We spent five days in Spain, five days in Italy, and five days in France. It was the perfect amount of time! We got to see all the sights and do all the touristy things, but we also had time to try all kinds of food, to people watch, to experience the metro, to attend church, to dine with natives. It's nice to not feel rushed when you are taking in a different culture.
Barcelona is full of color AND culture. I loved learning new things and experiencing something totally new to both of us! I'd like to share some of our more cultural experiences with you.
One of our funniest experiences happened the first night of our trip, on the beaches of Barcelona. We had seen a few topless people here and there on the beach, which was to be expected because we were in Europe, but as we walked along the boardwalk we were in for a special treat.
We were just strolling along when I looked over and noticed that there were two people laying on their stomachs on the beach that looked pretty darn naked. Yep, there were definitely two "beach bums." I pointed it out to Anj, and we chuckled and kept walking. Not sure why, but I looked again and realized that they were getting up! This really old, really tan, and realllllly naked couple started playing PADDLEBALL! Seriously. Completely naked people + paddleball = quite the sight. They were putting it all out there, if you know what I mean.
We couldn't stop laughing or staring. Ha. And then I made Anj take a selfie, and it's too good not to post. A memory for the ages! This moment truly said, "Welcome to Barcelona!"
On our walk from the metro to the beach, we passed about 30 restaurants, all touting their Paella. Paella is a rice dish that is basically rice + anything else you can think of, which in Barcelona, is all kinds of seafood. I avoid seafood at all costs, but Anj is a little more adventurous.
He got some Paella to go so I could find something else to eat, and it turned out to be more than just dinner. He met some friends too! We spent the rest of the trip spying on other diners trying to see how you are actually supposed to eat those huge, shrimpy things. (gross)
I would definitely consider riding the metro a cultural experience: it's one of the best places for people watching, and if you spend enough time on it, you are guaranteed to see some crazy things.
It can take a minute to figure the system out, but once you have it down, it's also a great way to explore a large city!
We only had a chance to go to one market in Barcelona, la Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria or la Boqueria, but it did not disappoint! It's a produce and seafood market off La Rambla (which is also really neat) and it was awesome! They are famous for their fruit juices: there are so many stands selling hundreds of different flavors. Seriously, they had any fruit combination you can think of and a lot you've never even heard of!
I love market colors.
We had some empanadas from one of the stands for lunch. Delish!
Okay, okay, there are some not-so-pretty market sights too...
I loved strolling up and down La Rambla.
(It's a long street with a tree-lined pathway down the center)
We got to the stadium a little early (Anj was pretty pumped) and so he got to be first in line! We couldn't resist buying a scarf (it's a soccer thing) and Anj got a shirt too. The stadium, Camp Nou, doesn't look like much from the outside, but seriously it is huge! It seats 98,787 thousand people. That's a LOT. The biggest stadium for a professional sport in the U.S. seats 85,000. These people care about their futbol.
It was so fun to see this guy living his dream!
It was a perfect day for a game.
It's amazing how many different types of people were at the game, from this adorable little girl and her hippie dad to business men in suits wearing discrete red and blue ties with bluetooth in ear. All kinds of people come together over their love for soccer.
We happened to have pretty darn good seats!
We were a couple sections away from the craziest fans who were waving these huge flags and cheering and singing the entire game. At one point, these guys started chanting at another fan rocking a Real Madrid (the rival) jersey. They were getting pretty angry, to the point that a police escort came and got the Real Madrid guy out of there before someone killed him or something. Like I said, they take this stuff pretty seriously.
And, nbd, but we saw Messi score a goal. Yeah.
After the game, the people stormed the streets! They just took over and didn't care about all the cars and mopeds trying to drive. It was awesome. We joined the throng and got a kick out of owning the Barcelona streets for several blocks.
We learned an important lesson at the game. When futbol fans think the ref has botched a call or when the other team fouls or flops, they don't "boo," they don't even yell. They whistle. It was strange at first, but if you can imagine 100,000 people whistling a very high-pitched whistle, it definitely makes a point. Obnoxious.
What does this have to do with anything? Well the day before when cheering for an awesome performer we saw in Park Guell, Andrew whistled! We were confused when the other park-goers kept shooting us seriously dirty looks. At the game, we realized why... Whoops!
It really was a treat to experience a dream with my best friend.
(Even if our seats weren't right next to each other!)
That night we got a taste of the Magic Fountain (oooh, ahhh) and we had some more traditional spanish cuisine: tapas.
We tried some patatas bravas, a fried potato dish with an aoili like sauce, and a tomato and feta salad. They also serve bread with this strange tomato jam/paste which looks weird but tastes fine. The patatas bravas was actually delicious, and we ended up having it a few times on the trip. We also made a friend at the table next door who was on a study abroad.
When it came out… I realized I had made a mistake. It turns out I ordered a big hunk of cheese for dessert. And it wasn't even good cheese. It was like… cottage cheese that had been drained and then mashed up and molded into a wedge. I only managed a few bites, but we had a lot of laughs.
More food: we had these delicious filled churros from a stand by our hotel for breakfast.
Go home big right?
Andrew was just chatting away (in Spanish of course, everyone kept telling me his Spanish was great!) with a kind sister in the ward after Sacrament Meeting, and she ended up inviting us over for dinner. We drove with the family to their little apartment and they shared a delicious meal with us.
We had chicken, potatoes, and then burritos too. They went all out and loved telling Andrew all kinds of stories in super fast Spanish. There was no hope for me to understand, but I loved seeing Anj in his Spanish element!! Sharing a meal with a Spanish family gave us a little taste of how a Spaniard lives.
The Family Herraiz
One church had a beautiful garden-like pavilion in the middle. Andrew got a drink from this fountain… kinda sketchy but we were thirsty! Another cultural note: water is not readily available in Europe. Drinking fountains are rare and you often have to pay for water in restaurants. By the end of our trip we were so grateful for free water in the states!
More views from our explorations… can you guess which one is Gaudi?
If you guessed this colorful, undulating one, you were right!
More street performers
I couldn't resist this rainbow kettle corn.
We ended the night with a few more pretty views while the sun set.