The Home Stretch

Well, I’ve been in bed for about 14 hours now with the most awful cold I’ve had in a very long time..happy last Monday in Barcelona!

This past weekend I was in London, and it was FREEZING! I think that after having 5 months of beautiful weather, my body kind of freaked out. Luckily, today is a holiday so I am allowed to sit in bed for most of the day anyway – except that I was planning on packing today…whoops!

Anyway, London was amazing despite the weather. I visited with Rob and got to see Stephan, and had a lot of fun with them. Rob took me to look at a few universities that I’m applying to for graduate school, which is scary but very exciting! Then on Saturday Caroline came down from Edinburgh – her first time in London! And we went to the British museum and then to a christmas market which was a lot of fun. I’m definitely in the holiday spirit now and I’m ready to go home and put up the tree!

The weekend before this one, I was in Florence for a nice long weekend with Matt – it was so much fun! Since I’ve been to Florence already we didn’t have to rush to do all the touristy things  – we did a lot of shopping, a lot of wandering around, and saw a few cool museums and churches. Plus, every single meal was incredible. I think Florence is the type of place I could go back to several times and never get sick of it.

It’s been a fun and exciting last few weeks here. Last night after I got back from London, I went to a Barca soccer game with my Spain parents Roxanne and Jordi – also so much fun! We won 5-1 and the atmosphere was really awesome. I’m definitely going to miss Roxanne and Jordi the most and all the fun times I’ve had with them.

So, I’m going to attempt to start packing now, though I may just go back to sleep. Wish me luck! Maybe I’ll check in before the week is over, but things are going to be very busy over here! Homeward bound in just a few days, yayyy!

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But I haven’t eaten enough tapas yet…

So, the final countdown is here. All of a sudden, I have three weeks left – and only one weekend left in this city! I decided to change my flight to be a week earlier so that I could get home and see my family, plus I don’t have much work anymore. But then, we waited too long to change it and had to make the flight even earlier, so I’ll be heading back to the US on Friday December 12th. WHAT!!!!?!!

I have mixed feelings about leaving. I was pretty committed to the idea of leaving early for a while, because I’m running out of money, things aren’t super exciting here, and I’m just ready to be back in America. But, now that I’m approaching my last weekend and my last few weeks, I’m anxious about leaving. Have I done everything I wanted to do? Am I forgetting anything? I’m frantically trying to make to-do lists and fit in as much as I can, while still sticking to my budget, and it’s not going so well.
But then, I think about getting home and seeing my family and eating Panera and paying normal prices for Starbucks, and I feel more at peace with the whole thing. I think I’ve had my fair share of amazing experiences here, and I’ve definitely had plenty of amazing food. Plus, I’m going to Florence next week and then London – so the adventure isn’t over yet!

I’m glad I have a few more trips to look forward to before it’s all over, instead of just dragging out my last few weeks here trying to fill in the time. It’ll keep me busy, and the week before I leave will definitely be stressful trying to wrap things up at work, with friends, and the daunting task of packing that I can’t think about without having a panic attack…but when the time comes, I’ll be ready.

This weekend I don’t have a ton of plans which is a bit of a bummer since it’s my last weekend here, but I’m going to be proactive and hit up some museums and some markets – maybe I’ll get my Christmas shopping done! Woo! I probably won’t have anything exciting to report on until my trip to Florence, so I’ll check back in after that. Which will be DECEMBER?? Whoa.

#Democracy

Yesterday was the day we’ve all been waiting for. I know, you’ve been on the edge of your seat waiting for this moment – me too.

Yesterday, around 2.25 million Catalans voted in an unofficial consultation/poll/survey/whatever to determine whether or not Catalonia should be an independent state. The Spanish government tried several times to stop this from happening, but the Catalan government defied them and let the vote happen anyway – and considering the tears of joy on people’s faces after they voted, I think this was a good move.

It looks like the results of the vote are overwhelmingly in favor of independence, though the official tallies haven’t been announced yet. However, since the vote was “unofficial,” it seems like a lot of people who don’t want independence or don’t really care, didn’t bother to vote because they knew it wouldn’t change anything. It’s sad that some people had that attitude, considering how hard people worked to make this vote happen, but that sadness quickly goes away when you see how happy the people who actually did vote are. Gloria, the Catalan woman I live with, was so excited yesterday, like I’ve never seen her. She went to celebrate with her family after they all voted – they’ve been waiting for a chance to voice their opinion on independence for their entire lives. The question of independence is contested, it’s not a black and white issue and you could fill up pages with the pros and cons. But the question of letting people have a say in their future shouldn’t be contested.

