Wow. At the start of this year, I had been to 49 states in my lovely country, but only one other country (S/O Canada). Now I have been to 49 states and six other countries!!! WOOOO!
So I have just returned from my action-packed two week venture around Europe, so I figure the best way for me to get all of my amazing experiences out there without overwhelming you (and myself) would be to break it down by place. So our first stop is Barcelona, Spain! I met my sister, Katy, at Gatwick Airport on Friday after school, and from there we flew together to the first place in this journey; Barcelona, Spain!
- I met my sister, Katy, at Gatwick Airport on Friday after school. It was wonderful to see her, and it felt so normal yet so off to have her sitting next to me in a completely different country than usual. It was like two worlds colliding.
- We left Gatwick at 9.40 and landed in Barcelona at 12.50 AM. The airline “misplaced” our luggage (clue me in if you understand how this happens because that’s just ridiculous to me) and we ended up waiting around for them to “find” it until 2.30 AM. During that time, I video called my mom who was shopping with my grandma and snagged this adorable screenshot!
- We had told our hotel we would be arriving around 1.30 AM and were nervous that our 3.15 AM arrival would mean we wouldn’t be able to get in until the early morning. We could’ve kissed the ground the receptionist walked on as she came and opened to door for us.
- We reached our room and I immediately plugged in my phone to make sure it was ready to go for our busy coming day. We were happy to see that this hotel had USB ports in their outlets, so we didn’t have to worry about converters! Or at least, I didn’t…
- Kate flew 3,000 miles from home, was over the weight limit on her suitcase, and yet a noise maker made the cut (she sleeps better with the sound of a fan in the background). She plugged it into the converter and into the outlet, and about five seconds later it smelled like burning plastic and the electricity in our room went out. Lovely. She refused to go down and ask for help until the morning, so my phone was stuck at 40%.
- We went to sleep around 3.45-4 AM.
- We woke up at 8 AM to get ready for our 10.30 Sagrada Família ticket time.
- Kate had to go down to the front desk to ask for someone to fix our electricity. The noise maker was not used again throughout our trip! Yay for me!
- We left around 9, got coffee at Costa, and made the 30 minute walk there.
- I was absolutely blown away by the Sagrada Família! Kate had been telling me “Oh just wait until you see it! You’re going to love it!” and I thought “Yeah I guess the pictures look cool but what’s the big woop?”
- THE BIG WOOP IS THAT THIS IS THE MOST INTRICATE, DETAILED, AND THOUGHT OUT PIECE OF ARCHITECTURE I HAVE EVER SEEN! Antonio Gaudi designed the entire building and started its construction in 1883, and it won’t be finished until (hopefully) 2026. It’s that detailed.
- Gaudi was a very faithful man, and through his designs of this church, you can see how intentional every piece was. It was a truly magical experience.
- We went for lunch after to a place where we couldn’t read the menu but both ended up with great food.
- We continued walking to Park Güell, which is another of Gaudi’s creations. This is a beautiful park with lots of lovely nature and great walking paths. There were lots of people out enjoying the sunshine and taking in the stunning view of Barcelona that it offered. This park is also the home of the Gaudi House Museum, so we explored that a little as well. It was interesting to learn a little more about him, but if you are on a time crunch, this can definitely be skipped!
- We made our first gelato stop and it was fantastic. I wish I could remember the name of it to recommend it.
- As we walked back to our hotel, we walked into all the cute shops and ended up buying some new things. I really encourage this!!! There were lots of cute things and the prices were wonderful. Much, much cheaper than the rest of Europe!
- We went back to our hotel for a siesta (at around 2-4ish, many places in Barcelona close. People take this time to grab food, relax with friends, or take a nap. We chose the latter).
- After our siesta, we got ready for dinner. Dinner in Barcelona isn’t even open until around 8.30, so we decide to go back out to some of the shops on our street before going to dinner. We have a problem, we know.
- For dinner, we decided just to start walking and go wherever looked good. We didn’t end up going until around 9, just so you can grasp where we are in our time frame! We ended up in a place with pasta that we (again) couldn’t read the menu. Our waiter didn’t speak very much English, but he was very funny and tried his best to help us with the menu. All of the staff interacted with us and were very friendly. The food was okay, mostly because we had no clue what we were ordering, but the people would have been worth going back for.
- We went back to our hotel around 11, and Kate decided she wanted to see the Sagrada Familia at night. So we walked the 30 minute walk there, took some pictures of it at night (which it’s beautiful regardless, but it was cool to see at night), and started to head back to the hotel. One of Katy’s favorite things from her trip abroad four years ago were the kebabs that are open all night. We found one on our walk back and decided that midnight was a perfect time for dinner round #2.
