March 30th-April 8th was my “spring break” here in Spain. For this nice long break, my friends and I decided to travel around the country. First place we went to was Barcelona! I had already been there over the summer with my family, so I already knew what it was like and that it was somewhere I really wanted to return to. Barcelona is so different from the rest of Spain. When I’m there, I feel like I’m in a summer music video. Everyone is happy and energetic and alive! There are palm trees everywhere, and the beach-town vibe was very refreshing. Our hostel was right near Las Ramblas, which is the main street in Barcelona with all of the shops and bars, so we had great location.
While we were there, we spent a lot of time on the beach. We are usually so used to running around to every touristy spot in every city, so this was a very relaxing change :) We even saw a lady doing yoga on the beach…
After the beach our first day, we went to Parque Guell, designed and constructed by artist/architect Antoni Gaudi. This is my absolute favorite part in all of Barcelona. It is so peaceful, colorful, and beautiful that I could literally spend a whole day there! Some of it might look familiar for those of you who watched season 7 of America’s Next Top Model ;) The mosaic tiles and curvy architect is very common throughout the whole park. The extremely green trees and bushes everywhere make it even more beautiful.
The next day, our very first stop was La Sagrada Familia- a large Roman Catholic church also designed by Gaudi, which is not only Barcelona’s most visited site, but also all of Spain, and when I went inside I clearly saw why! When I went to Barcelona over the summer I didn’t go inside the church, so I was very lucky to do so this time around. First off, the outside of it looks like a castle. It is so gigantic, it’s hard to believe it’s real. In fact, they are still constructing it and most likely will be for years to come. A lot of the architect on the outside reminded me of melting wax. The inside of the church was a different story. The architecture was so different than anything I’ve ever seen before. It almost looked as though everything was made from clay. I read that Gaudi meant for the inside to have a “forest-like appearance”, and it definitely did. My friends and I decided to pay a little extra to take a lift up to one of the balconies of the church. We got a great view of the whole city of Barcelona!
After the church, we walked to both of Gaudi’s houses. Both were so unusual-looking and really stuck out. There’s no way you could pass these things on the street and not take a second glance! He really was a genius.
Then, we made our way to the well-known market, La Boqueria. I remember from my previous visit that I was disgusted by all the fish and other raw meats with their heads still on and eyes still intact…and I was just as disgusted this time! I made sure to stay away from those areas as much as I could. Only fruits and candies for me, please!
The next day, we realized we had seen the majority of what Barcelona had to offer (or what we could afford anyway) and enjoyed our last day on the beach once again! That night, we had to catch a late, 7-hour bus to Madrid so we were trying to take it easy that day. After laying out for a while, we did some souvenir shopping in the Gothic Quarters, and then made some friends from London at a cafe.
The 7 hour bus ride to Madrid was not as bad as I was expecting. I slept for most of it, and we arrived in Madrid pretty early in the morning. After dropping our stuff off at our hostel, we headed to the train station to grab a train to Toledo. In the train station, there was a little indoor pond with a bunch of turtles! We got a little too excited to see these lil’ guys… they were just so cute!!
We purchased a ticket for the bullet train, so the ride was only about 30 minutes! Toledo was beautiful. It is very small, but well-known for their Toledo steel and swords. It has a very historic, medieval feel to it. Since it’s so small, we literally just wandered around the town for about 5 hours! We came upon a beautiful Cathedral, and saw gorgeous views of the entire city. We were definitely dragging the entire day from not having a very good nights rest, so it was nice to just enjoy the city without too much to see. This little town reminded me of a medieval fairy tale. There was even a cute little train passing through the streets!
The next day, we were supposed to hop on another bullet train to the nearby city of Segovia, but we sadly missed our train :( So instead, we spent the day in Madrid! How can one complain about that? We went to Retiro Park (which my friend Rita likes to refer to as the happiest place on Earth) and rowed a boat while listening to Shakira and trying to avoid the boats with 15 year old boys trying to splash us.
We also passed by little outdoor bookshops, the oldest restaurant in the world, and stopped to watch some entertainment in Plaza Mayor.
After our fun time at these amazing places, it was back to Granada for the beginning of Semana Santa!