Today when I got to work, the president of my organization shouted “congratulations!” and gave me a big hug. She thanked me for being part of this process and for all of my help, and asked me if I felt happy – to which I responded of course, I feel happy and lucky to have been part of such a special day. And she thanked me again for being part of their special day.
This coop is very frustrating at times, and it has come with a lot of challenges. But overall, it’s been nothing short of an incredible experience – and her kind words and gratitude really made that clear to me. Sometimes I feel like an outsider here, because I don’t speak their language and I don’t share their identity, but having been part of this process through the most intense times makes me part of the team, and she reminded me of that today.

I’m still recovering from the most stressful, busy, crazy, rewarding week so far in Barcelona. But I feel lucky to have been part of all the ups and downs (mostly ups!) and I’m excited to see what’s next.

Towards the finish line?

Next Sunday, Catalans are set to vote on independence from Spain. They’ve been waiting for this day for a longgg time now, and despite all of the obstacles that Spain has put in front of them, people are excited.

Work is tense but exciting this week. You can feel a change in the air as we get closer to the 9th, the day they’ve all been waiting for. The organization has dedicated most of its time and resources to a campaign called “It’s Time” which is meant to promote the vote and independence overall. Last week we had a press conference (where I understood most of the Catalan, yay!) where they explained the plan for the home stretch of the campaign – they’re going to be calling people all week – a telethon-type thing – and encouraging people to vote. The vote was changed to be unofficial, more of a survey/poll than anything else, but it’s still going to be a statement on independence, it’s going to be the official number of Catalans who want to be independent, so it’s really important that they get a good turnout of voters. If they don’t, this will have all been a waste of time. But I don’t doubt that there will be really good voter turnout. Even the people who don’t want independence want to vote in order to have a say on the matter, they’re not going to miss out.

So, this week it’s just about getting people to vote, making sure people know where they can go, etc. The organization is working with the government a lot which is pretty cool to see them coordinate so well. On Sunday I’ll probably be in the press headquarters just like I was for the big independence day event in September, I’ll get to help reporters know where to go, etc. Should be pretty awesome!
There are talks about what the Spanish government is going to do to stop the vote from happening. They’ve tried lots of legal means, but that’s not going to do anything. So, people are wondering if they’ll take any other kind of action – ie sending in police troops to stop people from voting. But, I don’t think they will. It seems to me like the people here are far too determined to let anything stop them, and the Spanish government knows how foolish it would be to try to stop people from filling out what is essentially a survey. But, they’ve proven to be pretty foolish, so who knows. It will definitely be an interesting week.

On expectations and pleasant surprises

Last night I arrived back home from a perfect getaway to Paris with Matt. As of this Thursday, we will have been dating for two years, and we got to celebrate this together in the most romantic city in the world – can you imagine anything more perfect? Before getting to Paris, I didn’t want to get ahead of myself with excitement. Sure, everyone talks about how romantic Paris is, but they also talk about the crowds, the pickpockets, the rude people. Would it actually be a romantic place to spend the weekend? I lowered my expectations, which I guess was a good idea, because everything was beyond what I could’ve expected.

I’m just going to do a painfully long weekend recap, because I need to get it all out now. Brace yourself, adventure and romance ahead.

Our hostel was near the Sacre-coeur church, up on a hill overlooking the city. We walked there on the first night with plans to find a place to eat on the way. This was much easier said than done, but eventually, just in time for us to really start getting hungry, we found The Annex, a tiny little place attached to a very loud bar, with people sitting on top of one another eating delicious looking food. Seated right in the middle, we quickly realized that there was only one chalkboard menu, all in French, and one waiter, who only spoke French. Taking the challenge head-on, we asked him for a recommendation – I did a thumbs-up, and he understood this universal sign for “good” and gave us some suggestions. I ordered pasta because linguine is the same in every language, and it was a great choice – but Matt’s more daring choice of some sort of chicken proved to be even more rewarding, he put it on his list of top 5 best meals in Europe. The waiter was really awesome even though we couldn’t really communicate with each other, and we had our first expectation – that people would be rude to us – quickly thrown out the window.

