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Busy’N’Barcelona

I took my first trip alone to Barcelona, and it was much better than I thought it would be. I felt free and independent and much safer than expected. Here’s an overview of my time.

Day 1:

I departed from the University Residence to head to the airport. I decided to take the bus to save some money, and because I needed to use up my bus passes before heading back to the States. Boy was that (almost) a mistake! I intentionally left early for the airport because I know just how unreliable and untimely Malta’s buses can be — especially the ones that go to the airport. I waited at the stop for 40 whole minutes before any bus that goes to the airport. It was late.

Nonetheless, I was at the airport two hours before my departure time, which was exactly what I was wanting! The plane ride had a few bumps because of the clouds, but overall it went very well. Here’s a picture from the plane:

I used to despise plane rides because my ears couldn’t take the plane, but studying abroad has helped me move past that — now I can sleep through landing and take-off!

When I arrived in Barcelona, I struggled to find the correct bus to get me to the hostel, but after a few guess-and-check attempts, and a couple of minutes of wandering, I arrived at my hostel. I found a place to eat up the street, a Japanese Restaurant, and got some chicken fried rice (because how in the world can you get that wrong?!). When I finished eating, I walked back to my hostel and planned out the next day so there would be minimal confusion. Confusion was the LAST thing I needed since I was traveling by myself.

Overview of Day 1: I was EXTREMELY saddened and let down by Barcelona — the parts I had seen were just “average” even though everyone I know said Barcelona was amazing.

 

DAY 2 IN BARCELONA:

I’m an early bird so I got up early, ate breakfast at the hospital (nothing fancy, just cereal and juice but FREE), and then headed to the grocery store. Prior to leaving, my friend Andy gave me some expert travel advice. She suggested that instead of spending money for a meal lunch and dinner, just find a grocery store and get snacks to eat throughout the day (e.g. bananas, chips, sandwich bread, lunch meat, etc.) so that I can splurge on dinner and get what I want. So I did just that and packed my groceries in my bag.

Now, the touristing could finally begin. The first place I want to was Casa Battlo — a beautiful and interesting home built by Gaudi. I almost skimped out of buying tickets because they were 20 euros, but I’m so glad I invested in them. Casa Battlo has a mosaic design an unique tile colors and structures. It’s definitely Barcelona’s biggest tourist attractions — souvenir shops are filled with Casa Battlo’s designs on them. Here are some pics:

 

I truly did enjoy Casa Battlo, but……I still wasn’t overjoyed with the city of Barcelona.

Until……..

I walked across a huge plaza of geese….

…..turned the corner and saw a huge open field with the Arc de Triomf.

 

This was the moment my love journey with Barcelona began.

After I discovered the Arc and the beautiful park and zoo, I skipped my way over to the Gothic Quarter. This area reminded me of Prague — the design, the buildings, the castle-like, dracula-like feel. Prague, all the way. The architecture here was sooooo amazing, and the people who built it were absolutely amazing designers! There were tons of cool and creepy shops (which reminded me of Italy a bit). It was just a nice area:

 

Within the Gotchic Quarter were many museums. The one I chose to go to was the World Culture Museum. Turns out the World Culture Museum was actually a world religion museum. But that’s fine, I love learning about others’ beliefs. So I roamed around there for awhile, left and then came across a museum that turned out to be Barcelona’s history museum. On the way in I heard two American accents and chatted it up with two other fellow Americans. It’s always refreshing to meet people from the States getting the same experiences as you! After I left there, I randomly discovered a food and clothes market with excellent-smelling food.

I implemented self-control and didn’t buy a thing since I knew I had lunch in my bag. The food did make me hungry though, so I went back through the Gothic Quarters searching for a store I found because I really wanted to get my sister a purse from there. The area is so huge and confusing that I didn’t find it again (sad face).

At this point, I walked back to the plaza near the Arc de Triomf, ate my snacks and relaxed for about 30 minutes until the city’s transportation started running again (it was on and off this day because there was a labor strike). I actually ended up just wandering around Barcelona instead of taking the public transportation. I discovered a LONNNNNNG strip of shops and restaurants. Literally, there were servers lined up in rows trying to convince people to eat at their restaurants.

