Well, just eleven more days until I’m on a plane homeward. Most of me is excited and ready, but part of me doesn’t even care to go home yet. One of my favorite people in the world won’t be there, and I’m not ready to face the reality of it yet. On Saturday, December 5th, my parents shared with me the very sad news that my Granddad has passed away. Loving, quiet, wise, patient, hilarious, sweet, a man of great dignity, Orrin Stephen will be greatly missed. He set a great example for my brother and me, and I hope someday we are able to be even half the upstanding, good-hearted person he was. I know I don’t have to be sad, he’s whole again, he and Grandma Helen are probably dancing to some Lawrence Welk music right now! Or maye just enjoying each others’ company again. In Christ there are no goodbyes, and I’m very blessed to have had 21 wonderful years with my granddad, and that he had such a full and rich 99 years here on earth. I was fortunate enough to share a phone call with him on Thanksgiving day, and hear all about the wonderful pumpkin pie and stuffing he had, and hear him laugh again. Smart as a whip all the way up until he was called Home. It’s very hard to be so far from my family right now, I can really feel every single one of those 5,000 miles I am from home. But I know Granddad would want me to persevere and do the best I could here at school, and make the most of my remaining time in Italy. I was very much looking forward to coming home and sharing with him all my pictures and stories of the different adventures I’ve had here in Italy. He loved reading this blog and I know I’d be able to get a belly-laugh out of him with some of the things I’ve experienced here. With that in mind, I’m going to keep writing and updating, because I know he would have enjoyed reading. He was so proud of me and I am so proud of him. Love you, Granddad, can’t wait to see you again someday.
So as I said in a previous post, Italy doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving (if you didn’t realize this before just now, you’ve got problems–American thing only!) so we didn’t get much of a break. In fact, I had an Art History final on Thanksgiving morning! As you can imagine, there were plenty of grumbles from us kids over that one. After we got that over with, we were free for the weekend! Our teachers were even so kind as to cancel classes on Monday and Tuesday, so we ended up getting a nice little break– Friday, November 30, through Tuesday, December 1. Earlier in the semester, a handful of us girls had decided it would be the perfect time for a weekend getaway, so we bought ourselves plane tickets to Barcelona!
After a ridiculously filling Thanksgiving dinner with classmates and a brief nap, we left bright and early Friday morning… actually it wasn’t bright so much as it was pitch black out, as we left at 3:45… AM… 6 of us (me, Becca, Megan, Hayley, Tina, and Laura) caught a bus to the train station, where we would then catch a shuttle bus to the Ciampino airport outside of Rome… we hunted around for that dang bus stop for probably 20-30 minutes… never found it. Had to take a taxi for an extra 3 euro apiece (not the end of the world) but wouldn’t you know it, as soon as we pulled away from the curb in that darned taxi, we followed the elusive Ciampino shuttle bus that we couldn’t find all the way to the airport!! Ridiculous. But we got to the airport in plenty of time, around 5:30am, and caught our 7am flight no problem. We flew RyanAir, so we were only allowed one carry-on back (which includes purse, so I had my clothes, my towel, my toiletries, AND my purse all shoved into one small backpack I borrowed from a friend), and there were no assigned seats, but it wasn’t an issue. We were all so tired from getting only 3 hours of sleep, that we slept the entire hour and a half it took to get to Spain, then we slept again the whole two hour bus ride it took to get from the airport to Barcelona.
Once we got to Barcelona, we trekked to our hostel to drop our bags, then started walking. And walking. And walking. We walked SO much in the 3 days we were in Barcelona! On Friday, we saw the Arc de Triomf, we saw the city park (Parc de la Ciutadela), we saw a lifesize stone wooly mammoth (appropriately titled, Mammoth), we saw the famous La Rambla (a big long street full of performers and stands and TONS of people), we saw Mercat St. Josef (a huuuuge food market), and that was all before lunch!
