Trading cities

Sorry for a longer-than-usual post; a week of traveling is a long time!

I spent the past week with Emma: five days in Barcelona and three in Copenhagen. It was so much fun to show each other our study abroad experiences. I have learned that it’s especially amazing to visit a city where you have your own personal tour guide who knows it well, as you get a lot of insider information and experiences you may not otherwise receive. I flew to Barcelona from Milan on Monday night. Emma instructed me to take a cab to her residence, as she does not find the public transportation safe once it’s late, and it was almost midnight when I landed.

When I got to her apartment, we took the elevator so as to avoid running into security. She’s technically not allowed to have guests stay over, but she had already had visitors earlier in the semester and said it was fine. We spent about an hour discussing our itinerary for the coming days. Tuesday especially required a lot of planning because we were going to Carnival at night when it would be a fairly different temperature than it was during the day. I wore a few layers under my sweatshirt and shoes that I knew could get dirty.

On Tuesday, Emma had a bunch of classes in a row. Luckily, Adina and her parents were also visiting Barcelona, and they generously allowed me to hang out with them while Emma was busy. Sight-seeing alone is fine, but it is definitely different than sharing what you see with other people. Emma showed me how to use the Metro lines, which are similar to Cope’s, except they are much more crowded. She told me to hold my phone like a claw so that people couldn’t grab it, and she said to always keep my eyes on my bag. While I’d like to think that I’m always somewhat vigilant, I do not typically take these same precautions in Copenhagen, at least not to that extent.

I was a bit nervous about navigating Barcelona’s public transportation system by myself, as directionality is really not my strong suit. However, the app Citymapper that I use in Copenhagen came in very handy in Barcelona, as I could plug in my destination and see all the different options I could take to get there. Emma suggested that I buy a 10-pass for the Metro, as I would likely use it often during the week. My first stop on Tuesday morning was Park Guell, which is fairly far from Emma’s residence. I successfully took the metro and walked up a very steep hill to get there, and I met Adina inside. Park Guell was initially designed to be a residential neighborhood at the top of the mountain overlooking Barcelona, but the high prices to live there made it so that the project was ultimately a failure. Additionally, it is far from the center of the city. When no one decided to live there, Park Guell was converted into a public park and tourist attraction of stunning architecture, with a beautiful view of the city. It was midday and the sun was super hot, and I was sweating. I wasn’t able to bring my sunglasses that day because then I would have had to take them out with me at night, so I squinted when necessary. I walked around the park with Adina and her parents.

After leaving Park Guell and walking down the mountain, we headed back to the city center, visiting Casa Mila and La Pedrera. These are gigantic houses that are beautiful on the outside, as well as the inside, although we did not get tours of either. These buildings were a stark contrast to the relatively ordinary buildings and stores that surrounded them, as they are both on a busy road. We stopped to decide where to eat lunch, and we found a cute place called Hummus Barcelona that was just down the street. The menu ended up being not super gluten-free friendly, but the waitress was really nice and allowed me to order a salad off the dinner menu, which was delicious. We were also able to eat outside.

Next, we walked around Las Ramblas, which is a very long street lined with restaurants, souvenir vendors, and fun dessert places. We also passed the Gothic quarter and saw the Cathedral from a distance, and we went into a store that sells Happy Pills (jelly beans and other chewy, colorful candy). Adina and her family headed to their reservation at La Sagrada Familia, and I went in the other direction on the metro back towards Emma’s school, as she would be done with class soon. I also needed to shop for a “costume” to wear over my clothes to Carnival, so Emma had given me the name of a store to visit. There were so many costume pieces to choose from, but I settled on a blue boa. Emma was bringing a mask for me to wear as well, and she was wearing a hot pink wig. Then, I walked around the neighborhood by myself to kill the last 20 minutes before meeting her, stopping to get an early dinner at a place nearby.

