In the summer of 2015, I spent 3 weeks in Sant Cugat, Spain (just outside Barcelona) with some friends of my family. It was on that trip that I started this blog, and though the blog has changed a lot since then, I still want to preserve those old posts and put them somewhere for people to read. This is more diary than travel guide, but I definitely had fun writing these on that trip! So, if you’ve got a lot of time to kill, you can enjoy these old posts all in one place.
On The Road
June 24, 2015
My morning began sometime before six a.m. with the sounds of my usually late-sleeping sister rising early and eager to be on the road for her first trip out of the country. Kayley, of course, is only coming up to Canada to put me on the plane, but it’s still exciting for her especially with the promise of a Great Wolfe Lodge when I return in three weeks. We crossed the border around three this afternoon and stopped at a Wendy’s where I enjoyed for the first time since April some hot poutine (a Canadian dish of french fries, gravy, and cheese curds).
Now, in the early evening, we’re all exhausted despite doing nothing but sit awake in the car all day. Kayley has been recently disappointed by the lack of a pool in our hotel though, so we are headed down to the waterfront of Lake Ontario for dinner before we return and go to asleep. This has been a depressingly boring post since I haven’t done much on my trip today and only covered an important five hundred miles. Since then we spent about three hours driving through (and getting lost in) Toronto on a quest to find dinner. I’m now exhausted, so I’ll leave with a few pictures from the road before posting again on Saturday.
June 27, 2015
Hola! I’m at the point now where half the things I think are in Spanish, and I want to write this in Spanish too. I understand a lot of what everyone says though sometimes the conversation goes too quickly and I get lost. However, I’m having a lot of fun! The plane ride here was long and I only slept for twenty minutes of it, but somehow I managed to adjust quickly to the schedule and time difference here. A local Sant Cugat festival started last night, and I got to see the opening speech as well as part of a concert last night. There are activities through the weekend, which I plan to photograph and post here. I’m really enjoying my stay here in Sant Cugat del Vallés and I hope everyone likes the pictures.
June 30, 2015
As I said in my last post, Festa Major began Friday evening and continued through yesterday. It technically finished around midnight, but I was still hearing the occasional firecracker around one a.m. when I managed to fall asleep. Festa Major in past years was originally just for the youth and often got out of control, so it was shut down in 2011 and only brought back this year as a family festival. There were a lot of traditional dances, fireworks, Los Diables de Sant Cugat (in Spanish a diablo is a devil, but diable is the Catalan term), outdoor markets, and plenty of food and drink venues to experience. Saturday I went to the market since I underestimated the temperature here in my packing, and that evening I went with Marc to see the diables whose pyrotechnics got out of hand and set a tree on fire. Luckily, the fire department was already there just in case and put it out in a few minutes. Sunday had its own entertainment beginning with some traditional dance and a food competition consisting of at least fifty teams making variations of a traditional Catalan seafood dish. In the afternoon, los castillos were built by the monastery. When I saw castillos (castles) though, I don’t mean the stone kind. I’m talking about acrobatic teams climbing on top of one another to build a castle. This was also a competition; when the final one reached the top, she would wave her hand to signal time. The teams were competing for the most levels in the least amount of time. That evening, I saw a ballet…twice. I really enjoyed it at 8:00, so I went back at 11:00. Monday was the last day of Festa Major and there wasn’t much going on. For most people it was a day to rest before returning to work today, so Marc took me to Barcelona to look around. We couldn’t enter La Sagrada Familia because of a rule against wearing shorts inside. I’ll be going back later this week though, and will hopefully have the foresight to wear pants or a skirt. Monday evening concluded La Festa with a parade through the town of everyone who had previously participated in any dances or shows. This eventually went past our street as they entered the monastery and set up for a final dance. After the dance, I went with Montse and her friends to the park where there was a line of American food trucks, though the food tasted distinctly different. My hot dog for example, wasn’t very good, but the fries with the ambiguous sauce were delicious. We stayed eating and talking until 11:00 when we made our way just down the street for the fireworks that would end Festa Major. Overall, the Festa was fantastic, and I’m a little sad it’s over, but there are still plenty of other things to do in Sant Cugat and Barcelona while I’m here!
