Since my last post I’ve been to Barcelona, Spain and Split, Croatia.
Barcelona was absolutely amazing. I loved the people, the food, the parks, and the many neighborhoods around the city that offer different atmospheres. There’s the Barceloneta neighborhood, which is the beachy area so there are a lot of cafes, outdoor seating areas, and of course the beach.
Then there’s the Sagrada Familia neighborhood which is where the huge church that Gaudi began building in 1883 and has yet to be completed (by the way, if you go to the church, which I would recommend, you should buy the tickets ONLINE ahead of time in order to avoid the long line). This area is really touristy, with lots of restaurants, shopping and people.
My favorite area was probably the Gothic Quarter or El Born. These were more hip and young and had lots of little side streets and cafes tucked away in corners. It was fun to just explore and go down random streets, allowing ourselves to get lost and then find our way back again. The Gothic Quarter has lots of history since it used to be the center of the city, and there are lots of buildings that date back to the Roman period. El Born is similar with the small streets and many tapas restaurants and bars to explore.
There are also a lot of really nice parks in Barcelona. One of the things I’ve discovered through my travels this semester is that I love a city with lots of parks. There’s just something about having some greenery, some escape from the chaos that is so appealing. It’s like having the best of both worlds; there’s the hustle and bustle of city life but also beautiful gardens and parks to walk through and relax in.
While in Barcelona Morgan and I visited Park Guell, Parc de la Ciutadella, Parc de Montjuic. My favorite was probably Parc de Monjuic, which happened to be right next to where we were staying. It was like a magical desert oasis, with tons of different types of cacti, plants, and trees. It also ran along the beach so it was pretty interesting walking through, seeing cacti and then looking out and seeing the ocean.
The food and drinks were also great. I spent the weekend trying out lots of different tapas and sangria. Here are some pictures of what we had:
This past weekend I went to Split, which was supposed to be like a mini spring break, since our program didn’t give us one, but it turned out to be a little colder than what we had hoped for. The forecast said it would rain everyday while we were there… and although it didn’t necessarily rain the entire time, the forecast was pretty close to accurate. I went with Bus2Alps, which is a tour company for students. The bus ride was overnight– 13 hours long– which turned out not to be so bad since I was asleep for the majority of the time. Once we got to Split we had breakfast and got ready to go white water rafting. The river was about an hour drive away. Along the way there were some great views of the landscape, since we were driving up and around a mountain.
My rafting experience was a mix of good and bad. The good was that there were some fun rapids, our rafting guide was funny and friendly, and we even got some sun. It was also a national holiday that day so there were a lot of people out on the water or along the river bank having barbeques, picnics, etc who would interact with us (well, they would interact with the rafting guide since he was the only one who could speak Croatian). The last half hour of the ride was where the bad started to mix in with the good. Because of the national holiday, the restaurant that the rafting company usually takes its costumers was too busy so we had to row 15 minutes further to another restaurant along the river. Somehow, the guide found a group of [highly intoxicated] kids with a motor boat who agreed to drag us with a rope to our destination. There was one guy in the group who was slightly more drunk than the rest, and he provided much of the entertainment. However, at this point the clouds began to roll in and we started to get really cold since we were wet and not moving. It also did not help that we had been on the boat for over 3 hours at this point (it was around 3:30 pm), and we had not eaten since 9 am that morning so we had absolutely nothing in us to help warm us up. When we finally got to the restaurant, the following scene was quite hilarious. We all ran to get our backpacks, found a parking lot, and ripped off our wetsuits. We mindlessly put our stuff on the hoods of other people’s cars and were hardly discreet about the fact that we were getting dressed. The thing was, we were so cold, so hungry, and so desperate that we didn’t care who saw us or what they thought of us. It was kind of funny to realize what happens when humans’ basic needs are not met– we turned into animals.
The next day was the one really nice, sunny day we had all weekend so we decided to go to one of the beaches. It took a while to find it, but once we did, it was so nice just laying out in the sun, chatting, reading, and relaxing. We were only there a few hours before the clouds started coming in and covering the sun, but I think I got a bit of a tan. For lunch we went to a pizza place that was recommended by our rafting guide. He was not lying when he said this place was good. It was thin-crust, Italian style pizza with a wide range of toppings to choose from. I got the seafood one (when in Croatia, amiright?), which had mussels, tuna, anchovies, and shrimp. I loved it.
That night, we had a birthday dinner for Ella since it was going to be her birthday the next day. We went to this cute little seafood place near our hotel that had a bunch of different fresh catches of the day as well as other options. Ella and Rachel tried out the fish platter which came with a sample of all the different catches (it was huge, but looked amazing). I tried the tuna steak. This was also large, but really good! You can’t really go wrong with tuna. We also tried some local Croatian wine which I enjoyed as well.
On our last full day we went on an island hopping tour. Unfortunately, there would be no sunshine on this day. In fact, there would be no sky at all, just clouds and rain. It made for a funny experience, though. Picture five girls were sitting on the top deck of the ferry, drenched, hair pulled in all directions by the wind, pathetically attempting to use one of their tiny umbrellas to shield them from the rain. That was us. When we finally reached the first island all we could really do was find a cafe to sit in since it was raining. After about an hour we got back on the boat and had our lunch (I had chicken, which turned out to be super salty and gross. I wish I got the fish.) as we made our way to the next island. It was still pretty rainy and miserable out when we got there, so we found another cafe to sit in. Overall, this potentially very fun and relaxing trip turned out to be a little less than what we had hoped for. However, it still made for a fun memory to look back on and laugh at.
On our very last day we left around 8 am for Krka National Park, which is a huge national park with great waterfalls and hiking trails. This was the coldest day we’d had so far, so we couldn’t swim in the water or anything which was a little disappointing. However, the path down to the waterfall and the waterfall itself were really cool. The path was laid down super close to the water level, so it was almost like you were walking down through the river. I kept wondering if the path floods frequently because if the water level rose any further, we would be under the water. After a few photos, a quick look at the waterfall, and lunch, we were off and headed back toward Prague.
The bus ride back was a lot worse than the bus ride there. It may have been because it was during the day so the hours seemed to pass more slowly, but it seemed to take forever. But, if you think about it I can’t really complain since I’m short and can expand my legs out if I want to. The tall people on the bus must have been extra miserable since they were literally cramped in a tiny seat for 13 hours. By the time we got back it was 3 in the morning and I was so excited to sleep vertically in my bed for the last few hours of the night.
I’m hoping that someday I get a chance to go back to Croatia in the summertime, when it’s less rainy and warmer, so I can get the full experience of it all. At least I got my fix of seafood (probably ate seafood twice a day for four days) for at least the next couple of weeks. Still craving some sushi, though. I guess I’ll have to wait a little longer for that.