Friday was a very long day, with a walking tour in the morning led by a comically cynical American tour guide who gave us all sorts of tips that came in handy over the weekend. We saw lots of highlights, and decided to walk up the Champs-Elysses to get to the Arc du Triomphe (how the eff do you spell french things?) and would get lunch on the way. Great plan! …..terrible plan. We didn’t find crepes which is what we were determined to have, and the walk was much longer than we needed after just finishing a walking tour of the rest of the city. Needless to say we weren’t all too excited to see the Arc, and quickly went in search of food after that, only to find a sandwich place which ended up being pretty damn good, thankfully. We checked out the Eiffel Tower, which was honestly surreal to see up close. After having seen it so many times in movies or pictures, I felt like I had seen it already, so being right underneath it in person was a cool experience. That night we went and put a lock on the love locks bridge – aww how cute are we! Then we went to the Louvre to say hi to Mona Lisa. Pretty cool, but I’m glad my expectations weren’t that high for this one. If we didn’t get the student rate for the museum – aka free – I probably would’ve been disappointed, but instead I was content to see the painting and then move on. We moved on to another long-winded adventure of finding a place to eat, and found yet another everyone-sitting-on-top-of-each-other place, which really didn’t compare to the first night at all, but it also didn’t cost us our life savings, so we accepted it. From there we went back to the good ol Eiffel tower, to see the “light show,” which is just the tower sparkling for a few minutes every hour, but it was amazing nonetheless. Plus, romance!

Saturday we went to the Montparnasse tower which is the only skyscraper in Paris because after they built it the Parisians hated it and they set a new rule that buildings couldn’t be more than 9 stories high. Luckily for us this means that there’s one tall building that you can go to the top of for a full panoramic view of the city – with the Eiffel tower included, which you don’t get if you take the trek up there. Pretty cool! Afterwards we got crepes and honestly it was an incredible eating experience. I couldn’t eat all of mine because we had filled up on hostel breakfast (bread) not long before that, so I got it to go in tinfoil and ate it later on – still just as delicious! We saw this adorable jazz band playing on the sidewalk with a zooey-deschanel type singer, and it was so “Paris.” After that blissful little moment, we went and walked around the Luxembourg gardens, which was a decent alternative to Versailles which we didn’t want to take the trip out to. From there we went to the D’Orsay museum and saw some impressionist art, some Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir, etc, and it was absolutely amazing. The museum is in an old train station which I loved, just looking around there was awesome. And then the art was so beautiful and interesting, and seeing things like Van Gogh’s self-portrait and other famous work was really cool.

After that we did some shopping, I got some macarons, and then we got to the best part of the whole trip….
CHIPOTLE!
Wow. I mean, I really didn’t realize how happy I would be to have chipotle until we arrived there, but man was I excited. We got some burrito bowls to go, and headed back to say our goodbyes (aww! romantic weekend over!) and then I devoured my burrito bowl in the Orly airport like the American savage I am. Talk about rewarding experiences.

So, to wrap up this novel, Paris was incredible. We had leisurely strolls along the river holding hands, beautiful views, wonderful food, etc. Paris isn’t just about romance, and there is so much to it that anyone can enjoy. But I’m so happy that my first time there was with Matt and we got to be cheesy romantics and clueless tourists together in this city.

Another successful weekend, less than two months to go until I return home to unrestricted access to chipotle and people who speak my language. 🙂

I found my future home

Hint: It’s not in Spain.

DUBLIN.
Seriously, I had the best weekend ever in Ireland. Everything was perfect and I don’t know if it’s because Ireland is actually perfect or because we got lucky or what, but I want to live there. But then I think about the fact that it was sunny and perfect brisk fall weather, and I remember that it actually isn’t like that all the time, and I wonder if living there for more than a weekend would change my mind. But let’s not ruin the moment. Ireland was incredible.
I met up with Caroline in Dublin – she’s doing coop in Edinburgh. I almost took the coop that she has, and then chose to come to Spain. Talking about all her amazing experiences there definitely made me question being here a bit, because she’s doing some really amazing and substantial work, and I’m writing this blog post from my desk because I don’t have anything to do. But, it’s also 78 and sunny and I’ve become fluent in Spanish. So, you win some you lose some I guess. I’m so happy that she’s there at that coop – if it were pretty much anyone else I’d be a lot more jealous, but since it’s Caroline I’m okay with it because I like her.

Anyway. Dublin was perfect. It’s cute and perfectly Irish, and you can walk everywhere which I loved, but you’re also still in a big city with all sorts of stores and restaurants at your disposal. The first night, we went to the oldest pub in Ireland – est 1198!!! And got AMAZING food and listened to Irish music. It reminded us of the Squealing Pig back in Boston which was awesome…yeah guys, the music at the Pig is actually legit. We heard it in Ireland.

We did a walking tour of the city on a perfect sunny day. There’s some cool old buildings and churches to see, plus Trinity college which was really cool…but other than that, not much? That was one thing that I noticed, the art and culture definitely isn’t as prolific as in Barcelona. Anyway, went to the GUINNESS FACTORY which made all of my dreams come true. It actually wasn’t that impressive, it’s a self-guided tour which really means you just wander around aimlessly until you get to pour your own beer. But oh well, still cool! It rained a bit that night, but that was probably the worst weather we had and it didn’t last long. We did a mediocre pub crawl with lots of annoying drunk people, and I had the worst beer of my life at this one bar- it was brazilian? Unclear as to why they thought that was a good “deal” but oh well..we gave up after that, but that was good because we had to get up early the next day to go to the cliffs of Moher!

