Previously on Our Great Italian Adventure: The next morning, we had a 10am flight to Barcelona. We left ourselves plenty of time to get to the airport bus and plenty of extra time at the airport too. Everything went off without a hitch, which considering the bad luck we had had with transportation, was nothing short of a miracle. We even had time for a yummy breakfast in the airport, including fresh squeezed orange juice and a last cup of Italian espresso. We flew Ryanair again, which if you read my blog about Dublin, you know my feelings about, but we had some beautiful views of snowy mountains on our flight.
We even got to the hostel without any problems. We couldn’t check in, but we left our bags before trying to see what we could of Barcelona in the short time we had. We got some bocadillos to eat on our way to the metro. Our trip to Paris really boosted my confidence with metro systems. I much, much prefer them to buses. The Barcelona one was intuitive and easy to use, and only 1€ per trip if you bought ten trips (which we could split between the three of us). We took the metro straight to the Sagrada Familia. It is stunning to see in person. Initially, we weren’t planning on going in, since it’s pretty pricey and we didn’t have much time in the city. But since they still had tickets available for 4:45 and Catey really wanted to go, we decided to buy tickets to come back and go in. In the time we had to wait before five, we went to Park Güell. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any tickets available before 4, and there was no way we could’ve gone in at 4 and been at the Sagrada Familia by 4:45. We tried to buy tickets ahead of time, but the website wasn’t working for at least 48 hours before we were there. Oh well! There is still a lot of the Park you can see without tickets (just none of the architectural stuff) and since its pretty high up, you have a great view of the city. We headed back with plenty of time to get into the Sagrada Familia. I am so glad we went inside. It is so impressive. It is unlike any other Basilica/cathedral I’ve seen. Obviously its much more modern than the other’s, and its just so different. The vibrant colors of the stained glass and the insane shapes of the ceiling are breathtaking. Since the sun was setting as we were visiting, the colors of the windows changed and it was amazing. I love Gaudi. I am a big fan of traditional art being reinterpreted in a modern way. Stained glass has been used in churches for hundreds of years, but he used it in a totally new way. Soaring ceilings can be found in many churches, but they don’t swirl and curve like Gaudi’s do. (I feel this way about all art forms: literature, theatre, music, dance, etc.) Also, I’m a big fan of bright colors (hence why I’m fan of people like Raphael and the neo-impressionists), so the crazy vibrant windows were just amazing to me.
After this amazing visit, we had to find a place to go to mass, since we wouldn’t have much time to go in the morning. Unfortunately they only celebrate one mass a week at La Sagrada Família at 9am on Sundays, which would have been cutting it close to make it to our train. We went to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pines, because masstimes.org told me they had a mass at 6:30. They did not. It was still cool to see the church though! It was very old and traditional, a great foil to the Sagrada Familia. After some more searching, we found that the Cathedral of Barcelona had mass at 7, and it is only two minutes from our hostel. We had to convince the guards to let us in. We asked, “Is there mass at 7?” (Because now we didn’t know if we could trust what church websites say) and they told us yes there was mass, and we couldn’t go in until it was over. We tried to tell them we were going to mass, and they said “Mass is 45 minutes, if you go in, you can’t leave until it’s over.” We finally got him to understand that we were actually going TO mass, and he let us in. Our Spanish didn’t deteriorate that much in a week of disuse, so I’m not sure what the confusion was. It might have been because the mass was in Catalan, although he didn’t mention anything about that. Fortunately, after traveling in France and Italy, we’ve gotten used to going to mass in a language we don’t understand (even in Spanish, I don’t understand a lot of the biblical language, although now I follow the mass parts easily). Catalan is more different from Castellano than I thought it was. It was actually lot easier to follow mass in Italian than in Catlan. It was a nice mass, with an adorable old man cantoring. It is a beautiful cathedral, too. It reminds me a lot of the one in Oviedo. After mass, the streets were absolutely packed with people. Barcelona is always a busy city, and this week is a big travel week in Spain because the 6th and 8th are holidays (which is why were traveling). We went back to the hostel to check in and regroup. Catey did some expert googling and found a cheap, delicious looking Mexican restaurant/bar that was only a fee minutes from the hostel. Like Chinese food, we are deprived of Mexican food in Asturias, so we were super excited. The place was packed, and the loud, friendly atmosphere let us know we were back in Spain. We had to wait for a table, but it was super worth it. We celebrated the last night of our adventure with fresh guac, frozen drinks, and giant burritos. We were back in the hostel by 10, and we were getting ready for bed as everyone else was getting up from their evening nap to get ready to go out. (Typical Spain!) It had been a long, busy day, after a long, busy week, and we slept like logs.
And that brings us to today. I am writing this on our 10 hour train ride back from Barcelona to Oviedo. I am thankful to have the time to write about all of this, because today marks the beginning of my last week in Spain. What a wild ride it has been. I can’t believe this week I’ll be doing things here for the last time, seeing things for the last time. The last time for a while, at least. I know I’ll be back to Oviedo. This quiet little city has my heart. Anyway, a mushy post about Oviedo is going to be a different post! This about Our Great Italian Adventure! (Note: I wrote this last Sunday…today is Friday. I leave tomorrow night!).
I can’t believe that in the past two weeks I saw the Eiffel Tower and the Pope. What a weird life I’m living. I can’t believe how many things I am getting to do that I’ve wanted to do for so long! Seeing Rome satisfied a very old longing for me (old for a 19-year-old, anyway.) Seeing Florence was a reawakening of my love of the cultural craziness that is the Italian Renaissance. And seeing Venice was the realization that a city known for it’s sunny summer scenes is still beautiful on a drizzly December day. And seeing Barcelona was a tiny taste of a vibrant and complicated city. People are already asking me what was my favorite. I have to say that I saw my favorite things in Rome, but as far as the city overall, I loved Florence. It literally looks like a painting. The people were very friendly, it was easy and nice to walk around, and the food was fantastic and cheap.
I am super proud of this trip. Shannon, Catey and I made it through a ten day, four city trip without any of us trying to kill each other. We faced a few challenges and got through them with relative ease and only a moderate amount of whining. We avoided the famous pit-pockets of Italy, although that was luck more than anything I think. And, very importantly, we had an absolutely amazing time. I am so thankful that we were kept safe and happy during this trip, and that I have two great girls to travel with. It’s not easy to find people who will put up with you for that many days at a time! And it’s even better when they keep you up giggling like you’re at a sleepover and you turn heads at museums because you’re all laughing about something or other.
In the bigger memory that is my semester in Spain, I will always have this memory of my amazing trip to Italy, where I saw some of the greatest works of art in the world and explored three of the most historically important cities in Europe. The five big trips I’ve gone on: Santiago de Compostela, Sevilla, Dublin, Paris, and Italy each has it’s own distinct flavor. I’m not sure how to describe it exactly, so I hope when I reread my blogs and look through the pictures I can remember the exact way these different places made me feel. I will hold the awe I felt in St Peters Basilica, the amazement I felt watching the sun set over Florence, the wonder I felt seeing the glittering ceiling of St Marks, and the joy I felt reflected in the windows of La Sagrada Familia in my heart with all the other feelings I’ve experienced here. It was an amazing journey that I’m so incredibly thankful for. As I head back to Oviedo, my home very far away from home, I feel very blessed and very happy. If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading my novella. I really appreciate everyone who has read my blogs these past months! I’m going to try to post one more time before I leave, and if not, I’ll post a goodbye to Oviedo after I get home. 🙂