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Monday, April 1, 2013

España, Part II


As promised here is the second portion of my spring break adventure in Spain!


BARCELONA

We arrived in Spain and were happy to see that there were sunny skies and warm weather! We made our way by the train to the city and finally found our hostel which was in a really great location, but the quality of the hostel was... interesting. It was run completely by boys, and they were all around the age of 20 or so. The room was a very small room packed with 12 people all on bunk beds. I wouldn't to go as far as saying that it was horrible, but it has been the worst hostel I have stayed in so far. We headed to the grocery store to grab a few things and got lunch along the way. The first thing that we noticed was the they have donuts in Barcelona! We don't have donuts in Italy along with just about everything else that isn't pasta, pizza or gelato. 


We headed back to the hostel dropped off our stuff and headed out to explore a bit of the city. Barcelona wasn't quite what I had expected, for some reason I didn't have the image of a big city in mind. It took a bit of getting used to as well as getting my bearings for navigating. We took a free walking tour through the gothic quarter, which was about a 3 hour tour. A bit too long, and a little too much of the tour guide constantly telling us to tip him afterwards. Overall, we were glad we took the tour and were able to be somewhat educated about the rich history of Barcelona. After the tour we gave him a couple of euros and headed down towards the beach. 
Plaça Sant Felip Neri
Catalan elementary school
Old Roman city walls of Barcino
This statue represents the competitions that are
held making human towers. Worth checking out!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castell
I found another space invader!
Picasso's school
Gaudi's Lamp posts

We made it as far as the dock and it was getting dark and we were getting hungry so we ended back up at the hostel where we made dinner and went to bed early. What happened to us?? This trip definitely took it's toll and turned us into old women. The second problem with the hostel were the other tenants in the room. Or I guess just one in particular, I have NEVER heard anyone snore that loud before in my life. It was unbearable, the earplugs only muffled the sounds to what a normal person would sound like snoring. I finally reached a point where I could not handle it anymore and started clapping to wake him up. He finally woke up and stopped snoring but it only last for about 20 minutes so the whole night long consisted of snoring and clapping. Comical now, but SO annoying at the time. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to film it, and then sent it to my sister who said "sounds like a dog growling". 


video


The next day we met up with a guy we had met from the hostel in Sevilla. His name is Todd, and he will be spending the next 7 months traveling across Europe. He looks exactly like Jim Carrey and acts like him too, very animated and semi odd. We made our way to Montjuic where most of the events for the 1992 Olympics were held. There is also a castle at the top of Montjuic that had some really great views of Barcelona. I was the trail blazer with map in hand. Yes dad, I was the navigator for once. 
Plaza d' Catalunya
Diving pools for the 1992 Olympics

We ended our long day of walking at Plaça d'Espanya and the National Museum of Catalunya. It is very impressive from the outside and has tons of waterfalls and fountains in front of it. After taking a little break in front of the museum we hopped on the metro to grab some lunch at a restaurant that was recommended by Todd's hostel. We got a bunch of things to share which included some sort of chicken cordon bleu dish and a seafood paella. The paella was delicious and i'm glad that I was able to have this authentic mexican dish before leaving Spain, but once was enough seeing as they are on the pricier end of the menu. 
Magic Montjuic fountain during the day
Placa d' Espana
Seafood Paella!
We split up from Todd to walk along the main shopping street Las Ramblas to see what there was. Ironically after walking up and down Las Ramblas, Caroline and I both ended up falling in love with bags in the shop that was just below our hostel. That night we, again, met up with Todd to go out to a bar my friend had recommended that worked like a stock market. The more people buy drinks, the price increases and then every 30 minutes or so the "stock market" crashes and the drinks get pretty cheap. It was a fun time watching the prices go up and down, but after an hour or so the exhaustion from walking all day set in and Caroline and I headed back to bed. 

I HAD to take a picture in front of this store
it was just too perfect not to send to my
co-workers at the pharmacy
For those of you who know me... I'm kind of obsessed with
bunnies, well basically animals. Needless to say I almost
 came back to Milan with an Easter bunny.
The group at Dow Jones!

The next morning we again met up with Todd and headed to Park Güell that houses many of Gaudi's works. Although it was crawling with tourists it was one of my most favorite places in Barcelona. The park itself is pretty big compared to other parks i've been to in Europe. I also really liked how Gaudi's works were incorporated into the landscape of the park. 
Gaudi's house


After spending a fair amount of time in the park we made the long walk down to another one of Gaudi's works, Sagrada Familia. It is a cathedral but definitely not like any other cathedral I have seen, or probably will see again. Although the construction started in 1882, it's still not completed. It has such a modern design, and on one side it looks like melted wax. It reminded me of the floop castle from the Spy Kids movie. 



We sat down and had a quick lunch across from the Sagrada. Afterwards, we followed suit from the previous day and split up from Todd to do some shopping as well as make it past another Gaudi building, La Pedrera. It is so interesting to see these buildings, even by today's standard modern, and then to find out that they were designed and constructed in the early 1900's. We continued shopping and by the time we knew it the day had passed and it was time again for another dinner at the hostel. 