Welp, someone got me. I was trying to secretly look at a restaurant’s menu and, next thing you know, a server comes up to me and convinces me to eat at their restaurant. I’m so glad I did though because the restaurant was BEAUTIFUL. I got the traditional chicken paella, which was also deelish. Here are some photos of the restaurant:

 

 

After that, it was starting to get dark, so I really had to figure out my next move because I didn’t want to be wandering BCN alone at night. I wanted to go see a flamenco show, but I also wanted to see the magic fountain….but I knew I wouldn’t have time to do both. I, ultimately, decided to do the Flamenco Show, which was AWESOME.

Sidenote: One thing that really hit me hard during the flamenco show was the absolute obsession that people (including myself, sadly) have with their phones. In this show, I sat on the balcony and looked down on the show. All I saw were people with their phones out the WHOLE time. If people weren’t recording the entire show, they were texting or instagramming. I just realized how absolutely consumed we are with image. I guarantee those people who were recording the videos and taking photos weren’t doing it for their own memory-sake, but to show others how ‘fabulous’ their life is; they may leave having not taken in the flamenco experience, but only gathered a couple of photos to show off. We can’t even enjoy experiences because we’re obsessed with impressing people in the aftermath of it all. It’s really sad.

So anyways.

So when the show ended, it was about 9 P.M. I was still a bit sad that I couldn’t go to the magic fountain. It was still extremely bright outside, but I knew I needed to begin heading back to the hostel to avoid being out too late. I put the hostel in my navigation (which was now fully charged thanks to the outlets at the flamenco show). For some reason, my phone was now taking foreverrrrr to load. So as I was waiting for it load, I just walked in the direction that I knew my hostel was in and stayed on the path of the city buses to be sure I didn’t get lost. It felt like it had only been 5 minutes of waiting for my navigation to load, but apparently it had been much longer. I look up from my phone’s navigation and see a HUGEEEE arena. Next to the arena is a street with what looked like a castle at the end. There were TONS of people. This was obviously a tourist attraction area.

I walked down the street and next thing you know, I see……THE MAGIC FOUNTAIN!!!!! It was beautiful and big!!!!!! The same thing I didn’t think I would get to see!!!!! I was so happy! I gathered around the magic fountain like the rest of the curious tourists and watched it for awhile, while taking glimpses of the magical castle-like building (it truly looked like the Walt Disney castle) behind me. The fountain gleamed with blues and yellows and reds and just had me in awe! It changed shapes and movements based on the sound of the music I literally felt life this was a dream come true sort of night!!!!!!!

The fountain was just beautiful and big. It changed colors and shapes based on the music that was playing and there were tons of people with blankets lying and sitting around the fountain. I continued to walk up the stairs and escalators (they were outside escalators) and behind the fountain at a more elevated level was a palace looking building! It reminded me of the Walt Disney castle. I got some pictures and just stood in awe at the building and the fountain. I then kept walking up and just overlooked the whole area.

 

I was soooo in awe! My day was truly amazing! After that, I stopped to get some gelato and hustled my way to the hostel. To sleep I went….

Day 3:

I had a lot to check off of my list so I woke up at 7:30am.

The first stop of the day was Tibidabo, Barcelona’s tallest mountain. I took the metro to the Tibidabo stop, got off and went in search of the transport that takes you up to the mountain to the amusement park. After a lonnnnng confusing search and a bunch of confusion, I ended up hiking up the mountain….yes, HIKING.

Correction: I decided to TRY TO hike up the mountain.

Please note, although it is technically a mountain, hiking up it is do-able; it’s relatively small compared to many. The view from where I was was beautiful! And finally, my selfie stick came in handy.

I discovered some frightening things in my attempt to hike up the mountains (bones, animal skulls, etc.) so my journey quickly came to a halt. I finally got back to the bottom of Tibidabo and made my way to the famous Sagrada Familia, a beautiful Cathedral. I got there a bit earlier than I had reserved my ticket for so in the meantime, I got a small lunch at a fancy burger restaurant called Hollyburg. I ordered a huge burger and some fries for only 5 euros. The restuarant had an elegant yet modern appeal to it, which I truly adored. Here are some photos:

  

After that I went back to Sagrada Familia. Sagrada Familia is an extra large cathedral that is one of Barcelona’s most prized possessions. I was a bit of a skeptic about going to see it. I’m not really a huge cathedral fan. I think they’re cool and beautiful, but especially am not hip to paying to see them (Sagrada Familia was 13 euros). This is one of the few (or only) cathedrals that I was utterly in awe of!!!!!!!!! There were colorful mosaic aligning the walls and windows that reflected throughout the entire cathedral, making you feel like you were walking in rainbow-land. It. Was. Stunning. Here, look:

     

I’m telling you, the beauty of this place was mind-blowing. The architecture and design was so impressive! It was definitely worth the money!

