. Things are so out of place yet perfect all at the same time. Not a single detail was missed and it’s all so funny, interesting, and amazing what Gaudi decided to design on this building. When I walked inside this church I was completely stopped in my tracks. To see such a thing in person is totally overwhelming. The ceilings of the church are vaulted and it looks to me like a beautiful field of daisies. At the center of each ‘flower’ has an intricate design and mosaics flow out from there. I’ll just have to let the pictures do the talking for this because it was too stunning for words. I couldn’t believe it was real. As I looked around the church my eyes were captivated by the vibrant and colors that poured into the sanctuary from the extravagant stained glass windows. It was the most magnificent rainbow, and I was completely in awe of the beauty. It was truly magnificent.
This is the most amazing park that overlooks all of Barcelona. There is, once again, amazing architecture and beautiful grounds for exploring. Ky and I went at sunset and it was magical. We were totally in love with the views and the feeling of peace that the park gave you. I was fascinated by the intricate mosaic tiles and structures that filled the park. Each of them was so beautiful in their own way, and all the colors went together so harmoniously. There was one building up there that looked like it could be the gingerbread house from Hansel & Gretel. Mosaic tiles were pieced together that looked like gum drops surrounding the windows. Also, there was a rather large lizard of some sort all covered with tiles. I felt like I was in a fantasy land. If I had to pick one thing that I loved the most, I think it would be this park. It was such a cool and relaxing escape from the liveliness of the city, and I cannot understate how breath-taking the views were.
In the liveliest part of the city lies a main pathway called La Ramblas that is filled with food, souvenirs, and vendors. It is covered by a canopy of trees that shade the street vendors. The trees are bare this time of year, but all the branches twisted and turned into such a beautiful covering above us. It was neat to see, and I can only imagine what it would be like in the summer months with all the leaves. Delicious restaurants selling tapas and paella lined each side of the Ramblas and each place smelled so delicious. We stayed in an apartment just off this main pathway in the Gothic Quarter, and we had fun weaving through the side alleyways and seeing all the different shops and restaurants they had to offer. There were always people out exploring in this area. All the hustle and bustle is fun to be a part of, and it makes for great people watching! One of our favorite things to do on the Ramblas was chase the street vendors selling the knockoff Michael Kors wallets and purses (Sorry, Michael, but you’re expensive). It’s so funny to watch these guys work because they have their merchandise displayed on a little canvas on the ground, and when the police show up they have it jerry-rigged so they can pull it all up and throw it over their shoulder in an instant. Once when we were about to make a purchase the police showed up and cut our shopping short. It was bad timing too because I was totally crushing the bartering game…almost had a wallet down to 5 euros! All of the men threw their canvases on their backs, and ran down to the metro as a get-away. They were hiding down the stairs telling us to follow them. We were talking to the police officers after, and they told us there is a 300 euro fine for buying these knockoffs!! I mean dang, might as well buy the real thing then. There was never a dull moment on the Ramblas!
MERCAT DE LA BOQUERIA && OTHER FOODS
This was foodie HEAVEN! The Mercat was our hot spot where we ate breakfast every day, and we would often be back for snack time and lunch too. This was the most outstanding farmers market I’ve ever seen. As you walk down the aisles you can smell all of the super-fresh strawberries and exotic fruits. The colors of all the fruits and vegetables were out of this world. Freshest produce imaginable! You look to your left and there would be a guy cutting up fresh mango into large cups to sell as a “grab and go snack” for only a euro! To the right would be a stand full of empanadas and all kinds of homemade goodness. I personally loved the carne & queso ones. Our favorite thing to get at this market was the freshly made juice. It was uhhhhh-mazing! We found a stand that sold them 2 for 2 euro, and we were double fisting juices every time we went in there. They had all kinds of exotic fruit mixes like papaya, orange juice, and mango. There were some fruits I had never even heard of. My personal favorite was the pineapple and coconut juice. MMM. I’ve not even a big coconut person, but it was so packed with fresh flavor. We had at least three or four juices a day. I’m in withdrawal thinking about them. Another great place in there was the gelato stand. The girl running it was passing out samples til the sun came down. There was surprisingly an amazing avocado flavored gelato. That’s how good these people are…they turn avocados into dessert and it’s the best thing you’ve tasted. It was fun to speak Spanish with all the people at the market place. However, I kept messing up and saying ‘Merci’ and other French words out of habit when I would speak to the stand owners. I’m just so cultured. What’s funny is I felt like I was speaking more French in Spain than I do when I’m actually in France. I finally got the hang of it just in time for us to leave. Now that I’m back in France I keep wanting to say ‘gracias’ and other Spanish words. I definitely look like a confused tourist talking to people these days. Can’t keep all my languages straight! (Don’t let this fool you; I’m not even the tiniest bit close to fluent.)
