A Walk Through The Colorful Alleyways of Barcelona

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Tara shares her adventures biking and strolling through Barcelona, Spain.

By Tara Martinelli 

Tara shares her adventures biking and strolling through Barcelona, Spain. (Courtesy of Tara Martinelli)

Where in the world is Tara? Well, with four papers and two interviews looming, the smart and sensible choice for any student would be the library, maybe a café and to be in bed by 11 p.m. So, naturally, when faced with this decision, I assessed the situation, calculated the risk and jumped on the next flight to Barcelona, Spain. My mother, my friends and a very large part of myself questioned my judgment, but oh well!

If you haven’t been to Barcelona, wake up, man! This is the best city I’ve been to so far. My first day in Barcelona started with my hostel windows opening at 9 a.m. without warning. Clearly, the Barcelona Sports Hostel knew that if we wanted to get the most out of the city, we had to start the day early. My roommate from back home came with me (shout out to Kasey Bandilla, FCRH ’18, for being such a gem) and we hit the streets of Espana with just as much strut as the Cheetah Girls did back in ’06 (okay, one and only one Cheetah Girls 2 reference, I swear).

Clearly, Kasey and I should never go on the “Amazing Race” together, considering we could not manage to find two of the tours we planned on going on during our time there. It’s chill. What I’ve realized from being abroad is that the most fun occurs when things don’t go according to plan. The first day, we planned on going on a walking tour that was advertised at our hostel, but instead found another one that turned out to be a great time. We took a tour of the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona and learned all about the history of Catalunya while looking at the amazing Gothic architecture. (Please note: I am now able to spot Gothic architecture and therefore, have actually been learning while in London. Also note: I am just as shocked as you). The tour was awesome, though it was definitely interesting to learn about Barcelona from a tour guide that came from the same town as Kasey in New Jersey. But hey, we went, we saw, we toured.

The next day started out oddly similar to the first, with Kasey and I missing yet another tour. But, again, we found a way to keep ourselves busy. This time we joined what was advertised as a “radical four-hour bike tour of Barca.” I know the bikes and I didn’t have the most loving of relationships back in Copenhagen, and I hate to say that Barcelona was not much different. I actually was left behind almost immediately on the tour because the seat of my bike decided to detach itself from the rest of the vehicle while I was riding it. My butt may have hit the ground, but my spirits certainly did not! My bike was quickly repaired by my tour guide Adam (this one from Canada…) and I was ready to go!

The most important and surprising thing I learned about Barcelona is that some people there do not want to be associated with the country of Spain. Hundreds of years ago, Catalunya was its own independent entity, yet today, it resides as a foreigner in the heart of Spain. However, the people here still consider themselves independent. This is shown in so many ways. The people here speak not only Spanish, but also Catalan. My first tour guide, Jon, told us that Spanish and Catalan were super similar and that we’d have no problem communicating. He said that there was about 85 percent overlap between the two. So a total layup, right? WRONG. Tara’s opinion: Spanish and Catalan are not similar. Thanks for the lies, Jon. The only reason my years of crying through Spanish weren’t a total waste was because the people can understand Spanish; I certainly can’t understand Catalan. But again, it’s fine. The fact that Barcelona still has its own language is pretty freaking cool if you ask me.

The culture of Barcelona is what really stole my heart. The people’s pride in their city made my tummy feel all warm and fuzzy. We were lucky enough to be there during a Barcelona v. Madrid football game. That’s right, I called soccer “football.” Guys, I’m totally blending in. Anyway, the game was actually taking place in Madrid, but it was still so thrilling to go to a bar and see the excitement, nerves and pure joy in the faces of the fans as they cheered on their team.

The streets of the city are narrow, colorful and oh so lively. Cruising on my bike up and down the alleys was something out of a movie. The alleys were also filled with the most delicious tapas in the world. It’s the streets that give the city its identity. The beaches that everyone thinks of when they think of Barcelona are beautiful, but are not the main attraction. Fun fact: the beaches were actually man-made for the 1992 Olympics. The sand is from Egypt and the palm trees are from Hawaii!

So if you want beautiful palm trees, head to Hawaii. But if you want a place to take a piece of your heart, inspire you and restore your faith in the world, you now know where to go. Long live Catalunya!