Barcelona Beach Bum

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“Let’s go to the beach-each, let’s go get away!” I finally got to have my first proper beach trip of the semester! I say proper because the weather in Barcelona was “Sunny and 75” (Let’s see how many more songs I can reference in this post)! Barcelona was such a fun weekend getaway and a complete spur of the moment trip! I had nothing to do last weekend and the flights were so cheap that I couldn’t pass it up! I think the most amazing part of this mini vacation though was the view from my hostel. I walked out the front door and I was just inches from the sand. Yes, that is my view! I stayed right down the beach from the famous W Hotel where all the celebs stay and I paid about 1/20th of the price per night!

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My first morning in Barcelona I spent exploring. I hadn’t had much of a plan, so I went for a walk up the boardwalk. Cute little restaurants lined the edge of the sand and I could see the surfers distantly in the waves preparing themselves for the next swell. I walked back and decided to go take a look at the giant tower that stands over the beach and Port Vell. Turns out it was a cable car air tram that takes you from the beach up to Mount Montjuic. At the very top of the mountain there is an old fortress called Montjuic Castle which was built in the 17th century. There is also the Olympic Stadium built for the 1992 Olympic Games held in Barcelona, beautiful gardens with fountains and flowers, and at the base of the mountain sits the stunning palace-like building which is the Catalan National Art Museum. Think Cheetah Girls II, “you’ve gotta strut like you mean it; free your mind!” That is the palace shown in the movie.

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So anyways, I took the tram up to the mountain and let me say it was not for the faint hearted! You are in this little cable car with ten other people travelling over nothing but water about 350 feet in the air! But, the view was spectacular. You could see from the beach all the way to the top of La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona’s famous basilica! It was only about a 7 minute journey, but I was holding on for dear life the entire time. At the top, I disembarked on an adventure, having no idea where I was headed. I didn’t end up getting to see the Montjuic Castle because it required another tram ride farther up the mountain and the line was an hour long. So, instead I wandered through the beautiful gardens and took a peak at where the Olympic ceremonies were held. I found my way to the beautiful museum and even got to see the Magic Fountain. The fountain is supposed to be this incredible light and water display in the evening and I was sad not to have been able to see the presentation at night.

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After the tram, I decided it was time for a little siesta in the sun. I grabbed my bathing suit and towel and headed to the sandy beach; I wish I could say it was as relaxing as it sounds. On the beach there are many people walking around trying to sell you things such as tapestries, pre-made drinks, henna tattoos, hair braiding, and even massages! I broke down and bought a tapestry because they were just so beautiful, but the massages and pre-made drinks were a bit… strange. Just a fair warning if you’re ever on the beach at Barcelona— make sure you bring some headphones!

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After my attempted siesta, I met up with my friend who had just arrived. We went and took a look around the famous tourist street called Las Ramblas. It is a cute tree-lined, cobblestone walkway with little shops, restaurants, souvenir stands, and markets. The statue of Christopher Columbus marks its beginning, and we went as far as the Plaza of Cataluña in the heart of downtown. It is a very touristy spot, but it was still a blast to walk down. The best part though was finding a DUNKIN DONUTS! As a Boston girl, Dunkin coffee is a must on beach days in the summer. I got so excited that I didn’t even care paying the ridiculously over-priced amount for an iced coffee. I hadn’t had anything other than lattes and macchiatos in 3 months! I think I melted when I took that first sip. Right beside the Dunkin Donuts was this adorable market filled with fresh fruits, meats, and sweets. There were so many homemade juices that I had to try one! I quickly learned that caramel iced coffee and kiwi coconut juice aren’t the best together.

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After the market, we walked up to the Plaza of Cataluña. There were just way too many pigeons there for us though and we did not stay long. Down the street that runs opposite to Las Ramblas are tons of boutiques that lead you straight into the heart of the Gothic Quarter. This is the original part of Barcelona where the Gothic architecture is beautifully shown in the buildings surrounding the majestic Barcelona Cathedral. This part of town is what I always imagined Barcelona to look like. I had seen countless movies in Spanish class showing the cathedral and the elegant old buildings and it was just so much more breathtaking in person. It is the history and the architecture of every city that makes me fall in love with it. It is incredible to think how long those buildings have stood there, and I was just another tourist passing by to marvel at their beauty.

We spent the next morning sitting at the beach, soaking up the rays before the rest of Barcelona woke up after their crazy nights out. I sprouted quite a number of freckles and turned a lovely shade of pink which I’m still willing to turn into a tan. After the beach, my friend and I joined a hop-on-hop-off bus tour of the city because it is just much too big to walk in two days’ time. The bus tour was very informational and sitting up top on the double-decker bus in the sunshine was perfect. We took the bus to La Sagrada Familia first. Pulling up to it all we could think was how much it resembled a beautiful, intricate sand castle. It is still under construction after more than a century of work, but the modernist architect Antoni Gaudi would be proud of what his dream has become. The beauty doesn’t stop there; walking inside the basilica, you are mesmerized by the brilliance of light coming through the stained glass windows. Every color of the rainbow touches the floor—and so did my jaw. The colors are nothing a camera can even come close to capturing, and what is so amazing is that each window and light display represents a story of the bible. Looking up you get lost in the intricate pattern of the ceiling. It was the most incredible and memorable church I have seen in all of my travels through Europe.

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Another one of Gaudi’s architectural masterpieces is Parc Guell. Again, flashback to the Cheetah Girls II, this is the place with all the mosaic benches, lizards, and monuments that they “strut” through. Unfortunately, we didn’t book tickets in advance and in order to see the mosaics up close you had to pay for a time slot. It was a 2 hour wait because it was so late in the day and we were restricted to seeing the monuments from the path that goes around the top of them. That was definitely a disappointment and I would recommend to everyone to buy tickets in advance and go in the morning! So we hopped back on the bus and toured the rest of the city. Everywhere you looked you could find more and more of the modernist architecture that makes Barcelona the most unique and vibrant city I have been to yet on my travels. It was a bit of old and new meshed together and it was a wonderful spur of the moment vacation!

Riley Stefano is a student at St. Michael’s College and an official API Student Blogger. Riley is studying abroad with API in Galway, Ireland.

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