Madrid y Barcelona

Yes, I am aware that it has been forever since my last post. But in my defense, I’ve been really busy traveling for the past two weekends. Isn’t it ironic that when I actually have interesting material to write about, I’m too busy to write about it? Anyway, in this post I am going to quickly fill you in on my recent travels to two awesome cities in Spain: Madrid and Barcelona.

The Madrid Trip

Ever since I randomly chose to do a speech about it for a speech class class year, Madrid has been on the top of my must-see list. I didn’t really know much about it before I went, except that it was Spain’s capital and there are three of the most famous museums there. So my list of things to do/see consisted of:

1) Museums

2) Anything and everything else

We took a train that left at 6:10 in the morning. Yep, you read that right. For any of you who know me well, you know that I am nowhere near being a morning person. As I was walking to meet my friends, I saw people walking home from going out the night before. That’s how early it was. On the upside, leaving early meant that we had the whole day to spend in the city on Friday.

Since the weather was nice and we knew it would rain Saturday, we decided to do all of the outdoor activities (aka the “anything and everything else” category), and save the museums for Saturday. We ended up doing our own little walking tour of the city. We walked through the huge park called El Parque Retiro. It has a beautiful river where lots of people were on boats, a bunch of gardens and fountains, and a building made completely of glass, called the Palacio de Cristal.

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El Parque Retiro
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El Palacio Cristal

Saturday it was raining and freezing, my favorite weather (*heavy sarcasm*). So like I said, we decided to do indoor activities. We first went to El Palacio Real, which is the royal palace where the king used to live. You get to walk through and look at all of the rooms, which are exquisite! Seriously so beautiful. Unfortunately they were very strict about no pictures inside the castle, so I was only able to take pictures of the outside, which sadly looks way less impressive in comparison (the gloomy weather certainly didn’t help).

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El Palacio Real
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Courtyard of El Palacio Real

Afterwards we went to El Museo Nacional del Prado, the museum I had been looking forward to. It holds works of art from all of the most famous Spanish painters. It was really interesting, but a little overwhelming. There were way too many different rooms and paintings to possibly see everything, but it was worth it to just see what I could.

On Sunday we just woke up and went to catch our train, which was at 9 AM. 9 seemed late compared to 6! Overall it was a great trip. Madrid is a much more crowded and bustling city than Seville, and I found I felt a lot more comfortable when I got back to Sevilla. I think Madrid can be compared to lots of big cities in the U.S.: they’re fun to visit, but not everybody would want to live there full-time. I definitely enjoyed visiting, and would go back again if I got the chance. But if I had to choose a city to live in, I would have to pick good ol’ Sevilla.

The Barcelona Trip

The weekend after Madrid, aka this past weekend, I headed to another city that had been on my top must-see cities in Spain: Barcelona! I had always heard that it was a really fun and exciting city, and also very beautiful. I was not disappointed.

Like Madrid, I was forced to wake up ridiculously early in order to catch the bus to the airport and make it to my 8:30 AM flight on time. This is apparently becoming a trend, because my flight to Venice this weekend (yep, finally time for ITALY) is at 8AM. But again, it is totally worth it. The flight to Barcelona was pretty short and painless (mostly because I slept the entire way there) and before I knew it I was in Barcelona! Luckily they have a bus that shuttles people to the city, and the bus stop happened to be only a few blocks away from my hostel, which was in a great location in the city center.

I decided to explore a bit before checking into my hostel. I walked down Las Ramblas, which is one of the main streets in the city for shopping and restaurants. There is also a market there called La Boqueria, which I walked through. It had all of the different types of food and drinks you could imagine. I tried a strawberry and coconut smoothie which was to die for.

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La Boqueria

Later that day I met up with Masha, who I know from high school, and her friend Kim. The three of us went to el Museo Picasso, which was really cool, and then just walked around the city for a while. They showed me Parc de la Ciutadella, and the beach which is beautiful. It made me a little jealous that Seville doesn’t have a beach to walk to!

On Saturday I had a jam-packed day of sight-seeing. I first went to La Sagrada Familia, a large Roman Catholic church designed by the architect Antoni Gaudí. It is still unfinished, though Gaudí has already passed away. I have to admit all of the construction on the outside took away from the beauty a bit, but it was still an amazing piece of architecture. And the inside was just as breathtaking, with extremely intricate ceilings and colorful stained glass windows.

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La Sagrada Familia
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Inside la Sagrada Familia

I wanted to get some pictures of me inside the church, and the woman that I asked turned out to have quite a creative streak, and decided to take one at an interesting angle. It was actually a good idea, because she was able to capture the beautiful ceilings. And the color of my sweater matched the stained glass, which was a nice added touch.

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Getting artsy in La Sagrada Familia

I then headed to the other place I was excited to see, Parque Güell, a huge garden complex which was also designed by Antoni Gaudí. One of the most famous parts is a large terrace overlooking a beautiful view of the Barcelona skyline, with a bunch of colorful mosaic benches. My sweater matched nicely with the tile there as well. My outfit choice was just on point that day! The park also includes Gaudí’s home which they have turned into a museum. It contains original works by Gaudí and several of his collaborators, and was declared a historical artistic monument of national interest in 1969.

