Breaking all assumptions in Barcelona / by Amanda Liew

Two weekends ago, Sarah, Lauren, and I headed out for a 3-day trip to Barcelona, Spain. I was especially excited for this because I had always dreamed about going to Spain and it was at the top of my places-to-go list. I can say truthfully that it did not disappoint. I think it might actually have been my favorite place out of my entire time studying abroad. The reason? The art. Barcelona is essentially the playground of Gaudí. He’s built famous and absolutely amazing buildings all across the city, adding so much culture to the already lively city. It was phenomenal!

We hit up a couple of great spots on our way to the hostel. This is in the Miró park: 

One of the best things about Barcelona? Even though it was the middle of November, it was a beautiful 65 degrees with sunshine…and palm trees. Oh palm trees, how I’ve missed you so!
The main street, La Rambla, is dotted with a million shops, crafts tents, ice cream shops, and more. We went back about three or four times during our weekend just because it was so much fun to shop here!
On La Rambla, there’s this giant marketplace called La Boqueria. Lauren who is Peruvian/Chinese/Japanese and myself were totally used to seeing fish and what not out in the open (Fun Fact: she can speak fluent Spanish. She told me before the trip she could speak Spanish and I thought, “Oh yeah..she must have taken Spanish in high school or something..” Nope. Spanish was her first language. Imagine my utter shock when she opened her mouth to talk with the lady at the ticket counter). Sarah on the other hand, pretty much freaked out. Lauren and I had a good time pointing out particularly gross things while she kept saying “I think I’m going to throw up” hahah
Next, we of course had to get tapas. They were absolutely delicious just as I imagined them to be
Heading straight down to La Rambla, we found The Christopher Columbus Monument!
Then we saw this. Water!!! Beautiful beautiful palm trees and the beautiful beautiful ocean! Oh it was wonderful!!

One of the awesome things about Barcelona is the pace. The Spaniards stroll, they don’t walk. I’ve been so used to weaving through traffic in NYC and London, that I’ve kind of forgotten how to just walk to enjoy the surroundings. We decided that we had plenty of time to see everything we wanted to see, and therefore took our sweet time to enjoy the sun and the scenery.
As the sun started setting, we (okay, I) decided we were in desperate need of some Spanish style hot chocolate. Since I’ve come to Europe, I’ve been trying to find Naked Chocolate’s European styled hot chocolate, and I finally found it in Spain! I was starting to think that Naked Chocolate had just made it up and slapped “European” on the title to make it sound fancy. We had the hot chocolate with churros and they were absolutely delicious!

Filled up on hot chocolate, we went on a hunt to find Cathedral of Santa Eulalia and stumbled across a CHRISTMAS MARKET in front of it! Unfortunately most of the Cathedral pictures didn’t turn out well, but I got a snap shot of these crazy logs with faces - they were everywhere! Does anybody know what they are?

To end off the night, we decided to go to a bar Lauren had heard about where there are over a thousand different surprise shots. You look at the board, pick one, and they don’t tell you the details.
Sarah and Lauren got the Harry Potter shot and it was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. The bartender poured the shots, put an orange slice with sugar on top, doused the whole thing in more alcohol, lit it on fire, then sprinkled cinammon or some spice on to it to make sparks that were Harry-Potter-esque. Sarah is one of the biggest Harry Potter fan (understatement) that I have ever met and pretty much almost died out of sheer happiness. There was also another shot where you lit a marshmallow on fire, then dunked it into the shot and drank/ate the whole thing.
Sunday morning we followed our little organized itinerary to find Casa Batló and La Sagrada Familia, but we stumbled across something first: La Pedera. We were impressed enough by the outside that we decided to step in the gift shop.
When I started looking at the posters they were selling, I knew I had to go in. Even though Sarah and Lauren opted out, I knew that this was my once-in-a-lifetime chance to see something I reallywanted to see and that I would regret it if I kept going. So the girls graciously waited for me as I went in by myself and this is what I found:
My breath was taken away. These massive massive sculptures are hidden on the roof of this building, completely invisible to people on the street. What’s even more amazing is that Gaudí made each sculpture have a purpose whether it was a chimney or an elevator. I literally couldn’t believe my eyes that someone could make this. I spent about an hour walking around the roof, creeping on other tourists to ask them to take photos for me, and going through the rest of the apartment residence (yes, people were meant to live here!). I think it was the best spontaneous decision I made and I am so happy that I went!

Finally back on track with our plans, we saw Casa Batló which is also made by Gaudí. I learned that Gaudí was incredibly inspired by natural objects such as gourds, pumpkins, tree branches, and honeycombs. That’s why in a lot of his architecture you see undulating waves, contained windows, and sprawling masses. Absolutely phenomenal.
Finally we headed over to La Sagrada Familia. Madeline had warned me before that it was the most amazing cathedral she had ever seen in her life and that wasn’t an exaggeration.
Even after what Madeline told me, I almost didn’t want to pay to go inside since I had paid for La Pedera earlier. I was impressed by the exterior, but thought the inside would just look the same with gray stones and maybe some cool sculptures. Wow, was I wrong: 

Can you believe the colors? Different shades of white, beige, rose, and more. It was unlike any other Cathedral I had seen. Different sections of the church had different feelings. Light was pouring through the stained glass at one end adding all this warmth into one section:

While on the other side of the cathedral, light was flooding in from above and illuminating a fantastic white ceiling:
The crazy thing about La Sagrada familia is that it’s only partially completed. There are four giant towers right now and there are supposed to be twelve total (with the others even higher than the current ones!). We decided that we must come back in about 30 years when the entire Cathedral is finished to witness the transformation for ourselves.

Our last and final destination was Park Guell. We had all just assumed it was going to be a nice big park - green with some pretty sculptures. Once again, our assumptions were shattered. The first hint that this park was going to be a little different was when we had to walk up an insanely steep hill (I think it might have actually be a mountain). The hill was so steep that they had outdoor escalators in the middle of the road to help people: 

When we finally reached the top (although we did stop for nachos first), we had the most amazing view of the entire city:
The park itself was a giant sprawling area with different sections and none of it involved lawn. It was actually much more similar to Balboa Park in San Diego - there were buildings and enormous towers you could climb. Each area was unique and surrounded by nature. 
And so, our adventure in Barcelona ended beautifully! Next post on Amsterdam!