I guess technically my next trip after Paris was home to California, which was fantastic, but since that’s not as fun to read about as my European adventures, I’ll continue with Barcelona.
Robin, Jessica (Chiu), and I visited the Spanish city in early March. After flying in and checking into our hostel, we ventured toward the beach. The weather was perfect that day: sunny and much warmer than it had been in Madrid for months (I was able to take off my winter coat for the first time!), and, being California girls, we love the ocean and had missed it greatly. The pier reminded me a lot of the U.S., specifically South Street Seaport in New York City or some place in California, and this put me in a wonderful mood.
At the pier, we had a classy lunch at McDonalds (I’ve eaten more McDonalds on my travels around Europe than I have in my entire life, because we’re all about saving money when we travel) and then wandered around that area for a bit, soaking in the sun (it was probably only about 60 degrees, but compared to Madrid’s winter, that was fabulous) and enjoying being near the ocean.
Then we walked down La Rambla, a long pedestrian street filled with flower shops, street performers, and other vendors, until we hit Plaça Catalunya. From there, we continued heading up in search of Gaudí-designed buildings, and we saw Casa Batlló and Casa Milà. I love Gaudí’s style because it’s so whimsical and curly and Dr. Seuss-like and just so different from most buildings, so that was awesome to see in person.
Gaudí’s Casa Batlló.
Then we took the metro to Park Güell, a huge park/hiking area/gardens, also designed by Gaudí. The park is situated on a hill, so there’s a great view of Barcelona and the ocean from there. The highlight of the park is the buildings designed by Gaudí, even more Dr. Seuss-like than Casa Batlló and Casa Milà, and his tiled benches, fountains, and ceilings. Well done, Gaudí.
Me, Jessica, and Robin at Park Güell.
That evening, thanks to a suggestion by Jessica (Leng), we went to the Font Màgica, a water fountain in Montjuïc where they do light and water shows on the weekend. Um, basically, this was the coolest thing ever. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I LOVED it. I figured the show would be set to some boring, classical music, which still would have been interesting to see, but when we arrived in the middle of the first show, they were playing Disney music! Songs from all my favorite Disney movies, in Catalán (though we sang along loudly in English). Because we missed the first half of the show, we stayed to watch the second one and learned that the music changes each show. The second show featured 80s pop music, and then we stayed for a third, which featured music from movie soundtracks, including Lord of the Rings. A good first day of travel + good friends + cool fountain show + awesome music = a very happy Kirstie.
The next day was rainy, unfortunately, so that put a damper on our day (I have a feeling I’ve used that pun on this blog before), but it was still enjoyable. Our plan was to spend the day on a hop-on, hop-off bus, but we found out that the bus wouldn’t be starting until later in the day because of a marathon. We saw the end of the marathon and then got on the bus. We got off at the Museu Etnològic, a small ethnology museum that was somewhat interesting (and free!) and then got back on the bus and tried to stay warm. We later got off at the La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona’s famed cathedral designed by Gaudí. It’s very elaborate, and what’s interesting about the design is that from afar, it looks like your typical old cathedral, but, close up, the design is very modern. We stayed on the bus until it closed for the night and then returned to our hostel seeking warmth and food.
La Sagrada Familia, whose construction still isn’t complete.
The next day was also cold and rainy, so we decided to spend our day visiting as many free indoor places as possible. Unfortunately, many were closed for the day, but we visited Palau Robert, a small museum that had an exhibition on Barcelona city services like transportation and another on a rock & roll photographer. Because the museum was mostly empty, we enjoyed taking our time and messing around in the exhibits.
Robin and me in a model metro car.
We went in a few shops and saw the Hard Rock Café while trying to stay warm and dry before returning to our hostel to catch a bus to the airport and then our flight back to Madrid. When we got out of the metro stop near our hostel, it was snowing like crazy, which definitely had not been in the weather forecast. The snow was kind of fun until we learned that the Girona airport was closed because of it. Having to spend an extra day in Barcelona wouldn’t have been a problem except that Jessica had her flight from Madrid back to California scheduled the next morning. We spent hours trying to get more information from the airport and Ryanair about when the airport would reopen. On the one hand, it was kind of an exciting, crazy adventure, but, on the other hand, things did not look good for Jessica. We tried to get to the train station for Jessica to figure out if she could take a bus or train back to Madrid, but the metro lines had horrible delays, and others shut down. It wasn’t snowing that hard, but Barcelona isn’t used to snow, and it hadn’t snowed this much since 2001. We finally made it to the train station after waiting for ages in crowded metros and hauling our luggage through muddy streets, Jessica was able to pay something like €120 for a train to Madrid (better than the $500 she would have had to pay if she had missed her flight), and then Robin and our returned to our hostel where, fortunately, they had an open room because of a canceled reservation due to the airport closure, and then we got a flight back the next day.
Madrid and Barcelona get compared a lot, and it seems that most people prefer Barcelona, but, as much as I enjoyed the city, Madrid still wins my vote. Barcelona is much newer and less European with its wide streets and modern architecture, and it was kind of fun feeling like I was back in California or New York for a few days, but I love Madrid’s tiny, windy, cobblestone streets and centuries-old buildings. I do love that Barcelona is on the water and that it’s very artistic. I think I would have a higher opinion of Barcelona if the whether had been better our second two days there, but I still really did like it a lot and I’m glad I finally got to see Spain’s other major city.
See photos on Facebook here.