By Britton Pereleman, For The Miami Student
We bought our tickets, 120 Euro round trip, late Monday night, only four days in advance. The plan had originally been Munich, but that was nixed when we discovered how expensive the train tickets were. So we looked into Spain - Barcelona, Madrid - and even places in Portugal, drawn by the prospect of slightly better weather than snowy Luxembourg and a city that seemed more exciting than Amsterdam or Cologne.
Our plane was scheduled to land at quarter after midnight on Saturday and took off again around noon on Sunday. We had 36 hours in Barcelona and Katie, Hannah, Leah and I were determined to see everything the colorful city had to offer.
Itineraries don't exist for our group. We make a vague list in our heads of what we want to do or see in each city and figure it out as we go once we're there. There was one thing we all agreed on: sunrise at the beach.
So, after a pitiful amount of sleep, we set off.
We explored La Boqueria, the market just off Les Rambles, disgusted by the chickens and hares hanging in some stalls, yet delighted by the rows upon rows of smoothies and fresh fruit and vegetables in every color imaginable. We collected minuscule fragments of sea glass at the beach, faking warmth and ditching our coats for a few brief minutes to snap some pictures. At the Picasso Museum, we saw every single piece - the normal looking portraits, landscapes painted on wood, sketches, all of the "Pigeons" paintings, and each abstract work hanging on the walls. We went through every single room even after we got antsy and wanted to speed through to the end, to get back out into the sun.
We walked two miles, uphill, searching for Parc Güell. Our trek was mostly silent, trudging, single file, up the skinny sidewalk of the city. We had to stop for snacks, then still couldn't figure out where to go since the signs pointed two different ways. When we hit what seemed like a dead end, a woman hung out of her apartment window and called down to us to see if we were lost. After finally locating the entrance, despite the horrible crowds of selfie taking tourists, we attempted to get decent pictures of Gaudí's mosaics before heading back downhill to find the 133 year old work in progress that is the Sagrada Familia.
We were on the other end of the city and had to walk all the way back to our hostel, more blocks than we wanted to count. We'd circled the entire city and collapsed, exhausted, in our bunks before forcing ourselves to go downstairs for the offer of free tapas and sangria at the adjoining bar. Dinner consisted of more tapas, including two plates of our favorite, "Angry Potatoes," and we tried, unsuccessfully, to find churros before heading back to our hostel for the night.
The next morning, we left our hostel room as quietly as we could and headed for the beach.
My feet ached and stung with every step that I took as we trudged down Les Rambles. It was seven in the morning on Sunday. A few souvenir stand owners were opening shop and we passed several small groups stumbling back from an all-nighter at the bars, but otherwise the usually bustling street was empty. The early morning air wasn't cold, about 45 degrees, but definitely wasn't as warm as we'd been expecting Spain to be, given its location on the water.
When we reached the sandy shore, we spread out in a line, all facing the Mediterranean. Katie, me, Leah and then Hannah. The sky glowed as the sun, a fiery orb, made its appearance over the horizon and bathed everything in bright reds and oranges. A local photographer snapped a few pictures of us at the end of the dock, our figures reduced to black silhouettes against the burning backdrop of the sunrise.
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As we headed out, content with our one and only Spanish sunrise, Leah and Hannah noticed a word spray painted upside down on one of the rocks lining the side of the dock. "Stay!" The exclamation point seemed like a plea, begging us not to leave.
But we did. And when we landed at the Brussels airport seven hours later and began the rest of the journey back to Luxembourg by train, I kept coming back to that sunrise. The moment when we'd all stood, silent in awe, witnessing the beginning of a new day.
We hadn't seen everything Barcelona had to offer, hadn't spent as much time soaking up the culture as we should have. Katie and I had throbbing tendonitis in our feet from walking almost 23 miles and all four of us were exhausted and cranky from lack of sleep. Thirty-six hours hadn't been, and never would be, enough. But it didn't matter. It had been worth it to experience that one, perfect sunrise together.