At the beginning of March, I was able to take a trip to Barcelona. One of my lovely college roommates, Emily, was on a solo trip in Amsterdam, and we had decided to meet in Barcelona – a city that we both had never visited – for four days to explore and catch up. I was super excited: to see her (it had been many months!), and to finally see Barcelona, which had been on my list for some time.
After a long bus ride, I finally arrived in Barcelona on Friday afternoon. Emily and I met up with our bags in a plaza near our Air BNB, then we went to check in. The first night was pretty low-key – we were both tired from our travels, so we walked around without any definite plan except for dinner and gelato. As we walked, ourselves a bit sleepy, the streets were bright and alive with lights and restaurants and hundreds of people, tourists and locals alike. I’ve found that I prefer walks like this when I am in a new place – a journey without a plan or direction, and simply trying to feel the heartbeat of the new city.
Saturday brought the first of our planned excursions. We woke up with the sunrise, went to grab breakfast, and then made our way to Park Güell. It was a bit of a hike to reach the park, as the hills and pathways became steeper with every block we walked. The barrio near the park was reminiscent of Austin to me. There were many communal areas covered in vivid graffiti, and the flora was very Hill Country-ish – cacti and small shrubs. And the park itself was absolutely spectacular – we spent a few hours inside, walking to every viewpoint and structure to witness it all. Later, we went to the Parc de la Ciutadella to explore and picnic. Then we continued our explorations to the coast, walking along the windy beach as dusk began settling onto the Mediterranean Sea.
The excursion that I was most looking forward to had been planned for Sunday – touring la Sagrada Familia, Gaudí’s art-noveau-inspired opus magnum that resides in the center of Barcelona. We brushed shoulders with swarms of tourists in the late hours of the morning as we filed into the magnificent cathedral. There was so much to learn as we made a slow procession through the interior, listening to the audio guide. Everything, every piece of stone and stain-glass window and arch and column and relief, has a purpose and significance in Gaudí’s cathedral. There are so many details that Gaudí built into his design, and that are still being fulfilled with the continued construction of the Sagrada Familia. It is an architectural marvel. It’s a space that makes you feel so small – as a human, craning your neck to look up to the vaults which are filled with lights of every color. But the space also carries a spiritual essence, a sacred and quieting atmosphere that I wouldn’t define as necessarily religious. Instead, it is sheer sense of awe for the grandness and the beauty of it all, and for witnessing the conversation that every part – the art and architecture and the narrative – is having with each other simultaneously.
Our afternoon held more great views of the city as we took a bus up to the Castell de Monjuïc, which is a castle on top of a small mountain with an amazing view of the sea. We enjoyed the nice weather and views of the sea and the grid of the city, looking out and locating places we had previously visited. We decided to walk down part of the way and meandered through some more nice, green parks as we made our way down to the city. It was a perfect ending to the day, and we turned in early to get ready for our next day of travel.
Emily’s flight on Monday left very early in the morning, so we bid farewell sleepily and she went on her way. I had a handful of hours left in the city, so I spent them by grabbing coffee with a new friend, which was a lot of fun. I ended up missing my bus, but it was an okay thing – I ended up chilling in the bus station and being able to catch up on some things that I had needed to do and some messages to which I had needed to respond. And the only bus going back to Madrid that day was an improvement from my other bus – it was like a first-class bus – so even though the replacement ticket was a bit more expensive, I got to ride back to Madrid with some extra leg room and complimentary almonds. (Fancy, right)?
Our trip to Barcelona was so refreshing, although short. It’s definitely a place I want to return to one day to further experience. Like all big cities, it’s a place that holds a lot of life, and I was left with a feeling that I had only seen a glimpse of all that Barcelona has to offer. But I returned home feeling renewed and thankful for the trip – that I was able to see an old friend, meet a new friend, and experience a new and exciting place to get me out of my regular routine.