I was on time to meet Emma and her friends outside their class at 5:15, and we headed over to the extremely American-dominated scene at a place to pregame. It was super strange to run into several people from high school that I had not even thought about since senior year, as in addition to Barcelona being a hub for students studying abroad, this was also a popular week to visit the city for Spring break. I was happy I was there at such a highly-desired time, though it did make the crowds harder to navigate. After hanging out at the bar for a little while, we boarded a coach bus that drove us for an hour to Sitges, a beach town where Carnival was held. We had bought tickets through a company that would drive us to the Carnival town and back, and they also gave each person a one-liter box of Sangria, which is a very popular drink in Barcelona. We arrived around 7p.m., though the parade didn’t start until 9. There were plenty of bars and clubs in the area to keep us busy, though, so we walked around and stopped by in various fun places. It was crazy how early people had started partying for this event, and even more so that Carnival is a 7-day event. We headed over to get a good spot for the main parade, and I couldn’t believe how many people were there. The street was lined with rows and rows of people. There were dozens of floats the passed us, and each float had a “crew” of about 30 dancers, all dressed very provocatively and waving at the crowd. Even the dancers had drinks in their hands, so it was very rowdy and loud. It was so fun to be a part of it, though, and I was glad I got to see a culturally important event the one week I was there. When we got tired of standing along the sideline, we got food at an Indian place, where I had a large bowl of white rice. I was hungrier than I realized. Although we headed back to the bus stop around 1:15 in the morning, we didn’t get home until 3:00. It took us a while to find the actual location of the busses, which was somewhat frustrating, especially because they were not parked where they were supposed to be. Anyway, I resisted sleep on the bus so that it would be easier to fall asleep, and when we finally got back to Emma’s apartment, I was sleeping within minutes. The experience was so fun, but incredibly exhausting.

On Wednesday we were able to sleep in a little bit, and then Emma and I met a few of her friends at a brunch place called Citizen Cafe. None of them had eaten there before, but it was actually a recommendation from a girl I’m friendly with at Cornell with Celiac. She and I have been giving each other suggestions via Whatsapp this semester, as we are both abroad and traveling to various cities around Europe. Emma was able to take most of Wednesday off from going to class, which was really nice. Then, we spent the morning walking around the city. I saw the Arc de Triomf, as well as the Ciutadella Parc, which is really big, and it has a beautiful fountain. We also walked through some streets that they hadn’t visited yet, and we stopped at this place they heard had good coffee. In the afternoon, they had to go to their classes, so I met up with Adina and her parents again. Our first stop was La Boqueria, which was similar to Copenhagen’s Glass Market, except the foods were more snacks and fewer meal places. It was also less organized according to the item so a vendor selling fish could be across from a vendor with fruit. Emma said I should try a fruit smoothie at the back of the market for only one euro, so I got a papaya and mango one, which was amazing. I also got chocolate-covered strawberries on a stick.

It was an overcast day—one of the first ones all semester, according to Emma—but it was our only opportunity to visit the Barcelona beach, so we walked for 40 minutes to get there. It was so pretty, even though we couldn’t watch the sunset. In Spain, it is customary to eat dinner at 9 or 10 p.m. at night, which is a whole lot later than I usually eat, so I ate a snack on my way back to Emma’s apartment. Emma had made a 9:00 reservation for this place called Flax and Kale, which has an entirely organic, gluten-free, and relatively healthy menu, including delicious desserts. I think this was my favorite meal in Spain, although it wasn’t authentic food. I had a pesto avocado and cheese flatbread, followed by chocolate cake.

I was feeling pretty tired, and it was only 11:30 when we finished dinner and got ready to go out. I told Emma I was exhausted, and she said we could stay in if I wanted, but that if we went out, we couldn’t really prevent it from being a late night. The way it works with particular promoters on certain nights of the week is that you have to go to bars within specific time frames, you get stamps, drinks, etc, and then you head to the main club. I decided that I was only in Barcelona once this semester, so I should make the most of it. So, we headed out for the evening—it was almost midnight already. First, we stopped at Ovella Negra, which was a bar primarily populated with American study abroad students. We met up with Emma’s friends and got our hands stamped for later in the night, and we sat there for about a half hour. We walked to D9, where the bartenders made sleeves of six shots per person, but I only had a sip of Emma’s because I didn’t want to drink that much. We ended up talking to some tourists who spoke Dutch as well as five other languages, but we left them before we went to the club. Finally, we went to Razzmatazz, which is an enormous nightclub. There were probably hundreds of people on the dance floor; it was such a fun and high-energy environment. We had a really good time singing and dancing along to the music, and before I knew it, it was 3 a.m., and Emma and I headed home so I could get at least a few hours of sleep that night. I have no idea how she does that regularly, but I’m so glad I got to experience nightlife in Spain for a week. Copenhagen style is definitely more suited to me.

