Hey all. So, I know it’s been way too long since I last wrote, but I have some pretty good excuses: I just got back from my ten day break, which I spent in both Barcelona and Altomonte, in Calabria- with a little pit-stop in Siena in between, and I have been without internet for some time because I couldn’t get to the store to pay a ridiculous amount for credit.
Anyway, I guess this blog will be solely about Barcelona as the three days that I stayed there are packed full of events.
Getting to Barcelona was not in the least bit easy, and actually took a ridiculous amount of time out of the trip (I will get more into my disgust for the actual process of traveling later). I, along with six other girls first headed to Rome via city bus, then took the metro to the Rome airport. In theory this sounds relatively easy, but wait until you step into the Rome airport, where no one else knows any better than you how to get from one place to another. We took a nice walk around the entire airport before we ended up in the same spot that we started- which of course was ironically where we needed to be all along. From there we took a plane to Barcelona, and finally a city bus and a taxi to our hostel. Arriving at 3am is not a good idea- so I suggest anyone who thinks they will arrive at midnight but has yet to factor in all the traveling mishaps: be warned! We sat, a bit slap-happy from overtiredness, and a bit desolate because we couldn’t get in the barred door that would lead us to what we hoped would be our beautiful beds, for about 20 minutes before I decided to ask two random people who “looked american,” if they new of another hostel that was open at this hour. Amazingly, the two men happened to be walking by at that time because they stayed in the same hostel and were returning home from a night out! Although they played jokes on us for a while, and wouldn’t let us in without first getting the attendant (which isn’t a bad thing… but was a little upsetting considering our current 3:30am state of being). Finally we were let in and basically crashed until around 10 ish the next day:
Emily and I took it upon ourselves to feed our caffeine addiction as soon as possible that morning. But not before snooping around the hostel a bit- which turned out to be incredible. I would recommend San Jordi’s Hostel for anyone traveling to Barcelona in the near future. First there was the factor of cleanliness, then the part with free internet (okay, I guess I had access while I was there, but I was too busy trying to jam pack my three days there too stop and update), high pressured showers, a kitchen, communal food, and AMAZING people (and I’m including both the people who worked there and the people that stayed in the equation). Anyway, Emily and I found a really nice place to eat, (thanks to our blues-guitar-playing attendant), and ended up having the first semblance of an American breakfast I have had here. I got an omelet with mushrooms in it, that came with some tomato tapas, and Emily got a fried egg and fried potatoes (which, to her dismay, implied french fries, and not hash browns). We walked around the entire day and I noticed that despite the big-city look of Barcelona, there was something in the air that made me feel lighter and happier than I find myself accustomed to feeling in either Chicago or New York. I think some of the Italian ideals towards efficiency may have trickled over to Spain, where I found everyone to be equally as lax and easy going as I have in Italy. This first occurred to me during a conversation with the same attendant I mentioned before- where the possibly disastrous fact that Emily and I booked a different San Jordi’s hostel than our friends- turned out to be a don’t worry about it- pay later when you want- type deal. After walking around for a bit and returning to the hostel for a short nap, Emily and I set out for some good Spanish food only to arrive at a Subway about half an hour later. Because Europe actually has food standards, Subway, (and the McDonalds too- which I refused to try but my friends did), had really good quality food and we were completely satisfied.
A day with Emily in Barcelona
A day with Emily in Barcelona
Our Hostel, too add to the list of it’s immense awesomeness, plans events every night in which all antendee’s are invited to. These events aren’t some card-game or costume party type deal, they are getting VIP access into all of the best clubs around the city center (the hostel was located in the best part of the city)- and really means passing all the hour long lines and going straight into the bars for gratis. Yea, that means free. So, we got a bit dressed up in celebration of the day before Halloween, and set out to a club called Elephant.
The next day I decided to do some more sight seeing with some girls that I met at the hostel. The name Salvador Dali came up in conversation the night before, and Alice (a Brazilian girl staying at the hostel) told me that she planned on going to his house- which was only two hours away in a small town called Figures. I was so enthralled by the idea, that I made an entirely unnecessary scene in the kitchen and she promised that we could go together the next day. Unfortunately, and to my horror, we woke up at 12 and didn’t make it until the train station until 2.30, where we discovered that the museum closes at 4, and there would be no point in making the two hour bus ride down there today. I tried to put my upset to use though- instead of heading home, we decided to venture to Park Guell, which was unbelievably beautiful and peaceful.
Park Guell, Barcelona
The park was immense and was decorated with incredible mosaics and sculptures all done by Antonio Gaudi. For those of you who haven’t seen his architectural genius, you should look him up. We sat in the park, listening to live music and taking in all the sun possible (because it’s already freezing in Siena), for about 3 hours before we decided to go back to the hostel.
Preparation for Halloween: I was a policeman. I know, it’s not that innovative, but all I had to buy was a hat and a badge and I was set. Cheap (ish because it actually was incredibly expensive for what it was) is the way to go. After dressing up in whatever we could piece together, we all headed out to a Karaoke bar where some of my friends and I took the liberty of sharing our oh-so-beautiful voices to the public. It was my first time singing karaoke and I vow to always do it again because singing “Hot in Here” by Nelly was about the funniest thing I have ever done.
Final full day in Barcelona and I yet again missed out on the chance to see Dali. I am still incredibly disappointed, but Lauren and I, (another girl I met at the hostel who is studying abroad in Perugia, Italy), decided to visit the Gaudi museum and make the most of the day. The building was amazing and the rooftop even more so- with odd and beautiful structures jutting out at ever turn. The sun was out too, which made the idea of renting bikes on the beach a great one. First we had another not-so-traditional Spanish dish of chips and guacamole on the boardwalk, and next we headed over to the bike rental, where we were allotted bikes for two hours (both of which were spent either riding along the boardwalk or laying on the sand next to us on the beach).
Lauren, with the remnants of our chips and guacamole
Me trying a mask on at one of the stands along the boarkwalk
Gaudi Museum Rooftop
Returning to the hostel, I felt an immense sense of homliness, which is great to feel when you are tired and you just want a comfortable, safe place to rest. I ended up being somewhat of a couch potato- watching two movies and falling to sleep. While everyone else was getting ready to go out, I was packing for the plane that I would take early next morning. It was really nice to just sit and relax though- especially after having the feeling of needed to see as much as possible in a little amount of time.
I made the long trek home the next day- partly with Emily, who was leaving for Dublin, and partly by myself (which I was nervous about). After not speaking Italian for three days (or really, trying to speak Italian only to realize that English was better understood), I felt like I lost my language skills completely, and was dumbfounded for a while upon my return to Siena. It’s scary to think about how much I will inevitably lose when I leave Italy. Even with taking classes and talking to my family, Italian will no longer be in my every… moment.
When I got back to Siena, I headed over to my friend Rodolfo’s house (he lives in Siena and is currently studying law… I actually met him through my cousin- who I would be going to Calabria the next day to meet for the first time), where I slept the night and most of the next day. Actually, while with him, I probably did about all the cliche “Italian” things possible: I drove on a vespa, watched a soccer game, ate pasta, drank wine, and… well, that pretty much covers it. It was incredibly fun, and I’m really glad I have made some Italian friends. He really helped me get back into Italian mode before I headed to Altomonte, in Calabria to visit my only-italian-speaking- family.