Thursday, April 21, 2016

Best of Barcelona

It has been a little over a week since I left Barcelona, and I am already missing my home away from home! I will always be thankful for the opportunity to live in a different country for four months and become immersed in its culture. If you are in college, I highly recommend studying abroad — whether it's for the semester like me, over the summer, or even a short trip over winter break. This experience made me realize just how big yet small the world is. Being hours and time zones away from home, I found so many similarities in what people value, and so many differences that helped me broaden my perspective and made me more open to trying new things. For instance, there is a much slower lifestyle in Barcelona, where people take siestas, or breaks from work, during the afternoon, and don't have dinner until nearly 11 p.m. As a typical busy American, it was hard to adjust to this schedule. But after about a month, I found myself less connected to my email and more connected to the world around me, appreciating the little things. 

When people ask me which was my favorite place I visited in Europe, it is hard to choose just one. Every city and country was so unique and beautiful in its own way. Switzerland, with its jaw-dropping mountain views, was so relaxing and had the best chocolate. Germany made me love beer, something I previously hated in America. Italy felt so romantic and rich in history, with its ancient streets, churches and gardens. Paris was everything I expected it to be, classy, fashionable and just lovely. I could stare at the Eiffel Tower for hours when it is lit up at night. Ireland had the best views and the friendliest people in all of Europe. And Mallorca was such a unique tropical island, situated on the Mediterranean with white-sand beaches and lush mountains. But when I really think about it, my favorite place is obviously Barcelona. It's the first European country I ever visited, and I will never forget the nervousness and excitement I felt as soon as I stepped off the plane. I also got to live in Barcelona for an extended period of time, meaning that I got to know it well enough to feel comfortable there. Every time I would return to the Barcelona airport from a weekend trip, I would instantly feel a wave of relief that I was home. Now, as I sit typing from my computer in America, still a bit jet lagged, I am so happy to be back. But I know that I left a piece of my heart in Barcelona. Here is what I will miss the most:

1. The Gothic Quarter

The Gothic Quarter is located in the heart of the city, featuring some of the oldest architecture like the striking Catedral de Barcelona, built in the 13th century, and the famous shopping street Las Ramblas, that has scores of street vendors who sell flowers, artwork and souvenirs. Las Ramblas also holds "La Boqueria," the famous market filled with only the freshest fruit, vegetables and meats, as well as outdoor restaurants that serve classic Spanish fare like tapas, paella and sangria. I lived in the Gothic Quarter so it is the place I got to explore the most. I loved getting lost on the winding, narrow streets, and discovering the hidden gems of the city, like handmade jewelry stores, perfumeries, restaurants and dive bars with unique themes/decor like 1980s films or neon post-it notes papering the walls. 

Catedral de Barcelona

Fresh produce at La Boqueria

Walking down Las Ramblas (press play!)

Charming street in the Gothic Quarter

2. Port Vell and Playa de la Barceloneta

I also lived only five minutes away from the Mediterranean — definitely beats the cornfields of Illinois! I loved running by the port and taking a break on the benches overlooking the water.

3. THE FOOD!!! 

At Brunch & Cake restaurant

While the restaurant has amazing breakfast and lunch picks, I always had to save room one of their fabulous desserts.

May have gone here five or six times — and yes, that is a guacamole syringe!

Of course, I will miss paella, which I enjoyed countless times in Spain.

Fresh/cheap steak and veggies at Bo De B. This place was like the Chipotle for Mediterranean food!

Acai bowl at Teresa's

I'm already missing the sights and smells of bakeries like this on every corner.

4. Amazing places to hike

Montserrat Mountain

Bunkers del Carmel — the best view of the city!

5. Otherworldly architecture

Outside of La Sagrada Familia

Inside of Sagrada Familia

Park Guell
6. The people

It is so true that it's not where you are, it's who you're with. I would not have had nearly as incredible of a time in Barcelona if it weren't for these people! 

Stay tuned for new blog posts soon! They won't have as cool of backdrops now that I am back in the U.S., but I will have lots of spring outfit inspo coming your way!

xo, Annabeth

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