Catalan is the hidden gem of the rich Spanish Mediterranean cost waiting to be discovered. A unique history and a language all its own, it should come as no surprise that Barcelona would stand out as a bold and distinct city compared to other big urban hubs of the world. As Madrid was our gateway to our adventure to come, Barcelona is our pathway to the sea, which we would use as our guide for the rest of our trip.
We arrive in the evening to Barcelona to first visit to Plaça Espanya, or the Spanish Plaza, which connects the famous Montijuïc Hill to the main Via de les Corts Catalanes. Our neighborhood is a part of the city which was reconstructed for the Olympic games of 1992 (Side note: this lead me to an amazing realization that these games took place before most all of my students were born!), and it was here we will make our home for two days in Barcelona.
Unlike much of Spain, Barcelona and the Canary Islands were the first two (and currently the only) Spanish provinces to outlaw bullfighting, which lead to an interesting architectural shift with the bull fighting rings in Barcelona. The night we had our first dinner we actually ate at a restaurant on the roof of a mall created in the retired bull ring of the Plaça de Espanya with beautiful city views. In the distance we could catch our first glimpse of the Sagrada Familia, the great lifetime masterpiece of Anotio Gaudí, began in 1882 and still currently under construction. This was juxtaposed with the neoclassical architecture of the Museu Nacional d’Art Catalunya which sat in our foreground-a true dipiction of Barcelona. Old, new, modern, contemporary, classical…a city of combinations and posiblity.
After our delicious dinner we had some free time to take photos of the skyline of Barcelona before making our way to the Font Mágica de Montijuïc, the Magic Fountain of Montijuïc, where the students enjoyed the fountain coordinated with music putting on a wonderful display of water and lights.
Some of the group members decided that it would be an authentic experience to jump in and dance along with the thousands of others watching the show, and they began a Middleburg Academy conga line (forcing me to lead…) which grew and grew with members from the crowd jumping in and enjoying the moment.
As we meandered our way back to the hotel through the Park of Monijuïc and through the back streets of Barcelona, it was impossible not to feel the magic of this city with a personality all its own. It is through Barcelona that Spain is best exemplified: breathtaking, interesting, historic, energetic and a little eccentric. It is in Barcelona we get to know and simultaneously despedir (say goodbye to) the Iberian Peninsula.