Parks, Pidgeons and "Problemitas" in Barcelona

Xander Mitchell
July 1, 2016
Parque Güell

After weeks of planning, booking buses and Spanish conversations with way too many AirBnB hosts, six of my friends and I finally had the chance to make it out to Barcelona this past weekend. As I’m sure you’ll be able to tell, the trip was filled with adventures (and mishaps, admittedly), and a visit to the city really helped me understand how diverse this country really is.

We spent most of our first day orienting ourselves to the city, but we had one adventure before checking in to our AirBnB. We ventured to Montjuïc, a mountain in Barcelona that is home to some of the city’s best museums and attractions. We opted for the tram journey up the mountain in which we had the opportunity to see a panoramic view of the beachside city. On the mountain, we explored the Montjuïc Castle, a fortress dated to 1640 that has played a central role in the history of the city. We finished off the day at a restaurant called Ignació in Eixample, a trendy neighborhood and residential area. It was my History of Food professor (who is also, conveniently, a scholar of medieval Catalan) that recommended the place, and it did not disappoint. We dined on traditional Catalonian tapas: Iberian ham, octopus, croquetas and “rabbit ears” – unfortunately, I have no pictures to share of the last one, but I can best describe the taste as being similar to chicharrones that I’d once had in the States.

We woke up the next day to empty streets and closed doors, having realized a miscalculation in our plan: we arrived on a holiday weekend. (Somehow, the inordinate amount of home fireworks did not strike us as out-of-the-ordinary in this city.) We wandered around [central park] for a while, taking pictures and comparing this new city with the city seven hours away that we had began to call home. Given the closures, our options for exploring were limited to churches and natural attractions. We eventually ended up on the beach, surrounded by thousands of holiday-goers and foreign tourists. It was a completely different vibe from the quaint waters of Rascafria; the environment was decorated with umbrellas, tanning lotion and sangria, and my ears were filled with a medley of English, Spanish, Catalan, French and German.

Saturday was by far the most eventful day of the trip. Failing to find a breakfast spot that was open (happy holidays!), we opted for Turkish street food before beginning our exploration of the Picasso Museum. The museum, which features only works by the famed Spanish artist, has become my favorite in all of Spain. I was especially struck by two pieces – Picasso’s reinterpretation(s) of Las Meninas, which I had spent time viewing in the Prado, and Picasso’s The Pidgeons, a work from captures the essence finding beauty in the mundane and includes a beautiful scene from Picasso’s home in Cannes. We followed the visit with a trip to Sagrada Familia. The church, designed by the ingenious Gaudí, has been in the works since the late 19th century, and is expected to be completed in 2026. I would say that I hope my pictures do it justice – a cliché in this blog at this point – but anybody’s photography let alone my own could never adequately convey the scale, grandiosity and otherworldliness of the Sagrada Familia. The site remains my favorite that I’ve seen in Spain thus far.

The highlight – or lowlight – came after the visit as we exited our AirBnB for Park Güell at about 7:00pm. Exiting the apartment, Miles, never one to resist the opportunity to goof around, asked the rest of the group, asked, “OK – who has the keys?” We giggled and bugged him, and then again: “No seriously – who has the keys?”

The dining room table had the keys, that’s who.

I texted our host, beginning my message by telling her that we had a problemita and that we could meet her to get another pair of keys if she was amenable to the idea. She had her own problemita, it turned out: she was not in town for the weekend. We passed through the city of Gaudí in a sort of limbo, admiring the seating in the park with a fresh set of eyes considering it may have been where we would be sleeping. After three hours, my host texted me to let me know that her brother would drop off the keys at midnight. We ate dinner and returned home, ultimately waiting for the brother until 2:00am, though I wouldn’t dream of complaining about the situation, considering our mistake!

The night, if nervewracking for a moment, ended up being one of the best I’ve had in Spain. Toying with the idea of going to another discoteca, we ultimately opted for a visit to the beach. We laughed and reminisced about our time in the country, obviously aware of how little we had left. By 6:00am, the sun had begun to rise, and we sat in front of the shimmering Mediterranean with a group of Australians we had met, taking in the beauty of the scene. Clearly, between the club and the sunrise, we picked the better option.

Sunday consisted of coffee – a well-deserved morning medicine after the lack of sleep – a quick brunch, and a surprise visit to the only krönut shop in Barcelona. We caught a 2:30pm bus and arrived in Madrid in the evening. I’ve blogging in between studying for finals and working on work from home. I’m trying not to treat this week as my last – I want to continue to experience Spanish life at the pace of a Spaniard. The one thing I want to focus on is spending as little alone time as possible. These last few days will be filled with time for friends and family – and a little bit of studying, certainly – and between a going away lunch with IES Abroad, a final evening with my host family, and – for me – a few upcoming adventures through Europe, I have much to look forward to.

This is my last blog post that I will write during the program, but look out for details about the last week and my final reflection on my time in Madrid sometime in the next few weeks. Until then, hasta luego!

For the most up-to-date notes on my study abroad experience, follow me on Instagram @tarxander

More Blogs From This Author

View All Blogs

Xander Mitchell

<div>I&#39;m Xander&mdash;a photographer, amateur restauranteur, recreational runner and humanities major spending six weeks of&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 13.008px; line-height: 1.538em;">my summer in Spain. Traveling notebook-in-hand and iPhone-in-backpack (or maybe the other way around), I&#39;ll be&nbsp;</span><span style="font-size: 13.008px; line-height: 1.538em;">showcasing the best of Madrid culture available to travelers and students on a budget. You can expect photographs of&nbsp;</span><span style="font-size: 13.008px; line-height: 1.538em;">and musings on Madrid architecture, history, literature, food, music and the great people I find along the way. Oh, and&nbsp;</span><span style="font-size: 13.008px; line-height: 1.538em;">there will be coffee, too &mdash;don&#39;t forget the coffee!</span></div>

2016 Summer 1, 2016 Summer 2
Home University:
Yale University
Explore Blogs