Alright, it’s been a while now since my trip to Spain and Morocco. I’m sorry it’s taken this long to get my posts up, but it’s been crazy busy. Once I started traveling, I didn’t stop until this weekend. It’s been fun, but very exhausting.
Now on to the good stuff!
Barcelona, Spain was the first part of our Winter Break trip. All of the American students studying at ACN decided to go together. I absolutely loved it. I could go back to Barcelona in a heartbeat. There were ups and downs to the trip, but wow, Europe is a cool place. I’ve started a photo gallery page, so if you want to see all my pictures, check that out!
I flew to Spain on a different flight than everyone else. Long story short it was cheeper for me to book with a different airline. The flight went smoothly. At one point there were mountains below me. It took me a second and then I realized I was flying over the Pyrenees! When we landed, I tried to find the rest of the team, but apparently the Barcelona airport is two separate terminals. It took a good hour at least, but finally we met up and then we waited for the train into the city. It was warm and sunny and we were so excited to be out of Norway and its just-barely-above-freezing-weather. The first thing I noticed was the amount of graffiti. It was in the train station, on sidewalks, walls, everywhere. I thought it made Barcelona more colorful than it already was.
After getting to our hostel, Bed and Bike Barcelona, we decided to walk around and explore our new surroundings. Stores were on every street and in every nook and cranny. We ended up in one that sold everything from light bulbs to bras. The grocery store was quite interesting as well. Bread was about 35 cents, oranges still had leaves on them, and there was wine for a euro.
This trip was my first one out of Scandinavia, but it was also the first time I really felt like I was in Europe. I watched cars and motorcycles (or mopeds) zip down busy tree lined streets and I was taken aback by it all. The buildings had shutters and balconies. There were people everywhere. They were speaking tons of different languages. It wasn’t overwhelming, but it was new.
We had tapas for dinner, along with other delicious seafood options. Since we all like trying the new foods of each country, we’ve formed a habit of sharing whatever dish we get. If you want a bite, go right ahead.
Apparently everyone crosses the street whenever cars aren’t coming. It doesn’t matter if the little walk signal is green or red, people just look for the vehicles, and if there aren’t any barreling toward them at ridiculous speeds, off they go across the street. It took me a long while to get used to this. The rest of the group, Caleb, Katie, Spencer, and Tyler, would take off across the street and there I would stand on the other side, just waiting for the light to turn green. Another thing I’ve noticed about Europeans are their smoking habits. They smoke so. much. I don’t really like it, but they’re free to smoke in many more places than they would be in the US, so I can’t really get away from it.
The best part of our second day was the beach. We took the long way there and saw really cool murals. It was a bit chilly, but the guys were adamant that we swam. First we bought some rugs (the only work I can think of to describe them) from a few casual street vendors, and then we sat down in the sand and enjoyed the sun and the waves. We brought food and drinks with us as well. The fruit in Spain is amazing and so fresh. I ended up having a little photo shoot with a strawberry. After a bit of relaxation, the guys decided it was time to swim. I was really cold and already wearing long pants and a sweater, so I told them I’d be the photographer. They stripped down to their underpants (lol) and ran in. You can tell they were a bit cold by the expressions on their faces in some of the pictures. Katie decided she needed to join in, so then they all went back into the water!
Our hostel was pretty great, except for the spotty wifi. They had bikes you could check out for the day, so we decided to explore Barcelona a new way. It was quite freeing being on a bike and winding through the streets, but also a little scary when you’re crossing a busy street and there are cars zipping around everywhere.
We went a little further from our hostel than we had the past two days, but we were on a mission. There’s a street in Barcelona called Blai that is know for their abundance of pinchos. I’ll get to explaining them in a minute.
Before we sat down to eat, we found a little green space to explore. It was quite crazy to us that plants were alive in February. We decided to head to the top, and we were not disappointed by what we found. It was a lookout spot! The day was cloudy and Barcelona has quite a bit of air pollution, but it was still really cool to be able to look out over the city. After getting plenty of pictures, we headed back down for food.
So, back to pinchos. The best way to explain them is to say that they’re a little like appetizers, but if you eat enough they could be a whole meal. Restaurants have tons of different types to choose from, vegetarian, seafood, etc, etc. Each pincho is one euro, unless there’s red on the stick as well, and then it’s about a euro and eighty cents. At the end of the meal you count how many sticks you have and that’s how much your meal is. I loved it so much. I had a sausage one, a shrimp and crab one, and one with four different kinds of cheese.
