Barcelona in the July heat.
This was the third stop on my European Whirlwind trip and one that I was especially excited to see. I had not one, but two good friends who would be with me exploring a city I had wanted to visit since watching Cheetah Girls Two as a girl (okay it sounded more romantic in my head). Realistically, I faced flight delays that had me rolling up to my friend Phoebe’s apartment at three in the morning when she had to work the next day. I felt bad, but she was so glad to see me, and I her that it just didn’t matter. She left me her keys in the morning and I was left to go on a nice walk in the neighborhood before checking into my hostel. Now, first big question I know you have, why is she staying in a hostel if her friend has an apartment? The answer is that because I had another friend coming in from Germany and she had a strict landlord, it was just best for our scenario. So after I was drenched in sweat from my half an hour walk in the Spanish heat, I then lugged my suitcase down three flights of stairs, back into the sun, and down four blocks to arrive at Don Moustache Hostel at high noon. Immediately I understand siestas. How on Earth can you do anything but just lay around when all you can focus on is how hot it is? A light lunch and a nap are really what a person needs, so I did just that and took my first ever siesta gratefully. Once my other friend Jecka arrived, I let her settle in and we caught up a bit after not seeing each other in over a year. She and I met way back in Colorado when I spent my first year of college there, and she since had fallen in love and moved to Germany to marry her now husband Domink. Being fully aware that both she and I could talk for hours, we paused and decided to walk to Plaza Catalyuna for paella and sangria as the perfect welcome dinner. We were then joined by Phoebe when she got off work and continued to chat until it was dark. Phe is English but is in love with Spain (and a man in Spain) so searched hard for an internship in Barca after leaving Rio with me. Since she knew the city fairly well, she took us to a great gelato place and we wandered around the streets until we finished and arrived back at the hostel. The cool shower and fresh sheets were my best friend that night as I drifted into Spanish dreams.
Jecka let me sleep in a bit the next morning one because we didn’t have a plan and two, because she’s a morning person and wanted the quiet time. After breakfast and coffee (which were free by the way, not the standard in Barcelona) we took the metro to West Park where we climbed to see a beautiful castle and overlook of the city. The red rooves made me so happy! In a matter of minutes, we were soaked through and decided we couldn’t pass up the allure of a beautiful outdoor patio of a nearby hotel. We stopped and had a very diva lunch, splitting a cheese and olive plate while drinking sparkling lemon water. I had my big sunglasses on and feet propped up as she and I talked about married life.
I just had to stop and think about my life in awe. Some moments of travel, it just hits you, like wow I’m actually doing this and living in this moment of time thousands of miles away from my normal life. How lucky I am to see this, smell this, experience this place right now as it is and create real memories here. Most times it hits me so hard I tear up. Moments like these are what I yearn for, they’re my motivator to travel. To see a place, in reality, is so powerful and packed with so many opportunities that I crave it. And there, in Barca, at the diva lunch, I had one of these moments.
Eventually, I gathered myself and we cooled off enough to walk down to the port since Jeck wanted to see the water. We strolled until we saw an ad for a free bike tour that piqued our interest and we signed up for the 6 o’clock slot. After being greeted by a punky woman in her thirties with a platinum blonde pixie cut and no bra, we and only other Americans were led to a small shed where we chose our bikes and rode off to explore the city. It was a very classic bike tour with some story-telling in-between short rides on streets and between tight alleys. We learned city history and saw major landmarks that coincided with it’s past. My favorite place was the Barcelona Cathedral where we learned a beautiful story of a woman named Eulalia who fought the good fight and defended the faith so much so that she had the official cathedral named after her. The surrounding area was also so cool, with tight winding alleys for a few miles all around dotted with great boutiques and restaurants. The tour ended at the beach after passing Sagrada Familia and I was super impressed with how easy it was to bike around the city. Normally, urban biking makes me very nervous but overall Barcelona is well structured for bikes and slow enough to keep everyone calm. 🙂 That night we got dinner back around the Cathedral area and drank more sangria (classic).
The third morning was also slow with us getting advice from our hostel ladies about the best beach in the area. I had boughten a swimsuit the day before on a whim and Jecka was very enthusiastic about swimming so we used out metro passes to take a train a bit farther out, only to have the sky open up and pour right before we got there. It was a sad scene as almost the entire train got out, stood on the platform looking at the beach in the pouring rain, and went right back down to catch a return train home. The extra disappointing thing was when we returned back to the city, it had just stopped. We took it as a sign and re-planned out our day and joined Phoebe for some shopping near Cathedral and at St. Joseph’s Market. While out and about, I stumbled on this beautiful store that just so happened to have all naturally dyed, locally sourced garments and while I wasn’t even looking found the last olive suede dress that just so happened to be in my size. I tried it on without even looking a the price tag and knew that I had to have it. It is by far is the most beautiful thing I have in my closet.
St. Joseph’s was a covered outdoor food market full of samples and treats of all kind. Locals gravitated here along with the tourists so I appreciated the Spanish a ton, not to mention the authenticity of the cuisine. I left feeling full and oh so happy at my food experience. By then, the sun was setting and it was nice enough to walk home. We passed through a university and in a courtyard we walked under a fruiting orange tree where I took a picture and picked the best orange of the bunch, eating it right on the spot. There’s just something about Southern European citrus.
Our final day started off with us walking Park Guell and seeing the beautiful Gaudi artwork. We reached the stone archways and inside echoed live music from various street performers. We stopped to just listen and enjoy the moment before taking a bus back to the city and sitting at a cafe for crepes and coffee. This was a significantly cooler day and therefore much more enjoyable to walk. We took a few wrong turns but ended up at the entrance of Sagrada Familia where I had boughten tickets a few days prior for entry. I thought it was totally worth every penny. I was amazed by Gaudi’s work and how stunning the architecture was on the inside. Every detail was thought through and executed with precise care. The light bounced everywhere and had the entire church been open for access, I could have easily spent the entire day there. Both Jeck and I took a few moments to pray before heading out into the mist and back to the metro. Quick note about entering the Sagrada Familia before I move on, you need to have your shoulders covered, no exceptions. They will make you buy a tee shirt if you don’t have something to cover up with. Respect the church people!
We landed back down by the city beach where we dipped our toes, being unprepared to stay even though the weather had turned around (Barcelona just really didn’t want us to have a beach day) and ended the day by having a glass of red wine on a rooftop bar at sunset. That ending could not have been more perfect to our four day trip of catching up and spending quality time. I have such amazing people in my life that are now spread all over the world, so experiences like this mean the world to me mostly because I get to put love in those relationships again. Only so much can be done over text and call. And as a lasting word, that was my impression of Barcelona. Not a lot of the historical details or specific places stayed in my mind when I got home, but the conversations and time I had with my friends did. Those ladies have helped make me who I am today, Barcelona just so happened to be our meeting ground this time 🙂