In Barcelona.

Well, the whole point of that title was to use a catchy line from Ed Sheeran’s song, “Barcelona,” but since that was literally the only line that used the word “Barcelona,” it will have to do.  But if you want to sing the title to the tune of the song (and understand where the subheadings for the post came from), you can listen to it here.

If you remember from my last post, I mentioned that Elaine, my friend from Purdue, was going to visit me.  She was here for about a week and we did all kinds of things so I could show her what life in Spain is like.  She spent her time exploring Madrid during the day when I was teaching (including spending plenty of time in Retiro Park and the Prado Museum), but then we met up in the evenings to hang out and eat.  Some things we did in Madrid:

  • Drinking sangria in Plaza Mayor
  • Stuffing our faces with Thai food with Lauren and Sofía
  • Exploring the Royal Palace
  • Visiting the Templo de Debod
  • Eating arepas at the Mercado de San Ildefonso
  • Drinking delicious mojitos and daquaris at the sand bar at Ojalá
  • Indulging in chocolate con churros at San Ginés
  • Meeting up with Minorka, Elizabeth, and Lauren to have rooftop mojitos at Círculo de Bellas Artes
  • Enjoying Mexican cuisine, including nachos and enchiladas

Yes, I am aware that most of those things included eating and drinking, but hey, that’s the best part of traveling in my opinion!  Besides, we did plenty of walking to make up for it!

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Then, on Friday evening, we took the high-speed Ave train to Barcelona!  I had been wanting to visit Barcelona since day one of my time in Spain and finally got the opportunity.  I was so excited to see the sites and explore the city with Elaine (who makes a wonderful travel partner, by the way) that nothing could put a damper on my excitement!

Until we walked into our hostel room.

1 of our 6 other roommates was in the room when we arrived, and the first thing out of her mouth? “You didn’t already pay for this room, did you?  It’s terrible!”

Oh no.

Elaine and I looked at each other and probed her for more information.  What had we gotten ourselves into?!  The girl started rattling off various issues with the hostel: the bathrooms weren’t clean, you had to press the knob on the shower every 10 seconds to get the water to flow, our roommates smelled really bad, etc.  Well, Elaine and I decided not to be deterred; we would make the most of the situation.  After all, it was only 3 nights.  We could survive!  So we grabbed a slice of pizza from a nearby cafe, tested the shower (knob thing was true, but boy was that water pressure good) and laid down for our first night in the hostel.

Which turned out to be one of the worst nights of sleep I’ve ever had in a hostel.  Our roommates all decided to come in at various times making various noises and the people outside the hostel wouldn’t be quiet.  Elaine later compared the noise to Jurassic Park!  But I bought some earplugs for the next night and my life changed for the better!

“We’ll dance around La Sagrada Familia…”

But anyway, that morning, we headed to the Sagrada Familia, the giant cathedral designed by Antoni Gaudí that is still under construction for at least the next 10 years or so.  It was incredible!  The outside was so detailed and intricate and in a weird way made me feel extremely uncomfortable (you know trypophobia? it was just too many holes and natural elements that reminded me of body parts).  It was still beautiful though!  But the inside was fascinating!  The pillars that held up each of the towers were built to look like trees, and there were so many beautiful stained glass windows.  It was incredible!  We also got to walk around the museum afterwards to see some of the models Gaudí had built for the construction of the cathedral.

Next up on our Gaudí day?  Parque Güell!  We went to the monumental section first to see all of Gaudí’s work.  It was so colorful and whimsical and intricately designed.  It feels slightly like being in a Dr. Seuss book at times.  We walked around and enjoyed the beautiful weather and also explored the Gaudí House Museum, which had been Gaudí’s house during the construction of the Sagrada Famila.  We were even treated to some talented electric violinists playing covers of popular songs while we walked around the park!  We got a little lost trying to leave the park, but we finally got out and walked back toward our hostel.  We eventually went to eat some pasta and get drinks and stop at a doughnut shop recommended by Minorka called Boldú.  Then, we said goodnight to our first full day in the beautiful city of Barcelona.