July 4, 2015
With Festa Major over, I’ve spent a lot of time exploring the city of Barcelona over the last few days. Wednesday morning began with a walk down La Ramblas and a trip to the Gothic Quarter, which has some really impressive architecture. Following that, I wanted to go to Park Guell, which when I looked on my map was six kilometers away, not a distance I felt like walking. In Placa Catalunya, there were several tour buses ready to offer rides around the city. the ride took a couple hours as I initially got on the wrong bus and saw a different part of the city, which was still interesting thanks to the audiotour that I enjoyed changing from French to English to Spanish and back. Even once I got to the stop for Park Guell, it was a gruelingly long hike up a hill to reach it, and due to already having paid for the bus, I decided to only take a few pictures from outside rather than pay to go in and explore. I stopped for lunch on my way down the hill, some cheap but good tapas tortillas, and made my way back to the train station for Sant Cugat.
Thursday, I was tired from the previous day, but went out to explore the market in Sant Cugat that seemed to offer pretty much everything. After wandering through there for a few hours, I came back to the house to relax from the heat. I discovered that afternoon, that the walk to the train station is better after a light breakfast than a heavy lunch. Still, the Museo Picasso was impressive, and being under eighteen, I got in free. Exploring Picasso’s works was really interesting, even if the museum only had a selection rather than everything. For example, there was nothing from his blue period save in the gift shop. However, I still really enjoyed it and bought a couple postcards of my favorite paintings. It was also fun on the half hour ride back to Sant Cugat to talk with Anna (Marc’s sister) almost entirely in Spanish.
Friday was another day of walking as I explored the Raval district in Barcelona. I had a few places I wanted to see and mapped out a route with the assistance of my phone and later other people since my phone is not a good navigator. I stopped in at La Boqueria, a famous indoor market that I think would have been more impressive had I needed to buy food. Following that I made my way to a famous sculpture of a fat cat and took a few selfies. From the cat, it was half a mile to the Museum of Contemporary Art where I spent about three hours browsing. While the Museo Picasso was interesting in its depiction of Picasso’s style changes through life, the contemporary art museum had an intriguing variety of artists and styles brought together in a thought-provoking, but aesthetic way. I also liked that they had free guides to each of the exhibits with quotes from some of the artists. Friday evening, I watched a movie after dinner with Montse (Marc’s mom). I really enjoyed the movie, but it didn’t finish until after one a.m., so I slept in a little late this morning.
Following a late breakfast, I fell back asleep having gotten only six hours of sleep before the sun woke me. During lunch we began a three-hour Italian movie that was also really good, and just finished thirty-seven minutes ago. Tomorrow, with everyone off work, we plan to visit Girona and la playa. If you don’t know what either of those are, you can look them up or just wait until I write again on Tuesday. I’m really enjoying my time here in Spain, despite the heat and ensuing sunburn. I’m not sure three weeks will be enough. 🙂
July 6, 2015
During their rule, the Romans settled many places. Spain has at least twenty or so towns with some Roman origins. Of these towns, Barcelona and Girona are only two. Since Girona is more of a day-trip distance than a twenty minute train ride, we all hopped in the car yesterday morning to go. (One thing I’m learning about Spanish time is that “Let’s go at 9:30” means “We’ll leave at 10:00.”) For most people in Spain, you can walk or take the metro to school, work, and anywhere else you need to go. There’s no need for large cars. Needless to say, fitting five of us into the family car was very tight.
Girona today is a city somewhere between the sizes of Barcelona and Sant Cugat. We arrived in the newer part of the town to park and made our way up to the old part. When I say up, I mean rising a large vertical distance through very steep, very long staircases. However, the hike up was worth it to see the cathedral. The place where it is built was originally the Roman forum built in the second century though it has been built upon over the last two thousand years to become what we see today. For perspective, people have lived in Girona for 1200 years before Columbus reached the Americas. If a generation is considered to be twenty-five years, there have been eighty generations of people in Girona. That may not sound like a lot, but I doubt you can count back eighty generations in your own family tree.
Anyway, the cathedral looks more like a castle than what we think of as a cathedral. The gardens are probably one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Inside of course, it has more of a traditional high-ceilinged, elaborately-carved cathedral feel. They also have a small museum of relics and The Tapestry of Creation that you can look at though not take pictures of. There’s a link here in English to learn more and see some pictures with captions.
After exploring in Girona, we made our way to Aiguablava, a very pretty Mediterranean beach with unbelievably clear water. It was also rather cold until you swam for about ten minutes to warm up. Still, it was a very photogenic beach with only tiny fish and some sea grass in the water. It was impressive to tread water where it was nearly twenty feet deep, but still see the bottom with perfect clarity. It got deeper further out, though I suspect the water was still mostly clear; however, swimmers were not allowed past the yellow buoys.
By the time we returned to the house, it was about eight thirty though we were all exhausted. After quickly typing up some French homework and eating dinner, I, and everyone else, went to bed on another hot Spanish night.
