My trip up the shore: Alicante, Tarragona, and Barcelona
The city of Barcelona, full of beautiful buildings, endless shopping, and Gaudi’s legacy throughout the city. It was a great two days spent in a city that could entertain me for weeks. I highly recommend this city for anyone visiting Spain and advise a well-planned trip during the warmer months.
To begin the trip, the Erasmus group set off on Thursday at noon with the first destination of Alicante. Alicante is another ocean city about four hours north of Almeria. It has a population of 334,000 and has beautiful beaches and flowers lining the streets. This city was actually my original choice to study abroad until I discovered Almeria. After arriving in Alicante by bus, we ventured to the Castillo de Santa Bárbara that can be seen from any part of the city due to its hilltop location. Unfortunately, the weather was dreary and the highest part of the the castle was closed off due to safety reasons. Before continuing the trip we stopped for some tapas and some Spanish gyros that were delicious. I will return to Alicante for my flight to Germany later this month so I am hoping for better weather and the ability to see more of Alicante’s landmarks.
|At the Castillo de Santa Bárbara|
A seven hour bus ride (with long stops) took us to Tarragona, another beach city about an hour south of Barcelona. Only two hours were dedicated to this part of the trip so the only landmark I saw was the Amphitheater of Tarragona. The beach was pretty as well, but from the small area I visited I would not consider it a “must-see city” in Spain.
After grabbing a pastry it was back to the bus for the final destination of Barcelona. The first stop was Parc Güell, a famous park designed by Gaudi that was constructed between 1900 and 1914. This destination was necessary for my trip to be considered successful and it was everything I had hoped for. The main focus of the park is a grand plaza centered on a giant horseshoe bench made of mosaic tiles. This plaza had a perfect view of the city where I was able to point out La Sagrada Familia and the old Olympic grounds. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this park was huge and had numerous paths to walk on and views of the city to discover. It is a place than any traveler to Barcelona must put in their itinerary. The evening was wrapped up with dinner at a restaurant called “Happy”, an Americanized burger joint which was rather successful in providing an American restaurant experience.
|Benches in the plaza or Parc Guell|
Saturday was full of site seeing throughout the city beginning with the Catedral de Barcelona that was constructed in 1450. With this being my first visited cathedral in Europe, I was overwhelmed by its size and intricate detail. The great thing about this site and many places in Barcelona is that they pop up out of no where. One can walk down the street to find a gelato shop and can stumble upon a church that has marks on the outside walls from the Guerra Civil (Civil War of Spain). Next we ventured to Parc de la Ciutadella for lunch with a bocadillo (sandwhich) in hand. This area was a perfect place to relax in the sun and enjoy the surrounding area that included the zoo, museums and the Arco de Triomf. This overwhelming structure was a gift from Gustave Eiffel, the designer of the Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower was originally presented to Barcelona in honor of them hosting the International Exposition in 1888. Barcelona declined this gift because they felt it was too modern for the historic city. Paris hosted the International Exposition the following year and thought it would be perfect for the forward thinking city. Therefore Paris ended up with the Eiffel Tower and Barcelona was presented with the Arco de Triomf.
|Inside the Catedral|
|Parc de la Ciutadella|
|Arco de Triomf|
The evening continued with a tour of buildings designed by Gaudi. Casa Batlló was very close to our hostel and was a beautiful building, especially at night. Next we ventured the famous Casa Mila and ended with the astounding Sagrada Familia. This structure is a breathtaking piece of art that Gaudi began in 1882 and one hundred years later it has yet to be completed. Eighteen spires will top the basilica along with its intricate details of the birth of Jesus. Due to its one hundred year construction period, the different phases of construction and architects are visible by the aging of the stones. It is hoped that the basilica will be completed by 2026 (100 years after Gaudi's death), but since the construction is only funded by donations, it will probably take much longer. It is evident what section was completed during Gaudi’s lifetime and what sections other architects have finished, due to Gaudi’s intricate detail and style. On the grounds there is a small park for children to play and a school that the worker’s children may attend. Once the basilica is finished, the surrounding buildings will be torn down to make room for a grand plaza. I hope to revisit Barcelona once La Sagrada Familia is finished and see the complete building Gaudi dreamed of. I also recommended visiting the basilica during its operating hours since I made the mistake of going after 6:00pm and missed out on the inside.
|Gaudi's Casa Batlló|
|Part of La Sagrada Familia completed during Gaudi's lifetime|
1. I recommend Equity Point hostel for young travelers. It was close to Casa Bastlló and walking distance to La Rambla, La Sagrada Familia and Barcelona’s shopping scene. The beds were comfortable and the bathrooms were always clean. It was a great first hostel experience!
2. Allow time to really see the city. Two days was not long enough to visit all of the sites I hoped to see.
3. Go deep into the backstreets of Barcelona for authentic food, rather than the overpriced restaurants on busy streets (La Rambla).
4. Be smart about important documents and money. Barcelona is one of Spain’s top cities for theft so always be mindful of your surroundings.
5. When traveling on the metro buy a 10 trip ticket for 9,58 euros rather than one ticket at a time for 2 euros. These tickets can be passed back and shared by as many people as there are trips.