Before the sun rose, I left Paris on a Thursday for Barcelona with Tu and Ashley, two of my Cornell friends also studying abroad in Paris. This was my first time leaving France since my arrival, and it was all very surreal, from the plane boarding to the landing.
I knew it was real when at the airport, all of the signs were primarily in Catalan, then Spanish, and then English. Soon we were in our hostel, anxious to explore the city of Barcelona: Gaudí and more Gaudí and lots of paella.
OBVIOUSLY we were starving. College students are always, always hungry. We had fish and spaghetti for lunch and walked around a market. One of Tu’s friends also from Cornell studying abroad in Barcelona took us to see Casa Batllo, Gaudí’s first work that I saw.
I bought some tourist keychains for my mom and then Ashley and I proceeded to the Picasso museum. We were there for literally only 15 minutes, but I learned the most about Picasso’s body of work than I ever have.
One of the most shocking realizations was the transition of depiction (excuse my lack of better vocabulary on art) Picasso’s work illustrated after his youth. His younger years were conventionally beautiful, with his older pieces being more chaotic, divided, and multidimensional. Las Meninas, his most renowned piece in this museum, was so rewarding to stand about 3 feet away from.
Art makes you very hungry. We headed to Yelp’s #1 rated restaurant for paella in Barcelona afterwards. While in Spain, we ate so much paella, which is served in a (very hot) pan, shared among two people. Like, every night we were in Spain. It almost reminded me of my mom’s Mexican rice, except with seafood on it.
Actually, much of the scenery I saw and the vibes from Barcelona reminded me of growing up Latina, and it especially brought me back to my summer in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas. The livelihood of the streets, the passion in the food and in the music was parallel to something I knew, something old, something colonized, from another universe. Barcelona and San Cristobal are places that exist outside of time, I believe.
Returning back to my itinerary, the following day we visited la Sagrada Família. It was truly emotive experience. To me, it felt extremely spiritual, a place of nature and humanity. Unlike most of the French Roman Catholic churches, la Sagrada Família felt less “institutional”, and more like a place one could find in nature. This was all Antoni Gaudí, of course, who I quote: “Isn’t it true that both the earth and the sky appear to be united?” In the interior, there were beautiful bright colors in the stained glass windows in which green and orange particularly brought each other out. Inside, we walked for around an hour and took photos. I felt extremely at peace, and connected to nature – inside a building.
After, we made our way to Parc Guell, a truly sublime place where earth meets sea. The strums of a classical guitar echoed through the trees as we walked on the trails through the park. Pink, blue, orange, and lots of green harmonized together.
And finally, the trip ended in Valencia, a beautiful Mediterranean city by the sea. One of the last nights was spent at a flamenco concert, where I truly believe resumed my feelings during my trip in Spain. The music and dance captured the collective emotions of a people, caught forever between the sounds of ethereal vocals and guitar.