In full disclosure, my desire to visit Barcelona was sparked when, as an 11-year-old, I saw The Cheetah Girls 2 TV movie on the Disney Channel. I was enthralled by the music, the art, and, of course, the fact that Raven-Symoné befriended mysterious Flamenco guitar players on the avenues of Las Ramblas. Since then, I believe my interests in Spain, Catalonia, and the city of Barcelona have become much more academic. Still, when I got off the plane at El Prat International Airport to spend part of my spring break in the city, a tiny piece of me couldn’t believe that I was actually in the rich, vibrant city that had imprinted itself in my impressionable mind via the glossy musicality of mid-2000s Disney.
With that being said, having studied the geopolitical and cultural features of Barcelona through my major and minor coursework, going to Barcelona was an incredible experience for me. I, along with my two friends Jenna and Priscila, spent five days in the city, attempting to soak in as much of it as possible.
As there is no feasible way for me to express five days worth of culture, gastronomy, language, art, architecture, and life, I figured I would share some highlights of the trip:
Gaudí: You can’t talk about Barcelona without talking about Gaudí. His architectural influence in the city is as ubiquitous as Catalonian pride – it is simply something that defines the city. In addition to visiting his incredible masterwork, La Sagrada Familia, we were able to see his pieces all over the city: Casa Mila & La Pedrera, Casa Batlló, Parc Güell.
What struck me the most about Gaudí and Modernism is how closely it mirrors the vibe of Barcelona, or possibly how Barcelona mirrors that of Modernism. The carefree flamboyance of the architecture is something you feel simply walking down Avinguda Diagonal or along Las Ramblas. It was a drastic contrast from the more reserved rationality of British architecture (and culture).
Parc Güell: I think most people fall under one of two categories – “nature” people and non-“nature” people. I am pretty definitively the latter. Though I would rather be inside a high-rise with a book than hiking a mountain, I am so glad I did not let my antiseptic approach to life impact my decision to hike up to Parc Güell. Jenna, Priscila, and I braved the VERY steep hill and roundabout path to discover the most incredible view.
It was definitely worth it.
El Museo de Xocolata (The Chocolate Museum): Though I may not be a “nature” person, I am absolutely a chocolate person. I was beyond excited to visit this museum. Apparently, Barcelona housed one of the major Iberian ports that imported cacao beans into Europe from Central and South America. Since then, Barcelona has become a hub for confectioners and chocolateers. The museum was particularly cool given the incredible displays of different buildings, religious iconography, even Pixar characters, all made out of chocolate!
The Mediterranean Sea: It feels like we ended every day at the beach. The beaches of Barcelona were particularly lovely, always a deep blue reminiscent of a James Bond film. I think there is something incredibly humbling about the ocean – its vast openness, the fact that it connects every inch of the globe.
I feel beyond lucky to have spent my spring break in Barcelona, but I’m also finding myself thinking about the end of the semester and looking forward to going back to the States. I’ve actually never experienced homesickness before this, though I suspect it’s natural for me to experience it having spent such a long time away from my family, from Raleigh, from Hollins. Still, as bittersweet as the prospect of returning to the States and leaving London is, I have to remind myself how lucky I am to now call another city home, even if it has been just for the last four months. It’s been gradually dawning on me that I no longer feel quite like an expatriate in London; rather, my time abroad has helped me manifest a new incarnation of myself. Beyond simply feeling stronger, more confident, and more resourceful than I did when I landed in London in February, this experience has helped me refine my ability to reflect and hone my self-awareness. On a very basic level, I feel like I understand a tiny bit more about the world and an abundance more about myself.