We also walked by the other house, called Casa Batllo.


After dinner we headed out to a bar that was nearby to hang out. It ended up being a shots bar and it proved very amusing. All shots were 2 euros so there was a large slew of college aged kids, mostly Americans ordering all kinds of crazy shots, many involving fire. Again after about an hour we grew tired and headed back to the hostel and prepared for our day trip to Montserrat. 

Montserrat

We made an early start and were at the train station by 9:30. Caroline had to catch a flight that evening so we made an early start to ensure that we had enough time to do and see everything we wanted to. Guess who joined us again? ...Todd and yes at this point I was getting a little tired of him and his Jim Carrey commentary on everything. We barely missed the 9:30 train and the next one was at 10:30 so we walked around and waited for Todd to get something to eat. We got back to the train station just in time to find that it was crowded with tourists and there were no more seats left. So the hour train was spent with all three of us sitting on the floor. Luckily I had brought my ipod and the time went by pretty quickly. After getting off the train we then realized the huge queue of people lined up for the next leg of the journey, the tram. Caroline waited in line for about an hour before deciding that she would never have enough time to get up to the monastery and catch the tram back without risking missing her flight. And then there was two, it was just me and Todd for the remainder of the line to the tram. 


Todd and I waiting for the tram
Long, long lines

It wasn't too bad once I put my headphones in and tuned out all of the annoying knock knock jokes, and let's play a game comments. Once we got to the top of the mountain, I told Todd that I wanted some alone time and proceeded to see as much of the mountain as possible with the remaining time. I am homesick for the mountains back in Utah! I was so happy to be able to take some time to get away from the city and enjoy a day up in the mountains, the monastery was pretty cool but my favorite part was the hiking trails surrounding the monastery. It also made me miss my hiking bud, Abbey. I miss her so much! It was a really great opportunity for me to have some alone time and reflect on the experiences that I have had so far this semester. I am almost overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude, I still cannot believe that I am lucky enough to have the resources and opportunity to have this experience of a lifetime. I am the luckiest girl in the world! I underestimated the amount of time that I was going to spend hiking around and ended up catching a later tram back, which again had a ridiculously long line. After the waiting for the tram and the train I got back to Barcelona around 10. Surprise, Surprise after a long day I went back to the hostel and immediately fell asleep.


The next morning I got up fairly early, and packed my bags. The process took awhile since I was essentially playing tetris trying to fit everything into my bag that I had purchased along the way. Especially with Ryanair being so strict about their baggage requirements and I didn't want to have to pay 50 euros to check my bag. After fitting all of the clothes, souvenirs, and not one but two new purses I was left with only 3 shirts and 3 jackets that I would have to wear on the plane. The rest of the day I spent going at my own pace down to the market where I got my daily fresh juice, this time blackberry. From there I headed to beach. The weather was nice, but not what I would call beach weather yet people were still in their bathing suits. I sat down in a lounge chair but after about 15 minutes a man came over and demanded that I pay him 10 euros for the chair so I moved into the sand and laid on my jacket to take a little napsky. I love the beach! The greatest downfall to studying in Milan, is just that, that we don't have a beach.
 
Juices galore at the market
Cool old building that I passed on my way to the beach.

After enough time in the sand and sun I made my way over to the city park and the Arc de Triomphe. The Spanish parks are SO fun! They are well maintained and the Spanish take full advantage of the nice weather by playing soccer, having picnics, etc.



 After spending awhile in the park I made the trek over to the neighborhood where one of my good friends lived during her study abroad. I am so jealous that she was able to spend most of her time in the vibrant & artsy, Barcelona! It is such a perfect fit for her that one of my regrets is not making the push to be able to visit her while she was studying here. Her apartment was within walking distance of Plaça d'Espanya so I slowly made my way over to see the Magic fountain of Montjuïc light show. I had planned to meet up with some of the kids from Milan that I had met in Sevilla but there were just way to many people there that it would  be impossible to find them. The fountains started and I was surprised by the accompanying music of spanish renditions of Disney songs. 

Old bullring that has been turned into a shopping mall

The fountain show was beautiful with vibrant colors and I stuck around for about an hour before I headed back to the hostel. I took a shower, and hung around the hostel for as long as possible before heading to the train station to go to the airport. I had decided to forgo paying for another night at the hostel and spend the night in the airport. It made sense since I had such an early flight and would have to leave the hostel around 3 am anyways. I arrived at the airport and had some time to settle onto a bench, catch up on journaling and finally some sleep laying on my bag. It was also daylight savings time so I had even less time to wait, before I knew it I had checked through security and was on my flight back to Milan. I was ready to go back to Italy after such a long trip, but it was definitely bitter sweet to be leaving the sun and beach. 

Spring break in Spain was phenomenal. I wouldn't have done it any other way! 

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