The cliffs were incredible. I’ve seen a lot of nature in my life and this wasn’t like anything I’ve seen. Actually, it was a little bit like the “end of the world” cliff we went to in Portugal on my dialogue, but there was only one cliff there, this was a huge line of them along the coast. And, if you turned away from the sea you were looking onto beautiful sprawling green fields with sheep and cows laying around…Ireland, man.
So, that was amazing. We stopped in Galway on the way back where I had incredible fish and chips (seriously, best food weekend ever) and I stocked up on Cadbury candy because I could.
That night we ended up wandering around yet again looking for a place to eat/drink, and stumbled upon this pub completely by chance, and it ended up being such a great find. I got wings (ugh how I miss buffalo chicken) and a guinness of course, and we listened to some more awesome live music! Such a perfect last night.

Sunday we got up early to go get brunch, and NOTHING was open at 10am! We finally found a place, which once again ended up being lucky because I had the best toast of my life. Seriously, amazing toast. And then we did some shopping in the main souvenir shop that’s all over Dublin… CARROLL’s! I asked them if I could get a discount but they said no and weren’t very entertained…..

Caroline left for her flight and I had like five hours to kill, so I walked around in lots of circles around the city center. It was pretty cool to have a good feel for the city after only a few days. I got a scone and I got some brown bread to take home with me, which I ended up throwing out because I got mold after one day…maybe a sign that I should leave the amazing Dublin weekend behind me. sigh.

It’s pretty awesome that after being to a lot of places around Europe and starting to feel bored with Spain, I can go to a place like Dublin and be reminded of why I love to travel and how exciting it is to find a new place that I love. Maybe I’ll have this feeling again in a few days, when I finally go to PARIS to meet up with Matt! Life is good.

I think I live here now

I realized today on my bus ride to work that it’s halfway through October and that means halfway through my time here…wild. I started to reflect on it and how it’s not really that shocking anymore, that I “live in Barcelona.” It’s great, it’s a cool place, but at this point, it’s just another city that I’ve gotten used to and made my home in. I have made my room my own comfy space (case in point laying in bed now with the pillows perfectly positioned to prop me up to write this), I have my favorite things to buy at the grocery store, my morning commute is kind of a blur at this point, and some nights the 1am garbage truck almost doesn’t wake me up. Almost.

There are still things about this city that I’ll never get used to. The smelly people, the rudeness (which is everywhere it’s just worse in another language), the lack of a Target… but there’s also a lot I haven’t even explored yet. There are so many places I still want to go, and I actually haven’t gotten sick of tapas yet so that’s a good sign, right? I’m definitely not thinking about the end yet, but I am happy with how far I’ve come and how comfortable I am here.

Anyway, this weekend I went hiking in the Pyrenees. That’s a hard word to spell. There are a lot of things I’ve done that are on everyone’s Barcelona bucket list, that everyone knows they have to see if they’re in the area, but I don’t think this is as common of a bucket list item, and that’s a big mistake. It was a long journey outside the city, but “worth it” doesn’t even come close. The views were breathtaking and the hike was awesome. I got up close and personal with a wild horse just hanging out eating some grass, and then he pooped a lot so I left – but up till then it was pretty awesome. Plus, the mountain air is such a nice break from the city, and it was actually below 70 degrees there – the first time I’ve had to wear a jacket since being here.

Lots of crazy stuff happening at work with the vote coming up – the government is changing things around, people are in this sort of panic mode that the vote isn’t going to happen. But it’s going to happen, they wouldn’t give it up after this long. The difference will be how they do it and what the results are, but frankly the whole thing has been a big unknown from the beginning, so waiting to see what happens isn’t really much different from before. I’ll keep ya posted, but hopefully we’ll be getting news coverage in the next few weeks too so that the world knows whats going on here.

I’m gonna go eat some nutella now.

Craving Pumpkin Spice Everything…

Everyone jokes about how the pumpkin spice trend is excessive and how all the basic girls get so excited about pumpkin spice lattes…but when you don’t have access to pumpkin spice anything, it doesn’t seem all that ridiculous!

