At 8am, we all boarded the Contiki bus for our 8-hour drive to Barcelona from Madrid. Needless to say, this was quite early, especially after all the fun we had with our new friends the night before! After we were all settled onto the bus, our tour guide Angie introduced us to a song called “Five Years Time” that eventually we all came to love, but at 8 in the morning, it was just a distraction from our impending nap time.
Around 1pm, we stopped in Zaragoza, a small Spanish town about halfway between Barcelona and Madrid. Like most of the towns in Europe, it had a gorgeous cathedral with a giant, life-size nativity scene. Since it was just after New Year’s, though, the town seemed to be preparing to get rid of all the Christmas decorations, including the manger.
We didn’t have a ton of time, so Windsor, Taylor, and I roamed around the little streets until we found somewhere to eat….and somewhere with a bathroom. Public restrooms are definitely NOT very common in Europe -- an unfortunate fact for three girls that like to guzzle water. We all ordered crepes at this small cafeteria (though, word to the wise, save the crepes for France) and then made our way back through the town to find Pino and finish our trek to Barcelona! For the next leg of our Contiki adventure, Angie requested that we all walk to the front of the bus and introduce ourselves on the mic and give our most embarrassing moment. Thankfully, this was the only ice breaker we did, but it was pretty funny and helped the time pass quickly.
We arrived in Barcelona around 4:30 and headed straight for the Olympic stadium. (If you didn’t know, Barcelona was home to the 1992 Summer Olympics!) Angie explained to us that Barcelona wasn’t necessarily a destination for travelers, but when it was announced as the location for the Olympics, the city went into revitalization mode. They remodeled a lot of the areas near the water and made it look like the urban seaside paradise it’s know as today! Between the water, the palm trees, the bars, and all the little shops, I can’t imagine Barcelona not being a tourist hot spot for travellers from all over the world.
We also hit up Sagrada Familia, just in case people didn’t make it there the next day during their free time. (We had it a the top of our list, of course!) We didn’t stay long, though, because we had a Contiki-planned dinner to get to. After traveling all day, a shower and food was definitely top priority.
Once we got to our hotel, we didn’t have much time to get ready, so we all pulled out much needed new outfits, threw on some makeup, and then raced back downstairs to meet the rest of the group. We all walked to the dinner for what Angie called about 10 minutes (it was actually about 25) and went to this adorable restaurant lit up with icicle lights outside. There was a huge seafood bar when we walked in and wine waiting on the tables.
Taylor, Windsor, and I saw with some of our new Australian friends. Natalie taught me, after my many failed attempts, the art of peeling a craw fish. (Yes, I know. How did I make it 22 years without being able to do this?) Let me tell you – this is NOT something you want to do and try to be dainty. It is messy and kind of gross, but it was also delicious! After our carb-o-licious meals in Madrid, we were all excited to be eating something light, but also really tasty.
Angie offered to take us all on a walking tour of the city center. We walked for about an hour, past gorgeous fountains and through the beautiful urban Barcelona landscape. Angie pointed out two Gaudi homes, a bunch of different Gothic architecture in the center and even a sketch done on a wall by Picasso. At one point, she even pulled out a bag of Chupa Chups (lollipops) invented by Salvador Dali! Who knew?
By the time we finished the tour, we were all exhausted, so we headed back to hotel for some much needed beauty sleep. We had a completely free day in Barcelona the next day and a Contiki excursion to a flamenco show at night – definitely didn’t want to be tired for that!
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