Experiencing the Food and Culture of Barcelona

I had amazing things about Barcelona so I was really excited to spend some time there. It was one of the places I really wanted to see before we went back home.

We met up with our two Aussie friends, Mel and Mack, who we met in London. It was perfect timing that we were all in Barcelona at the same time so we were excited to catch up with them and share travel stories over the past two months.

Our first day there, my friend Ashley from Semester at Sea also happened to be in Barcelona for the day, a stop on her Mediterranean cruise. I haven’t seen Ashley since the summer after SAS in 2011 so I was really excited to catch up with her, even for a short time. It’s crazy that we couldn’t make our schedules work in the States but we met up in Barcelona!

Our first night we went out for tapas and sangria with our Aussie friends. Mack was also traveling with two friends from home and invited two Aussies from her room. Chels and I were totally outnumbered! But I am obsessed with Australia so I spent most of the night asking them all about Australian TV, movies and culture. I think they were pretty sick of it by the end.

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But the food was amazing! Chels and I split guacamole, patatas bravas (basically potatoes in a spicy sauce), calamari and mini burgers. We’ve been craving guac so we were so excited! The sangria was delicious, too.

We stopped for one drink at a famous mojito bar. I’m not a big fan of mojitos but really loved the one at this place! Maybe I’ve just never had a GOOD mojito before.

We ended the night at the famous Dow Jones bar. Tons of friends who studied abroad in Barcelona told me about this bar. It has a really cool concept. It’s based off the New York Stock Exchange (there are Wall Street signs everywhere inside including a photo of Wall Street burning…). Let’s say five people order a mojito but only one person buys a Guinness. The mojito will rise due to demand but the price of Guinness will drop. Each time a person ordered a particular drink, the price of that drink would go up. There was a ticker at the top of the bar that said the price of each drink and whether the “stock” was up or down.

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Then there would be a stock market crash. I believe this was on the hour, but basically the price of drinks would bottom to really cheap prices. It was a Sunday night so the bar was basically empty, but I heard that on a busy night, people literally run to the bar to buy the cheap drinks during a crash. It’s a really fun concept! I wish we had been able to see it on a busy night.

The next day we went to the La Sagrada Familia church. I think this may be the most breathtaking architecture I’ve seen in Europe so far.

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Usually the wait to get in is about two and a half hours but Mack found tickets online for 20 Euro that let us skip the line and go right in with an audio guide!

The thing I found the most amazing about the church was that it’s not finished. It seems every monument we’ve seen this summer has had scaffolding on it so I wasn’t surprised when I saw it on La Sagrada Familia. But I had no idea it was because the church isn’t finished! Construction began in the 1880s by Gaudi, a man of many talents including architecture, sculptures and paintings. We heard it won’t be done until 2020. But it looked like they had a lot of work to go.

We spent a little over an hour exploring the inside of the church. I expected it to be filled with wood and very dark as many historical churches are. But the inside had smooth stone and bright stain glass windows. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

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We spent the afternoon exploring Park Quell, another architectural masterpiece of Gaudi. Although I didn’t find this one quite worth the money. Especially after seeing La Sagrada Familia.

We also had beautiful views of Barcelona.

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After a full, hot day of sightseeing, we were all exhausted. We went back to the hostel and laid down for a few hours before another night of tapas and sangria!

This was probably one of the best meals I’ve had in Europe. We went to Sensi Bistro and had a wide variety of tapas. We had ham croquettes, Indian curry chicken, truffle raviolis (and bread which I dipped in the amazing truffle sauce!), duck, roasted mixed vegetables, stuffed artichokes and more! Every single tapa was delicious. We all left fat and happy.

We went around the corner to a cave bar that had a cool atmosphere but was pretty dead (it was a Monday). But we had more mojitos and enjoyed our last night together with Mack before she left for Greece the next day.

Our last full day in Barcelona, Chels and I took a free walking tour of Barcelona through Sandemans, a popular travel company. We toured the old town of Barcelona and learned a lot about the history. But it was almost too much. I’m not too familiar with Spain’s history so I found the tour quite hard to follow. We learned about many different prime minsters and kings and different groups who persecuted each other and I just felt very confused. I prefer tours that give a mix of fun, trivia facts with history but this tour didn’t seem to provide that. But I do enjoy a tour more than just walking around by myself because usually I just walk by things and have no idea of their significance so it is enjoyable to learn more.

We saw the Roman columns, Barcelona Cathedral and more beautiful architecture.

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After the walking tour, we met back up with Mel and Mack and had an amazing sushi lunch. We’ve missed sushi!

While in the restaurant, a beggar came up to our table. He had a sign written in very messy handwriting and was asking for money. The waitress shooed him out and told us that he was trying to get us to look at his sign so he could grab Mel’s phone that was sitting on the table, while we weren’t looking. We heard that Barcelona has a very bad pickpocket problem but this seemed beyond to me. I was surprised they would come inside the restaurant to beg and steal. Other than this though, I didn’t notice many beggars or pickpockets. I still have all my belongings, for now!

We split ways for the late afternoon. Mack left us for Greece, Mel went to meet up with a friend who was in Barcelona and Chels and I went to walk La Rambla. This is the major street in Barcelona with the best shopping. It was incredibly crowded and we didn’t find anything we wanted.

As we wandered, we ended up in a busy square with tons of restaurants. We picked one that advertised chicken paella. Paella is a sort of risotto with spices and meat that is the traditional dish of Spain. We felt we had to try it before Chels left for surf camp in Portugal.

We were unimpressed. We weren’t huge fans of the taste but we had great sangria to wash it down with! We left the restaurant at almost 11 p.m.! I don’t know how the Spaniards do it every night. I prefer eating early! But we ate after 9 p.m. every night in Barcelona.

This was our last night in Barcelona so we had to go back to the hostel to shower and pack before our early morning departures.

Chels likes her showers. It’s her time to be alone with her thoughts and do whatever she does in there. I’ve gotten used to it. But the 50+ year old French woman in our room was not impressed. Our hostel dorm had a bathroom in the room and there were no communal bathrooms on the floor so that was the only option. The French woman was tapping her watch and sort of yelling at me in French.

“Thirty minutes!” was all she could say in French. Five minutes later she would shout again. She would sigh. She would tap her watch. She would make motions at me that I think were meant to say, “Get your friend out of the freaking bathroom.” After 45 minutes, Chels came out and the woman started yelling at her.

“One hour! You take one hour!” she yelled as she tapped her watch. I couldn’t hold it together. I was dying of laughter. The woman gathered her stuff for the bathroom and in a sort of sarcastic tone asked if she was finished. What a 50+ year old woman is doing in a hostel, I have no idea. But I loved the entertainment.

I really enjoyed our three nights in Barcelona. I wish we had been able to spend a bit more time here to explore more of the nightlife and culture but I loved every moment we were there. It also helps to travel with friends!

Mel and I are off to explore more of Spain while Chelsea does surf camp near Lisbon, Portugal. I am not a huge fan of the ocean. I’m actually pretty terrified of it. So I didn’t really want to spend the money to go all the way to Portugal and spend a week surfing when I wouldn’t really enjoy it. We plan to meet up again in possibly San SebastiΓ‘n, Spain or if not there, definitely Paris. I can’t believe we’re less than two weeks away from coming home! This summer has been too fast.

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