Well, I made it to Barcelona all in one piece! On Saturday, I left Arantza’s apartment at 7:45 (it was sad to say bye to them) and rolled my luggage though the noisy Getxo sidewalks to go to the metro station. Even though it was a Saturday morning, I thought that all the drunks wouldn’t be on my train, because I was heading towards the city (all the drunks should be heading away from the city towards the suburbs). But alas, as the metro pulled up I saw that it was packed full of drunk people; I forgot that there was a festival in Plentzia and now everyone is heading back home. Luckily I managed to spot out the car that was the least packed and found a spot to put all my luggage. The bus ride wasn’t too bad and I also found out that the movie “Twlight” sucks as much in Spanish as in English. I arrived at the bus station in Madrid and took a taxi to the hotel.
The tours of Madrid and Toledo were great. I got placed into the Spanish-speaking group, so all our tours of la Reina Sofía, El Prado, and Toledo were all conducted in Spanish. On the first night there I did something that I regretted not doing the last time I was in Madrid: tapas. My roommate, John, and I went to a little bar in La Plaza Mayor, sat on the terrace and ate delicious tapas (hot fried chorizo and croquetas) with some sangría.
The second day was the day of museum trips. We went to the modern art museum, Reina Sofía, at 9:30 and then to the classic art museum, El Prado, at 12:30. Both tours were really good and I liked seeing all the art works that I got to see last time I was in Madrid. After that, we relaxed a little bit before heading out to do a lot of sight seeing. We went to la Plaza de España, el Templo de Debod, el Palacio Real, la Plaza Mayor, la Puerta del Sol, the two main fountains, and el Parque Retiro. Whew…
The next morning we went off to Toledo, the religious capital of Spain. It’s a great old city and it’s what I think of when I think of Spain: cobblestone streets, gothic cathedrals and narrow alleyways. We went to a monestary that Queen Isabel built to thank God for being on her side (Monasterio De San Juan De Los Reyes), a Muslim-style church, and the place where they keep El Greco’s masterpiece “The Burial of the Count of Orgaz.” We then ate at the same café I ate at last time I was in Toledo, and that damned McDonald’s was still there…
And now the moment you all have been waiting for…my first thoughts from BARCELONA (it is the title of the blog after all :p )
- Spanish is actually spoken on the streets. This surprised me because I came to Barcelona thinking that people would only be speaking Catalan. However, all signs, advertisements and metro stops are in Catalan and I do hear a lot of people speaking Catalan on the streets and metro. We also got a basic English-Catalan or Spanish-Catalan book at orientation today, complete with a quick grammar lesson and pronunciation guide.
- The fusion of the old and the new is absolutely amazing. I love gothic architeture but I also love modernism. Barcelona is a perfect balance of both; it has its own Gothic quarter with the narrow streets, impressive cathedrals and cobblestone roads but you can definitely spot Dalí’s and modernist influences. It’s truly the best of both worlds
- The people here are definitely proud of their Catalonian heritage. In my time here I have only seen one Spanish flag being flown that wasn’t on a government building. There are many Catalonian flags on the balconies of apartments.
This Saturday is a holiday, the National Day of Catalonia (also called Diada in Catalan), so I plan on checking out the festivities; if it’s anything like Aste Nasugia in Bilbao then I’m in for a real treat.
Sorry about the youtube videos too. The internet here in the apartment fades in and out sometimes (I’m pirating internet again, arrrrrrrgh) so I’m going to have to go to the ISA office to upload them and I will let you know when they are there.
One last thing before I go to bed (I got class tomorrow!): My pictures from Madrid/Toledo can be view here