Adventures in Spain: Chapter 2 of Backpacking Europe

Adventures in Spain: Chapter 2 of Backpacking Europe

Welcome to the second chapter of my experience backpacking around Europe with my best friend, Brianna!

When Brianna and I were in high school, we had this amazing Spanish teacher, Dr. Gomez. He had a unique (and really cool) grading style, was passionate about teaching, and always told the best stories in class. He was one of the best teachers I have ever had.

After graduating, Brianna and I would visit Dr. Gomez in his classroom whenever we were home from college on winter break. He said that after retirement a few years down the road, he would be spending half the year in Spain and the other half in Vermont, where he resided. He suggested that if we ever found ourselves in Spain, that we should come and visit. We never thought that years later, that would become a reality…

 

Day 1 – The Meetup

After leaving Amsterdam, our first spot on the trip, we flew into Valencia and took a train north to Borriana. We met Dr. Gomez and his wife, Kristen, on the platform and it was a completely surreal moment.

They drove us to their house in the village of Alquerías del Niño Perdido. It was a small, quaint town with a pretty square. We had dinner with them, tried some Spanish wine and spent hours talking and catching up.

lauren taylar spain

Alquerías del Niño Perdido

Day 2 – Beach Day in Borriana

The next day, we went for a walk to the local shop to buy bread and afterwards, visited Dr. Gomez’s cousin, who lived just a few blocks over. When we entered her home, I felt like all my Spanish education had been wiped from my memory. It had been three years since the two college classes I took and speaking to a native Spanish speaker was somewhat intimidating, given the speed at which she talked. I definitely let my former Spanish teacher down in front of his family, haha.

Later in the day after a relaxing afternoon inside, we drove to a trail in Borriana. The circular trail surrounded a stream and was next to beautiful foliage. You could even see striking mountains in the distance.

lauren taylar borriana

We then spent the next couple hours nearby at Malvarrosa Beach. The Mediterranean Sea was SO warm — being familiar with cold Upstate New York lakes, this was amazing. After grabbing gelato, we headed back to the house.

Me, Brianna, Dr. Gomez, and Kristen at the beach

Malvarrosa Beach

During this stay, we definitely got our fill of authentic Spanish cuisine. For dinner that night, we had tortillas de patata, also known as a Spanish omelette. It’s made with eggs and potatoes, sometimes with a mix of onion and/or chives or garlic. Patata is fried in oil and often served cold as an appetizer. We also had gaspacho, which is similar to a vegetable juice. So good!

Day 3 – Barcelona: Catalonia Square, Las Ramblas, Plaça Reial

Our visit with our Spanish teacher came to an end this morning. We said goodbye early in the morning at the train station as we prepared to continue our trip to Barcelona. It was just over a two hour trip and the ride was truly beautiful. The mountains were on my left and the ocean was to the right…talk about an amazing view.

Now I have to stop here and make a confession. I have wanted to visit Spain ever since taking my first Spanish class in 7th grade. But there’s a real, yet slightly embarrassing, reason why I was hell-bent on visiting Barcelona during my first visit to Europe. My inspiration was none other than The Cheetah Girls (don’t judge, I was 11!). 

Barcelona Cheetah Girls 2They filmed their second movie in Barcelona and I was so awestruck by its beauty, not to mention the scene of them strutting through Park Güell, that I knew I HAD to see it with my own eyes. Flash forward 11 years and here we are.

When we got to Barcelona, we made our way to Brianna’s friend’s father’s apartment building (yes, that’s a mouthful). Although her friend wasn’t there, it was very easy to communicate with her brother and father, as they spoke English very well. They lived on one of the top floors and shortly after arriving, they suggested that we go on the roof. I’m glad I had sunglasses on because the moment I saw the view, my eyes swelled with tears. Off in the distance, I could see the amazing city in all its glory, with La Sagrada Familia standing tall above the rest of the city and the ocean in the distance. Words can’t truly describe that moment — Barcelona was the city I was most excited to visit and the fact that I had gotten there and was treated to this amazing view upon my arrival was unreal. This whole trip was truly an emotional journey.

lauren taylar spain barcelona

The view from the rooftop

 

After settling in, we went exploring! We took a metro a few stops and stopped to admire one of Antoni Gaudí’s masterpieces – Casa Batlló, followed by La Pedrera. Gaudí was an architect who lived from 1852 to 1926 and is famous for his creative works, which are unmistakable throughout the city. Unfortunately, we decided to pass on tours of these two buildings due to money constraints, but I’m hoping to check them out in the future.

 

Casa Batlló Barcelona travel

Casa Batlló

Casa Batlló Barcelona Spain travel

Casa Batlló

La Pedrera Barcelona Spain

La Pedrera

La Pedrera Barcelona Spain travel

Brianna next to La Pedrera

Then we walked to Catalonia Square – a beautiful area with two large fountains. There seemed to be preparation for a concert on the grassy area nearby, but we continued walking.