- We got back to the hotel, ate our kebabs, and went to sleep around 12.30-1.
- We woke up around 8 AM again. After getting ready for the day, we walked down to a little cafe and ate breakfast. We both had the eggs benedict and Kate got a parfait as well, and they all were great. However, we had the wrong food and drinks brought to our table twice. They were not the most observant bunch.
- We went to Casa Batlló, which is another one of Gaudi’s works. The detail is insane and the colors are absolutely spectacular. They gave each of us an interactive audio guide, which was nice. It was one of the better of the audio tours we had on our trip. I, unfortunately, was not able to enjoy this as much as I would’ve because I was feeling sick. Luckily, the stop after I was feeling poorly was on the roof, so Kate and I laid down in the sun. I was able to spend 20 minutes just soaking in the sun and breathing, which helped immensely. We continued on the tour and got a super duper adorable picture taken! We caved and bought it. The physical copy now sits on my window sill, and it makes me smile to see! (:
- We walked around the town center, which included a big, beautiful fountain and plenty of tourists. We fit right in.
- We bought this delicious doughnut-looking-thing at a dessert shop, and because Kate is gluten-free (on this trip she had to take some weird pill to help her process most of what she eat, because who is going to go to Europe without eating pasta and pizza?!) I had to eat the whole thing on my own. *Sigh.* If you insist.
- We had a late lunch of seafood paella, which I fell absolutely in love with. I’m sitting here now craving it with no clue how to make it or where I could get it. Oh darn, I guess I’ll have to go back to Barcelona soon!
- We went back to our hotel, had a little siesta, then got ready to see ED SHEERAN IN CONCERT IN BARCELONA! *cough cough* Sorry, lost my cool there for a second remembering it.
- We were looking up the best ways to get there, and my phone told me there was an app called Cabify that you could use like Uber. It looked to be pretty cheap, so we decided to try it out.
- Cabify ended up being one of my favorite finds from this trip. It was so handy, easy, and enjoyable! Our driver was pleasant and extremely professional. His car was immaculate. There were mints and free waters for us to take. And, the best part, there was free wifi in the car! It was amazing. Our 20 minute ride across town cost us 8 Euros. To a concert, too!
- Next, we saw Ed Sheeran in Barcelona, and it was one of my favorite concerts I’ve been to. Both of the openers were great. Our seats were lovely. And of course, I have zero complaints about Mr. Ed Sheeran. This was my 4th time seeing him live, and his artistry and pure talent amaze me each time. On his new album, he has a song called Barcelona (that’s where the title of this blog is from so credit to you, Ed). So we got to hear him sing Barcelona IN Barcelona, which he commented on multiple times as being such an amazing moment. I promise, it was for me, too.
- We were nervous how we would be getting back to the hotel after, but we figured it would be the same as a show we’d go to in Indy where there are lines of taxis waiting for you after. It was not. Or at least, we couldn’t find them if they were there. Kate had gotten us a 3 day bus pass, so we figured we could try that out. The bus stop line was crazy long, and we truly didn’t know where it was taking us, but we figured if it got us back to central Barcelona that we could make our way from there.
- We went as far as the bus would take us and ended up in Spanish Square. This was still quite a way from our hotel. Another great thing about Barcelona is that they offer free city WiFi! It’s not the quickest or most reliable, but it worked enough for me to order us another Cabify to take us back to our hotel.
- Our driver this time was incredibly friendly and again was dressed in a suit, had free waters and mints, and had WiFi in the car. What’s not to love?! He also gave me his phone to be DJ. You just can’t beat that for 8 Euros.
- We hadn’t eaten dinner year, so we decided to get comfy and walk down to the McDonald’s that was about 15 minutes from our hotel at midnight. When we go to McDonald’s at home, my dad always says “Why are you guys acting like it’s the first time you’ve seen the menu?! How many times have we been here!” when we hesitate on what to get and stare at the menu. This, however, was like the first time we’ve seen the menu. Same basics, but different names for things and little twists that make you take your time when figuring out what to get. Kate went first and asked for two McDoubles without the bun which got them all sorts of confused. We had to grab a picture and she had to point at it and say “No bread” while the lady just looked at her confused. I told her that it makes Katy sick, and she said “Oh, gluten?” Turns out, at this McDonald’s they have gluten-free buns that you can order! That was unexpected but Kate was very pleased. I got some specialty burger that I figured I could only get in Spain and a McFlurry that had some Spanish candy in it. We got our food and walked back to the hotel where we enjoyed our McDonald’s while calling our families back home. I got to see my puppy for a brief second, and I kept calling my nickname for her “Booger!” and she was trying to figure out where it was coming from. She kept looking at the door and it broke my heart I could have a little cuddle with her! The men in my family had a race and had just gotten home, so we were able to see our dad and brothers as well. The three of them are very invested in go-kart racing and make up Stahl Racing, and many of my favorite weekends are spent watching them at the track. It’s one of the things I miss the most, right behind them, of course.
