I spent this semester studying in London. But this article is not about England. This is about the week I spent in Spain this December, right before the most wonderful time of the year.
Spending 3 months in England (and visiting a few other places, including Dublin and Munich to name a few) means that I can’t even stop to think about what I want to write about England; in the next few weeks I’ll try and reflect and write something about my time spent in the UK.
I had never been to Spain before, so I decided to go to Barcelona and Madrid with a high school friend of mine who also happened to study abroad in England this term. In just one week, we slept a ridiculous amount in pretty nice hotels, all while sampling tapas and churros and trying to soak in Spanish culture. I know that someone who studied in Spain will be more of an expert in these things, but here are a few words on some of the highlights of my trip, if anyone fancies a trip to Spain in the near future.
Mercat de la Boquería: A market filled with a variety of food items ranging from daily groceries and fresh fish (the lobsters were still moving….) to homemade juices and tapas. Interesting to walk through even if you don’t plan on buying anything.
Parc Güell: A park designed by Gaudí with vast amounts of winding paths up and down rolling hills with plenty of trees to make you feel like you’re far away from the city. A small part has an entry fee but the rest of the large outdoor space is free to stroll through the rolling hills and offers breathtaking views over the greater Barcelona area, with the Mediterranean not far from sight.
La Sagrada Familia: Also designed by Gaudí, this cathedral has the most interesting architecture I’ve seen. The cathedral is notorious for being under constant construction, since Gaudí died before it was finished – it still isn’t finished, and won’t be for some time. Still worth the visit, and even cooler if you can get to the top of one of the towers.
Coco Sampaka: An artisan chocolate store that also has a café serving house-made hot chocolate, ice cream, macaroons and other delicious snacks perfect for afternoon tea.
Camp Nou Stadium: For all you football fans (soccer if you insist on the American term), it is well worth getting tickets to see FC Barcelona play on their home pitch. Amazing football, amazing stadium, amazing fans.
Mercado de San Miguel: We stumbled upon this gem while trying to find a Ham Museum (note: it wasn’t a museum, it was a restaurant. And it was delicious). Much smaller than the market in Barcelona, this market was more for artisan delicacies and meals. We went here three times for midday snacks, and if you can find the right stalls you can get tapas for one Euro each.
San Ginés Chocolatería: We sampled many churros with chocolate while in Spain, and San Ginés had the absolute best. Their churros were also longer than at other places I went to, and the chocolate was thicker; and the churro dough was the right amount of crispy and soft. Best churros con chocolate. Ever. Go.
Royal Palace: The Royal Palace in Madrid wasn’t that expensive to get into, much cheaper than Buckingham Palace in London, and we spent over an hour and a half in the palace. Of course the palace interior was beautiful, but included in admission was a tour of the Royal Armory, with suits of armour and weapons dating back to the reign of King Philip II in the 1500s.
El Tigre: As well as sampling many churros, we sampled many different venues serving the enigmatic meal of Spanish tapas. Accounting for taste and variety as well as price, El Tigre wins all the awards. It’s a small place where you stand at a table and you go up to the bar and order a drink. After paying 5 Euros for a large mug of beer, the bartender hands you a plate overflowing with tapas. If you’re ambitious enough (and hungry enough), if you order a second drink then you receive a second plate of tapas. My friend and I each got a plate with chicken wings, Spanish tortillas, Iberian ham and cheese, and also got another plate with ham croquettes. We could barely finish it all, and for only 5 Euros each? The best tapas place.
Museo de la Reina Sofía and El Prado Museum: For all you art fans, these two museums are less than a 10 minute walk from each other and are free for students, yes FREE! La Reina is home to modern art ranging from the likes of Miró and Dalí and Picasso, with Picasso’s famous mural Guérnica definitely the highlight of my visit.
The Prado has older art ranging from Renaissance art to 19th century art like Goya and Velásquez, whose famous Las Meninas is the highlight of the current temporary exposition. Personally I enjoyed the Prado much more than La Reina, but that’s my own preference of Goya and Renaissance art over modern paintings. Whatever your preferences, both museums are worth the visit. They are free, after all.