Sagrada Família & Sailing Away

One of Barcelona’s most famous must-sees is the Basilica of the Sagrada Família, the largest church in the city designed by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí. Although the construction of the church began in 1882 it is still unfinished… and it is insane. Your trip to Barcelona cannot be complete without seeing this amazing place– the details, combination of different architectural styles, and overall grand size of it is an amazing site. I was surprised my weeks in the city leading up to that point I never caught a glimpse of it, but after a quick 20 minute walk from my place my friend and I arrived. Be sure to purchase tickets ahead of time (only 15,00€)  because you are assigned specific entrance times into the cathedral- purchasing ahead will let you skip a big wait time to get in!

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If the outside of the Sagrada Família isn’t enough to make your jaw drop just wait until you get inside. It was so interesting to me that despite the fact the church is over 100 years old since its construction began, the inside felt extremely futuristic to me. I could probably lay on the floor and stare at the ceiling for hours, and the way the stained glass was arranged it gave the inside a complete spectrum flood of light.

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Later that day we decided to experience another amazing site in the city and were determined to find a great rooftop bar nearby. We ended up deciding on the Skybar on the rooftop of the Grand Hotel Central and it was the perfect place to relax with a glass (or two!) of Spanish wine and enjoy the sunset.
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The next day we had reserved a spot for a brunch sailing trip with Sailing Experience Barcelona. After browsing a lot of sailing options available in Barcelona we decided on this one because #1 the price was right, #2 it came with free drinks, and #3 it wasn’t a total booze cruise. You know you’re inching toward 30 when the idea of a booze cruise sounds like a crowded boat with a group of young people getting too drunk and being super annoying. I mean we wanted to do some nice day drinking like everyone does, but we also wanted it to be a relaxing experience. After a few croissants, cheese and cured meats, we set off out of the marina with glasses of white wine in hand. Our skipper was wonderful, not only was she very attentive (even provided us with fleece jackets when it got chilly out in the water) but she was extremely knowledgable about Barcelona’s history which we learned about while gazing back at the city from the water.

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SauvignonBlue-Barcelona145When we returned safely to shore we took a short walk over to Barceloneta Beach, ordered  a bottle of Cava, and enjoyed some bubbles with more ocean views. For me it was so nice to actually take an entire day off from work, no laptop was opened that day. After an afternoon nap (much needed after a lot of sun and a little day buzz!) we ended the night with some delicious sushi.

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What did you think of Gaudí’s Sagrada Família? Pretty cool right?! The next day we went to another one of his famous places in Barcelona (another must-see of course). Check back at the next post to see our experience at the beautiful Park Güell.

Balancing Work y La Playa

The day after arriving in Barcelona it was time for me to get back to keeping up with work. I’ve been asked a lot by people I’ve met out here if I’m here for work or pleasure, and I always answer with both. Do I have to be in Spain for work? No. Am I on vacation? Not exactly. I’ve had to find a balance between wanting to explore the city all day and making myself stay put to get my work hours in. It definitely makes it easier that there is so much to do work wise and my travels depend on getting it done, but there are definitely those times where I look out the window from my apartment on a beautiful sunny day and just want to close my computer for the rest of the day and go to the beach.

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I found in the early mornings or later evenings (when the sun isn’t directly in my eyes and on my screen!) our little patio is the perfect spot to enjoy the amazing weather while still knocking out some projects on our apartment’s wifi. It’s definitely necessary to switch up your environment when you’re working from home. When you’re not surrounded by coworkers in a regular office environment sometimes the change of scenery helps stimulate your mind and you can get more accomplished.

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Another routine I have started while working remotely out here in Barcelona is my midday break. Usually I throw on a pair of sneakers for a run, but other times just a casual pair of sandals for a walk around the neighborhood. With the time difference between here and Atlanta, GA I can usually get back from my afternoon explorations by the time everyone else over there is just getting to work- perfect timing. This has helped me break up the day while still feeling like I’m taking in more and more of the city each day.  And with SO many beautiful places to still explore there is always more to see.
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Once the weekend came I was ready to treat it like a true weekend. Now I did still open my computer for a few hours of work here and there, mainly just to make up some time  from earlier in the week during my travels. On Saturday despite the cloudy skies I made my way down to Port Olímpic, right next to Barceloneta Beach. Thankfully once I got there after 2 metro rides the clouds had moved past the beach and I still was able to get a few hours of sun in.

On Sunday I went to Basílica Santa Maria del Mar, what a beautiful interior of a church. I have a thing for cathedrals, they always make it to my must-see list when visiting a city. The architecture, soaring ceilings, stained glass and attention to detail is so beautiful. From there I took a walk back down to… you guessed it… the beach. 🙂 I can’t help it, I am in love with the ocean and needed to take full advantage of now living so close to it. Although my neighborhood in Barcelona is not right near the water, a nice long walk or a quick metro ride gets me there in no time. After another full day enjoying the sun it was time to wind down, get some tapas and prepare to get back to work.