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“Drinking sangria, mi niña, te amo mi cariña…”

A quick breakfast at the hostel and we were off to join a free walking tour around the Gothic Quarter of the city.  We saw the Barcelona Cathedral, City Hall, the official residence of the president, where the king and queen had lived a long time ago, a beautiful church called Santa María del Mar, and an area called El Born.  When we finished, we went to a restaurant in the area and enjoyed some vegetable paella and some sangria de cava, followed by some ice cream.  It was impossibly delicious! We made a stop by Casa Batlló, yet another creepy looking house designed by Gaudí.  Then, exhausted, we made our way back to the hostel where we took a quick nap and then made our way back out to grab a slice of pizza and head to a bar to see a live flamenco show.  The performers were very talented and impressive!

 

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Lamp post designed by Gaudí – his first work

 

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Las Ramblas, I’ll meet you…”

On Monday morning, we decided to fit in everything we hadn’t yet had a chance to do.  First up was walking along the street called La Rambla, which is a wide pathway that leads from city center to the beach.  It’s lined with trees and various stands with vendors trying to sell their wares.  We strolled at a casual pace to the beach, where we stuck our toes (and accidentally our shins) in the Mediterranean. On the way back, we stopped at La Boquería, a huge market!  Between the 2 of us, Elaine and I had 3 fresh juices in various flavors, a mini quiche, a veggie pastry, 2 chorizo and cheese stuffed pockets, a cheese stick, and 2 ice cream cones.  We were STUFFED, but everything was so incredibly delicious.  We then had to make our way back to the hostel to pick up our bags, and along the way we had the coolest experience ever.

While we were walking, we stepped foot into this plaza that was absolutely swarming with pigeons.  Why are they all here?  we wondered.  We soon found out.  Making our way across the plaza, we saw some pigeons on people’s arms and hands.  We were practically gawking when a kind man said, “Here, take some bird seed!  They’ll just come land in your hand!”  Now, this went against every fiber of my germaphobic being (Hello! Pigeons are nasty, disease carrying creatures!  They’re the rats of the air!), but hey, when in Barcelona…

So we did it.  We put the bird seed in our hand and held it out and THEY LANDED ON US!!  I couldn’t help but scream a little when they first touched me because it was the weirdest feeling!  Their little toes felt so bizarre and they were heavier than expected!  It was so funny and strange and we loved every second of it.  The best part?  We didn’t even get pooped on! Lol!

Before long, we had to catch the train to get back to Madrid.  Elaine took an early flight back home the following day, and while it was sad to say goodbye, I’m so happy she came!  I had been in need of a little piece of home for awhile now; despite having friends here, I’d been feeling pretty lonely and missing my family and friends from back in the US.  So, Elaine was the perfect remedy and an amazing guest and travel partner, so I’m so thankful she was able to come!  Love you, Elaine!

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Let’s talk about Trinity…

Oh, wait!  That’s not an Ed Sheeran lyric!  My bad!  But really, I do have to talk about Trinity for a minute.  After months of agonizing preparation, countless hours practicing the same conversation topics again and again, and numerous times when I wanted to bang my head on the floor because the kids couldn’t remember important information about their topics, the Trinity exam is finally over!  On Monday and Tuesday, our 3rd graders presented their topics one by one to the examiner.  All the while, Anahí, Lauren, and I were trying to keep the kids from being nervous (with Lucky Pocket Puffballs) and remind them to ASK 2 QUESTIONS!!!  Well, the results came back this week, and 34 of 45 of our kiddos passed the exam!!!  Considering this is an exam intended for 4th graders, we were thrilled!  We were very proud of them and their hard work they put into it, but also proud of ourselves for keeping our sanity the entire time, lol!  Now the rest of the school year can be focused on fun English things!

…and this heat wave.

All of a sudden, the weather decided to change from nice and beautiful mid-70s to 90 degrees!  And, considering that for some unimaginable reason the heat was still turned on at our school and we don’t have air conditioning, we were dying this week.  Everyone, teachers and students alike, was sweating and complaining about the heat.  Some teachers brought in spray bottles to squirt the kids to cool them down, and sometimes we just had to go outside or into the hallway to escape the heat.  It’s been miserable!  The lack of AC in our flat was also getting to Lauren and I, so we each invested 25 euros in fans. Terrance (named for turbulence) and Lucinda (named for wind) have been life-savers this week!

Well, looks like May is coming to a close.  I only have about a month and a half left of my time in Spain.  What is this madness??  Wishing everyone a happy Memorial Day weekend and an early Happy 21st Birthday to Kourtney!  XOXO.

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