Waking up at 8:30 on Thursday was exhausting, but I really wanted to join Adina and her parents to ride the cable cars up Montjuic. It took us a long time to figure out exactly where we were supposed to go, but after asking several people and hiking up a fairly steep hill, we saw the entrance point. It was about a five-minute ride to the top of the mountain, and the view from the cable car was gorgeous. We went on a really nice walk once we reached the top, and there were a lot of cool views of both the water and the city.

Adina and her parents left to catch their flight back to Copenhagen, but Emma’s friend Shreya had texted me that she could get lunch with me at a paella place between her morning and afternoon classes. That was really sweet of her. She’s a senior from Cornell, so we had plenty to talk about. I wanted to have paella at least once while I was in Spain, and Shreya had heard this was the best place (she actually hadn’t tried it yet). For 11 euros, you got a huge dish of paella (we got seafood) as well as three different tapas, which was so much food for two people, but it was incredible.

Shreya had to go back to class, and I had a reservation for a tour of La Sagrada Familia at 2:45, so I headed to the metro to get there. Although I knew it was a large building because I had heard about it, I literally gasped when I stepped out of the metro station: it was so much bigger than I imagined. I felt so tiny standing next to it. I think it might be the prettiest man-made structure I have ever seen; between the stained glass windows that lined the inside walls to the symmetrical columns that supported the ceilings and the Hogwarts-like top of the outside, it truly was incredible. I’m so glad I spent the extra money on an audio guide, especially since I was by myself and it gave me something to do, as well as being super interesting and informative. I learned that La Sagrada Familia was an architectural vision of the famous Gaudi, who died in 1926. It is actually still under construction, and it will be completed in 2026 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his death. If you’re thinking about how it could be possible for a building to take 100 years to build, you should see the details within each inch of the structure. The audio guide explained that there was a specific reason behind each architectural decision. For example, the tallest pillar in the building is 172.5 meters tall, as Gaudi wanted it to be just shorter than the tallest mountain in Barcelona, Montjuic.

I took my time walking around and reading everything about the building, and then I decided to take a break, sitting in the sun and continuing to admire it. I walked back towards the city center, as I was supposed to meet Shreya for an afternoon hike to the Bunkers. Emma had to do a group project since she would be gone over the weekend. I had a little time to kill before Shreya’s class ended, and I ended up stumbling upon an all gluten-free bakery nearby, so I got a muffin, and I sat in a little park called Placa de Tetuan. Shreya showed me her homestay apartment, and then we brought a bottle of wine to the Bunkers, which is essentially a beautiful lookout spot to watch the sunset and hang out. I even ran into a few people from my DIS classes back in Copenhagen, which was funny.  Getting there was definitely a hike, and my legs really felt it, especially since it was my second mountain-climb of the day. However, the view was worth it. We sat and admired the view before heading back down, and I went back to Emma’s to get ready for dinner, which was at 9:00 again. That night we went to a place called Sensi Tapas, which was a packed restaurant with delicious and unusual tapas. I got a risotto dish and a scallops dish in some creamy sauce, and they were both really good. We were going to get gelato, but by the time we got home at 11:30, I was more than ready for bed. Emma and I had an early flight the next morning, so we decided to go to sleep.

We took a metro and then a bus to the airport on Friday, which was a whole lot cheaper than the cab I had taken in the other direction. I am so happy I was able to nap on the plane, as I felt really behind on sleep and I wanted to feel good enough to show Emma all around Copenhagen. I ended up sitting in an Exit row all by myself, which was great. I put my feet up and curled into a ball, and I slept for at least half of the flight. I read my book for the other half, which is getting very good. Although I don’t read every day here like I do at school, it’s the perfect activity for plane rides.

We deboarded the plane to find that it was sunny outside, which was very exciting, as the forecast had been for it to rain the entire day. We dropped our stuff off and headed for lunch at the Glass Market. I showed Emma all my favorite places to get food, and I gave her a few suggestions. She ultimately ended up getting porridge from Grod, and it was her favorite meal the entire weekend! We headed straight for Nyhavn and the trampolines, which Emma had mentioned several times already. It was cute that she was so excited to jump on them. We decided to walk to Christianhavn and climb the Church of our Saviour, but it was actually so windy that it was closed for the afternoon. These Bulgarian tourists came up to us and gave us their business cards, which was a very strange interaction, but we told them we were busy when they invited us to get drinks with them. I showed Emma Christiania while we were near the neighborhood, and then we headed back to the city center to walk through Stroget and climb the Round Tower while it was sunny. It was super windy and cold, but we had a good time anyway.

