Ok. I’m no Scarlett Johansson. And definitely no Penelope Cruz. And I didn’t meet and fall in love with Javier Bardem (yet).
That’s just my (oh so clever, right?!) way of introducing the last leg our spring break journey. We made it to BARCELONA, people, and we weren’t done yet.
We had heard a lot about the city. People said we’d like it better than Madrid. Literally everyone told us we were going to get mugged and/or pick pocketed while we were there. Still, I had few expectations (as usual), and really, I’m still not one hundred percent sure how I felt about the place, even weeks later.
What I can say is that we got off to quite a rocky start in Spain’s second city. Well, technically it’s the capital of Catalonia, but I still don’t quite understand that whole deal.
The three musketeers took an overnight bus into town from Madrid. This wasn’t quite as romantic and cool as I had made it into in my mind — a fact that I realized within minutes of getting on the bus.
Taylor and Emily and I all snagged seats without any issue. I got in my correct row but tried to get away with stealing the window seat (so I could lean up against the window to sleep, of course). I quickly curled up to try to get some shut-eye. When I felt another person awkwardly hovering over me and staring at me, then their ticket, then back at me, obviously realizing I had stolen her seat. I clenched my eyes shut and prayed that she wouldn’t have the nerve to wake me up and tell me off (she didn’t). I know what you’re thinking — I’m turning mean. I’d say the days of living in hostels without showers and fending off creepy European men and rugby players had begun to harden my heart at this point.
Anyway, as it turns out, I had it relatively easy. Taylor got no sleep due to one of those aforementioned creeps on one side of her and a crazy lady in front of her. As you can imagine, when we got off of the bus at around 6 AM we were extremely discombobulated, and well, cranky. We ended up wasting 5 Euros right off of the bat buying a bus ticket when we needed to take the train. We finally made it to our sketchy hostel only to be told we couldn’t check in until 1. And breakfast wouldn’t be served until 8. So, we just sat in the lounge area with our feet resting on our baggage, not knowing what else to do. I was awoken hours later by some perky Australians talking amongst themselves about perky Australian things. I was still cranky. Luckily, I thought, our day could only go up from there. So once we had all gotten up and brushed ourselves off, we locked our stuff in lockers and headed out to explore until we could check in, no matter how smelly and cranky we were at this point.
Soon, we realized that we were in a pretty bad neighborhood. Like, we had to pass a sketchy group of prostitutes in a creepy alley to get anywhere in the city. We eventually learned to just keep our eyes towards the ground. Eye contact with the men in this alley seemed like trouble. Clutching my purse flap became second nature. But I digress.
We were right near Las Ramblas, a road with a large median that is home to a touristy stretch of stalls filled with postcards and the same old crap the one next to it was selling. The area itself was kind of off-putting in it’s unabashed parade of garishness, but it was useful in that it divided the city in half right down the center, and helped us to get oriented pretty quickly. The city had some great neighborhoods just to walk around and explore leisurely (or mosey through, if I’m allowed my way).
I probably sound like a broken record, but once again after a couple of week’s time, my most lasting memories have been the inspiration I found from art here. We spent the obligatory afternoon ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the Sagrada Familia and walking down the Passeig de Gracia, which was sprinkled with more of Gaudi’s works of pure crazy.
I think my favorite was his Park Guell, a park full of his designs on the top of a hill overlooking the city.
The Picasso Museum was incredible as well. This collection was full of his earlier, lesser-known works. It was incredible to see the paintings he made as a teenager — as lifelike as a photograph and totally unrecognizable as his. The collection was arranged like a timeline, and I got to see his progression towards the more abstract pieces that he’s known for by most.
It was especially impressive to see his take on Las Meninas, particularly since I had just seen the original at the Prado a few days earlier. He took the iconic painting and made it his own — doing and redoing the scene from different angles, focusing on different characters and changing the color, tone, composition each time. Yet somehow, each retained the vibe and feeling of the original, in respect to the great Velázquez that he admired and studied. I went by myself Easter morning while my amigos were at Easter mass. It was lovely to take my time and take it all in.
The Fundació Joan Miró was another highlight, located on the hill called Montjuïc in the eastern part of Barcelona. You couldn’t help but have fun there. And the hill, once again overlooked the whole city and was incredible. This was a theme in Spain. We lucked into nice weather that day, too.
Since we had four full days in Barcelona, we decided to take a day trip to Montserrat, about an hour’s train ride outside of the city. The town is home to the site of an old monastery up on a nearby mountain. We took a cable car up to the monastery to look around and then a funicular to the top of the mountain. It was completely amazing — probably the best views of the whole trip.