This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel to Barcelona for a few days with some of my friends from the program. I had a great time and the weekend was full of experiences, most were fantastic, some of a less awesome nature, but I came away with tons of memories, stories, and the desire to go back whenever I get the chance to see even more. The Tufts/Skidmore program provides each of us with 200€ for traveling within Spain, which covered our flights and hotel, leaving us free to indulge a little when it came to our cultural culinary experiences. I am lucky enough to not have classes on Friday, so I booked an early morning flight so I would be able to make the most of the short vacation.
Arrived in Barcelona around 9:30 in the morning with a whole day ahead of me. Emma and I tracked down our hostal and then I set out to explore the city a bit. Our hostal, La Terrassa, was located a block away from the main street in Barcelona, La Rambla, a stunning pedestrian street running from Plaça de Colón on the sea to Plaça Catalunya in the city. The street was filled with tourists, shoppers, street performers, and vendors in the middle pedestrian path with shops, hotels and restaurants lining both sides. I followed La Rambla down to the sea, walked around Plaça de Colón and did some browsing of antique stands before heading around the harbor and along Passeig de Colom. From the harbor I headed into el Barrio Gótico with narrow, winding streets that date back to the 14th century. Barcelona is quite a stunning city with an interesting mix of the medieval, modern, and everything in between.
The region of Barcelona presented a departure from the comfortable castellano (Español) that we’ve been surrounded by in Alcalá and Madrid. In Barcelona the language of choice is catalán, which is somewhat of a mix of French, Spanish, and Italian. Mostly everyone also speaks castellano, but generally when speaking to us most people resorted to english when we spoke in castellano and not catalán. It was definitely a little strange hearing english so frequently when mostly everyone at home speaks to us in castellano.
After wandering around Barcelona for a while, I met up with the girls back at the hotel and we headed off to Montjuïc, a broad hill that overlooks Barcelona. On the way out we stopped at the Mercado de la Boquería, a stunning open air market filled with fish, meat, fruits, and customers. We purchased some sandwiches, pasta, and fresh fruit juice and ate along Las Ramblas. After a somewhat tedious scavenger hunt for the correct bus to Montjuïc, we were on our way up the hill, driving through Plaça de Espanya and the site of the 1992 Summer Olympics. The bus ride itself was like a tour of some of the most beautiful parts of Barcelona, providing us with incredible views of the city sandwiched between the mountains and the sea. We left the bus at the Montjuïc tramway and boarded a tram that brought us to the Castell de Montjuïc which dates back to the 17th century. Suspended from the tram hundreds of feet above Barcelona, we could see the entire city before us. Amazing to see the places I had been, La Rambla, Colón, Catalunya, the harbor, all laid out below.
The view from the castell was marvelous and we spent a good amount of time walking around, taking pictures, and enjoying the beautiful weather. Hard to believe that such a beautiful location was home to so many executions throughout its lifetime, even within the last 100 years during the Spanish Civil War. Tired and ready for a break before dinner, we headed down, walking back to the base of the tram and then taking the funicular, which is part of the Barcelona metro system, down to the city and heading home on the metro.
After a brief siesta we headed out for dinner. Our goal was to head into the Barrio Gótic and find a local bar/restaurant in which to dine, but we entered the labyrinth a bit north of the gothic area and found ourselves in El Born district, an up and coming area full of hipsters and high price tags. Our stomachs growling, we hunted for the perfect restaurant and found a lovely place full of ambiance and locals. With menus printed on wine bottles and delicious entrees and desserts, our first main meal in Barcelona was a success.
We headed for a night on the town, but our lack of a specific plan quickly showed itself. With friends already in a bar down by the water and more arriving soon on their now-delayed flight, the Tufts/Skidmore coalition in Barcelona was spread a little thin. We found the bar and rendezvoused with the others and I headed back to the hotel to pick up the latecomers and bring them back to the bar. I headed into the winding gothic district that was filled with people walking towards their respective destinations. While walking back to the hotel, a man attempted to rob me, but after a slightly forceful rebuttal on my part he decided to let me go on my merry way. By the time everyone at the hotel was checked in they were fairly tired and I was still processing the attempted mugging and wasn’t ready to head back through the gauntlet, so I stayed at the hotel and the rest of the gang returned later by cab. Our first night in Barcelona was certainly an experience, but all worked out well and none of us were much worse for wear. We certainly weren’t in quiet Alcalá anymore!