Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Barcelona and Gaudí Galore

The famous La Sagrada Família
Back in March my boyfriend and I planned an impromptu trip to Barcelona, and by impromptu I mean it.  It was a trip planned in three days and I thought I was going to have a panic attack because we didn't even know where we were staying until we arrived to Barcelona.

Despite the near panic attack, I was still very excited to arrive because I had always wanted to travel to Barcelona.  The plans were finally pushed into fruition this particular weekend as a reunion for my boyfriend and his friends.  I have to point out that the biggest thing I had noticed about discussions of Barcelona is that it seems to elicit strong feelings, everyone either seems to love it or hate it.

To be honest I managed to fall somewhere in between those opinions.  And before anyone gets offended, it wasn't really Barcelona's fault.  The weather was terrible, a mix of rain and cold, and we were so rushed to see the city in only a day and a half. What instead moved me about the city was how kindly I was treated by the BF's friends there.
I was obsessed with the stained glass windows

We arrived to Barcelona late at night, picked up by one of the BF's friends to be dropped off at another friend's house where we'd be spending the weekend.  When we finally arrived at our home away from home for the weekend we were greeted by home-cooked food the family had saved for us from their dinner, I love Spain.

After we shoved food in our face a quick dinner we met the rest of the friends in the center for a night out.  A night out that proved why botelloning gives anxiety, though no worries my #guiristatus and the fact that I wasn't drinking saved me from the whopping 12€ fine.  Kind police officers aside, I still prefer just paying at a bar or club and not worry about my anxiety when I want to salir.

Thankfully the rest of the night was not nearly as exciting and we woke up bright and early, still not sure how we we did it, to tour the actually city of Barcelona.  Which if you couldn't guess is a lot to do in one day, but is possible if you if you A) Don't mind paying for public transportation or B) Don't mind walking until your feet make you want to cry.

We chose B and started out near the center at the Arco del Triunfo and made our way to the world famous Sagrada Família, which is really a church and not a cathedral like many people think.  For those unfamiliar with this beautiful church, it's famous because it was designed by Catalan architect Anton Gaudí and also because as work depends on donations and ticket sales the construction has taken well over 100 years and the church is still not complete (though it's anticipated to be finished in 12 years).

[General Tickets: 14.80€, Student Tickets: 12.80€; to visit the towers too General Ticket: 19.30€, Student Ticket: 17.30€; the Basilica is open 9-8 PM]

After Sagrada Família we then walked to Park Güell, another famous site designed by Gaudí.  For new visitors the rules of visiting the park have recently changed.  The park used to be entirely free but now visitors have to pay to enter the famous Gaudí area of the park, though the rest of the park still remains free and open to the public.

The biggest shock to me when we purchased the tickets is that you're given an entry time.  If you miss your entry time, well then you're out of luck.  Since we had about 45 minutes to wait for our entry time we decided to walk around the free area of the park, starting at crosses that mark the highest point of the park.  By climbing to the top you get a spectacular view of Barcelona, and a nice little hike.  Though be cautious if it's a windy day, seriously had a few moments clinging to the rocks and fearing for my life...

Finally it was almost our entry time to the monument portion of the park so we marched back downhill and had our tickets collected by the security guards at each entry point.  And to be honest, I was not as impressed as I was with La Sagrada Família.  At 8€ to enter, a specific time available to enter, and such a small portion of the park actually designed by Gaudí it was beautiful, but not my favorite spot on our whirlwind tour of Barcelona.

[Online Tickets: 7€, Office Tickets: 8€; the park is open 8:30-6:00 PM October 27 to March 23, 8:00-8:00 PM March 24 to April 30, 8:00-9:00 PM May 1 to October 26]

Too tired to walk back to the center, we took the metro to head to Casa Batlló, a house that was redesigned by, you guessed it, Gaudí.  The roof is said to represent a dragon and the spire on top the lance of Saint George, Saint George (Sant Jordi) being the patron saint of Cataluña.

It truly is a beautiful building, especially with the gorgeous mosaic Gaudí is known for, but at 18.5€ for a student ticket it was just more than we wanted to spend so we just stopped by to see the façade.

