Traveling to Barcelona has always been a dream of mine, so I was incredibly excited on the days leading up to our excursion. The travel day was very long and tiring. We were on a bus heading to Madrid by 10:30am, dashing on the metro to the “Renfe,” or Spanish train service, station as soon as we arrived. The train flew through the Spanish countryside and about three hours later we were in Barcelona. After another sweltering hot, sauna-like metro ride, we were within walking distance to our hotel. Exhausted, we took the 45 minutes of free time to do absolutely nothing — and I was totally happy that.
Our first stop was the Catedral de Barcelona, and so began Ryan’s walking tour and history lesson of the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona, the oldest section of the city. (Photo credit: Charlie '21)
A church with scars, most likely due to bombs dropped during the Spanish Civil War over 80 years ago. The Gothic Quarter mixes old with new, with touches of history from several centuries ago alongside colorful shops selling phone cases. (Photo credit: Charlie '21)
After our walk came a little over an hour of free time, in which we spent the first twenty minutes desperately in search of food. Many of us were hungry after our long travel, during which our only food were our bocadillos (snacks, usually includes a sandwich and water and similar necessities). Utterly American of us, we ended up stopping at a Dunkin’ Donuts (Dunkin’ Coffee in España) for some pastries and drinks. The group split up, and Danar, Lexie, Parker, Ngan, Minh and I headed off towards a massive, cruise-ship sized department store residing just outside the nearby park. It is an El Corte Ingles, the largest Spanish department store chain, and it’s seven floors high, packed with kiosks from clothes to food to just about anything you can imagine. It took us almost fifteen minutes to regroup in the store before dinner, and we met up with the rest of the students back at the Catedral de Barcelona. We finished the night with some amazing sushi, and headed back to the hotel.
Our first full day was full of excitement. After breakfast and work time we headed off to Sagrada Familia, a church designed by the late Gaudí over 100 years ago. It is hard to comprehend in this photo but it is incredibly tall and immaculate, towering over the rest of Barcelona. The church is crawling with marble and stone sculptures and immaculate details, displaying many sacred religious scenes. Gaudí designed the church around a forest (a figurative one), which is visible in the shape of the pillars and the color of the stained-glass windows.
~ Charlie '21
(Photo credit: Charlie '21)
Thursday morning we begin the day at a café where we worked on our presentations to give some more background on the history and culture of the city and region. Once we leave the café to board the metro, only three stops later, we walk out and we are face to face with the Sagrada Família. The Sagrada Família is one of Gaudí's most famous works; it has been under construction since 1882 and still has more construction to go. The cathedral has a planned height of 172 meters (564 feet) tall with a total of 12 towers standing and 6 more are still in progress. The beauty it holds is can be seen in the details around every corner. While the outside is the epitome of art, the inside holds several almost full walls of stained glass. One wall is decorated with only warm colors (red, orange and yellow), and the opposite was with cool colors (blue, green and purple) making the whole entire cathedral light up with all of the colors of the rainbow.
~ Danar '20
After our tour, we had some free time, which would obviously be used for more shopping. Danar, Lexie, Ngan and I headed to Passeig de Gràcia, one of the major shopping streets in Barcelona. The street is wider than most, and extends all the way through the city, offering a beautiful view of the mountains. After a few stops, it was time to regroup. Our final stop of the day would be the castle on Montjuic, a hill that steeps above the port and city.
One of the largest trading ports in all of Europe is visible from Montjuic. (Photo credit: Charlie '21)
The Sagrada Familia, unfinished. The completed project will be much taller. (Photo credit: Charlie '21)
After Katie and I delivered an astoundingly thorough and clear presentation on Montjuic and its lengthy history, we took the bus back down to the city, winding through roads and admiring Barcelona in all of its glory. For dinner, we had traditional Barcelonian (and Catalan) cuisine, in a tiny, family-owned restaurant tucked into the wall of stores lining the street. While I, for the most part, enjoyed my steak, a few of the other students didn’t seem relish their age-old meals in the same way. In this I mean they did not like them at all. You win some you lose some I guess. We took a nice walk back to our hotel, and prepared our bags for the next morning.
Departing Barcelona was bittersweet; on one hand, I was very interested in our next destination, Girona province, but on the other Barcelona had been such a blast and I did not want to leave. We got some food at the bakery nearby and then were given another hour or so to relax or explore before we left. With no questions asked, Danar, Ngan and I decided to get our last bit of shopping in, and headed back to the Passeig de Gràcia.
~ Charlie ‘21
The next morning we return to the same café as the previous day where we drink coffee and fresh-squeezed orange juice and eat pastries and sandwiches. We have the last bit of time to work on our journals for English class and finish up the work on our presentations. We get our last bit of free time in Barcelona before our long car ride. I find myself on the same street where I spent time on my first day in the city; it is funny that this happens even in a city so large.
Discussing the Catalan gothic style of architecture and the unique history of the church of Santa María del Mar.
We were sad to leave, but we were also tired and ready to take a nap in the car ride. The drive was about two hours and on the way there most everyone in the car took a nap. Our first stop before our rented house was at a grocery store to get some provisions and food for the group. We got jamón serrano (a bit similar to prosciutto), cheese and baguettes for a little meal that we enjoyed next to the Mediterranean Sea on our journey to the house. Even though it was dusk, being next to the coast was lovely and the strong breeze the amid the lingering smell of salt was extremely refreshing after spending most of our time in the city.
After our short pit stop we all piled back into the car for that last leg of the drive. We were all relieved to get out of the car and see the house that we have heard so much about. When sliding opening the door we were greeted with an extremely strong smell of cow manure, so we all scurried inside very quickly. Despite the pungent greeting, the house was so nice. Everything was made out of stone with huge bedrooms and tall ceilings. We were assigned our rooms and even through there were four bedrooms we all ended up hanging out in one where we talked, laughed and listened to music until dinner time.
The next day began with a huge breakfast, something that all of us hadn’t had in a while because most of our mornings where spent in café’s drinking coffee and eating pastries. We cooked up a wonderful meal of pancakes, bacon and eggs, and the place felt extremely homey as we all devoured the meal at the kitchen table. After breakfast we got in the car heading towards the Monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes and Cadaqués. Our drive was about and hour and a half, and, after many throwback songs and terrible singing, we arrived at the monastery where Ryan gave us a history lesson and we got to enjoy the view of the sea.
We drove down towards the coast next and got a chance to walk to the beach in Cadaqués. The weather was perfect and there was a film of mist in the air. We found ourselves a beach with an abundant amount of stones and spent time skipping rocks on the water and enjoying the sea air. After lots of photo taking and running around the beach we start to head home. Arriving back at the house we spent time cooking our last dinner of the week together. The next day we traveled back to Segovia and everyone was exhausted after a long travel day. Even though most of us wanted to go to sleep, the weekend was a success. The beautiful city of Barcelona and the countryside of Catalonia was truly remarkable.
~ Danar '20
¡Hasta la próxima!
~ Proctor en Segovia Invierno 2020