Christmastime in Barcelona / by Hannah Harley

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It's crazy to think that we were strolling the streets of Barcelona a little over a month ago. The craziness of traveling from Barcelona to Paris to Indiana, PA and then moving back to Pittsburgh was an exhausting experience that delayed the publication of this post. But now that I've settled into my apartment in Pittsburgh, I'm able to reflect on the last trip of an amazing semester abroad. 3V2A4578smalledited

It was right before Christmas, and the streets were decorated with a Spanish flair. There weren't nearly as many natural Christmas trees, but there were many Christmas lights in the form of Christmas trees!

I traveled with my roommate and dear friend. We took separate paths to get there (I've mentioned how much I adore train travel), and we somehow managed to find one another in the midst of the Barcelona train station. We had no phones, no set time, no real idea when we would be meeting. We just had an vague understanding. By some miracle, we met up!

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We spent our four days in Barcelona just roaming about since neither one of us are planners. We both are more fluid personalities, although Hanan did put in a bit more effort than I attempted.

I wasn’t sure what to expect in Barcelona. I knew I’d have fun. It is, after all, an adventure, but I had no idea what to expect. It seems to be a common theme in my travels.. A distinct lack of preplanning on my part.

But as it so happened, Barcelona blew me away. It was December 23rd and 70 degrees, and while I’m not normally a fan of heat, it was pleasant. The city had an atmosphere. It had this unique feeling that you normally get in cities, but I particularly liked Barcelona’s feeling. The people seemed like a hearty, loving people, but not quite the type to take any nonsense. I enjoyed it there.

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We had only two preplanned events: We would visit La Sagrada Família and the Parc Güelle. Other than that, we roamed through the streets of Barcelona, discovering little shops and restaurants and getting a feel for the atmosphere.

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La Sagrada Família was absolutely magnificent. It was awe inspiring. The columns are meant to look similar to tree trunks. (I believe that's called arboresque columns.) The architect was a Barcelona native and favorite, Antonio Gaudí. I was hoping to find a photograph of it not under construction, but as it turns out, it has been undergoing the construction since 1882. That’s a mere 133 years so far, but perhaps it will be completed before it breaks Notre Dame’s impressive 185 construction years. The anticipated completion is 2026 for La Sagrada Família, and yet it is already consider a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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It was a magnificent structure. It’s easily one of my favorite buildings in Europe now, and I had never heard of it beforehand! Ah, it's the unexpected surprises that end up being the most gratifying.

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We traveled to another one of Gaudí’s more well known works, Parc Güell, located on Carmel Hill. The park was designed to be a continuation of the dream that Gaudí had for his beloved Barcelona. It was similar in many ways to the personality of Barcelona. The city was filled with vibrancy and uniqueness, just like its parks and cathedrals.

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We watched the sun set from atop this little hill, and there is a quality to that evening that I don’t expect I’ll ever be able to quite explain.

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When we were traveling down the hill, I adjusted my camera settings, put on auto focus, and walked down the hill. Images like this.. There’s an attempt to capture those moments of indescribable reality, but I wanted to make sure, above all, that I got to live those moments.

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We found a spot where there was an abundance of people taking selfies. So naturally, I occupied my time by photographing people photographing themselves.. It was incredibly distracting trying to look at the stunning views of Barcelona, only to be interrupted by a couple trying to get the perfect shot. (Don’t lose sight of the moment just for the Instagram post)

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And then, before we knew it, we were traveling back to Paris. We took a long bus ride through Spain and the French countryside, only to come home to the incredible Paris. We slept off the exhaustion from the journey, and then we had our last day in the amazing city that I learned to call home.

Four months came and went in the most spectacular fashion. I couldn't imagine a better experience in a better city. Thank you to every person, every museum, every experience that it made it so truly incredible. (And thank you, Barcelona, for a great final trip)

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See you again soon!