Barcelona

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The photo above shows me in my usual tourist garb. Get comfortable with me in my thrifted men’s L denim shirt and blue-green bathroom slippers. I’m looking absolutely bewildered while in mid-conversation with Shaun. This was photographed somewhere along the tourist trap that is La Ramblas and I feel like this adequately sums up my 4 day trip to Barcelona.

Unlike most of my trips we managed to divert away from Skavsta, catching a reasonable afternoon flight on Vueling from Arlanda Airport. Arriving evening-ish in Barcelona we realised that street signs are very much an optional thing here in Spain and spent 30-45 minutes trudging along alleyways, relying on Shaun’s spideysense to home us in to our hostel. Luckily enough it wasn’t too much of a stretch from the bus stop and before long we are checked in and go off to check out some tasty burgers for dinner. When in Spain after all.

I’d become accustomed to the quieter nights in Sweden where people tend to stay in doors. It’s a lot warmer there than it is in Stockholm and just with the whole Spanish dinner time, people seem to hang about till much later in the evening. In a sense it felt a bit more like the style of living back home where the city never sleeps, like one big beehive of activity.

My destination hit list was created predominantly by Alvaro, Eva’s corridor mate who is from Barcelona. I literally had never met him before but when Eva asked if he would meet me to talk about Barcelona, he not only obliged but spent 2-3 hours with my creating the ultimate tourist’s map on Google maps. That’s another brilliant part about exchange. No matter where you intend to go in Europe there’s probably someone here that’s from there. And most of the time they’re helpful and genuine, it’s kind of amazing how much pride each person has for their own country.

Back to the above photo. La Ramblas is probably the most famous street in Barcelona, connecting the heart of the city to the sand and the seas. Lots of food and tourist shops and clothing stores grace the path down but at a certain point you can turn left to check out the Boqueria market. It’s a food market and you guys know by now how much I fudging love food markets.

ImageThroughout the trip I must have consumed at least 2-3 of these fruit cups. It had been months since I last had sweet, sweet mango and one can hardly complain at the price of 1.50 Euros.ImageImage

On one of Shaun’s hangover days he too grabs a mango smoothie.ImageImageDown the end of La Ramblas is the Columbus statue depicting the man himself pointing towards the new world. Shaun is faced with the impossible task of taking a photo of me and the entire monument.

Photo Apr 19, 10 34 18 AM copyDidn’t quite succeedImageThis was absolutely a Metronomy moment.

ImageYou may have the body but do you have the song?Image It was too windy to properly beach but we sat around for ages talking and cursing the clouds every time it went in front of the sun.ImageIt’s definitely an interesting concept. Having a large expanse of beaches a mere 15 minute walk from the heart of the city. I can imagine the fate of most office dwellers after an unbearable day at the office, coming to the beach to scream your lungs out must be a nice release.ImageImage

I met Shaun on the first day of school. He’s an old person from South Africa and we usually hang out with tea and movies. Throughout most of the trip he strongly reminded me of the older brother figures in my life in the way he would simultaneously help me with something while still making fun of me. I started calling him ruggedly homeless which I feel is a title that fully represents his creed.ImageHe also hates taking photos hence why there are only candid ones on this post. I have others but he’s mostly just giving me the finger. More power to me though, I don’t think I’ve had this many photos of me on any of my other trips.

P1010373-1On the top of Las Arenas, previously a bull fighting ring now turned into a shopping mall. Taking the escalators to the top brings you to a great view of the city.

ImageFrom the top of the arena we spied this place, Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. It touts a fantastic collection of art but being uneducated hicks we decided against spending any Euros to go inside. Paying to go into museums and historical buildings makes me sad, Sweden and Spain need to get on board with the UK and Greece.

Photo Apr 20, 2 18 30 PMWhat you see with your back against the museu

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A little bit clueless on what else to do, we followed some rough signs and ended up in the area where the 1992 Olympics took place. That’s 22 years ago, you can trust my math because that was the year I was born in.

Photo Apr 20, 2 34 53 PM

You’re standing at the top of a stadium where once upon a time hundreds and thousands of people stood to watch some of the greatest athletes in the world. You’re standing on the grounds that were once populated with people, vendors, activity and festivities. It’s basically a ghost town now, a little rundown in some areas and really not much to look at as far as tourist attractions go. Strangely enough I liked the empty, desolate feeling it left. If stadiums/large areas of land could talk they’d probably be pretty sad. But having served its purpose I guess there’s not much else to do but hang around.