We headed back to my apartment to change for Shabbat dinner, and we actually met up with Ellie, one of my aephi friends from school. The three of us went to dinner with Adina, Goldie, and their families, so we sat at a big table for a yummy meal and a fun evening. It was good to see Ellie and hear about her experiences in Dublin so far, especially as I am headed there this weekend. After dinner, which lasted several hours (as usual), Emma and I went to Xocovino, a place I have been meaning to go. It’s a chocolate and wine cafe, and we did a chocolate-wine tasting, where each of us had three different types of wine and three different chocolate truffles. The waiter came over and explained each chocolate-wine pairing, and I actually learned a lot about where the wine came from and why the pairs were meant to be together. Then, we went to sleep.

We woke up at 7:30 on Saturday morning to beat the crowds at Mad and Kaffe, as I had learned from my visit there with Josh that it would be crowded when it opened at 8:30. I’m glad we went; the food was worth it. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain, but we huddled under my umbrella for the walk there. I tried three different dishes than what I ate last time: scrambled eggs with mushrooms, blood oranges in tarragon sugar, and smoked salmon, which had been Josh’s favorite dish.

By the time we finished eating, the rain had cleared up. I got to try so many touristy things this weekend with Emma, and I am slowly realizing that I’ll never be able to do everything here; there is so much to see and do. However, visiting friends are a great reason to try new things. I showed Emma the Black Diamond library, and we climbed all the stairs to the top for the pretty view of the water, which I hadn’t done before. Then, we headed to the Christiansborg Palace, as a friend from class had recently told me that you could see the view at the top for free. We weren’t exactly sure that we were in the right spot, but we figured that a long line must be a good start. I was explaining something about Copenhagen to Emma when a tourist tapped me and asked me whether I recommended the climb. I was so flattered that the person thought I knew what I was talking about! I said that while I hadn’t yet seen it, I heard it was pretty. Another woman also asked me if I had been to the Church of our Saviour, which I have, so that was cool, too. As I told Emma more about Copenhagen, I am discovering that I am proud to call this ‘my city’ for the semester, and I am really getting to know my way around. For example, I only had to use google maps once the entire weekend, and it was to go to a brunch place I hadn’t been before. Anyway, the view at Christiansborg was amazing; it was cool to be able to point out all the different tall landmarks from the top.

When we came down, we walked around the Magasin mall nearby for a few minutes, and we got a bunch of free samples of caramels and chocolate, so that was fun. Emma also wanted to return to the canal while the sun was out, so we did, and she got a waffle. Then, we walked towards the botanical gardens, where I have not yet visited. We bought student tickets and we walked around the greenhouses, which were filled with pretty plants. It was also very warm inside. At that point, it was late in the afternoon, and we took a break in my apartment before meeting up with Emma’s friend from home at Paludan. Later, we ate dinner at Cafe Norden, which is known for its typical Nordic food. Emma was able to try open-faced sandwiches, and I think these are a key part of eating style here, so that was good. We were tired after dinner, but I wanted to take Emma to Bastard Cafe, which she loved. We played chess and scrabble, and we got good drinks. It was a fun end to a long day.

Sunday started with brunch at Far’s Dreng, which was on my food bucket list. It was really good. Adina and Goldie were able to join me and Emma, so I was glad they got to know each other a little more. The food was presented really beautifully, and we ended up staying there and chatting for a while. Emma and I took a long walk to the Little Mermaid, as well as the star, which is always a nice activity, especially in the sun. We kept remarking how lucky we were with the weather this weekend, as the forecast had really been crappy.

After that walk, I brought Emma to the Amalienborg palaces, and we saw the guards marching for a quick minute. We spent a while observing the door guards and talking about their jerky movements; it was very interesting to see what they were doing. We headed back to the city center, stopping at the Glass Market for a snack on the way before Emma headed to the airport. Luckily, our goodbye was super easy because I will see her this week again in Dublin.

I spent the rest of the day on Sunday catching up on life: emails, the gym, laundry, etc—all the things that you don’t usually hear about from abroad stories, but things that are important, nevertheless. I had felt super disconnected from everyone in the past week, as traveling is exhausting and very busy, so I was also able to facetime that afternoon with Josh and my family each for a while, which was very nice.

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