Right after dressing up for Halloween, I headed to Barcelona for two classmates’ birthday celebrations.  Hadi and Ghazal have birthdays in the same week and they wanted to go big.  They invited everyone to come to Barcelona for our 3 day weekend, organizing a birthday dinner and VIP table at a nice club.  I shared a 3-bedroom apartment with 6 other classmates which worked out really well.  We ended up spending less per person than we would have paid for a hostel all weekend.  So if you’re traveling in a large group, I highly recommend renting a vacation apartment.

Well, when we arrived there was a little hiccup.  The renters that checked out of the apartment that day had set the couch on fire and threw paint on the walls.  The rental company was apologetic and moved us to an equivalent apartment near the Sagrada Familia.  Because we felt inconvenienced, I decided to whip out my negotiation skills (we’re currently taking a Negotiation class back in Madrid) with Montaña’s help to work the rental company down in price.  We ended up getting 100 euros reduction.  Not bad.

The next day I woke up early (after a hearty breakfast cooked by Miko) and headed to the city center.  I walked around a lot just admiring the architecture.  Then I decided to walk into Casa Batlló which is a home designed by Antoni Gaudí, a modernist architect from Catalunya which is the region where Barcelona is located.  (Side note – Catalunya or Catalonia is officially recognized as its own nation.)  The home is breathtaking.  I think I spent 2 hours inside and it is only a few floors and a rooftop.  What is most fascinating to me about Gaudí’s work is its resemblance to nature.  The glass looks like water, the tile sometimes looks like animals, the windows look like faces, etc.

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Next I headed to the Gothic Quarter where I just roamed through the little streets.  I tried some macaroons, I did a little bit of shopping, met with my friend Miko for tapas and headed down La Rambla which is a wide street full of people at all times of the day.  Then I realized it was getting dark and I needed to head back to get ready for dinner.

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The next day, I woke up early again and headed to Montserrat which is a mountain approximately one hour by train from Barcelona.  The mountain is jagged or saw-like with multiple peaks which is how it got its name.  Buried in a crevice in the mountain is a monastery and sanctuary.  Some people hike up to the flat area, but I decided to take a cable car since I didn’t have a lot of time.  I wandered around the town for a few hours, going through the monastery, viewing the monuments and nature.  It was so nice to be outside of the city.  Very quiet, very tranquil.

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I then headed back to Barcelona and asked Miko if he would like to meet up to visit Parc Gϋell (where Gaudí lived) before dinner time.  We met at a subway station, then had to do a combination of walking uphill and taking escalators to reach the park because it is up on a hill.  Unfortunately, it gets dark at 6 pm right now in Spain and 6 pm it was…and to our disappointment, the park is not very well lit.  But we still enjoyed the walk and the architecture that we could see.  We could even see Sagrat Cor at Tibidabo lit up on the hill.  It was amazing.  Luckily, I had visited the park in the past so I was familiar with all of the beauty that surrounded us in the dark.

Next we headed to dinner with my friend from Barcelona, Thais, and our friend, Jungmin.  Thais knows that I’m vegetarian and she suggested a wonderful vegetarian restaurant near La Rambla.  I was a little worried because the others are all meat-eaters and I don’t like forcing my diet preferences on others.  But I think most all of us had really great dishes and everyone seemed to be satisfied with the meal.  For the first time in a long time, I was excited by all of my options on the menu.  That doesn’t typically happen.

The next day, yes you guessed it, I woke up early again, packed my suitcase, and this time I headed to the nearby Sagrada Familia before we had to check out and head to the airport.  (Tip for those of you considering a visit to the Sagrada Familia – buy your tickets online!  Otherwise, you’ll have to wait hours and hours because the line wraps around the block even by 10:00 am.)  For those of you that don’t know, this is another one of Gaudí’s architectural genius and it is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  However, it is not yet finished.  In fact, it won’t be finished until 2026.  You can read all about it here: Sagrada Familia information.

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Here’s a video that shows what the Sagrada Familia will look like when it is finished in 2026.

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