After walking around for quite some time and crossing paths with a stunning Jewish center, an outdoor food market, and an open terrace, I decided to go check out the magic fountain again during the day. When I got there, I found out that the huge building behind it is actually a museum. Here are pictures of the area during the day so you can compare and see how magical it truly is at night! P.S. I used my selfie stick once again.

   

Now…….. My favorite place in Barcelona. Probably more than a favorite than the magic fountain… Park Guell.

What can describe this place? Lovely, peaceful, beautiful, breathtaking. Just to name a few adjectives.

I took the metro to the bottom of the park (which is situated on a mountain) and I went up a butt load of escalators to get to the top of Park Guell so I didn’t have to walk. When I got there I just followed the pathway and wandered around. I came across a park monument. It was a cross sitting on a cone-shaped building with the top cut off. There’s a spiral staircase going around the monument so you can climb to the top to look over the city and take pictures. It was a beautiful monument with a beautiful view.

After that I continued to trek and roam the mountain. I took a dirt pathway up a pretty steep hill to reach the top of the mountain. From there, I sat in awe of the city. In awe of my blessed life that I don’t even slightly deserve. In awe of life and experiences. In awe of earth’s beauty. How could I ever complain?

I really wanted to watch the sunset from this panoramic view, but I didn’t want to try to make it down the steep and dangerous hill in the dark, so I made my way down before dusk.

On the way down, I discovered a WHOLEEEE different part of the park that I didn’t even know existed. That was just the icing on the cake. Wow wow wow!!!!

When I left Park Guell is was nine at night. I had an extremely long 13 -hour day. I was exhausted, to say the least. I made my way to the nearest metro (which was actually pretty far), got back to my hostel, took a quick shower, then knocked out for the night. What an amazing day. What an amazing Barcelona.

Day 4:

So glad I went to sleep early the night before. Since the airport I flew into was 1.5 hours outside of Barcelona (did I mention that?), I had to get up at 6:15 A.M. in order to catch the bus to the shuttle, catch the shuttle to the airport, and catch the plane. It turns out my plane was delayed (which is when I started writing these blog posts). The view from the airport’s all-glass windows was beautiful. Just mountains.

I made my flight and headed back to Malta where I had five more days to experience Europe before heading back to the States…

Barceloneta

We had another early flight for Barcelona, but at least we had four to five hours of sleep under our belt. When we landed it took us a while to find our flat, but once we did we were relieved to see that there was an elevator to take us to the fifth floor. What we didn’t find out until later that night was we were sharing the AirBnB with three other families. That was interesting, seeing as how we were spoiled in Madrid and had the flat to ourselves, minus the host. We hardly saw our host for Barcelona, but it didn’t really matter because we were typically out all day.

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The first day we met up with some of Jessica’s friends and got lunch. They showed us around their favorite parts of central Barcelona and we had a great time, despite being exhausted. Later that night we found the best place for sangria. Although the gelato was not as great as the one in Spain, we kept up the tradition of having it at least once a day (please stop judging me). After gelato we went back to the flat, only to find that once again the door was hard to unlock, so of course we struggled with that for about five minutes. See? I told you this would be a reoccurring theme. Once we finally got in we hit the hay.

After a good night’s rest, I was ready to take Barcelona by stride. We went on a hop on-hop off bus tour that took us to Barceloneta Beach. It was absolutely cold, but still breathtaking. After that we got back on the bus and saw the Segrada Familia. By now we were pretty tired, spending most of the day out so we got tapas and Sangria then called it a night.

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The next day was our last full day in Barcelona, so naturally we decided to go to Park Güell and hike. But, before we went to the park we went to St. Joseph’s Market. They mostly had fresh fruits, vegetables and meat, but we found some fruit popsicles that were amazing! We didn’t stay too long in the market, because we wanted to have enough time at the park. Getting to the park was a hike itself, but we wanted the best view of the city so we continued to hike throughout the park, which was on a hill that gradually got steeper. But, nonetheless we made it to the top and got some breathtaking pictures. I wish you guys could see how beautiful these places were in real life. My phone nor any camera could do it justice.