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Mosaic Terrace at Parque Güell
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Gaudí House Museum

Overall it was another great weekend! Barcelona is definitely my second favorite city in Spain, after Sevilla. Not only does it have a really unique culture, but it has beautiful parks, museums, and a beach. I didn’t want to leave!

Saturday I will be leaving early in the morning (of course) to fly to Venice! One of my oldest friends, Rowan, and I will be spending a few days in Venice, then heading to Florence for a few days. It’s sure to be an extremely blog-worthy week, so stay tuned for my next post!

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Masha and I, throwing up our Westlake High School chaps sign!

French Fries are not French, and Belgium is not boring!

As promised, I am making a second post this week to try to catch up since I missed a week. I couldn’t let down my viewers! (Hi mom and dad). This post will be all about my trip to Belgium last weekend, where I stayed in Brussels and visited Bruges for a day.

Similar to what I said in my last post about Morocco, going to Belgium was never something I necessarily planned on doing. But when some of my friends said they were planning a trip there, I thought, “why not?” And like Morocco, I am definitely glad I decided to go. Traveling there took a pretty long time, because we had to first take a train to Malaga, and fly out of Malaga to Brussels, where we then took a bus from the airport into the city. By the time we finally got to our hostel it was around 11 or 12 at night, and we were all pretty exhausted. We got a quick look at the city as we walked to our hostel. The Grand Place at nighttime was breathtaking, and got me really excited to explore more the next day.

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The Grand Place
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The Grand Place

Friday morning Megan and I went to a restaurant to try some waffles, and they definitely did not disappoint. Afterwards we headed to a free walking tour of the city. As I have mentioned before, I have yet to experience a boring tour guide. The guide for this tour had the most complicated name I’ve ever heard, so he told us to just call him P.J. He was hilarious, and extremely passionate about the history of Belgium. He majored in Biology but ended up doing tours because he loves it, and his passion for it really showed. He also kind of looked like Ed Sheeran, so overall no complaints.

He showed us around the city, and we went into St. Michael’s Cathedral which was beautiful. He also showed us the Manneken Pis statue, and explained some theories and history behind it. For those of you who have no idea what that is, it is literally a tiny statue of a little boy peeing into a fountain. It is considered a landmark in Brussels, and the people of the city take it very seriously. Mini versions of the statue are sold all around the town, many wearing weird costumes (I saw one dressed as Santa Clause). I may not fully understand it, but hey, I give Brussels props for being different and owning it.

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Manneken Pis
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St. Michael’s Cathedral

P.J. told us many interesting facts, some that he was very adamant about us passing on. He made sure we realized that French Fries were not actually invented by the French, but by Belgians. He also made sure we promise to tell everyone that Brussels is a beautiful city (which it is), full of fun sights to see and things to do. He seemed to be under the impression that most people don’t visit Belgium by choice, but rather as a way to kill some time before going to a more “desirable” location like France or Germany. So for all of you reading this, I would honestly recommend visiting Belgium! (And I swear I am not just saying that to fulfill a promise to an Ed Sheeran look-alike).

After the tour Megan and I explored the city on our own a little bit. We stopped at a restaurant that is famous for fries, and I have to say, if I was doubting whether or not fries originated in Belgium, eating those fries convinced me. They were fuller and tasted more potatoe-y than American fries. Absolutely delicious! We ended up taking a metro ride to something called the Atonium, which is a big structure with a bunch of different spheres, and the top sphere provides a panoramic view of Brussels. Unfortunately, we got there after it had closed so we didn’t get to go up but it was still cool seeing it from the ground. We also walked around a park that was nearby which was really pretty.

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The Atonium
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Sunset picture at the park

Saturday we went on another walking tour, again with P.J., this time in the city of Bruges. Unfortunately my phone died, which is my only form of taking pictures, so I didn’t personally take any pictures of our day there. The pictures below were taken by my friends.

Bruges was very pretty, and a lot smaller than Brussels. It had a very old-towny-feel and all of the architecture was beautiful. We walked around the city for a few hours, and go to go inside a few cathedrals which were just as breathtaking as St. Michael’s. We also went to Lover’s Lake, where there are swans and many tourists riding in canoes on the water. It was indeed very lovely and romantic. Overall I really enjoyed my day in Bruges, and would recommend taking a trip there if you are ever in the area.

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The group in Bruges
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Lover’s Lake

Sunday morning Lauren and I went to the Museum of the City of Brussels, which is located in the Grand Place. It had a lot of photographs of what Brussels looked like in the old days, which was really interesting to see. It also had an entire section devoted to Manneken Pis, of course. I told you they take him seriously there. After the museum we made our way back to the airport for the long journey back home. The flight was about 3 hours, but felt much longer because I couldn’t fall asleep due to a crying baby. Gotta love when that happens.

Regardless of the less-than-desireable flight, the weekend in Belgium was a definite success, and I would recommend everyone visit! From the delicious food to the beautiful architecture, Belgium really does have a lot to offer and shouldn’t be overlooked. Paris may have the Eiffel Tower, but Brussels has a statue of a baby peeing. You be the judge of which landmark is cooler.

Until next time,

Shelly

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