Our First European Family Trip: Part 2

Acclimating to a Big Time Difference and Just Being a Tourist

So, who knew it would be so hard to travel through Spain for 2 1/2 weeks and actually sit down at a computer and document some amazing things!?  Well, here we are, almost two months post exploration trip and I keep thinking, "if I don't do it now, I'll NEVER remember!!!"  that was the whole point of this blog anyway, right?  Not only for us to remember, but to share what we learn to hopefully help others interested in getting out and living abroad.

BARCELONA - our first few days after landing were spent in Barcelona...I called it our 'jet lag recovery time' and was meant for us to be full tourists if we wanted.  We all loved Barcelona, I think the kids were surprised how much.   Ray & I have lived in lots of different places in the United States, and the kids are just used to southern California ...so I don't think any of us were expecting to be surprised how 'clean' this big city was and the lack of homeless on the streets.  Sure, it's an OLD city (which in the U.S.A., we're not really used to), but being OLD doesn't mean dirty and un-cared for.  It was nice.  A nice change for sure.  There is lots of care taken to have proper disposal opportunities on the streets, specific cans for each type of refuse AND the residents in the area actually USED THEM.... lol, I still don't know why it was so surprising...but it was nice.

an old bull ring turned in to a modern shopping center inside

It was super easy to take a taxi from the airport in to the part of the city where we stayed.  Originally thought we would need to take a train/metro, but city was closer than we thought, and since we arrived very late at night, it was easier and more convenient to just take the taxi (and side note: our taxi driver at Barcelona was pre-booked via our hotel recommendations and he arrived with chocolates and bottled water for all of us - a nice gesture for sure).  

Our AirBnB was within just a few walking blocks of Plaça d'Espanya, the train & metro stations were right there, and it was a longer walk, but doable, to the old grounds of the 1992 Olympics.  Gorgeous.  As usual, we grabbed the double decker, hop on hop off tourist buses so we could see as much as possible and decide where to go back to spend more time.  We saw lots of amazing buildings on the Unesco World Heritage Sites list, Spain has SO many so that is a treat.  Of course, a handful of them in Barcelona specifically are from Antoni Gaudi and they are pretty over the top, but wonderful to see.  https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/

Other than strolling around and just taking the metro to different parts of the city to be tourists, our BIG touristy day was a special treat to the town of Montserrat and the monastery there.  Words just can't even describe this place.  In our family opinion, it is a MUST do.  An easy booking with local tourists organizations (we did ours ahead of the trip via Travelocity), it was reasonably priced and included the private car ride up the mountain and an amazing local tour guide.  The trip itself to Montserrat was about an hour or so, and the final leg heading up the mountain in the early morning was breathtaking.  The final destination itself... a Benedictine Monk Monastery dating back to early 888-900AD times.  Once the morning cloud cover burned off, we had a very chilly (and windy!) but unbelievable view from the top of both the Mediterranean Sea to one side and France just beyond the Pyrenes Mountains to the other.  

The port was just fabulous.  We went back towards the end of our stay here to go to the Aquarium.   Since it was so close to Christmas, there were wonderful little pop-up markets everywhere and the one at the Port was super fun.  Lots of food trucks and vendors, gorgeous spice market and some unique gift ideas (lots of things to remind us how close to northern Africa we were).  This also might have been our first exposure to 'churros and chocolate' and we were definitely hooked  - omg, what a treat!

Visiting a European city during a Holiday Season is definitely worth a bucket-list write in.   Barcelona did NOT disappoint.  It really felt like everything was decked with lights and sparkling decor. Just beautiful all lit up at night.  

One thing we really weren't expecting was the local Spanish language.  We knew it would be slightly different, but in practice a bit more than we had planned.  Our basic Spanish skills were fine to use and reply to everyone, but most things (signs etc) are all in Catalan.  With the general Spanish (Castillian) background we all have, we could (for the most part) figure out what was going on eventually lol.  Interestingly enough, Hunter grasped it easier than the rest of us.  Hunter has been taking French in high school all 4 years (and had kindergarten-5th grade Spanish) and we noticed that a rough description of the Catalan would be some French/Spanish mix...so he grasped it fairly well compared to the rest of us.   Not to worry though, a non-Spanish speaking tourist here should have no problems in Barcelona.  Main touristy areas, restaurants and shops all had someone on staff that they would grab for English if we were having a hard time communicating, so we were grateful.    Remember, it is common in modern European communities for people to speak MINIMUM two languages.  

All said and done, it really was the perfect start to our new beginnings...even if it was just our exploration trip.

(you can check out https://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/en/areas/placa-espanya.html to see most of the places in Barcelona we talk about here)

Stephanie Carnes March 13, 2023
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