Have you ever had a childhood memory that was so dear to your heart and it involved a specific place. Every time you think of this place you remember it as "the perfect place" .. or in my example the perfect house.
I'll explain, incase my rambling made zero sense.
I grew up in Houston, Texas in a neighborhood that was six minutes away from all of my cousins (best childhood ever). Any who, we eventually left Houston for Atlanta because of my dads new job.
I WAS DEVASTATED. I HATED my parents for ruining my life.
Throughout my teenage life I held a fond memory of that specific house. I remembered it being so perfect, so beautiful, so huggeeee.
One day we went back to Houston to visit our family... and we went back to the old house. When I arrived I remember standing there looking at it and being so disappointed ... it wasn't at all what I remembered, it wasn't the perfect home, it wasn't huge... it was just a house.
The moral of my odd story is.. the reason I held this house so dear to my heart and remembered it as being "perfect" was because of the memories I'd made growing up.
That is what Barcelona feels like to me...
It was PERFECT because of the memories I made, perfect because of the people I met, perfect because the sense of hope it gave me when I left.
So come to Barcelona with me, let's explore together.
But before I get to Barcelona, I'll have to explain a little of Amsterdam.
I spent about three days in Amsterdam ... I wasn't there alone yet I ended up leaving confused and lonely.
I thought I'd find what I was looking for while in Amsterdam but I didn't... I needed more. I wasn't ready to head back to reality..
The night before we were set to leave for the airport I woke up randomly and started looking up flights to Barcelona. I was unsure of what I'd do when I got there all I knew what that there was a beach and three flights leaving the following day and one of them had a seat with my name on it.
But I didn't book the flight I just slept on the idea.
The morning came and we overslept. I had already missed the two earlier flights ... I was no longer 100% convinced that Barcelona was where I needed to go (I was gonna get there much later than I desired)... and there was still one direct flight back to Minnesota that I could have easily taken.
Luckily, I shared these thoughts with the person I was with and he encouraged me to take on the journey... to experience the solo travel life and I'll forever thank him for that extra push.
Barcelona would be my first international solo trip and I was nervously excited (my tummy was turning and I was feeling all of that nervousness that I can't seem to put into words)!!!
I was freezing the entire plane ride (about 2 1/2hrs). The plane was NOT cold and I had on my travel jacket .. yet I was freezing my butt off.. talk about feeling like a nervous flyer (i'm really not).
Anyway I regretted my decision of the "solo travel life" almost immediately. But I knew I had picked the perfect location to make this mistake because everything was in spanish and everyone spoke spanish so luckily language was not a barrier.
However, if you know me ... you know I am AWFUL at following directions.
It took me about 6 weeks to find the location for Uber pickup (they don't have friendly airport uber signs like they do here in the US) and when I got there... my Uber still took about 9weeks to arrive !! Apparently there was airport traffic congestion going on... so I waited, patiently.
I finally made it on the uber and I took a seat in the back of the car. Looking out the window the entire ride, like a nervous puppy who'd just gotten adopted.
I checked into the hotel around 6PM and I immediately got ready to hit the Barcelona streets.
As usual I was STARVING and I didn't know what the heck I wanted to eat so I did as I normally do when I don't know what I want... I went on a walk looking for options, taking the scenic route of course.
My hotel was located across the street from the Arc of Triomf, so naturally that was the start of my walk.
I sat here for a while people watching...; the couples, the friends, the families... and somehow I didn't feel alone.
I continued on my journey.
I walked through a beautiful park and even the Barcelona Zoo (or at least it smelled like it).
Once I passed the zoo my walk started to get a bit quieter. The streets were less busy and there was zero signs of food... I kept telling myself "okay if you don't see anything within the next 5 minutes you'll have to turn around alondra" ... yet 10 minutes passed and I couldn't seem to turn around. Something was calling my name and I wasn't sure what.
Just as I was about to settle for a weird looking restaurant I saw a group of girls wearing bathing suits and a beach bag and I excitedly thought "THE BEACH MUST BE NEARBY!!!".... so I ditched the restaurant and kept on walking.
Soon enough my toes met the sand and my eyes spotted the ocean waves, I had found where I was meant to be.
Besides the fact that the sun was going down the beach was still jam-packed with people playing volleyball, laying out on their beach towels, and kids playing in the water. I walked along the water for a bit until my stomach growled and reminded me that I still had not fed it.
