For spring break, I decided to travel to Barcelona, Madrid and Paris with two of my friends from Italy, Morgan and Haley. It’s funny how once you travel around a bit, everything about it seems far easier and way less intimidating. As we packed to leave, we were massively excited but not at all nervous. We caught the bus from Sorrento to the Napoli airport, and managed to get on our flight to Barcelona with no problems. A few hours later, we landed in Barcelona, ready to relax and enjoy the sunshine.
One of the things we were most excited for was exploring two different sides of Spain. We learned from Haley’s friend, Hailey, who’s studying abroad this semester in Barcelona, and Morgan’s friend, Queralt, who lives just outside Barcelona, about the tension between the Catalonia region and the rest of Spain. The Catalonian region has a different culture from the rest of Spain, with its own holidays, traditions, foods, and even a different language. I’ve never taken Spanish, but Haley and Morgan, who had, couldn’t understand most of the signs around Barcelona. Hailey explained to us that most of the signs are written in Catalan, which, while similar to Spanish, is a separate language. This is similar to Italy, in that the people living in and around Napoli speak Napoletan, which has many similarities to Italian, but is its own language.
The issue, in a very simplified summary, is that Catalonia feels that it is separate from Spain, and wishes to be its own country. It was interesting to listen to the perspective of both a native Catalonian and an American student abroad in Barcelona for the semester. I, for one, am very excited to hear the perspective of the people in Madrid, and see how it differs (as I’m sure it will) from the people of Barcelona.
While we were in Barcelona, in between beach days lazing on the sand and strolling along the open market by the port, we visited a beautiful art museum that we refurbished for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. There was an amazing light and fountain show as the sun set that we were able to catch. Barcelona is beautiful in the evening, and we were lucky enough to look over the whole of the massive city from up on the hill as the lights began to come on for the evening.
We were not so lucky, however, when it came to seeing the Sagrada Familia. It’s a cathedral that’s still under construction that was designed by the architect Gaudi. It has a unique design and is very beautiful. Unfortunately, the day we went there was a special mass and we were unable to enter. After our many thwarted attempts to see the Sistine chapel and this bad luck with the Sagrada Familia, Morgan and I are starting to think we’re cursed!
One of the best parts of any trip is the food, and Barcelona did not disappoint. While we did break down and get a Starbucks coffee one morning (a girl can only drink so much espresso), we also experienced the classic Spanish foods. The first night, we had massive pans of paella at a local restaurant. The second night, we stuck with sandwiches, because broke college girls can only eat out so many nights without breaking the bank. Luckily, Hailey pointed us in the direction of good Catalonian options, and we enjoyed fresh crusty bread spread with tomatoes and topped with fresh ham. The last night had to be my favorite, though, as we shared a bunch of different tapas between the three of us. Croquettes, potatoes, chicken wings, calamari, shrimp, tortilla Espanola, and eggs and potatoes; I can’t decide which was my favorite, but they were all delicious.
As I write this, we’re hanging around the airport waiting for a flight to Madrid where we’ll visit my dad’s friends from college, Pedro and Elena, and their kids, Jaime, Alex, and Elena. I’m excited to see what the rest of spring break will bring, but if nothing else, Barcelona was a dream come true.