While we were looking at the menu, something hit me. I realized that I was actually reading a menu in Spanish. I wasn’t at school anymore just practicing my foreign language vocabulary words. I was out in the world actually trying to order food in Spanish. It’s quite crazy how you can go from practice to the real world in such a short period of time.
There was one unlucky moment to our trip. Future travelers, listen up so you don’t let this happen. Caleb, Tyler, and I were sitting at our table outside finishing up our pinchos while Katie and Spencer had stepped away to look for an ATM. A worn-down man approached us asking for money. We told him no and he then proceeded to ask another woman sitting outside as well. He came back to our table to ask again and got very, very close to Caleb while he was shoving a piece of paper in Tyler’s face. It was unfortunate, but simply genius at the same time. Can you guess what happened? When Katie and Spencer came back we paid and got up to leave. Caleb was patting his pockets for his phone. He couldn’t find it, and then it clicked. The man had pick-pocketed his phone. It had been in his front pocket, like you’re supposed to do, but it stuck out just that little bit and while we were distracted by the paper, the man took it. Caleb looked upset, but out of everyone there, he was the best at keeping a positive mind-set. It was a crappy situation to be in, but he didn’t let it affect the rest of his experience in Spain. We unfortunately couldn’t do anything about it, so we just went on our way, making sure to be careful of our belongings. LESSON OF THE DAY DON’T LET RANDOM STRANGERS DISTRACT YOU. IF THEY’RE CLOSE TO YOU HOLD YOUR PHONE.
We headed back to the hostel after that for some down time and then went to a park for a picnic. We stopped at the grocery store first and grabbed what we needed – it was all so inexpensive! – and walked over. That meal was probably my favorite just because it was so fun and casual.
In the evening there was a pool tournament at the hostel, which we decided to take part in. Katie and I were partners. By the grace of God, or maybe He just wanted to have a little fun, we won the whole thing. Our prize was a bottle of wine. We took about two sips from it and decided that it was quite nasty, so eventually we gave it away to the guys and two Americans we met at Bed and Bike. They were actually from Wisconsin (go Pack go), which was pretty cool.
Katie and I realized that we were early risers and the boys…not so much. We’d be up and ready by nine am, while the guys wanted to sleep in until ten or eleven. When we finally convinced them to get up, Katie noticed something about Tyler’s bed. “Your bed is so messy! You have salsa in the corner!”
It was raining in Barcelona on the 24th, so we decided to take the metro to a mall (housed in an old coliseum) and check out the shopping in Spain. There was also a lookout spot on top of the mall, so we did some sightseeing as well.
After that we had paella for dinner. It’s a rice dish with spices and seafood usually. I thought it was okay. I think the pinchos were so good that nothing could compare after that.
That night we decided to grab drinks with our friends from Wisconsin. The next day we would be heading for Morocco, so we wanted to hang out one last time. We found an amazing bar. It was called the Dow Jones LIKE WALL STREET. I felt like I was back in the States, but I was in Spain?? The theme was genius as well. There was a stock ticker on the wall. It had all the drink names and what price or “stock” they were. When more people came into the bar, a bell would ring and the stocks would drop, so drinks were cheaper. How clever is that? If I could go back to Barcelona, I would go there for sure.
I finally had a churro. The one thing I was most looking forward to. It was well worth the wait. First off, it was giant, and then to make it about a million times more amazing, it had creme in it. Just writing about it makes me want to find churros and eat them all.
For our last half day (our flight was in the evening) we decided to check out a food market, just to see what it was like. There was tons of fresh produce, fresh seafood, and fresh flowers. I loved it. Carnival was also quickly approaching, so some of the booth workers put on a little dance for visitors.
In the afternoon Tyler and I decided to visit probably one of the most famous places in Barcelona, Sagrada Familia. It was gorgeous. Absolutely breathtaking. The stained glass was spectacular, and there were so many colors in each window. After a while I even started to feel nauseous because I kept looking up at everything.
By some crazy luck, two of my friends from America were in Barcelona the same weekend I was. Take a second and just think about that. I was in Spain. Europe. Across the Atlantic Ocean. And yet, I SAW TWO PEOPLE I KNEW FROM AMERICA IN ONE DAY. The world is one crazy place. I met up with Mel – who’s from UND – for breakfast and was introduced to all of her friends she’d traveled with from France. It was so cool seeing a familiar face after two months of new people and foreign languages. Then, for lunch, I met up Jackie – another friend from UND – who’s been studying Spanish in northern Spain. It made my day to see both of them and hear about their adventures and just be around a familiar face.
After lunch I hustled back to the hostel and we went on our way to the airport. Our next destination, Casablanca, Morocco!
I know this was a long post, so thanks for taking time out of your day to read about my adventure!