In one of our rare mornings spent in the actual classroom, we were fortunate enough to have a guest speaker (Lynn Strause, yearbook extraordinaire) speak to us about finding our voice and making an impression. While we spent most of our time talking about yearbook and magazine designs, the presentation got me thinking about the city itself — what sort of voice does Barcelona have? What impressions has it made on us so far?
As we pass the halfway point of our short stay in this amazing city, I think it’s time to provide a small taste of what we’ve experienced so far.
TEN IMPRESSIONS THAT BARCELONA HAS MADE ON ME
1. La Rambla
A stately man going for a stroll on La Rambla
La Rambla, a massive street in central Barcelona that we walk through multiple times each day, is the most lively, bustling hub of activity I have ever experienced. Walking up and down it, one might see some street performers, a historic church or two, or the widest selection of hamster cages in the entire hemisphere spread out at their feet. Night or day, rain or shine, there is always heavy foot traffic on La Rambla, and though it is primarily a tourist location, it provides an excellent cultural experience that no one should leave Spain without.
Siesta on the beach with an umbrella
The very idea of closing up shop in the middle of the day and taking a nap is so mind-boggling to us Americans that we simply cannot comprehend it at first. In Spain, however, it’s normal practice, and it’s part of a laid-back lifestyle that I think we could stand to learn something from. Some stores open later or close earlier, people are more relaxed, and you can sit at a restaurant as long as you want after you finish eating without getting thrown out. And yet, somehow, everything continues to function just fine — it’s a great atmosphere to be in, and one of the things I’ll miss most about this place.
3. The History
This is a castle. (photo by Katie Dalebout)
You can’t walk for two minutes here without seeing some kind of historical building or massive structure (i.e., La Sagrada Familia) towering over you. Everything from the tiles at your feet to the sculptures and fountains that rise from the ground are steeped in history, and it’s part of what makes this city seem so unreal. We heard a story about a fountain somewhere in the city where, if you drink the water, you will someday return to Barcelona — so far we’ve found something like ten fountains, and had water from each, so hopefully one of them was the right one and none of them were from the sewer or something.
4. Patatas Bravas
OH MY GOD THEY ARE SO GOOD
Words cannot describe patatas bravas (potatoes with a uniquely spicy dressing). I will simply include a picture and hope our readers can grasp what a culinary miracle it is that such an exquisitely delicious dish was ever created.
5. Street Art
"All You Knit Is Love" storefront window
I’ve never seen a city with more graffiti, murals and other forms of art on the streets. It adds so much color and life to an already vibrant place, and it seems to be much more accepted here than it would be back in the states. Entire buildings or shop doors will just be covered in extravagantly painted trees or landscapes or people. I think it’s amazing.
6. Adam and John’s Blue and Red Authentic Professional Lionel Messi Number 10 Barcelona Futbol Jerseys
Dancing in the moonlight
I think they speak for themselves.
7. The Dream Worlds of Dali and Gaudi
Parc Guell - A Real-Life Wonderland
Visiting Dali’s museum in Figueres and Gaudi’s creations in Barcelona, such as La Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell, was like being in a real-life Wonderland. Walking up the steps at Parc Guell was the moment when I truly realized that I was in a completely different culture — it was like nothing I have ever seen before, and I’ll probably never see anything like it again. These are experiences I would never trade for anything and I think they’ll have a great impact on me as a designer too!
8. The Language Barrier
The street signs are all on the sides of buildings!
I took Spanish for multiple years back in high school, but I can honestly say that I’ve learned more since I’ve been here than I ever did back then. It’s incredibly gratifying to be able to order food or chat to a store owner entirely in another language (or so I’ve heard — that’s my ultimate goal). I also enjoy the overall shift in our group from exclusively English to a sort of English-Spanish hybrid language (Hola, lo sienta, I’m late, I was eating my jamon boccodilla in my room) and I look forward to us all becoming fluent in the next few days.
9. The Metro System
An inside look at the Metro
Any account of Barcelona would be incomplete without the Metro. We take it everywhere — it’s the easiest transportation in the world. We wish they had something like this back in East Lansing! Also, there are escalators everywhere, and no one can not have at least a little fun every time they ride one of those.
10. Cheryl Pell
Cheryl and Abbey on the bus tour
Okay, so Cheryl isn’t technically a part of Barcelona, but I think I speak for everyone when I say that a trip like this simply would not be the same without her. I know that many of us would not even be here if we hadn’t taken her class at MSU and promptly changed our majors/lives to follow the design path. Even though it took her awhile to accept my Facebook friend request, I am glad that Cheryl is here and I can’t think of anyone else I would want to lead this expedition!
Well, that just about puts Barcelona in a nutshell*. I hope it’s given you a taste of what it’s like for us, and I’m looking forward to another week here!
*And by that I mean that really I could fill an entire novel with the things we have packed into a single week in this city.