We spent another day on the train as we left Nice at 10am to go to Montpellier St-Roch, and then from Montpellier St-Roch to Barcelona, arriving at 8pm. I was a little nervous that we hadn’t reserved out hostel for the night yet, but like a sign from God, as soon as we walked outside the train station we saw a big sign that said “HOSTAL” right across the street. We walked over, hiked up 3 flights of stairs, and easily booked our room for 2 nights. Success! Hungry as hippos, we consulted our huge map that we got at the train station and figured out where most of the restaurants and entertainment should be. After walking down a somewhat sketchy street, we started to see two large skyscrapers and figured that this couldn’t be right. We sat down with the map again, and realized that we had turned the wrong way from the hostel from the start – oops! We walked for about 15 minutes back to the hostel, passed it, and found ourselves right where we wanted to be. We looked at a few menus (which are always conveniently posted outside each restaurant) before stopping at one that looked like it served traditional Spanish food. Scoring the last table at the crowded restaurant, we ordered a plate of duck and another plate of cannelloni along with a bottle of wine (it had been a long day!) and enjoyed a lovely dinner. A man walked into the restaurant trying to sell roses to people, and after telling him no, Jed told me that he was going to start telling people that I was his sister – Ella es mi hermana? Or something like that. How clever. After dinner, we headed to a crowded local bar for a drink and then walked back to the hostel. We had our own private room with not one, not two, but THREE beds and our own private bathroom, so that was nice. We fell asleep quickly and slept in late the next day.
Our first full day in Barcelona was awesome. This city is huge, so we decided to try and see some things in the Eixample area: Sagrada Familia (Holy Family Church) and Casa Mila. First up we had lunch at a square close to our hostel – yummy and cheap! After walking for about 30 minutes from lunch, we easily found Sagrada Familia… especially since we could see it from all the way down the road. It’s huge! The Sagrada Familia is a Roman Catholic church that has been under construction since 1882 and is expected to be completed in 2026. The church just opened this month, for the first time, to the public for worship and tours. The place is DEFINITELY still under construction, but this thing is absolutely impressive. The church is the work of the Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi. Full of huge columns, beautiful stonework, and intricate stained glass, the church absolutely floored me. I’ve already decided that I’m making a trip back to Spain in 2026 to see it once it’s completed. The fantastic design of the stained glass windows creates beautiful colors of light all over the church. It really was like nothing I’ve ever seen before.
Just a 15 minute walk away, we visited La Pedrera of Caixa Catalunya (Casa Mila) next. This is another building that was designed and constructed by Antonio Gaudi, and was just as cool. The building contains apartment houses and large patios and takes quite a while to walk through. The unusual design that Gaudi created was impressive and strange, and I really appreciated exploring it. It’s hard for me to really explain much about this place, but if you google it you should be able to find more information.
Our feet were exhausted at this point (luckily my ankle wasn’t hurting at all – just my feet!) so we sat and relaxed on a bench for a while and made sure that we knew how to get back to our hostel. We made it back successfully, took a quick nap, and then I was able to Skype with my family for the first time since I’ve been on this trip! It was so nice to see their smiling faces, and our cats even made an appearance. I was exhausted, but I was very happy to see them and chat with them. Around 9pm, we headed out to dinner and found ourselves at the same square that we ate lunch at. The square was surrounded by restaurants, and all of the chairs in the middle belonged to each of the different ones. Depending on where you sat, you’d eat from a different menu! We ate inside, but thoroughly enjoyed our meal. We ordered four different “tapas”: small appetizer-like plates that can be shared by all. Once again pleased by lovely Spanish food, we started wandering towards the Ramblas area and stopped at a bar to have some Spanish beer: Estrella Damm. It was delicious. The bar that we stopped at wasn’t crowded by any means but was a big space and had hams hanging from the ceiling to cure. Strange. Also, none of the people working there spoke much English so it was entertaining to try to communicate with them. When we left, the old bartender gave us a hug and told us “Buenos noches.” So sweet! We walked back to the hostel, partly in the rain, and I chatted with a few friends on Facebook before slipping into sleep.
Day 2 in Barcelona! I was so happy that we had another day here because it felt very relaxing. We were able to sleep in late again, for the second time EVER on this trip, and I very much enjoyed that. We had to check out of our hostel at noon but were able to leave our bags at the building during the day until our night train to Paris. We found a little restaurant to have lunch at, where I tried gazpacho, steak, and flan (delicioso!). After lunch we took a short walk to the City History Museum. This was something that Rick Steves suggested, and thank goodness he did! This place was unbelievable. After buying our tickets, we took an elevator down underground and walked into another millennium. Ruins from Old Barcelona had been recovered and transported to underneath the museum, and laid out in their original places as one would think the city of Old Barcelona would be set up. Ruins of churches, laundry facilities, and even wine cellars were placed underground and one could walk through all of them. Our tickets included an audio tour which was super interesting, giving lots of details of the history of Barcelona and how the ruins fit into that. After touring the ruins, we took the elevator back up to present time and walked through a new exhibit on the city (all in Spanish). The whole museum took us about two hours, so we decided to rest our tired feet at a nearby square with a cappuccino.
After our coffee, we made our way to the Picasso Museum – a must-see in Barcelona! I was somewhat familiar with his work after taking art history last semester, but the amount of paintings, drawings, and sketches that the museum held was impressive. I especially loved the photographs of the artist himself. I bought a ridiculous amount of postcards from the gift shop, all of them mini-replicas of some of my favorite works by Picasso. After we were done at the museum, we ate a quick dinner once again at one of the restaurants at the square. We headed back to the hostel to get our things and then went to the train station for our night train to Paris. Funny story: French people like to go on strike, and that was one of those days. Our train to Paris was canceled; therefore we had no choice but to spend another night and day in Barcelona with hopes that the next night there would be a train going to Paris. We walked back over to the hostel and booked another night, and after informing everyone and their mom (literally) about our problem, we decided to go out into town to celebrate another night in lovely Barcelona.
We woke up super late after staying up super late, and went to lunch. Jed had seen a sign earlier in the week about renting Vespas for a day, so after lunch, we went over to the store to check it out. Since Jed drives a motorcycle in Texas, I trusted my life in his hands. We rented one Vespa at 9 euro/hour and took it out for 3 hours. It was so totally worth it. We got to see a few things that were too far to walk to, like the giant egg business building downtown (called “the dildo” by locals – I stuck with “the egg” instead). We got a bit lost after that but eventually made it to the beach, where we took a million pictures of us with the Vespa and then sat down with a drink near the seaside. We ended up talking to a couple sitting next to us who ran a local bed and breakfast. They were super nice and we took their information just in case we were ever in Barcelona again (which I will be in October!). We took the extra-long way back to the Vespa store (not on purpose), returned the bike, and grabbed some dinner before heading to the train station to see if there was a train to Paris that night.
There was! So we grabbed our bags, switched our reservations, hopped on the train, and were in Paris before we knew it. Although we missed the beginning of orientation, we arrived in Caen around noon. As we walked up to the building where orientation was, there were four or five adults standing outside. One of the guys said, “You two must be the Baylor students who were lost in Spain!” And thus, our semester began.
pictures: (1) me at l’arc de triomf (2) outside sagrada familia (3) stained glass inside the church (4) intricate ceiling inside the church (5) colorful light (6) on top of casa mila (7) the view from on top of casa mila (8) the view from our hostel balcony (9) there were millions of scooters everywhere! (10) me and Jed out for a drink (11) the “egg” building (12) me in front of the “egg” (13) me on the Vespa at the beach (14) Jed and the Vespa (15) artsy picture during our drink break (16) view of the beach