Un puente en Barcelona

The last few weeks of the semester are always the most busy, which means that I’ve had a lot to share but not enough time to share it! At this point, I’ve finished my final exams and am just three days away from flying to the United States, but for now we’re going to travel back to where I left off at the beginning of December.

On the first day of the month it was Lucy’s birthday. She, Alex, Zoe, and I celebrated by going out to lunch at a nice restaurant in the historic part of the city, close to the facultad where we have our classes. I was so happy that we got to help her celebrate, especially since birthdays so far from home are always a bit hard.

That same day, I ended my Spanish choir career with another concert, this time in Córdoba. The venue was beautiful (photos below) and, as usual, it was nice to have the chance to chat with my fellow singers. I’m so glad I was able to find a way to keep singing in Córdoba and through participation in the choir I was able to interact with a group of adults outside of PRESHCO that I never otherwise would have encountered. A photo of the concert appeared in the local newspaper, too, for a fun added bonus!

Speaking of a group that I would not have otherwise encountered, last week I also said goodbye to my students at the school where I have been volunteering for the last few months. Although I signed up to volunteer mostly looking for another way to get involved in the community and learn more about Spanish language and culture, I learned more than I had ever expected (see previous blog post for a story about the English lesson that I got one morning). When I walked out of the school at the end of the day, some of the students chased me down on the playground to give last hugs and hand me a pile of handmade cards, many written in English. It absolutely made my day and got me thinking… do I want to teach, maybe?

Who knows? In any case, I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to learn, be challenged, and make some new young friends.

One of the notes I received on the last day of my volunteering job.

A highlight of this month has been my trip to Barcelona and Sevilla two weeks ago. It was a long weekend (or puente, which means “bridge.” My guitar teacher explained that it’s like a bridge that allows you to avoid work, or something like that. I don’t think that’s really the story behind the term, but it’s still a pretty funny idea), and Zoe, Alex, and I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to visit a new part of Spain. Zoe had a friend visiting Barcelona at the same time, so Alex and I passed most of the weekend together and were able to see a good amount of the city in two busy days.

The three of us spent Friday traveling, then started the real sightseeing on Saturday. The number-one thing to see in Barcelona – the most visited site in all of Spain, in fact – is the Sagrada Familia, a basilica designed by Antoni Gaudí that’s been under construction for more than a century and is still more than five years away from completion. When I saw it up close, it wasn’t hard to understand why; it was probably the most beautiful building I had ever seen.

At this point, I’ve visited my fair share of European cathedrals and they’re always impressive, but I just wasn’t prepared for how amazing the Sagrada Familia is.

I almost don’t want to spoil the surprise because I was lucky enough to enter the building having never seen a photo of the interior. It is not an exaggeration to say that my jaw dropped as I walked through the doors. The facades are spectacular enough, but I just could not have imagined how beautiful it would be on the inside. All I can say is that it was unlike any building I have ever seen and that if you’re planning to visit Barcelona in the near future, maybe hold off and don’t look at my photos here.

The same afternoon, after snacking on crepes in the shadow of the basilica, we visited a couple of other Gaudí houses and Ciutadella Park with its Arc de Triomf. Later, we headed to Camp Nou to watch Barcelona’s soccer team play against Mallorca.

From the very beginning of the semester, Alex has made his love for soccer – and Barcelona’s team specifically – very clear, so he was pretty excited, to say the least. (Later, I realized that going to that soccer game with him is probably how it feels to go see a musical with me.) His knowledge of the game and the team was very helpful too, especially for me, attending my second-ever soccer game, and he kept a commentary up for most of the 90 minutes. Messi scored a hat trick, Barça won, it was a good time.

We spent the next day exploring with a bit less of an agenda than the day before. First thing in the morning, we went to the Bunker del Carmel, a lookout that unfortunately has nothing to do with candy, but which did have a stunning view of the city. It was close to our Airbnb, so we were lucky enough to see it twice, by day and by night. After walking around the Gothic Quarter and visiting a few more cathedrals (seriously beautiful, but the Sagrada Familia had set an impossible standard the day before) we made our way to Park Güell, another Gaudí design (and a nice photo opp).

On Monday we met back up with Zoe for the trip back to Córdoba. We had a few hours to kill in Sevilla after our flight, so the two of them (both of whom had visited Sevilla before) gave me the highlights tour. We went to the Plaza de España, walked by the Real Alcazar and the cathedral, and ate some Indian food before catching our train.

Finally, I have a few more photos of Córdoba to share from the last few weeks. My geography professor and I visited the top of the Mezquita’s tower and got a beautiful 360-degree view of the city on an especially clear, sunny morning. I have been learning about the structure of Spanish cities, and of Córdoba in particular, so it was interesting to see the city’s layout and position from a bird’s eye view.

Because my geography class is an independent study, my professor and I often have the freedom to personalize it to my specific interests and experiences. The day we climbed to the top of the tower, I mentioned the upcoming trip to Barcelona and asked about what he could tell me about the city. Through chatting with him for a few minutes and applying what I’d already learned throughout the semester, I was able to “read” the city a bit during my trip. Before taking this class, I never would have noticed how Barcelona’s geography reflects its unique culture and history, especially when I compared it to what I already know about Córdoba.

With the arrival of our last month in Córdoba, everyone – students, professors, and host families alike – seemed to start looking ahead to our departure from Spain and, like clockwork, on December 1 started asking about whether tengo ganas de volver a mi país. While I always respond, yes, I am excited to return to the U.S. and see family and friends, consume my English-language media, and have a break from classes, I’m not necessarily looking forward to leaving Spain behind, especially since I’m not sure when I’ll next make it back.

Luckily, I still have a couple of days left before saying goodbye.

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