Walking…and lots of it
July 11, 2015
As the title suggests, I did a lot of walking this week from three miles around the city Wednesday to a little over six miles today (It felt like more). Tuesday was a pretty relaxing day other than taking a walk around Marc’s campus. He attends the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, which is known for its physics department. For an idea, Marc currently works at CERN.
So, after resting for the afternoon, I headed out to Barcelona the next morning with a couple things to see in mind. Number one was La Pedrera, a work by Gaudi that was originally hated and said to look like a stone quarry before eventually being praised as ahead of its time. The walk there wasn’t much of a problem. The steep admission fee was. I decided that for a two hour wait and twenty euros, the building wasn’t worth it. My next stop was a little farther: La Sagrada Familia. Luckily for me, this other Gaudi masterpiece offers plenty of touristy excitement outside as well as in. While the admission fee was pretty good (I’m young=I’m cheap), I still would have had a five-hour wait to see the inside. Once again, not really worth it. In other words, Wednesday was good for sightseeing, exercise, and picture-taking, but not touring.
Thursday included another long walk. It took a few hours for me to get motivated enough to even move. Once I did, I returned to Barcelona and did a thing most tourists don’t do: walk up Montjuïc from Plaça Catalunya. The walk wouldn’t be so bad at only two miles either way. It only gets bad when you start going up the unshaded, poorly-marked road. Halfway up the mountain, I gave in and paid for the lift. This was actually a good investment as I was able to talk to my fellow riders in a mix of Spanish, English, and French. Dutch would also have been available for me to practice if I’d known it. Once at the castle on the hill, I took a few pictures before riding back down and getting lost on my way along the embarrassingly straight road to Plaça Catalunya. I’m not entirely sure how this happened as my phone (unreliable as it is) said that I simply needed to “continue straight for 0.7 miles.” I got lost after 0.3 and had to ask for directions. Thursday evening was also interesting as it was the start of a week-long course on International Relations at the local (I kid you not) Peace University. The opening ceremony included an enjoyable play based off Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer.”
Friday morning (surprise, surprise) I showed up at the university for the first lecture of the course. I won’t bore anyone with the details though the lectures themselves were interesting. Basically, it was a normal school day: I arrived at 9:00 with “class” beginning at 9:30. At 11:30 there was a coffee break until the second lecture at noon, which let out around two for lunch. The third lecture began at 16:30 (4:30 pm) and went a little late so that the fourth lecture of the day began at 18:10. This one also ran late and it was nearly 20:00 by the time I got back to the house. Still, a very enjoyable and educational day.
I didn’t attend the lectures today though they sounded pretty interesting. Where was I? That’s actually the subject of Tuesday’s blog, so instead, I’ll leave you with a picture at the bottom of the post and we’ll see if anyone can guess.
July 14, 2015
That’s right; Saturday’s trip was Montserrat. Most people probably know the abbey for Our Lady of Montserrat, a statue of the Black Madonna found there in the 9th century. We did go in the monastery, and it was cool to see the statue, but my favorite part of the trip was the 10k of hiking through the mountains. We went up to Sant Jeroni, which may or may not be the highest point in Catalunya…I don’t know how high the Pyrenees are. Anyway, elevation is 4055 feet, so it was pretty high up. Going up there were a lot of stairs, which I didn’t like, but it was really worth it for the view!
After that, Sunday was a day of rest until late evening when we drove around Barcelona a bit and saw the fuentes at Plaça España. Once arriving back at the flat, we celebrated a birthday with desert flan being brought out at 11:59 pm and the meal finishing around 1 am. It was still a lot of fun. Yesterday, again, I attended class at the university for the morning and came home for the afternoon where (sob) I started packing. Last night, Montse and I took a quick trip to Sitges, a cool little beach town that we turned into a photo-op. Believe me, I’m posting very few of the pictures taken there. Today, I plan to go back to Barcelona for the last time (on this trip anyway).
I’ll be sad when I have to leave here because I’ve enjoyed it so much. I hope one day to come back to Spain, especially Catalunya. I’ll still have a post on Saturday to sum up the trip, but after that the blog will return to just posting on Tuesdays. Until then.
July 19, 2015
Going to Spain was the trip of a lifetime, and it was utterly incredible! I’m really sad that it’s over now, though it is nice to be back at home writing this from my own desk. I haven’t taken many photos since my last post on Tuesday, but I do have a few to sum up the trip, so here goes. After this my blog will return to normal posts on Tuesdays.