Perhaps if it was not for Marija, I would not have visited Barcelona. Man, I would have missed out on one of my most cherished memories of my exchange. I had already visited Barcelona years ago, so I thought it would be better to travel around the rest of Spain. Which, as you have seen, I did. However, Marija moved to Barcelona and I know she is very fond of it. So, when we took a cab back home after a few drinks on her last evening in Madrid, she told me I could come visit her and I said I would. So I did.
During my travels in Spain, I have travelled alone, with friends and with organizations, but never have I visited someone living in another city than Madrid. While this was my last trip, it was simultaneously a first: my first time visiting someone living in another Spanish city. Not just some city, but Barcelona.
This visit was completely different from the one years ago. Last time I went to Casa Mila, Casa Battlo, the Picasso museum, Park Güell and had dinner at Plaça Reial. This left me with four days of seeing another side of Barcelona.
When I arrived in Barcelona, I had to go to Marija’s work to pick up the keys to the apartment. It was a thrill to see this working and living side to Barcelona. It hit me that I have friends all over the world (not just Spain) and that during my travels I can see a totally different side of the places I visit. Of course, I still hit some of the tourist highlights, such as Plaça d’Espanya.
During the night, we went to Parc de la Ciutadella and talked until we saw someone close the gates. We ran and he opened it up again for us. Meanwhile, another person begged him to open the gate and let him in. I suppose he was going over to the group of friends on the bench a little down the path and you can easily sneak out through the gate (Marija told me from experience).
The next day, I visited the Sagrada Família . Last time, there was a queue all around the basilica and I could not go in. This time, I bought tickets online and avoided the queue. I went through a lot of effort to print the tickets (read: someone let me pay 1 euro and the bookshop had a lot of rather ‘typical’ books). Just to let you know: it suffices to show the tickets on your mobile screen.
During the night, me and Marija went to Búnquers del Carmel, which are old ruins of bunkers with a magnificent view of the city. Before, it was a unregulated place. You had to climb your way up there. Now, there were some fences and there was a festival with great music and people dancing. Though a little more organized, it was still a very free and local place, where people brought their own drinks and food and were people living in Barcelona. It was one of the most striking places in my Erasmus experience.
New day, new plans. We went to Barceloneta beach, but did not swim there, as supposedly it is rather dirty (it is an artifical beach and therefore the ground water streams underneath it and takes all the dirty chemicals from the city with it, if I understood correctly). I believe swimming there once will not harm you, but I can understand that people that live there prefer another beach. Still, we saw the sculptures, the people having fun and all in all it was a nice morning.
Then, we met up with a friend of Marija at La Rambla. Normally, they would not go there as it is hard to walk through this street with the slowly-paced tourists. I mean, slow people are always inconvenient when you are in a hurry. Now, we were not in a hurry and instead we went to a food festival. There were tapas for four euros from the biggest chefs in Spain and it was amazing.
Foie gras and caramalized salmon and more nice flavours
Temple d’August, which took us a lot of effort and multiple days to find
(Old Roman pillars that Franco didn’t care about and built an apartment around)
For dinner, we went to Flex and Kale, a vegan restaurant. If you are a vegan, you will love it. If you are up to new tastes, you will love it. But to us, they were a little rude… Still, I had a really great time and Marija’s friend was wonderful. She is a very warm and good person. I keep meeting great people on Erasmus. Perhaps it is because if you are willing to go on exchange, you are willing to make your dreams come true. Like Marija living in Barcelona or her friend having a company at such a young age. (And my dreams? I am working on it).
In Barcelona, I also found… a HEMA. I was exhilarated. I said before it would be the only thing I would really miss. It is cheap, it is cute and it is of rather good quality. And for me it is the essence of a Dutch shop. We had bought face masks there some days before and this evening it would be used for a girl’s night, complete with popcorn and a very VERY bad film. Sorry about that, Marija.
As I told you before, we went to Platja de Castelldefels. It was rather quiet and clean beach. However, there were strikes so when the train finally came, it was completely packed. We went to get dinner and they were so sweet as to let us reenter the station for free.
During the night, we went to Gràcia. It is a neighbourhood where mostly Catalan people live (and perhaps some exchange students). I saw the cutest shop here. There is a square called Plaça del Sol where people drink and play guitar and at midnight, the police politely asks everyone to leave. I was able to see this and it went all so very smoothly.
I came to Barcelona with almost no expectations and when I left, I had gained one of the richest memories of my time as an exchange student. Barcelona has so much wonders to give, from the main tourist places I visited last time, to the less popular tourist places to the most unknown places that are just as stunning and perhaps even more so. I am really grateful that I had Marija to show me around the city and she did a great job at it, too. I still eat hummus and avocado (which we had for breakfast everytime) to soften the blow a little bit.
P.S. Also a big thanks to Cris and Izzy, who made a very useful to-do list of Barcelona.