ElizabethFlattery's Travel Journals


  • 31 years old
  • From North Carolina, United States
  • Currently in Barcelona, Spain

Viva Barcelona!

Here are some stories, thoughts, comments, etc. about my 6 weeks in Barcelona this summer!

Not so recent...

Spain Barcelona, Spain  |  Jul 22, 2009
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 No pasa nada... 

Hola a todos!  I can’t say sorry enough for not writing more often, but when you finally read all about what I’ve been up to, then you will understand why I haven’t had much time to write.  I'll try to write as much as I can for now...


July 1st started out like a normal day until that afternoon.  I found out that the annual “Rebajas” began today and would last until the end of August.  The Rebajas are sales that EVERY store has in Spain with amazing discounts, some up to 70%!!  I thought it was too good to be true…It’s really comparable to all of the sales and discounts that you see after Christmas.  Spain holds the Rebajas every year because it is customary for everyone in Europe to go on “holiday” or vacation at the end of August.  Most places practically shut down as everyone heads to their vacation destinations for some R & R.  The Rebajas give businesses an extra boost of sales right before the holiday.  Usually the Rebajas begin on the 1st of August and last for only that month, but because of the economic situation, they decided to extend it for an extra month…lucky for US!  So, of course, on that first day, we just had to go shopping, and probably in the busiest part of the city, Las Ramblas.  At least I found some great deals!


That night we had our 2nd salsa class.  We began dancing with partners, thank goodness, so we wouldn’t be so terrible and awkward if we decided to go to a salsa club again.  After salsa, we headed back to our apartment for a girls night.  Bailey (another intern in the program) and I stopped at a gas station on the way back to get some cava (Spanish champagne).  I’m not sure what I expected, but this gas station didn’t fail to blow me away.  We walked up to the gas station and instead of going in to get the cava ourselves, we had to tell the clerk through the window what we wanted and the transaction took place through a sliding box underneath the window….I know, bizarre!  So we asked the clerk about each bottle of cava on the shelf, trying to find the cheapest one (haha..).  When we decided, we just slid the money under the window and she put all of our items in the bin along with a plastic bag and she slid it right back to us.  Pretty crazy.


On Thursday, July 2nd, I went with Cote (by the way, his name is pronounced “coat-ay” not “coat” =)..) to Girona, about an hour north of Barcelona, to present a new line of casual dancewear that they are selling to a client.  It was a great experience in a business-sense and a cultural-sense.  Firstly, on the drive up to Girona, Cote and I had a really interesting conversation about cultural differences between Spain and America.  I made the observation that all of the highways were really clean in Spain (I’ve since noticed that people who own stores actually MOP their portion of sidewalk in front of their store…yea, seriously) and told him that in the States, you usually see trash along the side of the road.  This led to us talking about how Americans, collectively, view the earth and how wasteful we really are (and in Cote’s defense, I said these things, not him).  We also talked about the value of time in Spain vs. in the States.  Obviously in the States, especially in business, we have the viewpoint that time is money and the quicker that things get done, the better because then you can move on to something else.  Productivity is key.  On the other hand, in Spain, is the mindset of, “No pasa nada”, which loosely translated, means “No worries”.  People aren’t really as concerned with time and hurrying to get things done here.  Bailey sits with her co-workers every morning around 11 for up to an hour, just chatting and drinking coffee (At a café down the street, by the way.  Not even at the office).  Instead of viewing it as lazy or slow, I see it as people really wanting to enjoy life rather than rush through it in a whirlwind.  Most of the time in America, many workers take only a short 30 minutes for lunch, if that, and many people even eat at their desk so they can keep working.  Here, lunch usually takes a couple of hours, and it’s very leisurely and relaxing.  You typically eat lunch with friends or family and just chat and eat and drink and enjoy each other’s company.  They really take pride in enjoying life and getting the most out of life’s pleasures.  Whatever may come their way, good or bad, they just look at it and say “no pasa nada” or “es lo que hay” (basically, it is what it is).


