My travels started simply enough. I flew from Milwaukee to Philadelphia. Then I boarded a plane to Frankfurt, Germany. I slept most of that flight and the flight from Germany to Barcelona. Then I found Kevin (our assistant director) and he took me to the hotel we were staying at for orientation. The bus ride, taxi, and walk there is a blur. I had traveled for eighteen hours, I was ready for a shower and then a bed. That evening (and by evening, I mean 9pm) the entire group went to dinner. We were presented with a very complicated and overwhelming menu. Upon seeing our jet lagged and confused faces, Claudia quickly told the waiter we would just get all of the tapas (appetizers). Let me give you a list of all of the things I tried that night. I would also like to brag and say that I didn't even get a stomach ache from it. Shrimp (like I cracked open the shell with my bare hands and sucked out the guts), Octopus, Squid, Clams and some sort of fish that still had all its scales. Below is a picture of our feast.
The next day we woke up and walked over to La Universitat de Barcelona. It is the place where we will be having our classes. We took pictures for IDs and then had some boring orientation stuff. Claudia took us through our orientation packet. There were things like Wifi, club sports we could join, living with host families, etc. After that we took a tour of the University. It's pretty old, so one of the historians at the University showed us around some of the historical parts. It was an interesting tour, the problem was, we were jet lagged. We got into a room full of wonderful paintings and were told to sit in comfy benches. Then she started to tell us about the paintings and the history of the room. The room was the perfect kind of stuffy and warm and we all started drifting away. We knew it was rude, but we couldn't help it. Below are pictures around the University.
Next we grabbed a delicious lunch and set out on our bus tour. Claudia said we were getting all of our touristy stuff out of the way now so that we could become complete citizens once orientation was over. I think most of us made it about a quarter of the way through the tour before jet lag came at us with a vengeance. I was the first to fall asleep and Claudia and Tony won't let me forget it. I took a couple pictures during the tour, but mostly I caught up on sleep.
This is a house created by the architect Gaudi. I get to pass it everyday on my way to class. This isn't my favorite one though. My favorite one will get of its own post. After the bust tour we got to rest a little, then we went to dinner. It was a tapas restaurant. I've never had a more overwhelming meal in my life. Here's what you do, all of the food is placed on the counter and you have to push your way through all of the people in order to get it, and the place was crowded. There's a whole strategy to it. All that work for a tiny tapa. So you have to do this whole pushing and weaving thing 4 or 5 times, depending on how much food you want. It was very stressful. But the food was delicious. It was definitely worth the hard work.
This was also a big touristy day for us. Lots of walking. We started from our hotel and went to the Plaza del Rei and the Cathedral. Here's a picture.
Then we walked on Las Ramblas. It is the most touristy street of the city. I am going to avoid it as much as possible. It has all sorts of shopping and attractions. Lots of pick pocketing there. Then we went to Mercado de la Boquería. This is also a complete tourist trap. Claudia said it's the most crowded market in the city, but locals rarely go there. It's for the tourists. I was really overwhelmed by the amount of people, and I was preoccupied with not getting robbed, but I managed to get photos of the beautiful colors and food.
After the market we got some lunch. Then, Claudia posed us a challenge. Before we had left that morning Claudia had given us a map of the city and a map of the metro. Now, in two different groups, she wanted us to guide everyone from the restaurant to La Sagrada Familia, then from La Sagrada Familia to Parc Guell. The first group took us to La Sagrada Familia without a hitch. I have never seen a more magnificent building in my life. Words cannot describe how beautiful the inside and outside of the building are. Closer to the end of this post are pictures of the view of the entire city, in those you can see how large this piece of architectural art is.
After that, my group led the way to Parq Guell. We made it fine. The walk up the hill was no fun though. Parq Guell is a huge park full of historical and artistic statues and sculptures. I had no idea that it housed one of Gaudi's homes. Fun fact, the season finale of America's Next Top Model: Cycle 7 was filmed here. I got way more excited about this than I'm willing to admit.
To finish off our walking tour of the city we went to one of the sculptures in Parq Guell called the Three Crosses and watched the sun set. There were some beautiful views from there. That was one of the many moments throughout the past couple of days that I stopped and realized, "hey, I'm in Barcelona, cool".
It was the day we were to meet our families. We were all looking forward to this because we had all been talking about the fact that we really wanted a place where we could unpack and be at home. I wasn't nervous about meeting mine at all until about a half hour before they arrived at the hotel to pick us up. Suddenly I started thinking, "What if they don't like me or I don't like them", "What if they're weird", "What if they don't have internet". Our group must have looked kind of comical. All of us sitting there with wide nervous eyes asking, "Are you my new family?". Turns out, I had nothing to worry about. Teti y Carmen are some of the most wonderful human beings I have met in my entire life. I could go on and on about how wonderful they are, but that is for another post. Suffice it to say, a kind looking woman in her sixties hugged me, kissed me on both cheeks, grabbed my chin and said, "guapa". That means attractive or pretty. We've been getting along swimmingly ever since.
And that was orientation. It looks short now that it's all typed out here. But I promise it felt like weeks.