Catalonia Square Barcelona Spain Travel

Close by we found the famous Las Ramblas, a .75 mi stretch of vendors, shops, restaurants, and more. The pedestrian walkway was packed with tourists and locals during our visit, but it didn’t stop us from going back the following day. Right in this area is where you’ll find the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, or more commonly known as La Boqueria, which is a large public market. To my surprise, it was much larger than I expected – every kind of food imaginable was here.

Las Ramblas Barcelona Spain

Las Ramblas

La Boqueria Barcelona Spain

La Boqueria entrance

La Boqueria market Barcelona Spain

Inside La Boqueria

As we were nearing the end of Las Rambas, we ventured off some side streets. We ended up stumbling upon a place we wanted to see, but weren’t intentionally searching for in that moment in time. Plaça Reial, meaning “Royal Plaza,” is settled in the Gothic Quarter, or Barri Gòtic area, of Barcelona and is home to many popular nightclubs and restaurants. As we sat on the fountain’s edge, we saw people dining, musicians, singers and kids kicking a ball around. It was a hidden gem.

Plaça Reial Royal Plaza Barri Gòtic Barcelona Spain

One of the entrances to Plaça Reial

Day 4 – Park Güell, Arenas de Barcelona, Font Màgica

Thankfully, the apartment we were staying at was only a 20-minute walk from Park Güell, which is set up on a hill some distance from the city center. We arrived at 9:30 a.m. for our tour, which I highly recommend. Certain areas of the park are free, but you’ll have to pay to see the most famous spots. There is so much interesting history about the park, not to mention the intricacies, meaning and biblical aspects of Gaudí’s work that are explained on the tour. It was only €14.50 for admission and tour, so it was extremely affordable! Make sure you purchase your tickets in advance because they do sell out during the summer (purchase tickets here).
Once the tour is over, you are free to stay in the park for as long as your want. We went up to the top to get our photos on the famous mosaic bench. Unfortunately, half of the area was closed off due to construction while we were there. But the view still makes up for it. Similar to the apartment rooftop view, you can see La Sagrada Familia and the ocean off in the distance.
Park Guell bench Barcelona Spain

If you can’t enough of the famous artist, the Gaudí House Museum is also situated on the property.

After about four hours at Park Güell, we headed back into the city. We passed by the beautiful Catedral de Barcelona in the Gothic Quarter, which was built from the 13th to the 15th centuries and is notable for the gargoyles that are perched on its roof. We were not properly dressed to go inside, so we admired its beauty from outside.

Catedral de Barcelona Spain

Catedral de Barcelona

Gothic Quarter

A view of the Gothic Quarter

Musicians playing in the Gothic Quarter

Then we headed back towards Plaça Reial to Bacoa, which serves gourmet burgers with organic meat. They were really good!
Bacoa burger Barcelona Spain
Next was Arenas de Barcelona, a former bull fighting arena that was transformed into a shopping mall. You can pay a Euro outside the arena to take the elevator to the top and once up top, you can walk all the way around and admire the view from all angles.
Arenas de Barcelona

View from the top of Arenas de Barcelona

Arenas de Barcelona

Watching the sunset on Arenas de Barcelona

Arenas de Barcelona

Arenas de Barcelona outside view

Just a walk away was Font Màgica, or Montjuïc Magic Fountain, where we saw an amazing fountain show with synchronized music and light (it was 10 times better than the Bellagio fountain show in Las Vegas!). The hour-long show takes place every Friday and Saturday and other days of the week depending on the season. We went on a Wednesday and arrived 15 minutes beforehand to find thousands of people already there and every seat/bench taken so we had to sit on the grassy area nearby.

Font Màgica Barcelona Spain

Font Màgica Barcelona Spain

Font Màgica

Day 5 – Picasso, La Sagrada Familia

We got an early start to get to the Picasso Museum in the Gothic Quarter. We had tried to go the previous day to find the line more than a hundred people deep. This option turned out to be much better.

Our next and last stop before heading to the airport was seeing the beautiful and grand La Sagrada Familia. Unfortunately, similar to Park Güell, this is  something you need to get tickets for in advance. They were sold out so we could only walk around the outside. It was completely immense and breathtaking. Some history behind the church – it’s the most famous of Gaudí’s works and has been under construction since 1892. It’s not expected to be completed until 2030 and has cost roughly €25 million a year for construction and maintenance. Three million people visit this historic landmark every year.

La Sagrada Familia Barcelona Spain

La Sagrada Familia Barcelona Spain

La Sagrada Familia

Throughout the rest of our trip, we traveled to London, Paris, Rome, and Florence and by far, Barcelona was my favorite. Not only was it easy to walk through and get around the city, but it was just full of life, culture and history. I visited in July and hearing of the attack on Las Ramblas just three weeks after my visit truly broke my heart; I’m sure the city is still recovering in the aftermath and will be for some time.

Have you been to Barcelona? What was your favorite spot?

Barcelona Spain

 

Read more about my trip!

24 Hours in Amsterdam: Chapter 1 of Backpacking Europe

 

Author: Lauren Taylar

Lauren Taylar is a digital marketer and blogger. She is a recent graduate of the State University of New York at Oswego, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in public relations.

Follow:

Leave a Reply