These last three weeks I must say have given me a pretty good perspective about how Catalans and study abroad students dress for winter. And, I’ve heard it’s only going to get colder.
First of all, the Catalans. Natives, the locals, anti-tourists, trendsetters, whatever you want to call them. Locals dress for the 50 degree weather in gloves and puffer coats, albeit extremely fashionable outerwear. My cravings for a candy-colored walker coat have only increased about ten-fold since seeing the pastel beauties in every shop I walk in to. Next up, the shoes! Ahh, the shoes. Some amazingly chic options on the feet of Spaniards, while other choices evoke images of moon shoes in my opinion. Example: boots with super chunky platforms, or the sleek oxford shoe top paired with some 3 inches of forest green rubber.
Ankle boots are all the rage here, again, sending me into a boot-desiring frenzy. Those who know me know my love of shoes and boots. Choosing only two pairs was one of my more difficult decisions. My riding boots feel too American, too out of place in the land of pointy-toed booties with a slight heel. Yet, I am only two weeks in, who knows if I will give into the cravings. I mean, Desigual had these babies for 50% off, and they are still in my mind a week later.
Casual is not the look of the day here. Catalans dress up and always look their best. I’ll happily play along too; yesterday on my “lazy Friday” was the first time I went out in public in yoga pants and a quarterzip sweatshirt. However, if you are my neighbor, you are very likely to see me running across the street to the supermarket in my pajama pants, as no one has time to look good for a morning milk run.
Catalans are able to make the sportiest looking pair of Nikes look fashionable and put together with a pair of jeans. I have no idea how they do that. Some locals are able to make comfortable shoes look stylish- a major feat for everyone. Barcelona is definitely a walking city. Don’t get me started on the underground labyrinth of a Metro this city has.
Now for the students at UAB, the bigger and looser the sweater, the better. It appears almost overnight, grungy is the only thing that is in, and my fitted sweaters, striped tees, and colorful blouses seem to be too preppy for this crowd. I think there is a fine line between being stylish and being trendy. When everyone dresses the same, how are you actually expressing yourself, a key proponent of fashion.
For most of us foreigners, the weather doesn’t feel so bad, so we are the ones walking around without jackets, just sweaters in varying shades of black, grey, and green. I have also yet to spot another soul in my beloved Toms. They have been replaced with white Converse hightops, I can only imagine the dust those pick up from walking around the city. This city is clean, but not THAT clean.
Ironically, the January issue of Vogue Espana had an entire spread dedicated to the iconic qualities of the white sneaker. I tried to thumb through a copy the other day. I must say I did pretty well. I also read that Hunter Original (the rain boot company) is creating it’s own ready-to-wear collection too. And the Mule-boot is apparently a growing popular item in the world of high fashion.
So here I go, trying to dress to fit local tastes and those of my classmates. Yet, my own sense of style must prevail, as living out of a suitcase creates only a certain amount of outfit possibilities.
I have officially survived my first week of class. Well, it was syllabus, add/drop week, and I will say I actually learned something.
After getting out of my damned Friday International Marketing morning class and the excruciatingly boring politics of developing nations (15 page research paper was not gonna float my boat), I now have the perfect schedule.
My favorite class is hands down The Creative Economy. The professor, Jean-Phillipe Charles is from Belgium, and the class is all about the different types of creativity, creativity versus innovation, and the likes. The class has people from all over in it: Brazil, Germany, the States, Belgium. I’m meeting lots of international people. Belgian business students do a program where they study in Barcelona for a year (AT 18) then Brussels for a year, then either Paris or London for 6 months followed by an international internship. The very first class we took bits of creativity tests to see how creativity was measured. My favorites were having an object, such as a paperclip, and coming up with all of the different uses for a paper clip. Try all the uses you can think of in the comments! Another exercise involved drawing. We had a shape and had to finish the shape. Naturally, I drew a puppy with those pointy ears.
On Wednesday we learned about creativity versus innovation. Creativity is thinking up new things and innovation is doing new things, involving an action. The only downside to this class is the midterm on my 21st birthday. 😦
I also managed to get into Digital Photography, which I am very excited about. I missed the first day because of the politics class, but on the second day we learned about Aperture and took practice shots. I can’t wait to build my portfolio with this class.
I am also taking Spanish History of the 20th Century. The teacher, Nuriya (pronouced Nooriyah) is a riot. The first class she talked about her fascination with zombies, and likes to give restaurant recommendations. She told us that the day to get Paella was Thursday. I’ve yet to have paella while I’m here, so I’ll have to give it a try next week. Meanwhile, spanish history is actually quite interesting, and I’m looking forward to learning more about the country I will be spending so much time in. We learned about the Constitutional Monarchy and how the King has no political power, but runs the army. He is also still above the law, and could “technically” get away with murder. The president is in charge of everything government and policy related.
