¡Hola! This past week has flown by unbelievably quickly. Between starting classes, changing my schedule four times (taking 5 classes in Spanish is much harder than I had anticipated, but luckily I think I’ve found 5 classes that I can remotely follow…), and hosting Knut for a weekend visit, it feels like I was just writing last week’s post.
I’ve now been in Spain for 3 weeks and I am definitely settling in. My apartment feels like home and Les Corts is starting to become my neighborhood. I’ve found the perfect running route along the Avenida Diagonal pedestrian walking street, I know which fruit shop has the best bananas, and the man at Santagloria knows my daily coffee order by heart.
Between attending CIEE orientation, starting classes, and getting acquainted with my new city, I have had plenty of time to explore Barcelona and the surrounding area. I’ve been to the Codorníu winery, Sitges beach, Girona, Tossa de Mar, and several incredible neighborhoods in Barcelona. I recommend that if any of you are ever in Barcelona, you check out these spots. Each has their own unique feel, while still radiating an authentic Catalan culture.
CIEE, my study abroad program, has done an impeccable job of providing us with optional weekly excursions to some of the most amazing places in Catalonia. The first adventure was to the famous Codorníu winery – the world’s oldest and second-largest producer of cava, a sparkling wine. The fact that a school-sponsored trip included drinking two glasses of sparkling wine still shocks me, but in the best way possible. I really appreciate how I’m treated as much more of an adult here than I am at home. Having more freedom and being regarded as a mature young adult is definitely one of the parts of European culture that I absolutely adore. As for the tour, it was interesting to hear about the history of the Codorníu family, and then to see the vineyards and wine cellars and taste the product. Allie, Eliza, and I ended the day by purchasing a bottle that we’d share later that night as a housewarming toast.
After enjoying our cava, we headed to the stunning beach town of Sitges, located just outside of Barcelona. We started our afternoon by walking through the historic downtown area, which boasts beautiful architecture and breathtaking views of the Mediterranean. After exploring, we ate lunch with a group of students, and then headed to the beach for a relaxing afternoon under the warm Spanish sun. What I didn’t know about Sitges until later is that about 35% of its 26,000 permanent residents are from other countries in Europe. It turns out that one of Knut’s friends at university who is from “a town outside of Barcelona” is also from Sitges. I can imagine the appeal to living in one of the most amazing beach towns I’ve seen, and I’m not at all surprised that so many of Sitges’ inhabitants have chosen to relocate there in order live in one of Spain’s many slices of paradise.
The next weekend, my roommates and I signed up for another excursion – this time to Girona, the city in which Game of Thrones Season 6 was filmed. I began the day looking like the ultimate tourist carrying around a backpack, a camera, and a selfie stick. However, I have no shame because I took some great photos during this trip. This city that is roughly 60 miles northeast of Barcelona is the most picturesque place that I have been in Spain. Between the colorful waterside houses, the magnificent cathedral, and the picture perfect views of the mountains, it was definitely a fairytale of a place. We spent the morning touring the city, then ended with a delicious ice cream cone at the most adorable Willy-Wonka styled ice cream shop: Rocambolesc.
Tossa de Mar
Another amazing beach town, Tossa de Mar is most famous for its seaside Moorish tower that makes the entire town look like a life size sand castle. Situated on the Costa Brava, Tossa de Mar offers fabulous beaches, countless coastal restaurants, and quaint streets. We spent our time in Tossa enjoying a fabulous lunch with excellent views of the water, and then we climbed up to the tower and took in the spectacular views. Although we were only there for a few hours, we all thoroughly enjoyed the excursion and hope to return at some point during our stay in Spain.
As Barcelona is situated between the sea and the mountains, it is no surprise that we have enjoyed our fair share of time in the sun. Last weekend, a group of Vanderbilt girls and I went on a 3-hour Catamaran cruise together. As someone who grew up boating, I feel most content on a boat and so I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The cruise was a great way to relax and wind down after so many consecutive days of exploring.
Before coming to Barcelona, my vision of the city included me picnicing at Park Güell with my friends and a bottle of wine each week. After finally visiting the park with Knut when he came to visit for the weekend, I have realized that my “picnic in the park” dream will not come true. For starters, food and drink are not allowed in Park Güell. Then there’s the whole situation in which the park costs 8 EUR to enter, you have to buy tickets ahead of time, and it’s a very small area made of cement with no grass to casually picnic on. Despite the fact that my expectations regarding a picnic were not met, Park Güell offers one of the best views of the city. It is quite evident that Gaudí was a complete genius when you’re looking at the immense detail that exists in every inch of Park Güell’s beautiful monumental zone. This is a must-see spot for anyone stopping by Barcelona and offers the perfect background for the best pictures you’ll ever take.
Bunkers del Carmel
Another spot located within Barcelona, the Bunkers del Carmel is my favorite place in the city. Although it was a bit of a hassle to get to (we had to take a metro, then a bus, and then walk uphill for a bit), it was absolutely worth it. Once a part of an anti-aircraft battery during the Spanish Civil War, the Bunkers serve as the perfect viewpoint to observe the entire city. Knut and I went at sunset and packed a picnic of tapas and wine, then enjoyed our dinner from what I think is Barcelona’s most wonderful secret spot.
Although I only included seven places in and around Barcelona, there is so much more to do. Barcelona is a city that is unbelievably rich in history, culture, and fun. Between getting lost in the streets of Las Ramblas, exploring various museums, and eating at any chance I get, I have seen so much of Barcelona in so little time. The best part is that I haven’t even covered a fraction of the city, which will undoubtedly make these next three months unforgettable.
This coming weekend will be my first time away from Spain since I’ve moved here, and I’m honestly slightly sad. I don’t want to leave this beautiful city, but I also know that this is probably the only time in my life that I will have such little responsibility and so much leisure time to travel. I’ve just about finished planning my weekends for the next few months, and I hope that even though I will only get 2-3 days in these cities, I’ll somehow learn something valuable. I firmly believe that traveling is the best way to broaden your perspective, and I’m hoping to do just that with my upcoming weekend trips. This semester will be the most culturally immersive learning experience of my life, and I cannot wait to see how it affects me in the future.
As for where I am going next, you’ll have to wait until next week to find out. But here’s a hint: beer, pretzels, and more beer. I think I gave it away. Auf Wiedersehen!