- We went to sleep around 1.30 AM…I think.
- Our flight out of Barcelona was at 6 PM, so we decided to spend our limited time left in Spain on bikes. We woke up at 7.30 AM, had everything packed, left our luggage at the hotel, grabbed some coffee, and walked to a bike rental place and grabbed some bikes.
- Renting bikes was probably the best move we did on this trip. We ended up biking past everything we had walked to over the past two days in 5 hours. We had bike locks included, so we were able to walk around and enjoy the day. We stopped at a market and bought some paella for lunch. One of my favorite parts was riding by the beach and enjoying the sunshine. I would definitely recommend using bikes if you’re considering going to Barcelona!!!
- Our bikes were 16 euros each for the whole day, but we were only able to use ours for 5 hours before we needed to get going to make our flight. We walked back to our hotel, grabbed our bags, and made sure we were getting on the right buses to get to the airport. The receptionist said we were on the right track, and with that we were off.
- We did everything right and got on the 27 bus outside our hotel and took it to the Spanish Square. We found the shuttle to the airport and waiting to hop on. Once we did, the man told us that we had to pay the fare. We asked him why our pass didn’t cover that, to which he didn’t answer, so we had to pay anyway. SO moral of the story is, just use bikes and Cabify.
- We got to the airport, checked our bags (somehow we both were under 23 kg!), and then through security. Pretty soon we were hoping on the plane and were off to our next destination; Zürich, Switzerland! Stay tuned for my next blog about the land of cheese, chocolate, and Alps!
What I Would Change:
- I would’ve taken a guided tour of the Sagrada Familia to learn more of the history and stories behind the place. People have a much better way of making you feel connected to history than wall signs and pamphlets.
- I wouldn’t have gotten the eggs benedict so I could’ve enjoyed Casa Batlló to the fullest.
- We wouldn’t have gotten the 3 day bus pass, and instead rent bikes every day.
- Kate and I were matching when we showed up to the airport. S/O to my mom for always buying us matching clothes for Christmas!
- Katy is convinced Coca-Cola is better in Europe, so if you’re going, she would suggest you get some.
- They love their glass bottles. If we got a pop, it usually came in a glass bottle and they would give you a glass with it to pour it into. Although who doesn’t love drinking out of a class glass bottle?!
- When we were at Park Güell, there was an instrumental band playing that we fell in love with. Here is a website with some of the videos others have taken of them, apparently they’re there a lot and many peoples’ favorites! Look for them if you find yourself in Barcelona sometime soon! They’re called “The Passaport.” https://wn.com/the_passport_band_in_park_g%C3%BCell_barcelona
- The kebabs that Katy loves so much are not the kebabs that we think of in America. It’s not a bunch of meat, veggies, or fruit on a stick. Instead, it’s a bunch of meat and sauce and other stuff I’m clueless about in a tortilla. So don’t be confused if you see a sign for kebabs and it’s not what you expected!
- There was this crazy long line of people waiting outside of a building, so immediately I’m thinking “Oh my goodness there’s a famous person in there who are they meeting should I get in line?!” The group waiting was hard for me to put my finger on what kind of music it would be for though, as all ages and walks of life were represented. I ended up going to a lady in line and asking what it was for, and she said that the Turkish president was visiting and people were able to go and meet him. How cool is that?! There were so many people, and they were all so excited for the opportunity!
- The PDA in Europe is a lot different than America. Everyone acts like 16-year-olds with their first girlfriend, and it’s kinda sweet. Sometimes a little gross, but kinda sweet.
- I bought my first European football jersey! Since I was in Barcelona, I figured it was only appropriate to buy one for FC Barcelona. And in honor of some of my Room 20 students back home who were obsessed with this team and constantly talked to me about this player, I bought a Messi jersey. Miss you all! This shows I’m still thinking about you (:
- For fast food, a large drink for them is in a medium for us. Their fries at McDonald’s also only comes in two sizes; small and large. There is no in between. So definitely go for the large. Also, they put everything in bags, including your drinks and desserts. Instead of just handing them to you, they put a carrier at the bottom of the bag and put them in there and then pile the food on top of it. And one last thing about McDonald’s in foreign countries is that they are obsessed with Big Mac sauce and put it on most of their sandwiches, which I am 100% in for.
TIPS AND TRICKS!