Finally, for my spanish class. It’s a long 4 hour class twice a week. I already feel like my Spanish is improving. The teacher, Roberto, talks solely in Spanish, but not too fast, so I have to devote all my attention to him. I’ve already learned some life changing things. The letter V is pronounced as a B, so every time I’ve been using a word that starts with v like “vivir” or “vestido” I’ve been pronouncing it wrong! IT’s supposed to be pronounced bibir or bestido. Vale (Ok!)
While I’ve been in Barcelona, I’ve created a list of items that I try to carry at all times when I’m out for long periods of time. Hope you can apply some of these the next time you’re exploring.
Rechargable portable phone battery. I credit this one to my friend Bradleigh, who everyone was envious of in NYC when she was able to charge her phone when everyone else’s was out of juice by 4 p.m. They come in a wide range of price ranges and qualities, but all will give your phone an extra oomph when an outlet is not nearby.
Map. Dorky and touristy? Possibly. Outdated? Definitely NOT! Practical. YES! My street map of Barcelona is huge but it folds up nicely and helps me find every street without any issues. It also doesn’t eat up the limited amount of data and battery power I get on my phone. I don’t mind stopping to unfold this for a few minutes to find my way. It’s been so helpful so far. If you must use your phone, or want restaurant recommendations, I recommend the Trip Advisor City Guide App which works offline.
Camera. IPhone photos only get you so far. Invest in a quality camera that will last you for years. You’ll look less like a selfie-obsessed amateur and more like a seasoned photographer.
Purrell and Tissues. They’re light, and easy to carry. Pretty self explanatory.
A Pen. You never know when you need one until you don’t have one.
Sunglasses. They instantly make you look cooler and are important to protect your eyes.
Small tube of Advil and bandaids. Simple items for when you get a blister and are in some sort of pain.
Gobs of cash
Your passport, carry a copy instead
The ten lipsticks in your purse
Items you think will weigh you down.
Travel smart, pack smart and be safe! That is, in my opinion, the perfect recipe for a day exploring new places. Leave valuables behind and stick to the basics, although be prepared and have what you think you will need.
Where can you find the best view in Barcelona? That would be Park Guell of course!
The view is the reward for the insane hike you take to reach the park. It’s all worth it. After exploring the park, which i visited with my old friend Henley and her roommate Naomi, who were visiting from their study abroad in Paris, we metroed off to this fabulous and cozy restaurant in the barrio gotic near Juame 1 metro called Milk. I sipped on a Barca Breeze and ate a steak sandwich. It was rather an American place though, but hey, sometimes familiarity and menus in english are the bee’s knees. It was also one of the busier restaurants that I have stopped at this week.
And now, for some photos from Park Guell!
I’m ready to go back and take more pictures of that famous park! In the meantime, it’s time for me to go to bed, because I start classes tomorrow morning! I’m looking forward to making friends in my classes, and I guess learning too.
The last three days have certainly been exciting! I’ll probably be overusing that adjective these next few months, but everything is so fresh and new!
I’m going to backtrack to Thursday, orientation day. Orientation for my UAB classes started at noon at the beautiful San Pau campus. I wish I had all or at least some of my classes in that building, except sadly I am at a different campus closer to the city center. The campus administrators greeted and introduced themselves to us. We were given a special key usb to print with (for free hallelujah!) and a booklet about the campus and semester schedule. The orientation was brief, but I wish there was more time to meet others. On my way out, I met UMD Georgian number 4 on this trip, a boy named Michael wearing a Georgia Tech shirt. His brother went there, so small world to meet more students from GA and UMD.
Something that has been difficult for me so far is the fact that I know so few people here. Most Maryland students came with their established friendships, and I’m just, well here, trying to find my way. I’m also in an apartment with two UMD students, but we are all isolated from most of the other pisos, and it seems like there has been only so much intermingling. I wish that there was more of that. It’s hard for the three of us being farther away from 4 other apartments. Add that with established friendships and I’m here. Of course, it’s only been a week so my hopes remain high that it will get better. Yet, I’m so ready to go out on the town and explore! Now is NOT the time to sit at home and watch netflix (though I can’t if I even tried- worst part about Barcelona FOR SURE!)
Afterwards, a group of us were ready for lunch! My friend Alex from Global Communities, using this glorious Trip Advisor app. Apparently it’s the best thing since sliced bread since it work’s offline! He directed us to a funky little restaurant called “Chill Bar,” which supposedly had a view of Sagrada Familia. It did, albeit a blocked one.
