I am not sure what I was expecting with Spain, but I can assure you, my expectations were definitely exceeded. Spain is a beautiful country, thriving with culture and energy. Well, at least Barcelona is. We left icy, dreary Maastricht on Tuesday and flew into a city called Reus, about an hour and a half train ride south of Barcelona. Our first hostel experience was clean, but cramped. Bunk-beds galore. But for the price of 10 euro a night, it was a great stay. Tuesday night we only had time to grab a casual dinner and walk around for a bit. The food at a cheapo tapas restaurant was surprisingly good for the price. We already tasted some of the Mediterranean flavor with olives, fresh cheese, and seafood.
Wednesday was a bit cold and gray, but we were happy to have weather in the 50s rather than Maastricht 20s. We walked down Las Ramblas, the main drag of shops and sights in Barcelona. This street includes vendors selling "las hamsters mas pequenos del mundo" (smallest hamsters in the world) as well as souvenirs, tapas, and other odds and ends. The street is packed with various street performers, like the metallic people you see in New Orleans times 10. Most of our group wanted to dawdle, so Stephanie and I split off from the group in order to see a bit more of the city and explore.
We met back up at the Picasso Museum. I did not know much about Picasso, but his artwork is not all about cubism and bizarre colors and shapes. His early work is quite beautiful and inspiring. He lived in Paris, the south of France, and called Barcelona home. I really loved the museum-- I'd recommend it to anyone making a trip to Barcelona.
To supplement our day of Picasso, we enjoyed our best meal in Barcelona at the "4 Cats" restaurant where Picasso was a frequent customer. He also designed the menu covers back in the day. This restaurant is reservations only-- we found that out the night before. If you are late, your table is gone. People were like vultures outside the restaurant waiting to get in. We didn't know it was that famous! It was a great meal though, with lots of atmosphere and personality.
Thursday morning we awoke to beautiful sunlight. Coincidentally, this was the day we switched hostels to one located on the beachside of Barcelona. It timed out perfectly. We had some various sight-seeing plans for the day, but when we saw the coast and felt the sunshine, we couldn't help but change into shorts and enjoy the rest of the afternoon just sitting on the beach watching surfers and taking in much needed vitamin D.
I got to try the famous "Spanish tortilla"-- a potato omelette. It was quite delicious, served with toast that had olive oil and tomatoes on it.
Later that night, we went to another tapas bar. Joel ordered all three "meat" tapas. Go figure. From left to right-- tuna, veal, and shrimp.
For our last full day in Barcelona, we went to the huge open air market St. Joseph's, and later saw some Gaudi architecture. It was gray and cold that day, so we stayed in that night and rested up for our journey back on Saturday.
Our train ride on Saturday was at sunrise along the coastline of Spain. I took this when everyone else was asleep. :)
Leaving Spain on our Ryan Air flight. Such a great trip!