I contemplated running out of the open door on the jetway and on to the busy tarmac of the Barcelona airport as I was boarding the plane back to Prague. And this was a serious contemplation. I mean, what would have happened if I had just stayed? More sheer bliss. That’s what.
Suffice it to say, I did not want to leave Spain. I hadn’t quite had my fill of Barcelona and leaving after a mere three days in the city felt like an inappropriately abrupt departure after such a glorious love affair. The fact that I had a book report and presentation due upon my return to Prague (which I of course had yet to begin) might have influenced my feelings of never wanting to leave Barcelona, but I think the beautiful, white sand beaches, palm trees, sangria, Spanish men, and laid-back attitudes might have also aided to my feelings.
Barcelona was a much-needed relaxing vacation after my program’s nine-day traveling seminar full of group tours, lectures, and museums. Luckily my travel buddies, Mattie and Ilana, shared this same mindset and we had few plans in Barcelona other than finding the beach and hunkering down for most of the day (which we accomplished) and searching for the best sangria in Barcelona (which we also accomplished).
We stayed at a hostel in the residential neighborhood of Gracia, located three metro stops away from the city center and the main drag of Las Ramblas. It was so refreshing to stay in an actual neighborhood, where the presence of tourists didn’t dictate an absurd spike in prices. We spent our evenings strolling our neighborhood’s bustling main-street, passing restaurants of every imaginable ethnicity and being in absolute awe of the fact that locals were just going out to dinner at 11pm.
Our daily routine was not only productive, but also economically efficient AND endorphin producing (my logic: sun= vitamin D= happiness). We would wake up early, grab a quick (and cheap) breakfast at a fruit stand, and then we would choose one sight to see before lunch. One afternoon we adventured to Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia, another we hiked to the top of Tibidabo, and another we walked through Gaudi’s Guell Park. We each spent a total of 4 Euros for all of our sightseeing which covered the price of our funicular ticket down from Tibidabo. Impressive, eh? But this makes me wonder how I spent so much money on food….and sangria….
For lunch we would pick up picnic supplies at the famous Boqueria Market or some other deli and then b-line it to the beach where we would stay until the sun had been sufficiently been soaked in and my summer freckles had reemerged in full force.
I hadn’t realized how much I missed speaking Spanish until this trip to Spain. Although they speak Catalan in Barcelona (which for me, was entirely indecipherable due to the French influence) Spanish is widespread and I was able to whip out my rusty five years worth of Spanish. And to be sure, I was quite rusty. In any other case I would have been extremely self-conscious about my grammar and pronunciation, but I was on such a high of being able to speak with the locals in their language, that I spoke as much as I could. It helped that the locals were so understanding of my attempts. This was the first country that I traveled to in the past three months that I didn’t necessarily blend in as a native, with my light hair and all, so rather than assuming that I spoke the language, servers seemed content and maybe even amused with anything I could give them.
I was so comfortable and at home in Spain. The open culture and lifestyle was so alluring, but I’m happy I made the choice not to actually study in Spain, as was my plan for the past six years. In Spain, I was completely at ease and I fear if I had studied there, it wouldn’t have been the challenge I was looking for. I also probably would have been on the beach most of the time and I don’t want to think what that would have done to my grades or my skin….
BUT I WILL be back. I still need to accomplish my Vespa ride behind a Spanish man. Obviously.
Next up is Budapest! From Barcelona to Budapest- could they be more different? It’s debatable.