Settling in and exploring

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.IMG_6810

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!

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A zoomed out view! Construction is expected to be completed by 2030, over a 130 years to build!

 Now let’s compare the facade now and in 2010! Do you spot the differences?

2010
January 2015
June 2010
June 2010

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).

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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 laIMG_6823den 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.

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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! 🙂

*All photos in this post have been taken by me! 

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