I was nearly to the point of not going on spring break because I couldn’t find anything that fit my budget for this semester. However, 6 of my friends were heading to Barcelona at a VERY reasonable rate, so I decided to go along with them!
We left around 810 for Barcelona. This was a long process that took all of the day. We had a three hour train ride to Toulouse, which all of us slept through, and then another three hour trip from Toulouse to Le Tour de Carol, which is a boarder town with Spain.
If you have a map in front of you, you can see that Toulouse and le Tour de Carol are not really places that you would expect to travel in order to GO to Barcelona. However, the French train system, while it goes lots of places and is very affordable, is very time consuming because most little towns only have a couple of trains that go a couple of directions. The trains MOSTLY run from each town to Paris and back again, and they don’t often run the directions in between. So we had to go to Toulouse, even though it is in the other direction from Barcelona.
At any rate, we were in Le Tour for about three hours before our train left for Barcelona.
The last train took us to Barcelona and we arrived at about 8:30 pm. We found our hostel with no problems and started to check in. This was the moment in which we all realized that perhaps 11 euros a night was a bit too little to pay for a decent place! When Lisa went to check in, she paid, like all of us had, with a credit card.
When she went to sign the slip, she noticed that the man had charged her 558.00 euros instead of 55 euros and 80 cents! It was obviously a mistake, but she was upset and the language barrier made it difficult to insure that the problem was taken care of…and the man was a little mean with us. However, a call to the manager and a check with the credit card company insured that it was, indeed, taken care of.
We had all been a little disappointed to discover that we were staying in a room with 18 beds. There were seven of us, and we had really wanted out own room. However, we found that through the five days, many interesting girls came and went. We met three from Germany, followed by three that we never spoke to because they danced all night and slept all day, followed by three from the states who gave us cookies because they had packed too many. Never underestimate the value of meeting new people. You just might get free cookies!
We spent the next four days sightseeing. Saturday we shopped a LOT because the stores in Spain were MUCH cheaper than the stores here in France. We went out on Saturday night and didn’t come home until 4 in the morning. This is the way it goes in Spain! Many of the bars and clubs do not even open until 11 or 12, and if you show up before one you are looked at funny. So we went to the Hard Rock Cafe around 10 for dinner, and found a dance club after that! In Spain the night life doesn’t seem to start until dinner does, and that doesn’t start until after 10 PM. Bars are open AFTER dinner, and clubs are open after that. People make up for staying out so late however. We were frustrated to discover nothing open until 10 or 11 on our first morning there. We decided we would stay out late like the Spanish and sleep in like they did as well!
We had a fantastic time, but of course we didn’t get up until 12:00 on Sunday. We bought ourselves 2 day passes on a hop-on hop-off tour of Barcelona. Sunday we rode the entire tour from top to bottom, seeing all of the sights from a double-decker bus… the houses of Gaudi, his Sagrada Famillia, the Olympic park and all of the buildings built for that, the pier and the beach, and the older downtown areas of Barcelona.
On Monday we rode the same tour again but this time we got off of the bus at various locations. We climbed to the top of the Sagrada Familia, a cathedral built by Gaudi, which is still being completed. Look it up on the internet, it is amazing!
This is perhaps the most beautiful building I have ever seen! We had so much fun wandering around and looking at it and also visiting the museum that showed us the history and CONTINUING plans for this remarkable building. We also saw the Olympic village and an old Spanish Village where we walked around and took more pictures. We took pictures for two days straight! It was a fantastic trip. On Tuesday we visited the Picasso museum and did some more shopping. Some people we love are getting lots of stuff from Barcelona! It was so cheap and SO much fun!
Yesterday was spent again on the train. I am beginning to really enjoy train rides. There is something wonderful about getting onto a car in a station and watching the countryside pass you by until the car stops and you are in another town. It is interesting for me because unlike a REAL car, in which you can go ANYWHERE, the train cars go from the same place to the same place, and back again. The track that you begin with continues without an end until you reach your destination.
I suppose this could be somewhat like lives. Some of us get in our cars and pick roads, and some of us stick to the same track until we reach our destination. The same track might be safe and predictable, and there might be an awful lot to see on it, but think of the train cars, and the monotony of seeing the same mountains and trees every single day of life.
While we were on the streets of Barcelona, some of the girls with us wanted to constantly be looking in the guidebook for a map to make sure we were always on some great big street and we always knew exactly where we were at all times. I put up with this throughout the sightseeing days, knowing that there were certain things that we WANTED to see, much like the fact that there are certain train stations you should ALWAYS stop at in your life. However, as we left the Picasso museum on Tuesday, and they hunted in their book for just the correct street to lead us SOMEWHERE, I decided that I had had enough. I reached over to Amy and shut the book.
“Listen up, guys” I said to the group. “My mom has got this great system for going places.”
My friends all listened intently. In London, a few weeks ago, I had referenced my mother when we were lost and everyone was grumpy because we couldn’t find our underground station. In the rain, I had stood in front of them and said “My mother says that ATTITUDE is the difference between an ADVENTURE and an ORDEAL” We had all smiled, laughed, and continued on our trip.
And so in Barcelona, when they heard me mention my mother, they knew that perhaps I was onto something. “My mom picks a road, you know;” I said.
And it’s true. My mom picks a road and goes, and she sees what she sees and she always arrives at the destination, usually after having seen much more than the same mountains and trees. She always arrives where she meant to arrive. Of course, some days it might take her a couple of hours to drive across town, and some trips to North Dakota certainly have taken much longer than they should. But every time she picks a road, she ends up going exactly where she wants to, in a much better way than simply hopping on a train and taking the path of least resistance.
And so we picked a road at random, leaving the Picasso museum. We turned down an alley, and again it was raining a little. We splashed through the puddles and laughed and talked as we looked at buildings and explored the alley. One more random turn brought us to the most amazing shopping street that we had found yet, and we happily spent the afternoon going from shop to shop, finding great deals and fun things to see.
When the sun was setting, and people were getting antsy to head back to the hostel, we picked one more road, and took a turn, by random. And there, in front of us, was the street that led directly to the place we were staying.
“Hey!” the girls exclaimed. “This whole picking a road thing works pretty well!”
A track works great for a train, yes. And on days like Wednesday, when you are tired and your braids are VERY fuzzy, and all you want to do is get home, call the people you love, and go to sleep, a track is a great way to go. You don’t have to think about it, you don’t have to consult any maps or make any plans. You step up on the platform and choose a seat, and watch the world go effortlessly past your window. Trains are wonderful ways to travel. We enjoyed being on that track, twice. One time it took us to a beautiful city, and the other time it took us home again.
And tracks work well, too, for sightseers. Our bus rides might have taken us around the same track a few times, but we were sure not to miss any of the important things in Barcelona, and the bus was always waiting to pick us up when we were ready to head to the next stop. The bus was affordable, easy to use, and very useful. And it followed a track.
But by far our favorite day was Tuesday, the day that we picked a road. We all found the most amazing things, and saw things that we would have never seen on a track. We saw the little cafes and the small children playing in the courtyards. We visited tiny stands where the men in charge would bargain with us until we walked away with something wonderful for a very little bit of money. And we found a tiny diner to eat in, where the man fed us salads, roasted chicken, rice, diet cokes AND flan for desert, all for 7 euros and 50 cents.
We would all agree that picking a road works the best. Thanks, Mom.