Great food and flavor was a staple of our Barcelona trip. Paella is huge there, and every place you went was serving it up! Paella is a seafood and rice dish seasoned perfectly and sometimes has some pork or meat in there. The flavors packed a delicious punch, and it was totally different from what we’ve been eating in France. One of my favorite places we ate was at a tapas bar. It’s a really fun environment and experience. They have a bar filled with all kinds of different food served in small portions. You grab a plate and go pick out what you want. As things come out from the kitchen the waiters bring the dishes around to each table so if it catches your eye, you can grab it while it’s hot. Each tapa has a toothpick in it, and at the end of your dining the waiter simply adds up how many toothpicks you have and that’s how you’re charged. We washed these treats down with some Estrella, our new favorite beer! I will have to look for it in the states. For desserts I had Catalan Cream, or crème brulee for you French speakers, that was to die for. Eating in Spain is a fun adventure in and of itself! I will miss all the great flavors and freshness.
CASTELL DE MONTJUIC && CABLE CARS
This big Spanish castle hides up in a small mountain and overlooks all of Barcelona. There are great views of the city as well as the port. We climbed to the top of the castle and the views did not disappoint. The water was a gorgeous blue, the sun was high in the sky, and the Spanish flag was rippling in the wind. I was so grateful to be there and get to see this. It was a cool feeling because it gave me time to reflect on all the awesome things I’ve gotten to do while here in Europe. It’s crazy that volleyball has brought me here and allowed me to have such fun experiences. Not to mention, I’ve made so many great friends along the way. It is pretty cool to be seeing the world with my friends while we’re finding our way through our 20s. It’s a blessing that I don’t take lightly.
To get down the mountain we took a cable car! It was like we were flying over Barcelona, and we had spectacular views of the port. Let me tell you, there were some jaw-dropping yachts parked in there. They had regular sized boats stored IN the bottom as little play boats. Can you imagine? The cable car ride was a little bit like being on a ride at the state fair…where you know it must be safe but it’s still a little scary. The wind was rocking us a bit, but it all added to the fun. It took us right down to the beach, and we had a fun time adventuring down there.
BARCELONA VS MANCHESTER CITY FUTBOL MATCH
On our last night in Barcelona there was a big Futbol matchup. Even though Barcelona was the heavy favorite, the city was swarming with Manchester City fans. They turned the Ramblas and one of the plazas into a sea of light blue. Made me miss March Madness and my Tar Heels! Anyway, these fans were absolutely crazy. They were decked out in their team’s gear and repping Manchester City. They must have had over ten different chants, songs, and cheers that they kept singing. It was beyond entertaining to watch, and it was cool to experience the excitement of a European soccer match. Korrin and I went down by the stadium to watch the game and there were throngs of people. The area was buzzing with anticipation. As we walked down the sidewalk there were police dressed like SWAT who were separating the fans. All the fans for Barcelona got the sidewalk on one side of the street, and the Manchester City fans all had to go to the other sidewalk. Also, after the game they let out all the Barcelona fans out of the stadium first and the Manchester fans have to wait until the other fans clear out before they can leave. They have this security thing down. These people are serious about their soccer. It was a rush to see first-hand. Barcelona ended up winning 1-0, but fans from both teams seemed to have had a great time.
I had the best time on this vacation, and I loved getting to experience a new country and culture. I highly recommend Barcelona for anybody looking for a place to travel!