- Get your tickets ahead of time. That’s going to be a common theme throughout all of my posts. We were able to walk right into the Sagrada Familia without waiting in line for tickets, and the tickets Kate had gotten us for the Sagrada included tickets to the Gaudi House Museum as well. We had to wait in line though for Casa Batlló, only for about 30 minutes, but that time can be precious depending on how long you’re staying!
- In Park Güell, there is a section that you have to have tickets in order to go into. They had sold out by the time we got there, so we weren’t able to see it. Kate has been before (it was free the last time she went) and said it was beautiful, but neither of us were too bothered not being able to go. The park itself was lovely enough.
- If you are traveling in Europe and you have a shopping problem like my sister and I, I recommend doing most of your shopping in Spain. We both bought lots of cute clothes and gifts for half the price of the other European countries we went (Switzerland, Italy, France, and England).
- If you’re going out to eat, schedule in some time. Their service is no where near as attentive and quick as ours is in America. Even if their food comes to the table quicker than it does at home, it takes you twice as long to just get the waiter’s attention to ask for the bill. So be aware of your schedule or not afraid to ask for your bill early!
- If you can get a guided tour vs. an audio tour of any place, GO FOR THE GUIDE! Audio tours tend to focus on names, dates, and events, where as guides give you those things but then make it personal. It’s like a story, except it actually happened! Isn’t history cool?!
- EAT PAELLA! I am not usually a spicy/saucy kind of person, but I loved paella both times I had it. It’s a very traditional Spainish dish from what I understand, so if you like to try what’s popular in the culture of the place you go like I do, I recommend this one! I also recommend the siestas. I’ve been trying to implement them in every day life since leaving Barcelona.
- Barcelona DID NOT have Uber, so if that is your go-to form of transportation, look into getting MyTaxi or Cabify! My Taxi was in most of the European cities we went to, however you need to have data/wifi at the end of your ride to accept the charge. Cabify was much more like Uber, except I personally liked it 29488493x more.
- Kate got us a 3 day bus pass with airport shuttle back included, which was a great idea ahead of time. However, once we were in the city, it was difficult to go to the office to pick them up, and by the time we did we were already used to walking everywhere. It came in very handy for Ed Sheeran, and then halfway handy for the trip to the airport. So if you are wanting to use their bus system, which was pretty hard for me to comprehend, definitely look into it ahead of time.
- Look into renting bikes ahead of time so you can get the best price for how long you have them! Also make sure you have cash because most require a deposit. There are tons of bike lanes, and it was an easy and fun way to get around!
I didn’t expect to love Barcelona. I didn’t know what I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting to love it like I do. The city was clean, well-lit, and I never felt unsafe. I wouldn’t walk around at night without someone else, but then again I wouldn’t do that in my college town of Bloomington or Indianapolis. The architecture was beautiful. Gaudi’s impact on the city was very present, and it was a presence I adored. The food was great, the culture was relaxed, and the weather was wonderful. I hope to come back again someday!!!
This section is entitled “Hey, I’m Still A Teacher Abroad! Here’s How That’s Going!”
On Monday one of my students asked me if a Tom-Boy is a girl that does boy things, what is a boy called that does girl things? One of my male students stopped her right there, saying “WOAH WOAH WOAH! There are no boy things or girl things. There are just things. That’s just sexist.” One of the other boys at the table said “Thank you! Exactly! There are loads of girls that play football, and I’ll even play with Barbies from time to time.” Another boy goes “What?!” and he just laughs and says “Yeah! I can play with dolls and unicorns, it doesn’t matter.” And all the students laughed and continued on with their days. I haven’t had a conversation like that lead by students in all my time in a classroom. Occasionally I’ll touch on it if some boys or girls are enforcing gender stereotypes, especially if it’s negatively, but I have never had students defend it on their own. It was a wonderful conversation, and I love that kids are starting to realize what generations prior haven’t grasped as well; we are all humans with different loves, interests, and desires, and we should all feel confident to pursue the things that make us happy without fear of judgement, ridicule, or acceptance.
One of my students got me a cute little teddy bear, so I have named it after her. The students here have made me feel so special! My nickname to half of the boys is “best friend” and anytime they see me, they run and hug me screaming “HI BEST FRIEND!” One of the two Year 5 teachers has just moved jobs in the building, so we now have two new teachers for her class. One is with us Mon-Tues and the other Wed-Fri. They’re both lovely women and I’m excited to see more new teaching strategies. I’ve made many more friends on staff as well, which makes me very excited!
Coming back into Felpham after my two week journey of Europe felt a lot like coming back home. I am very thankful that I have been welcomed with open arms by my host family, my school, my students, the staff, and the community. I do not take this for granted and truly believe that if it weren’t for the kindness of the people I have met that I would be comfortable enough here to call it home.
“Tomorrow we will do beautiful things.” -Antonio Gaudi