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When we were done with the park we headed back into the city to get some dinner then back to our flat for an early night in so we could be as rested as possible to catch our flight. Our time in Spain had come to an end and it was onto a new country, Venice, Italy. Or so we thought it would be Venice…

Castles and Cathedrals

I have so many amazing things to share from the last week, but I’ll focus on the two highlights: visiting the old Roman town of Sagunto, a half hour bus ride from my campus (!!!), and visiting Barcelona.

For my Mediterranean Society class, we took an excursion to see the castle of Saguntum, which is over 2,000 years old. The walk through the sleepy town of Sagunto was absolutely wonderful.
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First, we stopped to see the restored amphitheater. It was designed to carry sound all the way to the top.
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Strategically, the castle is on a large hill, so the view from the top is impressive:
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The castle itself is incredibly beautiful. The grounds are overrun with cacti which were imported from Mexico a few hundred years ago.
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It was incredibly fun running around the battlements, imagining what it would be like to be a soldier defending the castle. From the other half of the castle, you can see the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. This castle was so important because of its strategic location on the coast.
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A very famous battle occurred here around 200 B.C., when the castle was Roman occupied. Hannibal made a great victory for Carthage using elephants to attack the Romans. You can see here the ground where they made their attack from. Also, check out these stunning mountains. Overall, this day was a highlight of my trip. It’s also incredible that my university is barely 18 miles from here.
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This past weekend, we went to Barcelona. The city is as beautiful as its reputation warrants (even if it was raining half the time). Here’s a view from the port.
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We visited La Sagrada Familia, of course, and I was surprised by how much I appreciated the experience. I’ve never admired Gaudi’s work, but in person, the cathedral was amazing. There were so many details and strange things to look at. The designs are fascinating. Of course, it’s still under construction, although I found out that they “have to” complete the project by 2026, 100 years after Gaudi’s death.
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In addition, we visited the Gothic Quarter. It feels like walking around in a movie (if you can tune out the thousands of tourists). I think this area is what I pictured most when I imagined Spain before I came here.
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I feel so lucky to be in a place where I can take a day trip to a castle and a weekend trip to Barcelona!

Lasting Memories

And for the last few weeks, I spent time with my family in Barcelona. I have not seen my cousin in person for 13 and a half years… and I missed her so much! Since the day that I came from Lyon, I enjoyed the time with her and all of my family. We have done so much in such a short time .. 2 weeks to be exact. We have been going to the beach and to dancing and just having some fun before I have to go back to my responsibilities back home *insert sad face..*

Here are some pictures of the fun things we have been doing!

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The first time seeing her..
The first time seeing her..

I also visited Barcelona:

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I’m sad to go but I’m ready to leave and be back home. I am excited to go back. The world has been great to me.

 

à bientôt mon monde.

DA.

The City that never rests and the City that never sleeps

 

I spent a little over a week in Spain, it was an adventurous week to say the least. We spent some time in Barcelona before taking the train to Madrid and I had the opportunity of experiencing the uniqueness of both cities.

Barcelona can be best described as bustling with life! The streets were packed with people from all walks of life, on every corner, was a street performance and there was an endless number of events to engage in.

Out and about in Barcelona
Out and about in Barcelona

On our first outing, we took a walk on the pier and then went on a boat ride. The walk was very refreshing to say the least. Beautiful people going about their activities, beautiful birds perching on the pier and the beautiful scenery of the ocean made for a very refreshing walk. If that is what a day living in Barcelona is like, then no wonder the people are so relaxed.

Madrid was more of a night time city. The streets were not as packed with people during the day as Barcelona. Dinner was eaten by 9 or 10 pm with conversations stretching into the night. Restaurants stayed open till the early am and street performers came out at night to serenade passersby.

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Madrid has beautiful architecture! You can’t help but look up at the magnificent buildings lining the sidewalks. It also has beautiful cultural sights like the Prado Museum.

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The Prado Museum
The Prado Museum

I will definitely love to visit Spain again.

putting the ‘study’ in study abroad.

 

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Hi all!

I’ve been in Barcelona for about 5 days and I start class tomorrow morning! Im weirdly excited to kinda of get a little bit of a routine going to make life seem a little bit normal here. Since its just a 7 week program we only have total of 22 days of class (!!!) so it will go by really fast. I’m only taking two classes while I’m here and they are Spanish culture and civilization and Spanish art and heritage. Im really excited to learn more about Barcelona and Spain as a whole in these classes. In my art and heritage class we get to go to a new museum about once a week which is totally ok with me!

