After a cab ride from hell to the JFK airport we were finally boarded on the flight to Barcelona. Considering my unsettling flight anxiety I was both excited and terrified to spent 8 hours 35,000 feet above the ground. We spent quite some time taxing on the runway making me hope the plane could just drive us to Spain (yes my anxiety is THAT bad). Before I knew it though we were finally on our descent into the Barcelona El Prats airport. The jitters set in and the sadness seemed to leave my body somewhere over the Atlantic. I finally felt ready for my new adventure with my head peering out the window searching for the morning sunrise to glisten upon my first sight of Spain. Then after a few moments I looked out my small window to see what I had dreamed about for so many years, Europe. As the altitude slowly decreased and the captain notified the flight staff to returned to their seats emotion swelled completely over my eyes. After spending about a month traveling around visiting friends and family and only having slept in my bed for 3 days in the span of 3 1/2 weeks it felt real. I was home.
After getting off the plane my mom and I headed over to baggage claim, It slowly set in that I would need to begin to use the Spanish I learned in high school and college to get to my airbnb. Fun thing was, the Barcelona airport either has no WiFi or very poor reception so trying to navigate around without the internet seemed like a task a millennial was unable to accomplish.
With the help of some previously printed out directions and a very patient cab driver we made it to the airbnb! A nice Brazilian named Marcelo greeted us to the door and welcomed us immediately. Unfortunately the jet lag reared it’s ugly head and I needed a solid catnap before proceeding to explore Barcelona. Three hours later we were out the door!
I already have a bad reputation for not capturing a lot of photos while traveling but looking back I’m bummed I didn’t snap some of the restaurants we ate at. The first one we went to was a tapas style lunch and dinner restaurant. We started out with a large Sangria and some various little bites that Spain is so well known for. We were able to use our Spanish enough for him to bring us some free “cava” (Spanish champagne). After filling our tummies it was time to search for a sim card that would work with my cell phone for the course of my year. This didn’t come easy though. I was used to vodafone from when I studied abroad previously but considering our lack of GPS ability we relied on locals to search for the nearest one. You really don’t realize how important your electronics can be to you until you don’t have the ability to use them.
The day continued on now that we had GPS capability and whatsapp to contact our airbnb host in case anything went wrong. Since the jet lag still felt like a heavy weight the best way to make the use of our day was to simply wander. With the thanks of Marcelo we were made aware of the underground subway system that can take you almost anywhere in Barcelona. They have a nifty 10 ride card for 9,99 that would allow 2 people 5 different rides. We would just sit in the subway, point at some location and hope it was somewhere worth seeing (then again everywhere in Barcelona was worth seeing).
After some much needed rest it seemed like the jet lag was finally staring to wear off (it wasn’t) but today was the day to see much of what makes Barcelona famous. We took the subway over to see Park Guell, one of Gaudi’s famous architectural wonders. After what felt like 1,000 stairs to get up to the top I saw just what everyone was telling me about. One of the most beautiful views of the city is at the top of the park and you can see what feels like all of Barcelona. Next we rode the subway again to walk by La Sagrada Familia, another incredible piece by Gaudi, it is still unfinished with a expected completion date of 2030. While walking around we saw a few terrace cafes but only one made my tastebuds water. Strangely enough it was a pizzeria (I know it’s not Italy) but I had a hankering for some carbs with cheese on it.
The rest of the day was spent walking around Las Ramblas and looking at the mall and even doing a little shopping. With only the GPS on my phone and our four very capable legs we went anywhere the felt worth seeing. Stumbling upon an outdoor market, a cathedral and many street performers. Wandering around made me feel like I was 16 again, the small streets, the cars that look like they could be driven with remote controllers and music on almost any block. I looked back to the times this month that I spent crying, worried about everything to come and panicked I’d spend more time missing my family than enjoying my new adventure. It all changed when I arrived to Barcelona, the eagerness set in as I saw my roommates arrive in Palma one by one. I was excited to think of all the adventures we would have together and ready for all this year might bring. I’ll be spending the next two days in Madrid taking in all that beautiful city has to offer before I can settle in to what will be a very exciting year.
My take on Barcelona:
-Stay at an airbnb
-Try to speak any Spanish you know to your waiter, they always appreciated it even when it took a few moments to explain something.
-Use the transit system and buy the T-10 card, you could go visit ALL the known monuments with this.
-If you do use the metro, make sure to stay to the right side of the escalator so people can walk up it next to you. (YES there are stairs right next to the escalator but I was informed this is just a thing in Spain).
-Sangria is known as drink for 16 year-olds by many Spaniards (as i was informed) try going for a vino tinto/blanco/rosado or tinto de verano if you want to look like a local.. But hey, sangria is pretty good so no judgements here.
-Beer is also served as whatever is on draft, you order it by the size and not by the brand. Yes craft beer lovers they don’t have bottled iPA’s quite yet.
-Don’t set a plan and walk as much as possible. Yes Barcelona is a HUGE city but we happened upon all of our restaurants by just walking down a street and looking at various menus. Always ask for the Spanish menu.
-Sitting on the terrace is great, but many restaurants include a %15 surcharge for the added service.
-El Menu del dia is a great way to get lots of food, wine and bread for only about 10 euros. (Don’t try that at dinner though or it’ll be more expensive)
-“Lo Siento” is not used when you bump into someone. I was rarely even said “perdon” to, it only seemed to be used when trying to pass someone who maybe was distracted by their cell phone.
-Water is not readily available at restaurants and comes in bottled form. I already dearly miss my Oregon tap water, but bottled water is only about .75 euros so I tend to opt for that instead,
-If someone heard us speaking english before walking into a restaurant they would address the entire meal to us in English. I still tried using my Spanish regardless for good practice.
*Note- We went to Madrid as well but because of the shorter time we had with flights & trains going to/from cities I decided to focus on Barcelona