So on Friday, the 3rd, most of the students and interns headed for Madrid with Rich.  We chose the high-speed, really comfortable train through the beautiful Spanish countryside for the trip.  When we arrived, we found our way to our hotel and then lunch.  After our relaxing lunch, we walked to the Prado Museum where we saw some amazing pieces of art by Bosch, Velazquez, and Goya.  It was so cool to see paintings that I had studied in my art classes.  After the museum, we grabbed some late-afternoon coffee together and parted ways to have some free time.  Most of us went shopping (shocker, huh?), then we met up later at the hotel to all go out for tapas together.  Tapas are traditional to Spain and are similar to appetizers in the states.  When you go out for tapas, usually you order a few plates and everyone at the table shares.  Some of my favorite tapas have been, patatas bravas (potatoes with a garlic mayo-type sauce and a spicy red sauce), tortillas (Spanish omelets usually made with potatoes and onions),  croquetas (small, fried ovals with a cheese and ham or chicken filling), pepiños (small sautéed green peppers with sea salt), and pan con tomate (toasted bread rubbed with raw garlic then rubbed with a fresh tomato and sprinkled with olive oil)….YUM!  We “tapas-hopped” as I like to say, and went to a couple of different places for various tapas.  We headed back to the hotel for some much-needed sleep for the next big day.


On Saturday, (the 4th of July!) we woke up early to check out the Royal Palace and walk through the surrounding gardens.  The Royal Palace in Madrid is almost non-functional in the sense that the King and Queen don’t obviously live there but, it is used for special occasions.  Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the palace.  Too bad, because I definitely got a few ideas for decorating my own house when the time comes and I all have is my memory to rely on (which doesn’t say a lot).  After seeing the palace, we caught the bus to Toledo, a small town an hour outside of the city.  I had been there before also, but I loved it, so I was excited to go back.  This time instead of having a tour bus drive me up the long hill to the city, we walked from the bottom of the hill where the bus station was, all the way up.  Nice little workout =).  We first found some lunch, then headed for the cathedral, which I was excited to see again.  It’s one of the oldest (if not the oldest) cathedrals in Spain.  It is so so beautiful. 


After the cathedral, on a completely different note, we decided to go to a museum of ancient torture instruments from the Spanish Inquisition.  SOOOO creepy!  I don’t know how they thought of some of that stuff…We had some more free time after we were finished there, so we wandered around and shopped a little more before catching the bus back to Madrid.


We wanted to experience some Madrid nightlife, so we headed out for some more Tapas, then found our way to a couple of different bars.  At 3am, just as the bar we were in was closing, my friend, Carlos, who lives in Madrid, showed up along with his girlfriend, Alba.  Carlos went to school with me this past year and was on the soccer team, but decided not to come back this year, so needless to say I was really excited to see him.  At this point, most of our group went home, but Grace, one of the students in the program, decided to stay with me and let Carlos show us Madrid from a native’s point of view.  We headed to a club filled with locals.  From outside, it didn’t look like anything special, but when we got inside, it was PACKED with people.  They played really great music and everyone was just having fun dancing practically shoulder to shoulder because it was so packed.  When 5:30 crept around, Grace and I decided that it might be a good idea to go back to the hotel for at least a couple of hours of sleep before our day of more tourism.  I think I finally fell asleep around 7am that morning.  In Spanish, there’s a word, “empalmar”, that means staying out all night partying then heading straight to work.  Kind of bizarre that it’s so common to stay out all night that they need an actual verb for it, huh?


On Sunday, after just 3 short hours of sleep, we went to breakfast together, then headed to the Reina Sofia Museum.  This incredible museum holds works by Picasso, Dali, and El Greco.  We saw some of these artists’ most famous paintings, including some of the bizarre videos created by Dali.  Honestly, I thought this museum was a lot more interesting than the Prado and I would definitely suggest going there if you’re ever in Madrid. 


After the museum, we headed for the El Retiro park.  This park is HUGE!  We took a picnic lunch and relaxed in the grass while we ate.  Seeing this park was one of my favorite things that we did.  It was very similar to Central Park in New York City.   Something very interesting that we saw in the park was a statue of the Fallen Angel.  We were told that it was the only Fallen Angel statue in the world, and that made me think, “Why would someone build a statue of the Fallen Angel?”, and even then, “Why would someone want to display it in a public place?”  It was interesting to see.  My favorite part was in the center of the park: the lake.  There you can rent paddle boats to go out on the lake, feed the tons of giant fish, shop from the little street vendors, or grab coffee at the café on the dock of the lake.  There I met up again with Carlos and Alba along with one of my other friends from school that had just flown into Madrid that afternoon, Martin.  Martin was also on the soccer team at Lenoir-Rhyne and is from Switzerland.  He decided to transfer back to Switzerland after Christmas, so I hadn’t seen him since then.  Sadly, it was time to leave Madrid, so my friends walked with us down the street to the train station and said goodbye to us there.  We made the 3 hour train ride back to Barcelona pass by faster with a nap.  When I got back that night, I was still so tired that I went right to bed.


Okay, I’m going to have to leave you guys hanging and stop there.  I promise that I will continue soon!  ¡Os extraño!  ¡Nos vemos MUY pronto! Besos…xx

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