Hola, familia O’Brien! Vamanos a Badalona, Sitges, Barcelona, San Sebastian, Madrid, y Lisbon…

Expect the unexpected: That’s main lesson I have learned from my journey abroad for the last month and a half. Being flexible is the key to traveling anywhere and thinking on your feet/rolling with the punches is critical in order to enjoy your voyage.

It’s hard for me to believe that our study abroad program only ended 12 days ago, and we moved out of our apartments in Barcelona. Since then, we’ve visited 5 more cities in Spain/Portugal and learned a lot more about traveling abroad.

It was different when we had a place to live, because we could leave our belongings there and had a sort of permanent home to come back to after being out all day. Since our abroad program housing ended, Conner and I had to book a hostel for the weekend in Badalona, which a beach town and 20 minute train ride away from Barcelona. The first day there, we sat on the beach and recovered from exhausting ourselves for the last month only to prepare to exhaust ourselves more in the next few weeks…

Badalona

The second day that we were “homeless,” we took a day trip to Stiges where I learned that some of the boutique stores have their own individual exchange rates to Euros from the US dollar (1.30 is a ridiculous exchange rate), so I had to promptly return the new clothes I had bought there which was very upsetting. But then we marveled at the beautiful beach and the architecture of the city which made it all better again.

Sitges

The third day, we toured Hospital Sant Pau in Barcelona for the first time, even though we literally lived in apartments ten feet away from it for like a whole month without visiting and it was GORGEOUS on the inside, totally worth the wait.

Hospital Sant Pau

After that my family graced me with their presence by flying into Barcelona from the USA so that I could show them my Spanish home, and so that I could make them walk 20+ miles with me in two days and show them EVERYTHING the beautiful city of Barcelona has to offer. We ate lots of tapas and drank lots of sangria and it was muy bello.

Then, I realized that I lost my American SIM card which is going to be a huge pain when I get back to the United States, but when you travel, it’s inevitable that things will get lost. I was really upset my SIM card was gone but I had to accept it and move on…

Anyway, after exhausting Barcelona’s supply of tapas after only two days we all hopped in a massive rented van that we originally couldn’t figure out how to put in reverse and drove to San Sebastian (at first, facing the small crisis of driving an hour South in the wrong direction toward Valencia instead of North for Donostia since I fell asleep navigating… sorry…). We enjoyed walking through the old town San Sebastian, visited the most beautiful beach I’ve seen, Beach of La Concha, and hiked up to see the massive Jesus monument at Monte Urgull. Conner and I even stand up paddle boarded and I did a wheel pose on a SUP and DIDN’T fall off (HA, Conner!).

San Sebastian

After San Sebastian and eating our way through all of its delicious pinxtos, we drove to Madrid where we saw the biggest palace I’ve ever seen (America seriously needs to step up their palace game…) and I afterward made the mistake of ordering a 12am Nutella banana pizza from this random late night Indian food place outside of our apartment which I do not recommend, but learned from the experience that its a bad idea. 10/10 would not recommend. 

Madrid

From Madrid we flew to Lisbon where I ate some of the best food I’ve ever eaten in my life and drank lots of port (you’ve probably noticed that I’ve enjoyed trying every city’s local alcohol a lot). We explored the city including the Bairro Alto where our apartment was, and its wide array of bars everywhere which are so incredibly busy at night you cannot physically walk down the street.

Lisbon

We also visited the Castelo de Sao Jorge and explored the Alfama neighborhood which is old town Lisbon and my brother complained that the streets were too small for him to fit through (he’s a big guy). The street tiles were as extravagant as the fado we heard at night and everything we ate and drank was muy sabroso.

My culinary recommendations for visiting Lisbon would be to try try all of the pastries which adorn the shop windows, especially the pastel de nata. It’s a traditional egg custard pastry cup which tastes like tiramisu and the thing is, is that you can’t eat just one… I would also recommend trying port tasting, and buying a bottle of your favorite port to enjoy before heading out to a yummy dinner.

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I enjoyed drinking Ginja outside the castle from of a shot class made of chocolate!! It’s so great because you get to drink this delicious cherry flavored liquor and then when it’s gone you’re not sad because you just eat the shot glass too.

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One more thing: the street tiles here are incredible. They adorn the walls and decorate the city and I loved seeing the beautiful variety of artistry along every walkway in the city.

Now, I’m adventuring through France. I was put on the wrong flight to Paris where I was set to land 10 whole hours in France after Conner.. on a different airplane… yikes. But we fixed it, thanks to my mother who generously bought me a new flight on the spot (THANKS MOM!), and I landed only an hour after him in the same airport.

I packed up my single backpacking backpack carry on bag I’ll live out of for the next three weeks with everything I’ll need, and man, I’ll tell you, packing a single bag to live out of for three weeks really makes you think about what you NEED to bring.

That’s all for now. I’ll be sure to write about the champagne and macaroons of Paris in my next post 🙂

Adiós España, te extrañare mucho.

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