Let me tell you, this dining experience was memorable, and the waiter was a riot and possibly drunk or high, but hey; he performed his job well! I will definitely be back. A sign greeted us to free hugs and free wifi, however, I didn’t get any of those. I did indulge in the jug of sangria, and it was FREAKING DELICIOUS! There was also a menu in English which made things so much easier. Between deciding between the sandwiches, nachos, hamburgers, and tapas, I settled on a brie and apple sandwich. I unfortunately can’t remember what it was called, but it reminded me of my beloved brie panini from Busboy’s and poets.
Now, for some reason this restaurant was kind of understocked, and we apparently used all the red wine in the restaurant for sangria, so no possibilities for a second jug…. my waiter told me they were out of apples and can not make my sandwich. I was saddened, and I couldn’t figure what else I had wanted, I was so excited for that sandwich, so he made a special trip to buy apples across the street for me! That effort truly made me love Chill Bar!
After that, we walked around, gawked at the front of Sagrada Familia and proceeded to the Diagonal to do a little shopping. It’s so magical! Can’t wait for an official tour!
Now let’s compare the facade now and in 2010! Do you spot the differences?
Friday was an early morning! It was time for a tour of the Barrio Gotic! Alexa and Kenia and I ran a little late. We got a little lost with metro directions, and may have missed a train.
A tour guide took us on an in-depth tour of the Catholic Cathedral of Barcelona, formally known as the Catedral Basilica de Barcelona. It’s the main cathedral in the region, all the other are parishes or smaller, yet just as grand, churches. I’m pretty sure I also visited this church in 2010 sans the commentary.
The tour guide pointed out hebrew letters outside the walls, which were taken from Montjuic, which literally means Mountain of the Jews. In classical times, Montjuic was where Jewish families buried their deceased. The Romans had uprooted the tombstones and used them to build city walls. Definitely astonishing to see how Jewish corpses were disrespected, but Catholics and Jews in Spain don’t necessarily have the best track record. Now, Montjuic is a tourist destination also.
The best story of the day was about how the Cathedral came to be. Construction started in the 13th century but was not completed until about 1912. The churches founder Ramon Berenguer I grew up as a lazy boy and had no interest in joining the crusades. He was raised by his grandmother, who ran her own business after her husband died and arranged a marriage for Ramon to a woman he did not love. His wife annoyed him so much that he decided to join the crusades. Upon returning, he fell in love with a married woman, Almodis, in France. She could not leave her husband so the only solution was for Ramon to abandon his wife and kidnap Almodis, who agreed to this situation. The two return to Spain and the grandmother found out about what happened, she was outraged. With a turn of events, she did business with Almodis’ first husband and this put her in an awkward position. She traveled by herself to Italy to beg the pope to ex-communicate Ramon, and the pope complied. Because Ramon was excommunicated, no one would do business with him, so he begged the bishop that if he helped fund the construction of a new cathedral, would he talk to the pope to get him reinstated to the Church. This arrangement worked, and now the tombs of Ramon and Almodis hang in the church, celebrating the two as founders.
Lots of drama going on in the middle ages!
We also walked through El Call, the Jewish quarter, which is s named El Call for one of two hypotheses: It is based off of the hebrew word Kahal meaning community or narrow streets because El Call is definitely much narrower than the rest of the city. We ended up at Las Ramblas, which is a tourist trap if you’ve ever seen one. And went back into the gotic neighborhood to find a somewhat affordable lunch spot before our gymkhana or scavenger hunt!
The scavenger hunt was fun when it started. Yet, we were exhausted from the morning. After completing the first two photo challenges, we decided to stop for wine and sangria in Barceloneta near the pier. Stop number two, for that matter. When I say we were all over the city yesterday, we were ALL OVER in zig zags going east to west and north to south. I was freaking exhausted. We actually completed most of the scavenger hunt somehow! I truly hope we win (probs not though).
After a rest, we were planning on hitting up a nightclub called Opium Mar. Alexa, Kenia and I got dressed to the nines and our friend Ted came over. We wanted to find a bar to pre-game with near us but everything near our metro station was seriously CLOSED! We were really disappointed, but we headed over to the Gracia district, apparently it’s where the hipsters go.
I wanted to go to the club, and I walked past a place with glistening lights. I jokingly renamed the place called “New Balis,” “New Balls.” The bouncer laughed and I told him I would be his new PR Manager and get people in there. He said ok.
So, that’s it folks, I am verbally now the PR manager for some club.