[Adult Tickets: 21.50€, Student Tickets: 18.50€, the building is open 9:00-9:00 PM]

After the quick walk-by of Casa Batlló we made our way to La Rambla, the famous Barcelona street that connects Plaça de Catalunya and the monument for Christopher Columbus.
While La Rambla is known for its shopping, it is also infamous for tourists, tourist traps, and pickpockets.  We spent most of our time trying to find a place to wait and stay warm until we met our friends for dinner.  Too cold to walk much further and we hid in Starbucks and naturally I ordered a cold drink, sometimes my intelligence knows no bounds.

After the previous night's dinner at possibly the worst Chinese restaurant I've ever eaten in, at least it had Karaoke, we spent our last morning in Barcelona with a quick tour of the area known as the "Gothic Quarter." This area of Barcelona is famous for the number of buildings that are from the Medieval Period. 

We started the tour at the Cathedral of Barcelona. While the structure of the cathedral is from the Medieval period, few people seem to know that the façade is actually neo-Gothic and was added in the late 19th century.

As we walked through the streets we entered a plaza called Plaça de Sant Felip Neri that is famous for the damage it sustained during the bombing of the Spanish Civil War. During the bombing people were hiding in the basement of the church and 42 people, including children, were killed. Here's a great video about the plaza from Barcelona Blonde (previously Hola Yessica) from her MyBarcelona video series.

It was a shame we saw this area so quickly, and on our last day, because it ended up being one of my favorite parts of Barcelona.  While it didn't entirely win me over on my first visit, I would love to head back to Barcelona one day and explore more of this area.  With bad weather and such little time, it wasn't quite enough to get charmed by the Barcelona that everybody seems to love.  Though this time I'll be checking the weather reports!

Have you ever been to Barcelona?  What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Carpe Diem

Since my last post I've been busy, as in: finishing the school year, moving apartments, visiting home, and moving back to Madrid busy.  Even though I'm finally back in Madrid and settled into our new apartment I still had trouble feeling inspired, until this week.

This past Monday the world lost one of its greatest talents, and it got me thinking about where I am in my life all thanks to one of my favorite Robin Williams' movies: Dead Poets Society.

Don't worry, no spoilers here if you haven't seen the film (though you should), but Dead Poets Society has inspired me since the first time I watched it in my sophomore English class.  The major concept of the movie is an unconventional teacher, played by Williams, inspiring his students to think for themselves and make the most of their lives.

Being a high schooler myself when I first watched the film I could relate to the students who struggled with concepts of peer pressure, conformity, and self-doubt.  I laughed, I cried, and I vowed that I would take Williams' advice and make my life extraordinary.

Fast forward to Monday, and the start of this post and the question of what I'm doing with my life.  Yes I went to college, got a degree, made friends, fell in love, worked hard, traveled, and moved across the world but was I really "seizing the day?"  

Ok, moving to Spain I may have taken the road less traveled but what good is it if I'm not "living deliberately," if I'm not fully enjoying and appreciating this amazing opportunity that I have.

I have become so comfortable with my life, both back in the USA and now here in Spain.  During the school year I woke up, went to work, came home, cleaned and cooked, and went to bed.  Not really an extraordinary life is it?  Even now on vacation my life has fallen into the routine of cooking and cleaning, sounds like instead of "sucking the marrow out of  life" I'm "choking on the bone."

With the sudden, tragic loss of Robin I decided it was time to make good of my sophomore year vow.  Before it was too late I would make my life extraordinary.  So what did I do?  

I bought running shoes.

Sounds pretty normal right?  But for someone who loves to exercise but has never been able to run outside because of hip pain buying a pair of good running shoes (apparently I had high arches all this time) is the start of me seizing the day, and my life.  And today, on this beautiful sunny day, I went for a jog and for the first time I finished without any pain.

Templo de Debod, beautiful place for jog.
To me, living an extraordinary life doesn't mean crazy dare devil moves or spending lots of money, it means enjoying your time and making the most out of every moment.  Whether it's time with friends, having a nice run, picking up a new language, or trying a new recipe.  Push yourself, open yourself up to new things, and take every ounce from your life that you are capable.  Always remember that the most beautiful thing about life is:

"That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?"