I remember the first day I arrived here, my host mother picked me up from the airport and on the way home, she told me that Barcelona was only three hours away from Montpellier by train. From that point onwards, I knew I wanted to spend a weekend there at some point during my French immersion stay in France. After a month or so here, my friends and I were talking and we just decided to book the bus there one weekend. Next, we chose a hostel that looked fun, and then it was official: we were going to Barcelona!
I left just after my French courses on Friday morning, packed all my stuff in a rush and then headed to the bus stop to get my 9-euro Flixbus. I can’t pretend Flixbuses are the height of luxury, but they go all over Europe for very cheap so are a great option for travelling around whilst you’re here. After 5 hours on the road, we arrived at Barcelona Nord bus station and headed straight for the beach to watch the sunset, drinking desperados to really get into the Spanish mood.
We then checked into our hostel, another cost-effective way to travel. The rooms can be pretty cramped but you can take advantage of the activities that they offer, and also meet people easily in the common rooms or bar. Our first night for example, we did the pub-crawl offered by our hostel, which was a lot of fun. Barcelona is really a great city if you want to go out dancing; there are so many bars and clubs, and a good mix of reggaeton and commercial music. The next morning we woke up in time to take advantage of our free hostel breakfast, and then made it to a free walking tour. Our guide showed us around the old gothic quarter, and explained bits of Barcelona’s fascinating history, and the struggle for Catalonian independence – I was so glad we went as it was super interesting. These kind of tours are such a good way to explore a city in a short space of time; you learn so much, see lots of the major sights as well as some more off the beaten track ones, and have the opportunity to ask your guide for all their insider tips and recommendations. At ILA French language school, every Monday there is a free guided tour in Montpellier after the French courses and I would definitely recommend doing this your first week, to get to know Montpellier as well as some of your fellow students!
After our guided tour, we headed to the market La Boqueria to grab some food for lunch. The choice was quite literally overwhelming; empanadas, tortillas, seafood, as well as so many different and colourful fruits that you would never see in the UK. We then got the metro to go to Parc Guell, a park designed by Gaudi in the north of Barcelona. You have to buy tickets to get in, but you are rewarded with some incredible architecture and amazing views over Barcelona. We spent a while here looking around, then went to the ‘bunkers’ to watch the sunset. This is a really cool spot; we got a 360 degree view over the city, and of the Sagrada Familia which towers over the rest of Barcelona. Especially once night falls and you can see all the lights from the city, it’s really special.
Sunday morning we got our free hostel breakfast again, before walking to the Sagrada Familia, stopping off at some of the houses designed by Gaudi on the way. Tickets for the Sagrada Familia are not exactly cheap, but I had heard that you really have to go – and I wasn’t disappointed. We spent hours there; it was so beautiful, grand and intricate, and the ticket also includes an audio guide which was surprisingly interesting and comprehensive. On the way out, there is a little museum about Gaudi’s architectural style which I really enjoyed, and I would really recommend visiting this too if you’re interested in architecture. Visiting the Sagrada Familia took us the whole morning, so afterwards we went for lunch, having our final tapas meal of the trip. We tried a lot of Spanish cuisine whilst we were there, but I think the standout dishes were definitely patatas bravas and pain con tomate, which I miss already now that I’m back in France. I was sad to leave Barcelona, and I definitely want to go back for a longer time; however, I was ready to get back into French learning mode. I had a good night’s sleep before my French classes on Monday morning, ready to tell everyone in French how I had spent my weekend!