I took the photo above after 11 a.m. (or in Spain, 23:00) at the port by our neighborhood, Barceloneta, during my very first night in Barcelona. The lights on the boats sparkled like stars.
It’s almost 3 a.m. now, technically my second night/morning in the city of Barcelona – a.k.a. officially the most beautiful place on earth in my dictionary – and I’m not tired, not at all. This is so against my usual biological clock because for the previous day, I was awake for 45 hours nonstop between two flights and a long day of power walking in a brand new city, and now after just five hours of sleep, I was recharged and ready to roll again.
I guess this is what Barcelona does to you. My excitement of being in Europe, being by the Mediterranean sea, and being like I’m at ease and at home has yet been burnt off, and I hope it never will in the next two and half months. I sure will explain all these emotions bit by bit to you in more blog posts to follow, but for now, let me just share with you what I’ve found out during my first two days of being in Barcelona:
- Barcelona metro system stops at midnight on weeknights, 2 a.m. Friday nights and run all nighters on Saturday nights. My dear friend Helena, whom I met last night for dinner and who has been studying in Barcelona for her graduate degree this last year, told me no Spanish youth sleeps Saturday nights. Can’t confirm that just yet.
- The entire city is covered with these bicycle check-out stands, a rental system that seems to come in handy. Unfortunately, it’s a system that benefits the locals. You get a long-term card, say for a year, paying only a small amount of money, about €30-40, you get unlimited access to the bicycles at any stand for a year. We spied on a local getting a bike checked out: it’s basically just swiping the card, taking the bike off the rack and heading off. Easy like that.
- The “ce” in “Barcelona” and the “ce” in “La Barceloneta,” the neighborhood we live in, are pronounced differently.
- Spanish people kiss twice on the cheeks, right first and then left, when they meet. This applies to old-time friends and strangers who meet for the first time. I have to admit substituting “Nice to meet you!” with kisses is still new and weird.
- My new study abroad buddies, who are also my roomies on this trip, Frankie and Alexa (feels like I’m drafting a new title for the next Netflix show), are quite on the same page with me in terms of makeup and other beauty products, so we are all very excited about the much better makeup collection here at the local mall compared to what we usually see in CoMo.
By the time I landed at BCN 7 a.m. Monday morning, I have been awake for almost 20 hours. But the day has just started. After a quick airplane-leftover-breakfast and bottled water I bought at the BCN airport (first official Euro purchase, woo-hoo!!), we hit the road, heading to our residence.
First impression of Barcelona was it looks like a city in the jungle. Green spreads around the city, up the hills and all the way down to the beach. It was a beautiful Monday morning, just the right weather for flying into a foreign city.
Barcelona is surrounded by mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, which makes it feel like a private little hub. On our way to the residence, we drove along the coastline with mountains on one side and the ocean on the other. I never lived near the ocean, so any scene of the water excites me.
Our residence locates right on the beach, in a neighborhood called Barceloneta. Fishermen used to occupy this area, until fishing became less of a dominating industry. The 1992 Olympics in Barcelona had many of its structures in the area of Barceloneta, and that helped with the area’s growing influence and increasing popularity. After all, it’s an older neighborhood, with narrow streets, small stores and beautiful beach scenes.
When my roommates, Alexa and Frankie, and I finally settled into our room (216, unpacked and everything), it’s already close to 4 p.m., 29 hours after I closed my eyes last time for some rest. Sleepiness had not yet creeped up on me, so the three of us decided to hit the beach, which is literally 3 mins away, walking distance. The view is gorgeous, lying there, however, turned out to be a not so wise decision. The wind was strong and by the time we were leaving the beach, all three of us were covered in sand: in our hair, ears and every where else!
But this is still not the end to day 1. My friend, Helena, who has been studying for her graduate degree in Barcelona since Semptember, has decided to take me out to dinner on my first night. I had no phone and no wifi connection, so she told me to meet with her in front of the Apple store on the Catalunya Plaza. To get there, we three musketeers got on the Barcelona metro for the very first time (I consider it a huge success doing so within our first 12 hours in this city) and went on a two-stop journey to the infamous Catalunya Plaza. The metro ride was painless, and the plaza is crowded with hit stores (Zara and Urban Outfitters, here I come!) and pigeons that had no phobia for walking pedestrians!
When I finally met up with Helena at 8 p.m. on day 1 in BCN, I was physically exhausted and emotionally psyched and wanted to do everything I could possibly do. She treated me with supposedly the best Chinese food in the city, and we talked and talked over more food we could ever consume in one meal. By the time we walked out, the day has turned dark and our bellies were full (no kidding, I took off my belt during the meal).
“What do you want to do now?”
“I don’t know. I want to walk off dinner though.”
“Have you been to La Rambla yet?”
So at 11 p.m. Sunday night, this new Barcelona gal right here, walked from Catalunya Plaza, down through La Rambla, all the way to the Colombus Monument and the port. The whole journey was a solid 3 kilos. Then from the port all the way back to my new home, which is another 1 kilo minimum, and ended my long, long first day in Barcelona, Spain. I know much more is to come, but judging from how my day 1 went, I doubt there’s anything I can’t handle.