The other day a group of us, (Kate, Tory, Mike S, Lilla, Kirsten, and I) went to Port Aventura- an amusement park just south of Barcelona in Tarragona. I must say we all completely felt like little kids again, and had a blast! Teacher’s told us that compared to amusement park’s in America this place is nothing special and that we wouldn’t be impressed…but boy were they wrong! This was by far on of the best amusement parks any of of us have ever been to. It reminded me of Universal Studios in Orlando. Port Aventura is made up of five different “worlds” China, Far West (which is like America- had Grand Canyon themes), Mexico, Polynesian, and Mediterranean.
The only thing I HATED about this place was that absolutely EVERYONE smokes. We were in tight lines that weaved up and down (you know how they are at amusement parks) and the only thing we could breath was air full of smoke. Someone on every side of us was constantly lighting a cigarette, we even saw a girl who looked about 16 smoking in line with her parents!!! Are you kidding me?? After waiting in line for an hour and a half it gets old and disgusting pretty fast. That was our only complaint of the day (but then again that is Europe for you–people here smoke whenever and where ever all the time). Besides that it was such an awesome day! The trains make it so simple and we were back in time to go out that night!
After being here for two months I FINALLY made it to Parc Güell, the famous architectural park located on top of the hill “El Carmel” designed by Antoni Gaudi. At the top of Güell park is a terraced area where you get a wonderful view of the park and entire city of Barcelona. Here you will find multicolored tiled mosaic seats (like in the picture of Allison and I below). The vibrant colors of the tiles combined with the backdrop of the city are truly breathtaking. Lot’s of times people joking call this the “Doctor Seuss Park” It truly does look like a scene from one of his books.
Güell also has one house on its grounds which just so happened to have housed Gaudi and his father from 1906 to the time of his death in 1926. This house has now been turned into a museum.
Contrary to popular believe, to celebrate Halloween is not a tradition here in Spain or Europe for that matter. In the past few years there are many clubs that will organize Halloween themed parties but this is not a holiday celebrated in the streets, kids do no go trick or treating. We did attend a Halloween themed party last night and will again tonight but again it’s mostly Americans who attend these events. My friend Gwen who lives in Dubai had never dressed up for Halloween before last night when she came out with us. If locals do dress up their costumes are VERY different from how we dress in the US. They are very into the scary aspect of Halloween here- fake blood, intense makeup, wigs etc. Almost 100% opposite from the states.
All Saint’s Day (Today- November, 1st ) is however a holiday here in Spain and throughout Europe. It’s a national holiday in many Catholic countries, so in honor of the holiday here in Spain we did not have school and many businesses were closed or operated on a Sunday schedule. It’s a day to commemorate all those who have passed away– and the Spanish custom is to go to the cemeteries and bring flowers to your lost love ones.
From the moment we landed Dublin left like home…expect for the fact that they drive on the opposite side of the road like in the UK. Not only was I excited because it felt like home and they spoke English (I could finally hold a conversation with someone!!!) but I was also going to stay with one of my best friends from high school, Chris, whom I hadn’t seen since August!
From the airport Kate, Tory, and I headed straight for the Guinness Factory to get our first Irish brewski. Not gunna lie–I’m not a fan. I never realized how heavy Guinness was, I only had about 3/4 and I was unbelievably full! It was an awesome view up at the Gravity bar though–it had a 180 degree view of Dublin.
After the Guinness tour I finally met up with Chris and we grabbed some lunch with the girls before seeing them off on their buses for Galway and Cork to also meet up with old high school friends. It’s so nice having friends to go visit- not only is it a free place to stay haha but it’s also a familiar face who knows the area. Chris showed me around and we visited the Dublin Castle, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Grafton St, and St. Stephan’s Green. All of which are amazing and which in walking distance of each other. His apartment couldn’t be in a better location. It’s only one block from Grafton St (biggest shopping St.) and St. Stephan’s Green!
Chris lives with 14 other kids who go to Bentley as well, then six friends were visiting including me so it was a full house but we definitely had our fun! We went to bars both nights which was a nice change from the Barcelona club nightlife. Everything was Halloween themed (also a nice touch of home cause they don’t celebrate or even acknowledge Halloween in Barcelona) so it was fun dressing up with everyone. I had a blast and would go back in a heartbeat!! I miss it already 🙂
Chris and I in St. Stephan’s Green.
PS it was SO SO nice to experience a little bit of fall and see some fall foliage! The plam trees in Barca don’t exactly change color in the fall haha
Last night we went to the FC Barcelona vs. Celtic game! Not only did we get to see Messi, one of the greatest soccer players of all time but we got to see him play at Camp Nou the largest stadium in Europe and 11th in the world. It seats 99,000, and last night almost every seat was filled! It was definitely an experience I will never forgot- when else will I get to go to a soccer game like that? When in Barcelona do as the Barcelona’s do!
Oh yeah, Barca won 2-1–scoring the winning goal with only a minute left!!
Also who knew Celtic FC wasn’t from Ireland? I was sure in shock–I assumed their green shamrock meant Ireland but I guess that represents Scotland as well!
Before coming here I never would of thought that McDonald’s “McCafe” would become my favorite coffee spot! Iced coffee is a foreign concept to people over here, you order “un cafe frio” or “un cafe con hielo” and they look at you like you have three heads (even at Starbucks who I expected to be the same as it is in America). One time I got an espresso shot with a giant ice cube...It’s just not something they don’t do here.
