The first few weeks in Spain, I was determined to see/do/experience as much as possible every single day. Now that I’ve worn myself into the ground with exploring the city by night and day, I can finally start to write a little (too much) about our home city of Barcelona. Alliteration list, begin:
Calle de Marina–that’s my new street, just two blocks from Universitat Pompeu Fabra, three blocks from the beach, and four blocks from a 24/7 Churreria (yes, a churro stand. Chocolate dipped or plain hart attacks, all day errday!) I can’t imagine a better location for my stay in Barca–I can drag my butt to class in the morning without taking the Metro, can easily run along the beach every morning (can not will), stroll to the Gothic Quarter to get lost in alleyways full of fascinations, or take a nap on the grass at the most remarkable park, Parque de la Ciudadela. I definitely scored a prime location to experience many facets of the city–churros being a very important cultural activity after a long night out.
It’s a monastery. On some mountains. And it’s one of the most stunning places I’ve ever been–the mountains look like lumpy dedos, fingers, rising straight up in a landscape of rolling terraced hillsides. The monastery and cathedral are literally perched on the side of a peak; I have no idea how they built those elaborate, massive structures in the 16 century. Horse-driven helicopters?
99.99% of people take a funicular or tram up the steep, jagged mountainside. But as Maddy and I are decidedly the mountaineering type, we chose to scale the mountain “path” up to the top. Path= random yellow arrows painted on random rocks, with the general direction of “up,” regardless of bushes or boulders or vertical incline. So it was less of a hike, and more of a crawl in the blazing midday heat. On the way up, we didn’t encounter any other fellow hikers, and when we finally arrived hours later, drenched in sweat and dirt, we were amused see droves of Asian tourists at the top in their heels after a pleasant tram ride up. However, the hike made the experience that much more spectacular, even as amazing as the monastery itself is. Montserrat is definitely a must-do in Catalonia! (And there were numerous local cheesemongers at the top, offering free samples of fresh goat cheese, figs, and honey…of course free food adds to the greatness.)
3. Mercat de la Boqueria
Although it is the most famous market in Barcelona, Mercat de la Boqueria still manages to maintain its local authenticity despite the hoards of daily tourists. This is a positive thing; the prices stay relatively low and the produce and meats are better than anything I’ve seen in supermarkets. After a day of classes, a group of us headed over, just expecting to get a few chocolates from Boqueria’s storied candy vendors. But we were overwhelmed by the mountains of fresh, picture-perfect vegetables, fruit, cheese, and less picturesque but still potentially delicious piles of fish and meat everywhere. Thus, we instantly decided to make dinner with ingredients just from the market. With the aim of fish tacos, we started piling up veggies and then went to choose our fish friend, with a head and guts, that was cleaned by our kind butcher friend with elephantiasis. It was quite a dramatic butchering process, and we opted to keep the head for future entertainment. Only 13€ for a massive fish for 6 ravenous kids? ¡Viva Boqueria!
4. Casa Mila
I’ve studied Gaudi’s work, I’ve seen countless pictures, and I’ve always been interested in his designs, but I was not expecting to be so enthralled by Casa Mila, or La Pedrera. The biomorphic forms of the building are so bizarre and surreal, it’s hard to remember that La Pedrera is a place for people to live in–and at the turn of the 20th century, its absurdity must have offended more than a few people. Casa Mila is definitely not an overrated tourist site…even though we had to take the customary plethora of tourist photos!