Contemplating buying an actual pumpkin and trying to make something out of it. Or going on a hunt for canned pumpkin maybe in the “Taste for America” store that I’ve avoided until now. Maybe starbucks will save some pumpkin spice syrup for me to have when I get home in December. Although by then I will only care about peppermint 🙂
These are the things I think about while lying in bed on Sunday after sleeping until 3pm. Whoops.

Anyway, I figured since I am spending the day in my pajamas maybe I’ll do something semi-productive like write a blog post! Or a few! My parents were here this past week, and it was awesome. I don’t really go out to eat a lot here, and I haven’t done a ton of touristy things, so it was great to have a week being a tourist/tour guide to them, showing them my favorite things but also discovering new things with them.

They got here on Friday and we went to the Sagrada Familia which I honestly can’t write a whole post about, because it was too awesome to describe. A lot of times with churches and things that alllll of the tourists in a city flock to, I find myself wondering what the big deal is. But here it was pretty obvious what the big deal was. Anyway, so glad we got to do that. Then that night I took them to this awesome tapas place that Bryan and I found when he visited- a discovery I’m very proud of, because the food is amazing and the atmosphere is cool, too, like an old tavern.

Saturday we saw the magic fountain, another must-see here that I actually love. And Sunday it rained all day, so we attempted to go out but gave up…but at night, we had dinner here and my landlady Gloria who is the cutest old lady in the world made us this amazing meal. After dinner, she drove us up Tibidabo which is the mountain at the back of the city, and there’s this huge church at the top and an amusement park, plus views of the city! It definitely made up for the failure of a rainy day we had, and it was so great for me and my parents to hang out with Gloria. I’m so glad I moved here and get to live with her.

Other highlights include wine tasting which maybe I’ll do another post about if I feel like it, and Montserrat which I’ll definitely write separately about too. There were also lots of awesome dinners, shopping, and sightseeing – and my parents even got to go to the beach! Beach season has just about ended here but they got one 75 and sunny day which was pretty perfect.

I will definitely miss having them here to hang out with and show around the city, but we made the most of our week together. Back to normal life tomorrow, or whatever you call this life I have here.

Will keep you posted on my pumpkin adventures!

Parent’s Week

Parent’s Weekend just ended, my parents are currently on their flight back to the states.

This was probably the best week I’ll have here, and I’m pretty bummed that it’s over. I’m not ready to write about all of the amazing adventures we had this week – there were a LOT. Wine tasting, day trip to this amazing mountainside monastery, food adventures, etc…so much fun. I’m going to cope by watching Friday Night Lights for the rest of the weekend.

Will check in soon. Happy October (whoa)

These people love fire

So, last Friday was the start of the Festival of Merce – it’s Barcelona’s biggest festival, several days of parties, parades, concerts, carnival rides, and lots and lots of fire. Catalans are apparently pyromaniacs as I have learned from my local friends here.

Friday I went out with my friends to a bar and got some mojitos, and we ran into a group of british guys here for a bachelor party – I felt kind of bad for the people around us…but it was fun! And then we went and checked out some of the carnival rides, and went on the longest ferris wheel ride of my life. But it was really fun and it’s great to see how the city comes together for this huge festival and does such a good job.

Saturday I got dinner with my friends who I’m calling my “spain parents” because they’ve been taking care of me and are around my parents age..but they’re honestly awesome to hang out with and I’ve learned so much through spending time with them. We were on the beach for a fireworks show, which was really great. Then afterwards I went to a concert (by myself…another story) – and saw Modern Baseball!! It was sooo cool to see this band that I know from back home in Barcelona, and even cooler that they have a huge fan base here and people absolutely loved them. That definitely wasn’t an experience I expected to have here and it was so amazing.

Sunday was a lazy day, but then at night there was the Correfoc – which literally means fire run! On one of the main streets here, they have “the gates of hell” that they shoot fireworks out of, and then they open and these people run out with these giant sparklers that shoot fireworks up into the air and onto the people standing around them. You have to go there with a hat/scarf on and cover your face/mouth because there are embers shooting out everywhere. But the people LOVE it. They’re not scared at all, they dance under the shooting flames and its one big fire party. I stood a little bit off to the side because I wasn’t really trying to get singed, but we ran under one of the sparklers at the end and it was really awesome – and I came out without any burns!

After that there were MORE fireworks! And they were honestly the biggest fireworks I’ve ever seen, they were so great. But the craziest part is that there is another fireworks show tomorrow and it’s going to be even BIGGER. It’s called the pyromusical so it’s a whole fireworks musical show situation, no idea what to expect except that it will be crowded and awesome.

So far the Merce experience has been really cool, and I’m excited for the big day tomorrow. Then on Friday my parents get here!!! I’ve been looking forward to that since I got here, it should be tons of fun.

Happy fall!