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A Day of Firsts in Barcelona

Sipping the best cappuccino ever outside a café across the street from apartment in Barcelona, I’m proud of myself to finally be up before 10am. It’s taken almost a week to get on track with this new timezone, and I’m happy to say I’m almost there!  It’s been an exciting beginning to this three month journey abroad, and what would a solo trip be without something huge going wrong at the start.

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My flight from ATL to Barcelona was scheduled to leave at 5:30pm, so I planned to head to the airport around 2pm. Earlier that afternoon, all packed and ready to go, I decided to check in on my phone for my Air France flight. I got to the last step of the checkin process after entering my confirmation code and my passport information, but wasn’t allowed to check in because my trip apparently required a visa for the over 90day stay. I thought, okay well since I won’t be in Barcelona for the entire 90 days it’ll be fine, Im basically switching each country after a month if not sooner. Obviously I just needed to clear up this misunderstanding since I would only be in Spain for 30 days. After speaking with the embassy I in fact learned that as a US citizen you’re not allowed to be in Europe as a WHOLE for over 90 days (not just per country), and my flight reservation was for 95 days. They basically weren’t going to let me on the plane that day! To make matters worse I had booked my ticket through an external flight savings site, not the actual airline, so when I called to move up my return flight I was told they could not. About an hour or so later of playing cat and mouse between the two companies (each saying they were unable to change my reservation), I was finally able to change my ticket home to a week earlier.

Lesson learned… as a U.S. citizen don’t book a trip over 90 days to Europe, and don’t book your flight through an external site. I may have saved a few hundred in the beginning not booking directly with the airline, but I paid that right back to alter my flight.

I’ve been told with Southwest you can change your reservation for free, but you don’t always get to choose your preferred airline everywhere you go. Anyways, I was finally able to check in to my flight, and that rush of stress and panic slowly started to fade away. After a few glasses of Sauvignon Blanc at the airport, I was stress-free and excited to travel across the Atlantic. 9 hours, 2 cheesy chick flicks and an attempt at sleeping later, we touched down in Barcelona, Spain at 8:30am. Customs was a breeze at the airport, since it was my first time in Europe all I had to compare it to was traveling to Central America… which requires paperwork and scanning all your luggage. After just a quick stamp of my passport, I grabbed my backpack at baggage claim and jumped in a taxi to go to my new home for the month. Luckily I had written the address on a slip of paper so there was so issue communicating to them where I needed to go. I seriously should have worked more on my Spanish before coming…

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We arrived to the Gràcia neighborhood in Barcelona and I was dropped off on this little pedestrian only street where my apartment was. The driver told me #20 was just right over there, so I started walking down the street. After then being chased down by the driver, he told me it was literally right on that corner and I had walked right passed it. Thank God for him because I probably would have walked the whole block, half awake after barely any sleep, and loaded up with luggage looking for this place. As I looked at the options to dial in my host lady on the buzzer, none of the names matched hers. I looked back at my info and saw her apartment was #1…. all the names had a 1 next to them. I started to just push all the buttons on the list, and after a few tries my host lady answered and let me in the building.

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The entry area and beginning of the stairwell is marble and colored tiles, so pretty and so old. I made my way up the tiny stairs which turned into terra-cotta tiled stairs, tightly winding up until I reached the third floor. Quite a hike I must say when you’re loaded down with all your belongings, but I was thankful I had decided on the backpack as opposed to a rolling suitcase. THAT would have been hell to carry up those little stairs. Maria was very sweet, brought me to my room, showed me all around her adorable, very traditional style apartment, made me a coffee (or cafe as I should say!), and walked me through the map of where we are located  and how to use the metro in Barcelona. After unpacking my luggage and settling into my room I set out to wander the streets of my new home for the month.

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Being that it was my first time in Spain, and Europe in general, I was entranced by the city as a whole– the architecture, all the tiny streets, balconies everywhere with people, plants and flags hanging from them (no hanging people, just hanging flags FYI). It was so beautiful and I wandered around for hours taking in the constant views of this vibrant city. The only thing I could compare it to at the time was being in NYC, but this was way more beautiful, cleaner and slower paced. People just strolling around, hanging out on benches everywhere, chatting away and sipping on their drink of choice.  I started with just my neighborhood of Gràcia, and ended up walking all the way down through the gothic quarter to the marina. The water here in Barcelona is so blue I decided I had to see the beach before returning home. After making my way through the crowds of Port Vall, I reached Barceloneta Beach where crowds of people were enjoying the sun and ocean views. I spent my first euros on some tapas for an early dinner, and after an exhausting first day I was ready to get back home to rest.

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Another amateur move of mine– I left that afternoon to explore wearing little sandals with absolutely no support, thinking “o well I’ll just be around the neighborhood”. Hours later my feet were definitely hurting so it was time for another first of mine– taking the Barcelona metro to my stop in Gràcia. With a little help of an elderly couple in the station I figured out which direction I was supposed to be heading and piled in that cramped train for the first time, exiting at my stop (called Fontana which funny enough is the city in California where I was born).  With the exception of a few hiccups along the way I was finally here, ready to really begin this journey of mine alone in a foreign country.