At Cafe Marti next to school I spotted an Iced Latte on the menu and couldn’t have been any more excited. I figured if it was on the menu they knew what it was…boy was I wrong. I spent four euro on cold whipped milk with sugar in it and no coffee or espresso what-so-ever…as she handed it to me I thought what the hell is this? I spent four euros on extra cold milk?! I knew it was a cultural difference so I didn’t say anything and I most definitely haven’t ordered it since!
Then finally last week when we were in McDonald’s I spotted the McCafe menu that clearly said in English “Iced Coffee” I was so excited, they even have soy milk (my favorite)!! Now I find myself going back everyday to get my ice coffee fix in between classes. McCafe saved me!
Saturday I went to the Torres Winery here in Barcelona. The Torres company was founded back in 1870 by Jaime and Miguel Torres and has grown over the past 140 years into a major wine and brandy leader whose products can be found in over 140 countries (including America). While Torres originated here in Catalan they have expanded their Vineyards to Chile and California-each specializing in a specific type of grape. We learned about the importance of climate and soil in grape growing, a major reason why they expanded to different areas of the world.
On our tour we got to see where everything happens. From where the grapes are harvested to where the wine ages in the dark aging cellars built below the estate. Some wines are down there for up to 18 months–I never knew wine went through such a process like this. I learned lots of new things including how to properly taste wine (pictured below). Look, smell, aerate, smell, taste.
At the end of the tour we got to try their Vina Sol made right there in Catalunya. Vina Sol is known as their freshest white wine and has a distinct fresh fruit aroma reminiscent of green apples and pineapples. After aerating the wine the aroma’s really came out. It was delicious–probably my favorite since arriving here in Spain.
We added some excitement to the day as well. We were on a tram for the tour which had sliding windows. They said if we got hot we could slide them open a little bit. They weren’t kidding when they said a little bit because when I went to slide my window open it slide right off the tracks and I was holding on with all my strength to keep it from falling! My friend Mike had to reach over and help me pull and slide the window back on track. Keep in mind this is all occurring while the tram is moving. So lets just say we left the window alone after that.
Then if that wasn’t enough excitement lets add someone passing out to the day. We had just left the aging cellars when my friend sitting in between Mike and I faintly said to Mike “I’m going to pass out” Moments later you heard a phone drop to the floor and her head fell back. It was terrifying. Mike and I tried to wake her up but she was pale as a ghost. We pushed the emergency stop button on the tram but it didn’t work typical probably just there for show…So I slide open my window (scared it was gunna fall) and yelled up to our AIFS director to stop the tram. In the end everything was okay and she’s okay but while it was happening it was a pretty scary thing to witness. It definitely added some extra drama to our day at Torres.
Last night we went to the Ice Bar, Ice Barcelona– such a cool experience!
Maybe would’ve been a little smarter to go when we first got here and wasn’t cold outside or at least when we were wearing pants instead of skirts and flip flops….so lets just say we didn’t last very long haha
Unfortunately I had midterms the week my family was visiting (yes I do actually go to school here even though it may not seem like it sometimes). It was a stressful week but it was nice having them here to take my mind off of everything for a little. It was a hectic week- I’d go from a full day of class right to their hotel (Hotel Advance near Plaza Catalunya- highly recommend it for anyone coming to stay here in Barcelona) for a glass of wine and to relax then we’d head out for dinner around 830-9 each night then after I’d go home to study. It would have been nice to hang out with everyone a little longer or even take my cousin,Todd, out but oh well at least I’m lucky enough to of had them all come visit!
Midterm’s were pretty tough–they are a large portion of our grade (average is about 25% of the course final grade) but now they’re over and it’s time to relax again! I was also lucky enough to sneak in a trip back to Sitges with my family before they left and in between studying. I loved it there when I visited back in September with my AIFS program and knew they would all love it just as much. The shopping here is amazing! It was a great place for them all to buy their presents for everyone back home.
Overall their visit was awesome! I loved every minute of it- glad you all had safe flights back, miss you already!
One of the most common Spanish traditions here in Barcelona is Tapas or “small plates” for dinner. Here you find that the Spanish eat large lunches (why they have siesta) consisting of three courses or so and then dinner is mostly tapas. It is something very different than in the US- but three nights in a row my family and I went to tapas restaurants for dinner and LOVED it. At first I didn’t think I would get full, I felt like tapas were just mini tastings but boy was I wrong! It the total opposite from America where you order a dish and receive this MASSIVE portion of food that you end up finishing even faster than it took you to order, even though you were full about halfway through. Here you take your time and truly relax and enjoy the food you order. We ordered many different types of plates from fish to mini hamburgers and by the end you are most definitely full!!
Each of the three tapas restaurants we went to had completely different atmospheres but I would go back to each in a heartbeat.
Cal Pep- was a small intimate restaurant with only about eight tables and served a set menu. The only thing you had to order and choose for yourself was the wine you wanted to drink.
Cerveseria Catalana- Was my favorite of the three (I want to bring my friends back!) this one is definitely popular among tourists and locals-there is a consist line to get in and crowd at the bar but the big seating area moves the waiting along. You get your food extremely fast after ordering but again it was delicious. Even though food came fast we never felt rushed. (picture above was taken here)
Imprevist- This was the last of the three we ate at and it was by far the most different. The décor was modern impressionist art and like the other two we really enjoyed the food. We were even given complementary Cava (Spanish champagne)!