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Soaking Up the Sun

Jonathan Skewes
March 7, 2017

Paris has captured and kept my imagination every day for a little under two months, but I wanted to explore the differences between the French capital and other European cities.  Therefore, this past weekend, my friends and I decided to travel to Barcelona.  This was my second visit to the metropolitan port, and I loved my time just as much as the first.

While planning this weekend, my friends and I found a pleasant apartment right next to the Sagrada Familia.  This was a fantastic decision, and the church was the first landmark we all visited.  A couple of us decided to do an audio tour, and I was blown away by the all the details the guide provided.  Antoni Gaudí, the first architect of the church, intentionally placed countless details that I would have missed without the voice in my ear.  After the church, I explored a large portion of the city on foot.  My friend and I decided to walk to La Rambla, and this was no short stroll.  However, I have found the best way to explore a city is on foot.  This allowed us to pop into small shops or venture down an intriguing path, and we gained a greater appreciation for the city.  One thing we noticed immediately was all of the Catalonia flags.  The push by locals to become independent is no joke, and the only Spanish national flag I saw was over a federal government building.

While exploring Barcelona on Friday, we decided to make La Rambla our end destination.  Our favorite part of this street was a side market we discovered close to the sea.  The entrance we walked through was somewhat ironic because there was a giant Dunkin’ Doughnuts right next to an area very unique to the city.  In this market, I saw incredibly fresh products.  A fair amount of the crawfish in the fish stands were still alive, and I watched fruit vendors make their juice right in front of me.  One surprising product I continuously saw was gummy candy.  Compared to Paris, fruity candy was much more present in this colorful city.  After strolling down La Rambla, we came to a large monument for Christopher Columbus overlooking the port.  I could not tell you the last time I was so excited to see rows of palm trees and boats in the water.  While walking along the docks, I could physically feel the stark differences between the city on the ocean and Paris.  We thought our exploring had ended on the beach.  However, when we decided to walk back to the apartment, we stumbled upon a gigantic park and Barcelona’s Arc de Triomf.  None of us were aware Barcelona had an arch like this, so this discovery was a fantastic ending to a day of exploration.

Before leaving for Barcelona, the weather called for cool temperatures and rain on Saturday, and everyone in the group had accepted this terrible news.  However, we woke up to a pleasant surprise on Saturday – the beautiful sun and not a cloud in sight.  With this abrupt change in weather, most of the guys decided to make Saturday a beach day.  With sunglasses shielding our eyes, we marched to the sea with fantastic determination to put our toes in the sand.  Of course, this walk made us hungry, so the first order of business on the beach was lunch.  We sat basked in the sunlight and ate multiple local specialties, like Iberian jamon and Patatas Bravas.  With our stomachs full, we walked ten feet to reach our destination – the sand.  The next couple of hours consisted of sun, jokes, and pure relaxation.  After a brief siesta and a bit of a sunburn, we took a taxi to Park Güell, the famous park overlooking the city with multiple mosaic buildings.  I know I said walking is the best way to explore a city, but this park was in the hills on the total opposite side of the city.  Walking would have taken hours, so we succumbed to a faster method of transportation.  Before arrival, I was not aware how large the park truly would be.  I thought it only consisted of one view of the city, but I was truly mistaken.  The park covers several acres in the hills.  We unanimously agreed the only logical direction was up to see the entire city, and the views were breathtaking.  This park certainly contained the best views of the city for me, and the park itself contained some spectacular architecture and aloe plants.  With dusk quickly approaching, we headed back to the apartment to prepare for Saturday night.

I am an avid soccer fan, so when I discovered Barcelona was playing at home Saturday night, I knew I had to go.  The tickets were much cheaper than what I was expecting, so I purchased one the first chance I got.  I will never forget my experience in the Camp Nou, and the fact that I saw one of the best players ever, Lionel Messi, was the icing on the cake.

With a 6:35 am departure time Sunday morning, to say I did not get much sleep Saturday night would be an understatement.  However, the combination of my cultural experiences and time on the beach made this past weekend one for the books.  If you are studying outside the Iberian Peninsula, I highly recommend traveling to Barcelona for a truly unique weekend.

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Jonathan Skewes

<p>My name is Jonathan Skewes, and I am an advertising major at Pennsylvania State University. I have studied French for six years, and it is one of my true passions. I also enjoy playing soccer and discovering different cultures and countries.</p>

Destination:
Term:
2017 Spring
Home University:
Penn State University
Major:
Communications
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