Let the adventure begin!
Before I arrived in Cádiz for my study abroad with Centro MundoLengua, I had the opportunity to travel to Barcelona and Madrid with my mother for a few days. I had an incredible time learning more about the country, and I strongly suggest that if you choose to study abroad, that you try to spend some time (before or after your study) in other areas, learning about the surrounding cultures. I enjoyed coming a week in advance because I could get accustomed to the language and the time difference in Spain before I started classes this past Monday (this also can act as an excuse to vacation a bit in the country that you are going to).
On the 22nd of June we arrived in Barcelona via an 8 hour flight across the Atlantic Ocean, and went to the train station to buy tickets for our adventures later in the week.
*Note: in the train station in Barcelona you have to pay to go to the bathroom, and the bathroom can be for both genders…. You should probably bring change so that you don’t awkwardly have to approach both men and women in the restroom asking for ways to get change (shout out to mom).*
Other than the bathroom fiasco, the trip went smoothly. In Barcelona most students are taught both English and Spanish as well as Catalan, so for the most part the general public will practice their English on you (for their own entertainment) more than you practice your Spanish on them, and they will have long conversations with you just to see what words and phrases they still know.
To my initial dismay,(because I have an aversion to anything and everything that might be considered “touristy”) my mother and I took a “hop on, hop off” tour bus around Barcelona to see the sights and to get a better understanding of our surroundings. Fortunately, my mom was right about the quality of the bus tour, and we got to see all of the iconic places in the city quickly and efficiently.
We traveled from Port Olimpic (where the 1992 Olympians were housed) to la Rambla and continued to walk through the Barrí Gótic,(the Gothic Quarter) where we eventually got to the museu de Picasso, in which we saw a collection of Picasso’s works and famous art pieces, before we returned to the bus. We then continued on to “La Sagrada Familia” (Holy Family Church), which is the famous unfinished magnum opus of Antoní Gaudi, a famous and beloved Spanish architect.
*Note: I wish I would have seen more of Gaudi’s work- he has a unique style. The Sagrada Familia contains a combination of all of his earlier works where he faced errors, but that were resolved. He utilizes a style called “warped Gothic” which, with regard to the Sagrada Familia, essentially creates the look of a palace melting in the Spanish sun.*
After seeing the church, my mom and I rode past the Museu Nacional d’Art (we didn’t have time to explore) on to the estadi Olimpic which was used in the 1992 Olympics.
That night when we returned, we celebrated Sant Joan/San Juan, which is the night of the summer solstice, with a friend from Christopher Newport University. On this night you can see bonfires, food, families and fireworks on the beaches of Barcelona as well as other cities throughout Spain. The idea is that if you jump over the bonfire three times and into the water successfully, you will be cleansed and purified for the summer. This celebration is the only night where public beaches may be used as camp sites, and is considered the first party of the summer.
My mom and I took the “AVE” (high speed train, was clocked at 299km/hr during our trip) from Barcelona to Madrid. Madrid is slightly less multicultural and multilingual than Barcelona. Few people know English, and the Spanish that they speak is different than the Spanish that I am accustomed to. The city itself is dense and tends to have narrower streets, and can be a bit intimidating at first, but grows on you as time goes on.
*Note: the general population of Madrid is much shorter than in the United States, and, at 5’11” I got a lot of weird looks at my feet to see if I was wearing high heels (I was not).*
On the 25th my mom and I took a taxi to Calle Mayor (one of the oldest streets in Madrid) where we, by chance, saw the famous Puerta del Sol, which marks the center of Madrid and is considered by some to be the heart of Spain. This area contained an extensive amount of tourists and people of different nationalities, but the farther that you get from the center, the most space, fewer tourists, and more beautiful the buildings seem to get. The visit to the heart of España concluded our trip to Madrid, and also concludes my first blog post from Spain.