Writing this post has taken me a lot of time and thought. I was avoiding thinking about leaving Spain for, well, my entire trip, and when the time came I was brokenhearted. Although I had some low points during my trip (cancelled flights, a stolen phone, 2 hours stuck in a tiny, cramped elevator, and a hacked debit card), the highs far outweighed them, and I didn’t want to leave that behind. But I couldn’t avoid it forever; I had to start packing up my things and documenting as much as I can. Now all I have is some souvenirs, 3,000 photos, and my memories. Here are the top ten things I miss most about my trip and some photos of each!
Weekend trips: In America, you can fly from Midwestern state to Midwestern state for a couple hundred bucks round trip. Fancy. But, in Europe, you can fly from a big, beautiful city on the Mediterranean coast to a quaint town in the Alps for less than 100 Euros, which is admittedly so much cooler. Throughout my trip, I traveled to Budapest, Hungary; Porto, Portugal; Milan, Italy; Geneva, Switzerland; and Mallorca, Spain. All of these places were incredible and I feel so lucky to have experienced such different cultures all in one trip. In Porto, I went to the old bookstore where J.K. Rowling was rumored to have gotten inspiration for the Harry Potter series. In Milan I ate the best mascarpone gelato that I could imagine - and I have had a lot of gelato. In Geneva, where I traveled alone for the first time, I was able to sit and reflect on my trip while looking at the beautiful lake and hearing people play classical music on the community piano near the shore. And in Mallorca, I laid on the beach for hours on end, which was the perfect, most relaxing way to end my summer vacation. Because side trips are so accessible in Europe, I cannot wait to return and experience even more places and lifestyles.
Gaudi architecture: I could talk about this for hours. When I visited Barcelona back in 2012, Gaudi’s artistry captivated me. Staring up at the light from the stained glass reflecting on the curved walls of La Sagrada Familia and seeing the beautiful view of the city from Park Güell was enough to make me want to return to the incredible city, and these places are the main reason I applied to this program in the first place. When I returned, I knew I couldn’t leave without experiencing everything Gaudi that I could, so that is what I did. I managed to visit Casa Mila (more often known as La Pedrera) and Casa Batlló once each, the inside of La Sagrada Familia three times, with one visit to the top of a tower, and Park Güell three times. I delighted in the colorful mosaic tiles and curvature of the facades; Gaudi’s work is so inspiring and being surrounded by it was absolutely incredible.
My Apartment: It may have been messy, and slightly dysfunctional (seriously, European clothes dryers just do not work), but it made a fairly new city feel like home. We had a beautiful balcony with an awesome view of the surrounding buildings and we could even see the tops of the towers of La Sagrada Familia, which I was amazed by. That was hands down the best part of living in the city - La Sagrada Familia was a mere 2.5 block walk away from my apartment, and the metro stop we would take every day is right in front of the beautiful church. Seeing such a symbolic monument so often made me take a step back and feel incredibly grateful for my experience.
My roommates: I don’t know how the stars aligned and I got placed in an apartment with such incredible people, but I am so glad they did. My roommates are driven, adventurous, exceptional people and I am a better person now that I know them. They were always down to go on weekend trips and sightseeing excursions, and even just to walk around our apartment and get snacks at a supermarket. Now 422, 480, 1,064 and 1,132 miles separate me from the people I spent so much time with whom I love so much, but we are luckily already discussing plans to visit one another.
The food: As one can imagine, Spanish food is amazing. I will miss having authentic tapas and paella, but I will also miss how inexpensive the food was. I would get all of my groceries for the week for under 30 Euros, which is around $35. That just doesn’t happen in the states! Everything seems better there, even McDonalds was higher quality. From zucchini carpaccio at Living Barcelona 1925 to Patatas Bravas at Tipo Tapa, the food in Barcelona was immeasurable.
The Bunkers del Carmel: This is a hidden treasure of Barcelona that you don’t read about in tourist brochures. These are ruins of old military bunkers that were used during the Spanish Civil War as they offer the best view of the entire city. Now, they are covered in graffiti and are extremely popular among young people as a casual hangout spot. A metro ride and a quick mile-long walk uphill separated my apartment from this legendary spot, but unfortunately, my roommates and I didn’t discover it until the last week we were there. That didn’t stop us from going multiple times that last week to watch the sunset from the top of Barcelona while eating snacks and drinking wine. I would have gone to the Bunkers every single night had I known about them, but I sure am glad I was able to visit them when I did.
El Barrio Gotíc: Barcelona is a big city with a lot of unique neighborhoods, but the Gothic Quarter is by far the most comprehensive. Here, you can eat, shop at big stores and locally owned artisan shops, go to museums, experience local culture, and see amazing architecture. One could spend days in this neighborhood alone, but even that wouldn't be enough. The Gothic Quarter is a place I didn’t spend near enough time in, and I long to go back.
Overall, Barcelona completely owns my heart. I could talk about my study abroad experience forever. I saw incredible buildings, visited historical monuments, ate exquisite food, made many new friends, and learned so many new Spanish phrases. I climbed mountains, saw rivers, and swam in the ocean. My trip was the experience of a lifetime, as cliche as it sounds, and I want nothing more than to return to Barcelona and even more places in Europe. As great as it's been being home for a few weeks, nothing can compare to seeing the incomparable beauty of the places I have been and living the European lifestyle. Te entanto y te extraño, Barcelona. Adiós.
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<p>I am from Kansas City, Missouri and attend the University of Missouri in Columbia! I am a Human Development major with a Spanish minor and am hoping to attend Nursing school after graduation. I am in a sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma, where I have gained awesome leadership experience and met the most amazing people! Just a few fun facts about me: I LOVE concerts and have seen over 125 bands/artists; if given the choice, I would choose the beach over the mountains; and my favorite food is mashed potatoes!</p>