Post #6: L’ocasió s’ha d’agafar pels pèls.

Hi again! I know I am posting a lot at once but I have to catch up! This 6th post will be about my wonderful time in Catalonia (Barcelona, Cadaqués and Figueres). Also, the Catalan proverb that is the title of this post means “opportunity knocks only once”. I thought it would be a nice way to describe my whole abroad experience so far – taking advantage of any opportunity that presents itself with no regrets!

So now, the post…After watching Vicki Cristina Barcelona in our Seminar class to prepare ourselves for this trip, I was PUMPED. We woke up very early to get the train but I love walking to my metro station in the brisk and dry morning air. Walking everywhere is something that I will miss once I go home. The AVE train we took was like an airplane-spaceship. The U.S., and D.C. especially, needs to get it together when it comes to train and metro travel. But, like, #loveyouforeverAmtrak. Anyway, the AVE was so clean and they bring you food and drink (not free, sadly). Also, not having WiFi was kind of nice because it allowed me to write future blog posts in my notebook! Once we pulled into Barcelona-Sants train station, we were all so excited to start out next adventure. The energy and the weather were both equally good! I must say, we have been so fortunate to have wonderful weather the entire time we have been in Spain. Out hosts families packed us lunches and we ate on the bus as were were driven around to see some of the major sites in the city. Our bus was the best – they were playing hip-hop, R&B and other slow jams that made for a fun ride. Immediately you are hit with the unconventional architecture and the proximity to the Mediterranean. A completely different vibe than Madrid! On our tour, we saw Montjuïc, Barcelona Olympic Stadium and Village, La Rambla and La Boquería. At La Boquería, let me tell you, I had the best mango I have ever eaten in my life. If you want a cheap snack, get the fresh fruit at that market (or the jamón cone). I don’t think I need to explain the latter. Walking around Barcelona and being near the WATER AND BEACH was lovely. I am a person that needs to be near the water so this was a warm welcome (literally) after being in dry, beachless Madrid for so long. Don’t get me wrong, I love Madrid!!!

Then, we went to the Museu Picasso which is in the old part of the city (think Cheetah Girls) and I would recommend this museum to anyone who loves Picasso and who wants to learn more about the artist before cubism. This museum not only shows his versions of Las Meninas but his works from when he was 12 years old. He was truly remarkable. Paco, our director, also have us a really in-depth explanation of cubism, surrealism (to prep for the Dalí museum in Figueres) and how challenging the norm through art was a response to political and social strife happening in Spain during that time. Truly incredible stuff.

Finally, we walked a little more and went to Restaurante La Rambla (their cocktails are SO BAD and SO EXPENSIVE and if you sit outside they try to rip you off by charging double). Try to avoid bars on La Rambla – compare it to how things are more expensive in Puerta del Sol in Madrid but the off-streets are much cheaper. Then, we went to a restaurant (again, I’ll post the name once I remember) that was directly on the waterfront. The swaying of the masts in the wind reminded me of the not too distant summer I love so much. After a dinner of paella (Lent started this month so some Catholics don’t eat meat on Fridays), we all took cabs back to our hotel – Catalonia Eixample 1864 – and got some much needed rest.

The next morning, we were up bright and early for a quick breakfast in the hotel and headed off to the quiet town (at least in the off-season) of Figueres. In Barcelona, it was obvious that Catalan takes precedence over Spanish but people will always speak to tourists in English or Spanish. In Girona, the province that houses Cadaqués and Figueres, people will only speak in Catalan and English. The independence movement in many parts of Catalonia, especially in Girona, to separate from the rest of Spain is very strong – they even put a different flag on their houses, doors, etc. Figueres is home to the Teatro Museo Dalí. This museum also shows some of Dalí’s early work and their entire building was filled with art he selected and is a direct expression of his life and art.

Finally, and for me the best part of my trip, we went to Cadaqués. I had never seen and Mediterranean town before and some friends and I had a lovely lunch at a small restaurant overlooking the beach. Being able to sit on the rocks and dip our toes in the water with the waves crashing on the shore was such a wonderful and peaceful feeling. No obligations, no rush, just peace. Once we left, after seeing a beautiful Catholic church with an amazing view of the water, we drove through the winding mountainside that guards Cadaqués as if it is a secret garden, and made our way back in time for dinner in Barcelona.

The following morning, we toured Park Güell and the formidable Sagrada Familia. The Sagrada Familia, although unfinished, was incredible. The walls looked as if they were on fire because of the massive stained glass windows and the columns were shaped like trees. It felt like you were in a forest surrounded by nature, which for the architect Gaudí, is not an uncommon motif. Afterwards, we had a few hours to kill so we ate lunch at the best Italian restaurant outside of Italy. I have been to Italy so this seems like a valid point of reference! The pizza was tremendous and the owners were friendly and had nut allergies too! They also spoke a very interesting hybrid of Catalan, Italian and Spanis (Spanátlian???) Then, we lounged about near the pier and returned to Madrid via AVE once more. Tough life, huh? I am so lucky!

So, that’s all from my trip but to sum it up…Barcelona is a must see if you are in Spain, albeit a little touristy for my taste. It was probably better once the Mobile World Conference ended, in terms of tourism.

No “Tips and Tricks” for this post (since everything is pretty much listed here) but check out other ones by clicking on the link!

Vocab word of the day: Clientelismo (Clientelism) – used by certain Spaniards when describing corruption in the Spanish government.

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