Warning: Long post ahead, but I think it’s fully worth it :). Special thanks to Nitzan for many of these lovely pictures.
I’ve been postponing this blog post on my trip to Spain because I knew this would be a piece of self-reflection rather than a simple summary of my vacation.
I studied abroad in Barcelona three years ago and experienced some great and not-so-great memories there. As clichéd as it may sound, I came back a changed person. This summer was my first time going back to Spain after my time abroad and I experienced a wide range of emotions from nostalgia and happiness to indifference. I suppose the indifference could be explained by the fact that instead of reliving my memories, I looked at them through a lens.
I traveled Spain for a week in July with one of my best friends, Nitzan, and we visited three different cities: Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona.
Our first stop in Spain was Madrid. We covered a lot of ground in the sweltering heat and visited attractions such as El prado, the botanical gardens, and El Parque de El Buen Retiro.
While in Madrid, I learned that La Latina is great for tapas, Malasaña is trendy and hipster, and Chueca is a popular with the gay community. I met one of my friends from study abroad, Gabby, while we were in Madrid at a lovely tapas place called Malasipina. It was so nice catching up with her and learning about her teaching experience in Spain.
Nitzan and I only had one night in Valencia but it was well spent. My favorite activity was renting bikes and riding down a beautiful path to the Museo de las Ciencias.
The majority of our time was spent in Barcelona. One of my first feelings in Barcelona was frustration. I discovered my Spanish and Catalan weren’t as good as they used to be and I forgot how hard it was to communicate in a foreign language. I felt like I lost a part of my identity by not being able to express myself fully. I was also stuck in a weird limbo where I felt like I knew the city too well to be a tourist but I was far from calling Barcelona home.
But setting my frustration aside, I decided to recreate a typical day in Barcelona. I hopped on the metro and got off at Girona to roam about L’eixample Dreta. I visited the local market, before stopping by Daniela Bakery where I chatted and caught up with Roberto, the owner of the shop.
My next stop was a dive bar that catered to Americans, Dow Jones. Dow Jones’ drink prices mimic the stock-exchange: the more popular the drink, the higher the price. The prices keep rising until the stock market “crashes” and all drinks return to their original starting price.
I arrived in the evening to find a group of young twenty-something American boys already drunk. Ah, yes exactly what I was expecting. I sat myself down at the bar near a friendly elderly Catalan local who was playing poker on his iPad. He was chatting to the cute bartender in Catalan about the drunk American tourists. Not knowing that I understood some Catalan, they continued to chat while I discreetly eavesdropped. I accidentally blew my cover by smirking at one of their remarks, whoops. It was all good in the end as I proceeded to talk to the bartender in Spanish ( while he would respond in English- it was a way for both of us to practice) and then the Catalan man told me stories about poker, his family, his daughter in New York.
I was surprised by how much I’ve grown as person since I’ve studied abroad. I didn’t go to any clubs (sorry Opium, next time), skipped out on most of the bars we’d frequent (L’Ovella Negra, I’ll be back one day), and found myself craving healthy food often. In fact, I insisted on going to a vegetarian restaurant one day just to satisfy my salad craving.
However, despite how much I’ve changed, I can confidently say that Barcelona is still as magical as it used to be.