We probably walked into 7 bars before we found something just right. This place called D’luz called my name. A dark place with pulsing music, friendly waiters, and red sofas. I ordered a very classic “Sex on the Beach,” my favorite and sipped along.
We spent a few hours there, eventually abandoning our plans to hit up the tourist, study abroad student laden club opium for another bar, one that had a high high rating on trip advisor called Old Fashioned, a place that specialized on gin and tonics. The place was super cozy. Not ready to pay a significant amount of money on something I’m not guaranteed to love, I sipped on a super sweet watermelon martini. It was an experience, let me tell you. The night ended at 330 in the am and I was ready to keep on going.
Today was super chill. We didn’t get a start on the day until about 3. In need of our caffeine fix, we found a pastry shop near the Puxet metro station that served the most beautiful delectables. I had a cafe con leche and a piece of chocolate cake.
Kenia and I wanted to search out a route to get to the UAB Exiample campus. It was about a 15 minute walk from Placa de Catalunya. The building was so discreet, we walked right past it! Luckily, I know where it is for Monday when classes start.
Afterwards Kenia wanted to check out Brandy Melville on Passeig de Gracia, and I decided that some things do fit all. I found a cozy drapey black sweater I loved. (Sorry Mom! I couldn’t resist it’s soft fabric!) Seriously, so soft. Yet, some things in that store: bralettes fit for an infant. Kenia and I both have completely different styles, yet we both bought the same exact sweater. We can be roommate twinsies.
My last point of the day: what recession in Spain? The streets were packed with people enjoying the weather and shopping. There were long lines in that store and there wasn’t even a big sale! People are definitely shopping here. Passeig de Gracia was CRAZY.
Comment below with what you think my sign off for each blog post should be or any other thoughts you have! 🙂
Womp. The blog post that I have been composing for the last few days has, well, disappeared. Such a disappointment. I must learn the importance of saving something as a draft. This is not a google doc.
Anywho, I have not been as diligent as I hoped to be with this blog, but thus far, I have safely arrived in Barcelona, explored my neighborhood (or barrio) in Sant Gervasi, and walked tons and tons and tons.
My apartment is in a residential but quiet and safe neighborhood. I live right across the street from a grocery store which is super convenient, expect it’s hours are in no way as good as american supermarkets. I must be a local because I already invested in one of those shopper cards, a “tarjeta” to take advantage of sales.
My apartment is fine. Very basic furnishings, white walls, hardwood floors. My room faces the interior and it faces other apartments, like an open air, but closed. It’s looks down into the entry of the building. I was quite surprised when I realized my view is of an inside place. Yet, my bedroom is spacious enough for me and my belongings, so no complaints there.
Today, we had orientation for the classes I will be taking at UAB. The Sant Pau “campus” was gorgeous. I shouldn’t say campus it’s really just a stately mediterannean-style building with lots of tile everywhere. Sadly, most of my classes will be at the L’Exiample campus, which is in more of a brownstone looking building, yet probably still a nice one.
Tomorrow, we tour the Barri Gotic and we’re having a scavenger hunt called gymkhana and I’m so excited! This city has so much beauty and culture everywhere you turn. I’m ready to get lost and find my way again.
Observations since arriving:
Ham is in everything. seriously, everything.
dogs are everywhere and allowed to go shopping with you…. they are adorable. (Spotted in Zara)
I have yet to see a cat 🙂
very few people speak English
It seems like all the non-touristy places are always closed
Meal times are very very strange. Restaurants are not open between 4:30 and 8 p.m.
Smaller everything. Everyone is so tiny.
Barcelona is very hilly, but quite walkable. The metro, however, is confusing, but somehow efficient so far.
Found lots of name brand items in the grocery store- hello laughing cow cheese.
Don’t drink the tap. It’s unfashionable. Order agua minerales.
All the architecture here is astounding! So gorgeous, everywhere you look its beautiful. Even when you look down, each tile on the sidewalks is imprinted with flowers, dots, or leaves.
Alright, it’s almost here. Like so close. In less than 2 days, I will step onto an airplane and go trans-Atlantic for 4 months. no biggie.
Am I ready? In a sense, yes!
Am I packed? Working on that……… It’s hard to get four months of clothes and two seasons in one and a half suitcases.
So Jaclyn, what shoes are you going to take? For those that know me, know that I am slightly shoe obsessed (I filled an entire 18 gallon tub for college with shoes) , so as I dwindle down to the bare necessities, please work with me. It’s a sore subject.
All in all, I am SO FREAKING EXCITED! CAN YOU TELL?
Happy New Year Everybody! It’s going to be a fantastic one!