Last weekend was filled with tapas, lots of walking, and sand. Barcelona is a beautiful, lively city with much to offer. We got there Friday evening, checked into our hotel, asked for a map, and started searching. We walked to downtown (what I assumed by looking at the touristy map we were navigating by was that downtown was about a 20 minute walk)…. an hour later, we found ourselves strolling down the beach fending off scarf salesmen. Barcelona at night is also a beautiful sight. It was warm, with a light ocean breeze, and the sand under my feet couldn’t have felt better. We forgot all about dinner and just sat by the Mediterranean looking up at the stars until we got kicked off of the beach at two am by the cleaning crews.
The next morning, on Saturday, we woke up early and set out to walk the city. Armed with our touristy map from the night before (but slightly better sense of walking distances) we first went to the Segrada Familia. Segrada Familia is a church that has been under construction for close to one hundred years. It is a breathtaking sight, with large, intricately designed towers that block out the sun even at mid-day.
Unfortunately, the line to get into the church was a few hours long and with only one weekend to see Barcelona, we kept walking.
Our next stop was closer to the sea and held the promise of tapas and cool drinks. Barcelona has a large park near downtown that houses a zoo, a large fountain the size of a modest, two story house, and their own ‘Arc de Triomphe’. The park is a quiet relief from the bustle and liveliness of Barcelona’s streets.
After relaxing in the park for a while, we walked still closer to downtown. Distracted by a sign for tapas and sangria, we stopped in at a small cafe on a side street and had lunch. While there, we met a women from Australia who was traveling with her sister. They will be driving across America this summer, from LA to NYC and wanted to know our favorite parts of the States. I told them to avoid Vegas and take an extra week to go hiking in Glacier.
Leaving the cafe, and saying goodbye to our new friends, we headed into downtown and the famous street, ‘La Rambla’. La Rambla could be a city in itself. It has extensive shopping (mostly tacky but some worth a look), entertaining street performers, and untold numbers of pick-pocketers. My favorite thing about downtown was not colorful La Rambla, but all of the side streets offering unique shops and funny locals.
Saturday night I called my good friend from Cornell, Caroline, who is living in Barcelona this semester. She met up with us for dinner at a great place off La Rambla and we filled in the missing pieces of our lives for a few hours. After dinner, Caroline took us to a few of her favorite local pubs including one that looks like a forest on the inside (complete with little waterfalls and rivers by the bar and mini trees for tables) and one whose entire menu consists of four hundred different types of shots (we tried one that the bar tender lit on fire….).
The next morning, having figured out Barcelona’s metro system and no longer in need of my touristy map, I set off alone for downtown. I went with the idea of grabbing breakfast at a little cafe, walking around some shops, and getting back to the hotel by noon in time to get on the bus with everyone else and leave. Instead, I accidentally found the Picasso Museum and spent my morning there (don’t worry I still made it back to the bus and didn’t get left in Barcelona). Not being the most cultured art history person, I took all the pamphlets they gave me and asked way too many questions. As it would turn out, the museum is home to much of Picasso’s earlier work so it was really interesting to see his progression from landscape paintings to his later interpretations of other pieces.
This week, after returning from Barcelona, we had intensive French classes and introduction to Viticulture and Enology lectures. We also visited a dairy farm and three different wineries in the Gaillac Region. Now, I’ve spent the better part of today packing and cleaning my apartment. I went to the train station this morning, got my ticket for Milan and scoped out the station so I know where I’m going in the morning. I’ll be sad to leave Toulouse, it’s a beautiful, clean, and charming city, but I’m also excited for the next three weeks. On to Italy, Romania, and Greece!