A few weeks ago, Mike and I took a trip that we will both never forget. Not only was it our first trip together abroad, but it was also Mike’s first ever trip outside of the United States! We wanted to go somewhere that neither of us had been before and Spain seemed like the best option. We left the day after Christmas so the relative warmth of Spain and the walkability of the city of Barcelona definitely appealed to us!
We decided Barcelona and Madrid would be perfect for our first trip abroad! We took Aer Lingus, which was wildly exciting for Mike because he got to briefly step foot on his own personal Motherland (Ireland!) during our layover. We later arrived in Barcelona at 10am on Sunday, a little exhausted, but definitely ready to take on the day!
The first thing we did was take a Taxi from the airport. We were dropped off a few blocks from the hotel because our hotel was in a pedestrian-only area. The driver gave us directions in Spanish as to how to get to our hotel, and naturally, we immediately got lost. 45 minutes, a 5 euro map, and six failed encounters in Spanish later (obviously, I should have paid more attention in 9th grade Spanish–lo siento Senora Madzula) we finally found our hotel and it was AMAZING! There was a small balcony overlooking a huge Church (Santa Maria del Pi) built in 1329 and a quiet little square.
We stayed in a neighborhood called the Bari Gotic and the windy streets and small shops lining the area were perfection. We spent the day wandering the area, took a look at Casa Battlo, and then promptly passed out so early that we woke up again at 11pm. We went back out for another walk, and went back to bed at 2am. I think that 2am is the latest I’ve ever seen Mike awake. I doubt I will see this ever happen again.
We went on a walking tour of Barcelona the next day with the most batshit insane guide ever who I would definitely want to be best friends with if he lived in America. He was hilarious and made me love this city even more!
Afterwards, we went to have lunch and eat some goodies at La Boqueria. La Boqueria is a beautiful bustling outdoor street market just off of La Rambla (a popular street in Barcelona), which has everything you could ever possibly want to eat. Trust me, everything. It reminded me a lot of Shuk Ha’Carmel in Tel Aviv.
We spent the rest of the day wandering around this beautiful city, hanging out in small cafes, and watching the people go by 🙂
The next day, we went to Parc Guell, a gorgeous Gaudi-designed park in the city. We wandered around a little bit, enjoying the views!
We left Parc Guell to visit La Sagrada Familia. La Sagrada Familia is a church that was first designed by Gaudi in 1883. It has been under construction for almost 150 years! It is still unfinished and they hope it will be complete by 2026. However, everyone we spoke to seems to think that this is wildly unrealistic. I guess we shall see!
I have been to a lot of churches throughout Europe and I have to say, they’re all pretty similar. When I studied in Florence, I seemed to wander into a new church every other day. I have seen churches in Berlin, Prague, Paris, and even New York with its famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral. All of these churches are seemingly very-much alike with their paintings, high ceilings, designs, etc. I can safely say that La Sagrada Familia is the most impressive and unique church that I have ever seen. I am not one to focus much on architecture and design, but the construction of this church is so intricate yet large-scale that it cannot go unnoticed! We were stunned!
Mike and I had to wait for a few minutes to get inside, so naturally we decided to take some normal pictures in front of this decorated, impressive, and heralded hundred-year-old UNESCO world heritage site.
The inside was just as impressive as the outside, but the lighting made for some not so great shots. You’re just going to have to come to Barcelona and visit it yourself!
We went on a great tapas tour after our visit to La Sagrada Familia. We ate many different tapas and went out with some of the people in our tour group afterwards. Once we got home, poor Mike promptly got food poisoning and spent the entire night hanging out in the bathroom. I spent the whole night googling hot topics such as “local Barcelona hospitals,” “Does Tufts health insurance plan cover international hospital visits,” and “How to say food poisoning in Spanish.” I went out at 5am on the hunt for a 24-hour pharmacy where I soon learned that Spanish pharmacies will give you literally anything over-the-counter. Apparently, the medicine we received is normally strictly reserved for hospitalized patients in America. Needless to say, it was a wild night in the adventure series of Mike and Alana’s lives.
We cancelled our train to Madrid for that day so that Mike could rest after his night-long Olympic vomiting adventure. We both slept in late given that night’s festivities. While Mike slept in the afternoon, I walked down to the Barcelona Olympic Stadium and Montjuic Parc. It was incredibly beautiful:
I wish Mike had been able to come, but it was nice to have one last day in Barcelona, taking in the beauty of the city!
The next day, Mike was feeling 1000% better so we took the train to Madrid. It was a great ride, just under 3 hours, and we really got to see the countryside. We passed fields of olive trees, beautiful towns, and open landscape. When we got to Madrid, we spent the afternoon walking around and went down to Buen Retiro Park (the Central Park of Madrid!). That night was New Years Eve…we tried to walk down to Puerta del Sol, which is where Madrilenos celebrate the new year. However, it was all blocked due to security concerns, so Mike and I hung out in the street just above the square with thousands of our closest friends, waiting for the clock to strike midnight!
We ate the traditional 12 grapes at midnight and cheered as the people around us guzzled Cava and sounded their horns!
The next morning we went on a walking tour of Madrid with our new guide who was just okay (he does get points for fending off a wackadoo guy who was trying to convince us all to move to North Korea), but he was definitely not as crazy wonderful as our guide in Barcelona. We saw the Palace in Madrid and the beautiful church across from it.
We spent the rest of our time, walking around the city and enjoying some cheese, tapas, churros with chocolate, and wine at the Mercado San Miguel. The perfect way to finish our trip.
This was our first trip abroad, but definitely not our last. Mike and I now have the same urge to travel and see the world…and we couldn’t be more excited! Who knows where we’ll be off to next (or even when!) but I know it won’t be too far in the future. The world is too big and time is too short not to see all of it while we have the chance. As Hans Christian Anderson said, “To travel is to live.” And live, we will.