I would love to say I've travelled the world. Unfortunately, most of my life has been lived in the Midwest. Between Michigan, Ohio and Illinois, I haven't had much opportunity to explore. That changed when I met John, now my husband, He is from Texas, so through our relationship I had the chance to see more of the US! While we were planning our wedding, the topic of where to venture for our honeymoon was a hot topic. We were very smart about our wedding expenditures. We saved and were wise about our purchases, partly because we're both financially conservative individuals - but also because we were going to be closing on our first home four days after our wedding. This also meant that taking our honeymoon right away wasn't an option.
We discussed where we wanted to go. My top pick was Hawaii, having spent most of my life in the midwest, somewhere tropical sounded like heaven. John had more opportunities to travel in his life. He'd seen a lot of the US, and had the opportunity to visit Italy when he was younger. He encouraged me to consider somewhere in Europe. As far as our timeline was concerned, we knew we wanted to go in March 2017 (over the Northwestern spring break) - so we had to consider the climate wherever we went.
Paris, Italy, Greece and Spain were all locations we threw around. Ultimately, one factor set Barcelona apart from the rest - Barcelona FC was scheduled to play Valencia on March 19. That was all we needed to solidify that decision! Seeing Messi play has always been a dream of mine! I've played soccer practically since I could walk, and my dad was a huge EPL/La Liga fan due to his time overseas. It was a sign that Barcelona was the perfect destination!
I know a bit of Spanish, but from my research (thanks, /r/Barcelona) I felt confident we could get around speaking mostly English. We planned to stay for a week, and though in the time we could've explored more of Spain, we both really wanted to be able to enjoy as much of Barcelona as we could.
We arrived in Barcelona early Saturday morning after a long flight with only one short layover in New York. We booked an overnight flight, which I thought would be helpful for my first transatlantic journey. My perfect plan was to sleep the whole flight and wake up ready to take on the day in Spain! Little did I know sleeping for that long on a plane isn't that easy, nor is it restful. We flew British Airways. The plane was large, and by far the fanciest I had ever been on. There were a lot of media options - individual televisions with (free!) movies, tv shows, music and magazines to watch, browse and listen to during the flight. There was even an interactive map so you could see where you were in the world while you flew! While I wasn't able to rest much, I was entertained.
When we landed, I was exhausted. Oddly enough, John had an opportunity to meet with a client of his company's that morning. So while they were off doing business-y things for the morning, I enjoyed a restful morning at the spa in our hotel, Pullman Barcelona Skipper.
John returned from his work adventure around lunch, and we got settled into our hotel room. I felt at peace and relaxed from my spa experience and John was excited after a good visit with his client. We at lunch at the hotel's restaurant and began our journey.
Our room was pretty awesome. We had a beautiful view of the harbor on the Mediterranean Sea and a balcony to enjoy breakfast and the sea air each morning.
Our first evening was spent exploring the city. We went down to the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc and took in the sights of the city. It was so dark and all I brought for photography was my phone, so nothing I could take would do the beauty justice. This incredible video can give you a piece of the experience at least.
We spent Sunday exploring the city more, walking along the beach and through the neighborhoods, but the real excitement on Sunday was the upcoming soccer match. It was a bit chillier than we had anticipated that evening, so we stopped by the club shop in the Centre Comercial Arenas de Barcelona - a mall within the remodeled bullring where bullfighting took place until 1977. John picked up an awesome Barcelona FC jacket, and I got one of the iconic scarves. Of course, I picked up one for my dad as well. At about $20, it was an unbeatable price.
Interesting note - if you pay with a card, you'll have the option to pay in USD or the local currency, which were Euros in our case. The difference is that if you select to pay in USD, the transfer rate of the currency is decided by your bank as opposed to paying in Euros on the spot. Most of the card readers give you the option on the spot. They also show you the price in both currencies. I found that to be extremely helpful as I got a bit carried away thinking everything was cheaper than I anticipated because it was listed in a foreign currency.
Like many couples, John and I have "a thing" - and our "thing" is sporting events. We have gone to so many since we first started dating. We went to the viewing party in Grant Park when the US was in the World Cup in 2014. We've travelled to Dallas to see Texas play Oklahoma for the Red River rivalry. We went to the home opener for the Cubs this past April after they won the World Series (Go Cubs!!), so we've had many sporting event experiences.
This one was so different! The fans were SO into the match. Unlike American sports, it seemed like the main focus was to watch the game, not to get belligerently drunk. Everyone was so into every moment! It was awesome to be somewhere with so many fans. I would love to go back and see another match sometime.
Our next key stop was to the Sagrada Família, a cathedral designed by Spain's most prominent architect, Antoni Gaudí, in the late 1800s that is still being built today. John studied architecture at UT, so I'm sure the historic architecture and sites in Barcelona also contributed to his desire to visit here.
We toured the main site of the cathedral, and then got to go up into the towers and explore the building as it's being built. I was pretty terrified in the towers. I didn't realize how afraid I was of heights until I was at the very top of one and realized I had to take a narrow, old spiral staircase to get out.
The cathedral was breathtaking. There really are no words to describe how amazing it is. The photos here don't do it justice either. I definitely recommend visiting it if you ever have the opportunity!
After Sagrada Família, we hiked around Park Güell, another Guadí landmark. I didn't wear proper hiking shoes... but it was beautiful nonetheless.
In our exploration, we toured the Mies van der Rohe Barcelona Pavilion. We walked down La Rambla. We explored the stadium that housed the 1992 Summer Olympics. After exploring the stadium, we toured The Olympic Museum. There was so much awesome history of the past olympics there! It was really incredible. John and I are both history nerds, so combine that with our love of sports and we were in our happy place!
One of the best parts of the entire trip can be boiled down to one word: food. Barcelona has some of the best food I've ever experience in my entire life! I love eating lots of new things in small portions, so tapas were right up my alley. The coffee was amazing. The sangria was unbelievable. The cheese - oh the cheese! I would go back just for the sake of eating all the food once again. Because all the food was served as tapas (in small portions), the price always seemed so fair. We were trying incredible delicacies, yet never spent an exorbitant amount in any one location! Most tapas dishes were €4-5 each. The two of us could easily order 5 dishes, share them, get drinks and still make it out under €50! Not so easy to do in Chicago.
At the end of our week, neither of us wanted to leave. The beauty and peace we experienced over those seven days was unmatchable. We did miss our dog, though. I was excited to come home and see him again. Our flight back also had one layover, this time in the UK. We had enough time to get some food before finishing the overseas leg of our journey home. I slept better for part of this flight, but watched a few movies as well (Moana was one of them, and I also recommend it if you haven't seen it!) - that helped pass the time.
My hope is that one day we'll get to visit again, but for now, it really was the trip of a lifetime. And a wonderful way to celebrate our new married life together.