Who knew that sleeping in airports was so popular? Due to an early flight and train logistics, I, too, have had this lovely experience in Gatwick Airport. I left my flat around 9:30 pm, and as soon as I was halfway to the station by the campus to catch my first train, I realized that I had forgotten an all essential item(s). My makeup, oh no! But readers, it would turn out to be ok, so never fear.
It was when I reached the airport around 10:30 pm that I realized I forgot a razor…and I was going to sunny Barcelona on the coast of Spain. Thus, this was not ok! Luckily, airports are wise to the traveler’s dilemma of forgetfulness. So I was able to buy a cheap razor and eyeliner pencil before brushing my teeth in the restroom and finding the designated “staying the night” area.
Now I say popular because by about one in the morning, there were probably close to 50 people hanging out in this little upstairs area. I was one of the “lucky” ones who got to there early enough to grab a full wooden bench. Whoever designed them thought it would be lovely if they slanted inward, so I’m sure I looked quite the sight, slid against the back of the bench, using one sweater as a pillow and my sweatshirt as a blanket, hood drawn over my face to block the lights.
As it also turns out, they like to clean the upstairs floor at 2:30 in the morning. Just image a loud machine driven back and forth, back and forth…but really, I do have to say that I felt completely comfortable there spending the night. At one point early on I sat up to shift positions to see a security guard about 2 feet away, but on the other side of the bench. He asked if I was with the guy on the other side, I said no, and he woke the guy up to ask for identification. Reason being that all he had was one small backpack and travelers usually carry something bigger. All in all, I came away from this experience completely unscathed and all belongings accounted for.
But enough about airports, right? Let’s get to Barcelona already! I arrived in Barcelona after a short, uneventful flight spent passed out against the window and/or tray table. After about half an hour, I was able to figure out which bus was the the aerobus, and managed to easily get to Placa Catalunya where I met up with one of my long time and best friends. She has spent the semester studying in Barcelona, and is braver than I to take on the challenge of a different language (and excelling at it, I might add, try as she may to deny it!).
Barcelona is a beautiful city, and I arrived just as the weather took a turn for the better. The sunshine and palm trees, coupled with seeing my friend, was like having a little slice of home. The first thing we did was go back to her room, located near the business district of the city and in a building that doubles as a hotel/hostel. Unlike me living on campus at Sussex, it is not affiliated with the university she is going to. It was a quite a nice place, equipped with a shared kitchen by floor and a roof top pool! After a quick rinse and change of clothes, we were off on a walking tour of the city. We walked through a large, very pretty park where many people were out and about, enjoying the sunshine. After a quick picture of the arc de triomf (apparently Paris isn’t the only city with one of those!), she took me to a little restaurant she likes where we had some good burgers for lunch. Refreshed and refueled we continued on, trekking thought the main street, La Rambla, where we made a quick detour through the Boqueria market, admiring the assortment of interesting foods and getting a glass of fresh squeezed fruit juice. I wish I could remember what mix I got now, especially as there was some fruit I’d never tried before in it, because it was delicious!
Again, we set off, fighting through the ever present crowd that at Placa Catalunya. Barcelona is part of the greater Catalonia area in Northern Spain, and apparently there are constantly protests for Catalonia to become a separate entity from the rest of Spain.
Before taking the metro back, we made it to the two Gaudi houses in the area. Perhaps, readers, you recognize the name – or perhaps, like me, you have never heard of the guy before! He is an architect native to Barcelona, and from what I can tell, a man bursting with creativity and inspiration. Both houses were cool, but we agreed that the ocean inspired one was our favorite (big surprise there, from the native Californians!). Taking it easy, as both us were running on little sleep, we decided to hang out on the roof for a bit after we picked up some groceries for the next few days. The view from up there is incredible, where one can see green hills and La Sagrada Familia in one direction and the ocean in the other. We ended up chatting with another student from her home university for good while, watching some dry lighting strike strike in the distance as we discussed books and being abroad.
For dinner we cooked some pasta and vegetables, mixing it with pesto sauce for a tasty meal. After some indecision induced by our tiredness, we managed to get ourselves to the bar (about three minutes away) for the Barcelona football match. Unfortunately, as my friend half expected because it wasn’t a big game, it wasn’t quite the experience it normally would be. So we stayed until half time (meaning 10 minutes) before heading back, watching an episode of Modern Family (in English), and hitting the sack.