Mercat St. Josef was probably one of my favorite parts about Barcelona. This huge open food market was full of mouthwatering candies and chocolates and fruit and veggies, and a ton of not-so-mouthwatering (in my opinion) meat and seafood! Of course Barcelona is right on the Mediterranean coast, so all that stuff is caught right there, or butchered right there (for instance fresh-skinned rabbits, lovely sheeps heads, big old lamb legs dangling from awnings, fat old cow tongues flopping around) and it made for some VERY interesting sights–like the octopus! Here are a few more of my pictures in the market (I really liked the market!)
After exploring the market for a while, we went in search of some Barcelona’s most popular tourist destinations–architect Antoni Gaudi’s various buildings throughout the city. There are several, and they are all very unique and interesting. Gaudi’s work is very easy to pick out of a line up. It’s almost bizarre, most of it. Here are a few we saw.
Unfortunately a lot of these places were pretty pricey to go into, so we weren’t able to do that in order to save some of our dwindling funds… Gotta leave something to come back for, right? Friday night after a short nap, we met up with three other girls for dinner. The nine of us met up at a tapas bar (like appetizers, kind of) with Hayley’s aunt’s friend’s son (did you follow that?) who is a grad student in Barcelona. Austin helped us order the best tapas–bravas potatoes (fried with a zesty mayo sauce–yum), squid, grilled/seasoned shrimp on baguettes, and a few others. Everything was fresh and delicious, I especially loved the shrimp, and that is not common for me! After dinner we then trekked to a different, less touristy part of Barcelona where we got to witness more local culture in one of the town squares, or placas as they’re called there. My favorite part of the evening? This drugged out, liquored up man with a dredded mohawk, who kept flailing around and head banging, was throwing beer cans for his dog to chase around the square… upon further inspection, he had shaved an intricate spider web into his dog’s fur, right on the flank! Seriously! I so wish I could have gotten a picture of it… never seen anything like it!
Saturday we did more walking. We had seen about 10 Starbucks the day before, so Becca and I stopped at one for breakfast before meeting our friends. I was so happy to get a Toffee Nut Latte–there are no Starbucks in Rome, and all the cappucinos here are tiny-size… it was delicious! After meeting up with the rest of the crew we set out to find La Sagrada Familia (pictured above) and Parque Guell, a huge park designed by Gaudi that overlooks the city and the Mediterranean. It took us probably about an hour of walking (uphill) to get to Parque Guell, and it was probably my other favorite part of Barcelona. There were neat architectural piece worked into the park in the sides of hills and things, and the views were great. There were tons of musicians and people selling things in the park–it was just a cool atmosphere.
After a while at the park, we made our way back to the city center where we visited the market again (some of the girls hadn’t seen it yet) and did some shopping. Then we walked forever again, this time to see the Mediterranean! We got to walk in the sand, see the ocean, and see some really neat sand sculptures! Then we grabbed some authentic Spanish food (paella is their specialty–kind of like a fried rice dish) and sangria. The sangria was delicious! It was a great end to a great day.
On Sunday, we packed up our stuff, hit up Starbucks again, walked around some more, ate some churros, and went to the Picasso museum. It was a fairly short day, we were back on the bus to the airport by 3 and back in Rome by 10pm. The weekend was a success, and the two main things I learned from it were: 1-Spaniards don’t speak Spanish. They speak Catalan. Which is nothing like Spanish. Thanks so much, 4 years of high school Spanish… and B- Spanish food does not taste like Mexican food. (I had my taste buds set on nachos… not the case.)
So that was my Barcelona adventure! It was a great weekend, and it was nice to have two more days off to relax before going back to work on Wednesday. Now we’re just finishing up final projects, had a final test yesterday in Italian Design, got a couple more floor plans due this week, going to see a Caravaggio/Bacon Exhibit at the Galleria Borghese on Thursday–should be pretty interesting. Then next week we clean up/pack up/have our final Exhibition to display all our works of the semester, make a few last minute pit-stops, and then it’s time to come home! Can’t believe how fast this semester’s flown by… I hope the rest of my life doesn’t go so fast!
Hopefully I’ll get a chance to update a few more times before it’s time to head back stateside… I’m going to miss sharing my adventures with you all… heck, I’m going to miss HAVING adventures!
Thanks again for reading,