Weekend in Barcelona

Trip Start Sep 04, 2010
Trip End Dec 18, 2010

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Flag of Spain  , Catalonia,
Sunday, November 7, 2010

Last Friday I hopped on a plane to Barcelona for a short Spanish holiday!  Our flight got in in the evening (Barcelona is one hour earlier than Athens) and took a cab to our hotel in Vilanova i la Geltru, a coastal city about 25 miles south of Barcelona.

We intended to book one of this hotel’s other branches located in Barcelona itself, but we were misled because Vilanova is in the provence of Barcelona.  When planning a visit here, make sure you’re staying in the city of Barcelona, not just the provence!  Thankfully, it worked out because we able to take the train to Barcelona each morning, which took about an hour.

The first night we were there I had paella, a traditional Spanish rice dish, for dinner.  Yum!

Our first day in Barcelona, we took the metro from the train station to Sagrada Familia, the most famous sight in Barcelona.  It’s a giant Catholic cathedral began in 1882 by architect Antoni Gaudi.  It’s incredibly intricate and somewhat bizarre looking.  The spires remind me of beehives and the whole thing looks a bit like a dibble castle kids make in the sand.  The monumental front facade is still under construction.  I can only imagine what it will like when it’s finally done.

On the way around the side of Sagrada Familia, we bought roasted chestnuts from a street vendor, a common snack in Athens as well as Spain.  Then we went to a restaurant for lunch where we ordered tapas, or Spanish appetizers.  They consisted of meat and seafood on small pieces of bread.  It was delicious!

After lunch, we took the metro to the beginning of Ramblas Street.  Ramblas is the most famous street in Barcelona and is considered the heart of the city.  We saw the Columbus Monument near the water’s edge, then walked north on Ramblas, pausing to shop and watch the street performers.  We went to the Picasso Museum, but, unfortunately, it was under construction.  Instead, we wandered around on side streets, getting a taste of the real, non-touristy Barcelona.

The last thing we saw that day was Santa Maria del Mar, a fourteenth century Gothic Cathedral near the city center.  The inside was beautiful and we sat for a while and listed to a professional choir visiting from Asia.  It was a peaceful end to our first day in Barcelona.

The second day, after a delicious (and free) continental breakfast at our hotel, we walked down the beach outside out hotel, enjoying the beautiful scenery.  Then we made our way into Barcelona again and went to Park Guell, another major tourist attraction.  The park features more of Gaudi’s interesting architecture and mosaics and has fantastic views of the entire city.  We spent most of the day there, enjoying the sights and the beautiful weather.

After lunch, we took the metro back to the area near Ramblas and did some more shopping.  As it got dark, we walked to the Placa d’Espanya, one of the city’s most famous plazas.  In the center of the roundabout is a large statue made by one of Gaudi’s students.  The Venitian Towers frame the road leading to the National Art Museum of Catalonia.  From the museum steps we watched the sunset.  If only the Magic Fountain of Montjuic, the huge fountain in front of the museum, hadn’t been under construction, it would have been perfect.  As it was, our last night in Barcelona was still quite beautiful.

The next morning was Monday and I was skipping Greek I, my only class that day.  We left the hotel to take the train to the airport, but not early enough.  We were running to the check in counter with only twenty minutes to spare until our flight was supposed to take off - and we didn’t make it.  Our flight was boarding and, no matter how much we begged, they refused to issue our boarding passes.  The next flight to Athens on the airline we had booked wasn’t until Wednesday, and I had a midterm on Tuesday afternoon.  So we bought another ticket to Athens with a connecting flight in Frankfurt, Germany for later that day.  It was an extremely disappointing and stressful situation, but it all worked out in the end.  We saw some amazing snow-topped mountains from the plane and I ate a frankfurter for dinner in the Frankfurt airport.  We got back to Athens at two in the morning on Tuesday, and I got up early for a last minute cram-session before my test.  And I actually did well!

But despite the airplane fiasco, it was a great trip.  I’m glad I got see part of Spain and use some of the Spanish I learned in high school (I ordered food, asked for directions, and actually conversed in Spanish!).  Figuring out the metro was easier than I expected it to be, making getting around the city convenient and inexpensive.  The trains were a bit more difficult to navigate - we got on the wrong one a couple times coming back to Vilanova from Barcelona - but we managed.  The architecture was beautiful and it was an entirely different city atmosphere from Athens.  Overall, it was a worthwhile visit.
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