Hola, Barcelona!

I had been to Spain once before. My first trip abroad (not counting North America) my best friend joined my family and I on a high school graduation trip to Europe. The first stop was Spain. My first introduction to Europe was the chaotic city of Madrid. I remember feeling overwhelmed, and noted the particular smell off the city, mostly, cigarettes and people with wafts of charred something. This was back before I had become entirely reliant on smart phone technology to ensure I knew where I was. Mostly,  I remember getting lost and trying to use a Corte Ingles (of which there are many) as a point of reference. And failing miserably. I remember the pandaria down the street from our hotel. I remember a freak rain storm that left me soaked and sulking while sight seeing. I remember, enjoying it all, but surprisingly I don’t remember much else. We flew through Barcelona on our way up to Marseille, I saw Barcelona pass from my train car, and distinctly remember wondering if I’d ever see this particular city. 

So it was a bit surreal to land in a city I had seen in what now feels like an alternate lifetime. This time, eight years later, I was a different person. And instead of following my parents around, or generally being lost and intimidated by this whole traveling abroad thing, I was excited, and prepared. Mostly, as you might expect, to eat. Barcelona after all hosts a myriad of culinary awesomeness, and I couldn’t wait to delve in.

Though excited, I wasn’t sure how this trip would turn out. The five American girls in my program have all banded together and formed something of a strange clique. We all don’t have a lot in common, as our personalities cover quite a spectrum, but we all wanted to travel. And so there we were, this ad hoc group of friends traveling together to Barcelona. I’ve only ever traveled with groups of people I didn’t know, my family, or Alex. I had never traveled with friends. A benefit to traveling solo is the opportunity to meet and travel with new friends, and then, subsequently if you got sick of it, you had the option of leaving. Not so when you travel with friends from home. And given our different personalities and interests I legitimately feared a travel catastrophe.   It was not to be. In fact, there was virtually no drama other than a bit of stomach upset, when a few of the girls thought it would be hilarious to eat Mexican food in Spain.

Best Tapas Experience: Tapas 24.

My new friends reminded me that not everyone is a die-hard…foodie, for lack of a better term. I have in the past so throughly surrounded myself with others either in the industry or passionate about food, including both Alex and my family, that I’ve almost forgotten there are picky eaters or more strangely to me, indifferent eaters. I will stand in a two hour line to eat amazing food. I will take a train a few hours north just for a great meal. I would fly to Denmark for the day just to dine at Noma. I travel, in part, to eat and I can’t imagine visiting another country and not throughly immersing myself in its cuisine. To me anyway it would feel like I’ve missed a big part of the culture, and reason to travel in the first place. But this is not always true, and arguably it is far more common to resist foreign food. After all, a huge industry in most tourist oriented countries is there to ensure you don’t ever have to step outside your comfort zone and eat anything you might not be able to pronounce.

What is normal to me, may come of crazy to others in regards to food (why is she still talking about that foie gras dish she had three days ago?). So I had to scale back a bit. When one of the girls asked for something to go (not really a thing in Spain) the restaurant was kind enough to find something for her. What they chose to do was to put her leftover humus in a sealed sous-vide bag, to which I was greatly amused. When I tried to explain how great (and amusing) it was, I was greeted with confused looks. Come on, it’s a sous-vide bag! It’s brilliant. Nothing? Right.

El Xampanyet

So I wasn’t sure how eating would play out. I was fine with venturing out on my own, if needed, but dining with friends is much better. And I was lucky in that they all trusted me to make most of the food decisions for the group. And thankfully, everyone throughly enjoyed everywhere we ate. From tapas where the wait was over an hour to a standing room only sandwich and cava bar on the water, for the most part everyone dove in and loved it. Clearly, I didn’t need to worry so much.

Top picks for food also included PLA, La Plata, Pinotxo, and Lolita Taperia

Cathedral

Aside from eating, a lot. We wandered the city exploring its various wide avenues and cluttered ally ways.  The architecture, reason alone to visit this city was stunning. More, it was everywhere. Fascinating baroque and modernist buildings scattered throughout the city making the simple act of walking and looking an interesting way to spend an afternoon, or two. We shopped, and found our way to the beach. And of course, saw the requisite Gaudi works.

Gaudi

A side excursion, to which I don’t take credit brought us up the hillside overlooking the city to visit a vintage amusement park. If you’ve ever seen Vicky Christina Barcelona, you might remember this. It felt, an entirely random thing to do, but the views alone were worth the bus ride.

Amusement Park with a View

Overall, it was an excellent diversion. The weather felt to us warm (mid 60’s) and a welcome break from the dreariness from Dublin; Ireland’s’ next weeks forecast? high 40’s and rain!   I never would have imagined I could simply hop on a plane and a few hours be in Spain, but it’s helping to solidify the fact that I am, indeed living in Europe. And helps make up for a little bit of disappointment I’m feeling about this city everyone raves about, clearly they didn’t have to live here for too long.

Given that B’s tend to be a theme in city breaks (Brussels, Barcelona) it would only be natural that our next venture (mid December) would bring us, amongst other places, to Budapest!

Until then life, as it tends to do, will be busy as the semester comes to a close and we all scramble to complete all that is required of us in the next few weeks. 5 weeks to go!

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