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At this point its probably worth noting that we walked. Everywhere. Throughout our entire time in Barcelona we did not take any form of public transport except the bus ride from the airport to the city centre. Why? I don’t know. I think we found it kind of fun for the first couple of days. It’s worth noting that the Museu Nacional is located at the top of the Montjüic Hill and that this Olympic area is ginormous. It’s actually kind of crazy how much walking we did also considering that it was raining every single day.

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pintxosIt’s concerning to come this far in a Samantha post and not hear much about food. I guess between all the walking to places, we really didn’t have time to go looking for nice food. Shaun also cares very little about food so a lot of the time it’s me eating a bunch of pinxtos (pictured) with him across the table scowling with a beer that costs way more than it should. On the last couple of days I surrender to the free cheese, ham and bread breakfasts provided by the hostel. Top left is my Spanish breakfast that I ate alone on one of the mornings that Shaun was hungover. Pa amb tomàquet is a Cataluyan recipe, basically bread with tomato rubbed over it and seasoned with salt and olive oil. It’s not much of a looker but this is quite humbling and satisfying early in the morning. Between the bread is everyone’s favorite tortilla de patatas, Spanish omelette. I previously had reservations about having potatoes in my egg but I am a convert by the end of this trip.Photo Apr 20, 8 58 27 PMPhoto Apr 22, 12 48 54 PMOur second trip to Bouqeria was when I finally got to try paella in Spain. This was a seafood black rice paella with not a lot of seafood but it didn’t really matter as I couldn’t stop shovelling delicious rice into my mouth.

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At this point in the trip I’ve started leaving a trail of water wherever I go due to my feet constantly crying out in pain. Note for future Sam, bathroom slippers are not spring hiking boots. So because of this and because of the chill from the occasional rain my attire gets more and more bizarre with each day. Think short shorts and summer tops paired with my winter boots and winter coat. This is a photo of me grimacing outside La Sagrada Família, the crown jewel of tourist destinations here in Barcelona. There is a phenomenal queue that wraps around one side of the building for people who don’t have a ticket and another that wraps around the other side for people that purchased tickets online. Under Alvaro’s advice we are part of the latter line which although just as long, moves a fair bit swifter.

P1010396-3I confess to not know a lot about architecture or Gaudí himself for that matter. But as you walk into the building, there is a distinct feeling that you are Alice and you have fallen down the rabbit hole. The mish-mash of organic themes woven into the architecture is astounding. I could never have imagined a place like this even today, let alone to think the idea was conceived back in the 19th century.P1010398-4A ceiling shot that looks like you’re peering into a caleidoscope. Walking through this building is a recipe for a huge neck ache because you cannot stop looking up.P1010405-7P1010401-5P1010402-6P1010408-10Stained glass has always been the cause of visual mind fuckery but its unbelievably next level here. P1010411-11On the outside the detail is impossibly intricate. Back in Form 2 we had to make something out of clay for art class. The extent to which I am so incompetent with handicrafts led me to buying a bunch of clay and moulding it around a plastic bowl I found at home. I basically couldn’t even entrust myself with the task of creating a half hollow sphere. I might as well be made out of clay myself.P1010418-1I promised Alvaro that I would definitely visit Park Güell, a place that means a lot to him as he spends a lot of time with his family on walks here. This ends up being Shaun and I’s furthest walk in one go, it’s 4.1 km each way plus a whole lot of uphill as it is on El Carmel.

Photo Apr 22, 3 53 40 PMIf you haven’t been able to tell already this is also another Gaudí design. I feel like I’m in one of the cities in a Final Fantasy game.P1010419-2P1010425-4More gratuitous tourist shots ensue.

Photo Apr 22, 4 33 23 PMBy the time I’ve finished blogging about all of my travels on exchange I would have run out of words to describe to beauty that is having a view from a really high up place. It doesn’t matter which city, it doesn’t even really matter what you’re looking at. It’s just a wonderful feeling to be above.

Barcelona despite the wind and rain and visiting during Easter weekend was still a great amount of fun. But even with four full days here, I definitely left feeling like I barely scratched the tip of this Spanish iceberg.

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