10 Days in Spain Explained in 12 Pictures (part one)

January 26, 2010

My friend Caroline and I just had the adventure of a lifetime within our current adventure of a lifetime. With much-needed Christmas money in our pockets we set off for Spain, not planning much beyond a start and end date and a wish-list of cities to visit. The amazing trip spanned 12 days including travel, 5 cities, and 6 hostels. Along the way we ate dozens of tapas, drank liters of delicious sangria, and made upwards of 30 new friends. Writing detailed accounts of it all would lead to more than you would like to read, and more than I would like to write, so instead I  am presenting 12 representative photographs from the trip, with an explanation of why each is important. To my new friends who find this, I am sorry that so few of you are represented. I could write a series of entries about all of you; without our many conversations my time in Spain would not have been nearly so profound, or so enjoyable!

Sunrise from the train

I used a Eurail pass to take the overnight train from Paris to Spain. Being young and optimistic I went with the cheaper booking fee and decided that I didn’t need a bed; a reclining chair would be just fine for a night! This was a grave mistake. The noise from other guests, the constant swaying, and my resulting inability to sleep made my night pass much too slowly. Add to that my backwards facing seat and my mistake of not bringing food? Disaster. Being sick on a train is a terrible torture. I wanted nothing more than some solid ground, some fresh air, and some bread, but I had to tough out 2 more hours than expected because of the weather. I was convinced that things could only get worse, and then I saw the sunrise out of my window. Taking photographs of the orange and pink bathed seascape distracted me from my nausea enough to actually enjoy myself. As soon as I saw that sunrise I knew that the trip was going to be a good one after all!

Gaudi's Sagrada Familia

Sunshine. Caroline and I took advantage of the gorgeous weather by venturing out into the Barcelona to spend time with some of the city’s greatest monuments. The architect Antoni Gaudi created amazing buildings all throughout the city during his lifetime, and Caroline and I visited as many as we could! The innovative architect used natural and organic forms which are absolutely breathtaking! His last obsession was the construction of the Catholic church the Sagrada Familia. He spent his last years living in the crypt, but died before his work could be finished. Construction has continued, and though the original blueprints are gone, the building (which has 4 of Gaudi’s proposed 18 towers constructed) is expected to be finished in 2026 on the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death. The building took me by surprise, reminding me of beehives (the towers) and ancient Indian architecture more than anything else. But the detail and adoration of the natural world melded with the spiritual is something inexplicable and unlike anything I have seen before. I hope that they do finish it in my lifetime, because I cannot even imagine how incredible the finished building will be!

Skipping rocks on the beach

We made so many new friends in Barcelona, and when you have young friendly people staying together in a hostel everyone stays out late! We relaxed one day by having a quiet lunch and then a long walk on the beach. I have never seen so much sea-glass in my life, and my shelf above my bed is now sprinkled with pretty pieces from Barcelona’s seashore. Caroline and our new friend Mathijs skipped rocks, while another new friend named Kayla and I took dozens of beachy photographs. The fresh air and huge expanse of space swept all of my Parisian stress out to sea, which enabled us to spend a few hours collecting shells and running from the waves like little kids!

It was a lot bigger to begin with! (It took up the entire plate actually-Caroline and I each ate half)

Caroline and I left Barcelona with tears in our eyes. Our new friends hugged us and waved goodbye in a huge group from the courtyard, and we both had the feeling that we were leaving a sort of family. However, Madrid was waiting, so off we went! My friend Nathalie lived in Madrid for two years, and before the trip she sent me an enormous list full of incredibly helpful suggestions. She told us the names of some streets where we could find the best tapas, and so of course Caroline and I had to go! One reason that Caroline and I travel well together is that despite our matching string-bean frames, we both love to eat. A lot. And we are pretty adventurous in our culinary exploits! We picked the busiest restaurant, and were crushed to learn that they didn’t actually serve tapas. But what they did serve was tostas-pieces of toast topped with things like Spanish ham and fried quail eggs (absolutely incredible) or garlic ali-oli sauce with smoked salmon. We bravely asked the waiter to suggest his favorite, and that’s how we ended up eating baby eels on toast. Served cold with ali-oli and red peppers the flavor was delicious! The texture however…we did eat it all, but I am certainly not going to order that for myself again!

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