Sunday dawned, another radiant day, and we were ready for a hike up to Parc Guil. I say a hike, but I should admit that we were helped part of the way up by outdoor escalators that are placed in the street. This was the one thing I was I was told I had to do in Barcelona, and I have to agree with this suggestion wholeheartedly! First we went to one of the highest points for the amazing view of the city it affords. We then made our way through the park, stopping occasionally to applaud the musicians, admire the flowers, and take photos of Gaudi’s work. Yes, Gaudi makes another appearance!
Parc Guil was Gaudi’s vision for a mosaic town on a hill for the rich folk. This vision was never fully realized, but there are some neat foundations such as this bench that wraps around a large open area that would have been the town meeting area, a would be market area just below, a couple more Gaudi houses, included his own place of residence, and the famous dragon statue paying tribute to the general who defeated a dragon in Barcelona folklore (we both thought it was an iguana…must have been a komodo dragon).
We wandered to a quiet square where we stopped in one of the cafés for a cup of coffee and tea. After that break, we made our way back and changed for the night after whipping up a rice and veggie dish for dinner. You see, not only is my friend incredible for coming to another country and speaking a different language, but she decided to brave a beginner’s salsa dancing course! So we figured we would try to get into one of the other courses being offered on a Sunday night – I was game! Unfortunately, both classes were filled when we got there, but we were planning on going back to the place (called Mojito) around 9 when it became a salsa club. So to bide our time, we went to the nearby cupcake place she had wanted to take me to as well.
This small cupcake shop was modern yet quaint, and we split two cupcakes. They switch up the three or four kinds they make each day, so we got one raspberry red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting and one vanilla coconut cupcake with vanilla frosting and coconut shavings on top. Yum! They were awesome – and while extremely hard to chose, I’d have to say the vanilla coconut was my favorite. That vanilla frosting was just so…vanilla-y and pure!
Entry into Mojito was free, but you were given a card that you had to buy a drink while there. So, of course, we had to try the mojitos! Ironically, they were not up to par with the other mojitos my friend has had while in Spain. However, we got our card switched to the one that meant we could leave at the end of the night. Right off the bat we met three other women my friend has met and gotten to know a bit in her salsa class. It was really neat to meet them, two being from Spain and one from France, and communicate through the two people in the group who knew both Spanish and English. They showed me the basic salsa step (uno, dos, tres…cuatro, cinco, seis) – it’s a work in progress for me.
Two guys over the course of the night asked me for a dance, in which I had my friend help me explain to them my lack of skills. They were both very kind about it, and it was a fun night! My friend was great, and I can see why she wants to keep up with it when we get back home as everyone there had big smiles on their faces. Salsa, the movements fluid and quick, was a way for the people there to wind down, forget about their problems, and just enjoy each other’s company in a fun dance.
The second guy to ask me did show me that typical Spanish, well…friendliness. Though a bit overbearing, it was the first time I’ve been offered to be bought a drink (though one mojito was good for me!) – and we were walked to the metro station before making our escape onto the last metro of the night. Some cultural differences are harder to adjust to than others, certainly. There were various times throughout the trip that comments from men were directed our way (of course, I stood out like a sore thumb as a tourist); comments I understood only from the tone, not the actual words, and this is one of the most difficult things my friend had to deal with while abroad. It’s something I hadn’t really thought about before, but I guess I’m luckily that the guys in the UK share a more similar attitude towards women with (most) men from the U.S.
Well, readers, I’m going to stop here as this is getting to be a very long post. But there will be a part two very soon! I meant to get this up two days ago, and then yesterday…but surprisingly, with me officially being done with school (summer time!), I’ve been even more busy since Wednesday! I went to a Brighton Festival event and lunch on Wednesday, which were great, hung out with a few friends at Falmer bar Thursday night, and went to the Foodies Festival Friday. I wasn’t able to finish it before my flatmate’s engagement party yesterday, either. So here we are, Sunday. And of course I will be sharing more about these things, especially the Foodies Festival, with you as well! I hope you are all enjoying your weekends and having as wonderful weather as we are here in Brighton – it has been absolutely stunning! Thanks for reading, cheers! Until then…