The last morning in Europe. At least for now. I cannot imagine not coming back to all of these places to explore further. I think one of the greatest benefits of a travel tour is that it can only inspire more travel, can only make one want to seek out more new experiences.
I woke up once again to the serenade of the garbage truck here at Hotel Mercury. Then lots of shouting teenagers (not from our group), so I wasn’t in the best of spirits to start the day. Breakfast has been disappointing at the hotel and the bad coffee is a chief reason for this!
We drove into Barcelona’s city center and began walking down La Rambla, a busy and fun stretch of pedestrian avenue filled with restaurants, cafes, shops, flower stands, bars. We stopped at La Boqueria Market to find something to lift our spirits.
La Boqueria is a photogenic, colorful place filled with delicious sights and smells. It’s the kind of place where you want to consume everything you see and smell. Alex, Brian, Emilie, and I started with some jamón ibérico. We added on a delicious shot of espresso, and Brian and I each ate a massive, delicious, cold, salty, and fresh oyster. All for under 6€. Needless to say our spirits were lifted and we were ready for the day.
We continued walking down La Rambla to the El Gòtic district. And eventually we ended up at the Cathedral of Barcelona. We quietly walked through the church, admiring its impressive design and beautiful gothic features. Once our tour ended, it was time for lunch.
Half of our group elected to head down to La Vila Olímpica del Poblenou for a paella feast. I’m not sure what everyone else’s expectations were, but mine were completely blown out of the water. The waitstaff provided the students with the soft drink of their choice and us adults received generous glasses of Spanish wine. Then the food started coming out.
The feast began with pan con tomate, a traditional Catalan snack, much like Italian bruschetta. Next came whole fried anchovies (head to tail) served with lemon. Then huge portions of fresh mussels, and finally out came the paella. It was filled with whole shrimp, mussels, and scallops. It was fun sharing this big feast with our students—a big community-style meal and a true taste of Barcelona and the bounty of the Mediterranean.
Next we rode the metro back to meet with the rest of the group and walked to the Museu Picasso. The museum focuses mostly on Picasso’s early works, but showcases over 50 of Picasso’s interpretations of Diego Velázquez’s painting “Las Meninas.” Picasso was a true visionary, and it was thrilling to see his work up close.
After touring the museum, we ventured back toward the sea for yet another meal. Our last meal in Europe was fitting—tapas. If our tour itself was a sampling of lots of experiences, our last meal would follow suit. We ate until we were satisfied and took the bus back to Santa Susanna.
We headed down to the beach for a reflection and some fun before packing up and preparing for the early morning.
I will never forget this trip. It was a real thrill for me to spend time with so many students I had taught and to meet others for the first time. I am proud of the way they treated each other and the way they handled themselves in this tour. I made some new friends as well.
While it’s a tad bittersweet to leave, I am excited to get back home to my family and friends. I hope to come back to Europe as soon as I can.