Earlier today we went on a guided tour of what they call the ‘gothic quarter’ in the city. Its the oldest part of the city that holds a lot of history and stories of how Barcelona came to be! I’m not normally a big history buff but the information from this tour was actually really fascinating. some of the buildings’ foundation are from the roman era and are still in really good condition. I found out that there can only be on cathedral per city, Barcelona’s is in this gothic quarter, and the rest are just considered basilicas

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This one ^ is the Santa Maria del mar basilica and this picture doesn’t even come close to doing it justice. It one of the most beautiful building I’ve ever seen.

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(this is Brunch & Cake and it was hands down the best brunch I’ve had anywhere! and i eat a lot of brunch, ha!)

I’ve also been spending a lot of my time trying to find foods I like here. I always seem to order the wrong thing! but I’m getting the hang of it now and have been able to have some really amazing food here so far.

My host mom, Maria made me, my roommate, and two friends that were staying with us some homemade authentic Paella! this was a veggie and sausage kind, but the original has lots of sea food in it. it was really good!

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(me, our friend Chelsea, my host mom Maria, and my roommate Kylie)

Life in a new country is very confusing and frustrating at times but I’m getting used to it and adjusting to my surroundings. The biggest things I’ve learned so far are that:

1. I have no sense of direction whatsoever

2. I will never take iced drinks and air conditioning for granted again

3. you have to take everything day-by-day

4. making your own little community is key when you’re in a new country by yourself and homesick!

I can’t wait to share my weekend trip to Costa Brava with ya’ll and all the plans I have coming up!

XO, Liv

My first weeks in Barcelona.

WOW. I don’t even know where to start! I have been in Barcelona for about 11 days now and I have been able to do and see so much!

Last week my program took a trip to the Codorniu winery and to Sitges beach!

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we started our day by driving about 45 minutes to the winery where they are famous for the cava. Cava is basically a type of champagne but they aren’t allowed to call it that here! so we got to tour the winery, which was beautiful and very mediteraninan styled. we got to go into the cellars and see how the cava is made and then my favorite part… the tasting! we were able to sample a rose and a white cava. Since its made right there at the winery it was for sale really cheap so i bought a big pink bottle of the rose!

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After the winery we headed to Sitges beach! it was a cute little coastal town- almost like a small beach town in California. The first thing we did was eat lunch in a little place back in the neighborhood of Sitges. Ive always heard europeans move at a slower, but man, we wait so long for our food here! a girls gotta eat!

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It was such a fun little getaway with some friends I’ve made in the program

I have a lot more to tell you about.. this was all in just one day (!!) so I’m gonna break it up into a couple different posts.

xo,Liv

Absolutely Breathtaking

After a long trip which consisted of multiple layovers and cramped seating, I finally made it to Barcelona early Saturday morning, May 30th. I was immediately taken away by the amazing weather once I walked outside the airport. The sun was shining bright and there wasn’t a cloud in sight; all I could think at that moment was PARADISE.

We took a taxi to the hotel and once we got checked in, we decided to venture further into the city to get something to eat. I was excited to try some authentic Spanish food – mainly the Tapas (small appetizer plates) that they are well known for. As we were eating I couldn’t help but notice how passionate everyone was about futbol (aka soccer). No matter which street we walked down, there were hundreds of locals draped in their favorite futbol jersey chanting away in unison. After visiting a museum and some more walking around, we decided it was time to call it a night and get some rest since we had a couple more fun packed days in Barcelona before we headed off to Madrid.

The next couple days in Barcelona were amazing. We took a boat excursion up and down the coast of Spain which was really nice as we were able to sit on the top of the boat and see Barcelona from a distance. From there we went to get some lunch which consisted of even more Tapas. The great thing about Tapas is the luxury of eating a variety of different foods each and every time.

The day we had to leave Barcelona we decided to go and spend a few relaxing hours at the beach before our four hour train ride to Madrid. The day was perfect as usual with the sun shining bright with blue skies and not one cloud in sight. After awhile of basking in the sun, a few of us decided to purchase a small football from one of the local shops. We had fun throwing the football around for awhile, but had to hurry back to the hotel to get ready to get on the train to Madrid.

After spending a few days in Barcelona which seemed like a very relaxing city, I was ready to see Madrid which is considered to be more fast paced. Stay tuned for more…