This was such a jam-packed and culturally-enriching weekend in Barcelona. Hailey, Elena and I left to meet Hailey’s parents in Barcelona. We took the Renfe train (super fast and easy), then met Hailey’s parents at Hotel Neri in the gothic region of Barcelona, right in the center where the city was first built. When we arrived, it still felt like Spain because of all of the Spanish, but there were small aspects that really differentiated Barcelona from Madrid. Barcelona has two national languages: Spanish and Cátalan, so a lot of the signs and storefronts were written in Cátalan instead. The streets were much closer together and the store were much more compact than in Madrid. At least in the gothic neighborhood, there were pedestrians everywhere because cars are normally not allowed to go down certain streets at specific times during the day. Although these things were small, it changed the vibe of the city a lot. We went straight from the hotel to a tapas bar called L’Antic where we had this common Catalan food that was just like pizza. We also had fondue and jamón ibérico.
We woke up early on Friday, had a big breakfast, then went on a Barcelona Photo Bike Tour for a few hours. Basically, we biked around on electric bicycles and saw the main sights of Barcelona. Our tour guide’s name was Alfredo and he proceeded to tell us that he is the #1 ranked Tripadvisor tour guide in all of Spain, #8 in Europe and #14 in the world (I highly recommend Alfredo if you are considering doing a bike tour in Barcelona!!). To say the least, we were very well taken care of. We learned a lot about the 1982 Olympics in Barcelona and about the local landmarks in each of the major neighborhoods, including the gothic neighborhood. We ended the tour at another local tapas bar where we had free patatas bravas with some amazing aioli and a good tinto to start the afternoon.
Later that afternoon we went to the Picasso Museum to see all of Picasso’s work from the time that he was in Spain. I realized that I really didn’t know much about Picasso except for his cubist style and the famous Guernica, that is here in Madrid’s Reina Sofia Museum. His art was truly incredible. The museum was set up so you could see the evolution of his work throughout his life, and I realized that he developed his cubist art style much later, after university. He also painted so many different subjects in so many different mediums, and my favorite art phase of his was his blue phase. He also did an installment of his observation of pigeons, birds that I truly hate, so I couldn’t support that part of the gallery.
That night, we went to a Mediterranean restaurant called Café de l’Academia. We realized that it wasn’t the Mediterranean food that we were thinking of, like olives and pita and hummus, but Catalonia Mediterranean food. It was definitely the fanciest restaurant that we went to with a great wine selection. It was super fun to dress up nicely and go to a nicer restaurant compared to the more lax tapas places in Madrid. We all went back to the hotel and we changed into some really nice robes and drank wine to end the night.
We woke up early the next day to go on another walking tour around Barcelona. Our lovely tour guide was named Mar and she taught us so much about Barcelona that I never would have known. We first went to the famous Park Güell (pronounce ‘Park Way’). This was one of Gaudí’s major projects and it was so worth going to. After Park Güell, Mar took us to the famous Basílica Sagrada Familia. Going to see the Sagrada Familia is one of the most popular things to do in Barcelona and I completely understand why. It is truly a breathtaking thing to see, especially the inside. The entire Basílica is still under construction, which is obvious from looking at the outside, but once you go inside, it is an entirely new scene. I wastruly astounded when I walked inside because of how grand everything was in size. There were so many details in the stones and along the pews, all surrounded by gorgeous stained glass mosaic designs that lit up the stone walls. We even saw some people crying because of how powerful the experience was to see the inside of the Sagrada Familia. I did have this odd feeling when I was walking around the outside because I just wanted it to be complete. I wanted to see the Sagrada Familia in all of its glory, but I just couldn’t. I guess I will have to go back in 2026 when it is complete. If you are interested in Gaudí’s art and the Sagrada Familia, I highly encourage reading a bit about the history of the Basílica and its future plans.
Afterwards, we went to this amazing tapas lunch place called La Flauta. I swear that we were in and out of that restaurant in about 35 minutes. We were all so hungry and the food ame out so quickly that everything was gone in a matter of minutes. I was highly impressed with our efficiency. We walked around and shopped in the gothic neighborhood for a while before going back to the hotel. For dinner that night, we went to (in my opinion) the best restaurant of the whole trip. It was called Pla and each dish that we got was absolutely insane. My friend Elena runs a really fun food Instagram account called @lettuce_eatttttt and she documented all of our food travels throughout Barcelona. Please please go check it out becuse I cannot do the food justice on this blog post.
It was so nice being next to the ocean again. I forget how much it relaxes me and makes me happy until I’m standing right in front of it. I am glad that I go to see another city in Spain because after my trip to San Sebástian in September, I knew that I wanted to explore more cities in Spain. We had such a great weekend getaway with the Marent parents. I forgot how weird it is that in college you don’t often meet your friends parents. It was nice to see a part of Hailey’s family, which makes me even more excited when my parents come to visit 🙂 shoutout Brad, Keli and JHons!
With all of our housemates gone, Hailey and I were left behind to hold down the fort in Madrid, which we were extremely happy to do. We kicked off our weekend with a school-sponsored day trip to Segovia. It is a small town about an hour outside of Madrid. We did a similar school trip to Toledo a few weeks ago, which I wrote about in a previous blog post. We got to Segovia and it felt very rural, just like Toledo did. We did a walking tour through the Alcazár de Segovia, the castle of Segovia. We learned a lot about the history of the castle because Queen Isabelle and King Ferdinand of Spain resided there in the 15th century. I find Spanish history really interesting and am excited to learn more about the city.
After the castle, we walked through the different plazas of Segovia and ended at the Acueduct of Segovia. The Acueduct is a massive structure that brought water from the valley to Segovia, a difficult and necessary task because Segovia is perched on a hill. A great place to prevent invasion, but not so much for getting water. Segovia is particularly known for a traditional meat dish called the Suckling Pig…yes, a baby pig. I did not partake in this dining activity, but I saw that they usually bring out either a whole pig or (in my friends’ case) sliced pig with a hoof on the side. It was truly unappetizing to see, even though I am a meat-eater, but I can understand why it is a Spanish-delicacy. We also had Spanish-style cream puffs, which were INCREDIBLE. Anyways, it is so fun to explore Spain and I am glad I got to get out of Madrid for a little bit these past few weekends. I hope to continue learning more about this amazing country that I get to call home for four months.
PS Hailey and I found a Community Starbucks in El Corte Inglés. A fantastic discovery!!!