There was a ton of beach restaurants to pick from so I picked the first one I came across and proudly asked for a "TABLE FOR ONE".
The Croatia VS Russia game was playing on the TV in front of me (I was pretty invested in the World Cup) so I happily settled in and ordered my first beer in Barcelona
"I had never been a "beer type of girl" until I realized that the taste of a beer is always consistent and thats honestly all I ever want in a drink... consistency"
If any of you guys watched the Croatia VS Russia game you can agree with me that it was such an intense and incredibly long match... I was heavily invested. I ordered food (not the yummiest... but it stopped my stomach from growling and the beer made up for it).
The restaurant started getting busier and the tables around me quickly started filling up (someone even took one of the chairs from my table, rude). To my right there was a group of guys discussing the game, I would pick up here and there on the commentary but my main focus was on the penalty shots!
One of the guys from the group randomly started talking to me regarding the game and I quickly realized that my soccer knowledge was way better than his (and I know nothing) so I found myself *attempting* to explain the World cup to my friendly table mate.
Before I knew it I was pulling out the book I had stuffed inside my purse and sharing my favorite authors with a complete stranger. (I always carry a book with me whenever I'm solo).
Every time I go on a trip my sister gives me the talk on being safe and not talking to strangers... and every trip.. I fail at this miserably.
I'm usually not the type of person who can have full on conversations with a stranger...(and I'm not referring to small talk, I HATEEE SMALL TALK) but here I was being a chatty Kathy with someone I'd just met and I was intrigued at how effortless it was.
The game was over and I was excited because Croatia had been victorious.
I knew I'd have to part ways with the friendly stranger. But not just yet because he ended up ditching his friends and joining me on my walk down the beach (one of my all-time favorite things to do is walk on the beach at night and just focus on the sound of the waves).... the night was young and beautiful.
Here I go once again.. breaking the no getting in the car with a stranger rule. We shared a cab to "Las Ramblas" (it's a super long street filled with outside restaurants... vendors... random alleyways.. etc). The friendly stranger had been there the day before and he said it was a MUST SEE in Barcelona... I had zero plans so I went along with it.
At this point we can stop calling him the "friendly stranger" and we'll call him R.
Before you think I'm crazy for being an incredibly trusting human being ... well no, I guess you can call me a crazy human. I truly felt safe with R (judge me, I dare you).
He was unbelievably respectful.. a true gentlemen. Most importantly I did not sense in any way that he was trying to flirt or get any action (besides talking) from me.. so I was happy with the unexpected pleasant company.
Any who, lets go back to Las Ramblas.
The architecture was aesthetically pleasing to my eyes. Ahhhh, beautiful, soo beautiful.
Sadly I didn't take any pictures (I was too engrossed in the conversation my phone stayed tucked away in my purse the entire walk).
It was Saturday night and Las Ramblas was filled with party crowds. Nightclub promoters were out to get us to trying to get us into the "best clubs" ... but I had zero intentions of dancing my butt off that night. I just wanted to walk every corner in Barcelona.... and it was going great, until my feet gave up on me.
We settled into a cute bar with wooden decorations and barrels as tables. Besides me and R there was only one other group of locals enjoying a glass of wine, they were playing all of my favorite Spanish club songs and I was a human karaoke singing along to every single one ..(who needs a club).
Before I knew it it was after 1AM and my unstoppable yawning was hinting at me that it was past my bed time. Meanwhile R's friends were blowing up his phone asking him of his whereabouts (they were waiting for him so they could go out to the club, sorry friends). I called for an uber and I told him I would be fine waiting solo .. the streets were still filled with crowds and I already felt bad for making his friend wait.
Of course he declined my offer so we both sat there in the middle of Las Ramblas waiting for my uber who NEVER arrived! I messaged the driver when it informed me of his arrival and all he did was send me a thumbs up emoji and for some reason I couldn't call him.
On top of that he wasn't cancelling the trip so it wasn't allowing me to contact another uber so I was LIVID (mainly because the driver was being so rude by not answering... unfortunately my new friend R was seeing that tired/angry side of me.
He was so sweet and offered to pay for my cab to my hotel (I didn't have cash).
I normally wouldn't have allowed it but the wait for another uber would have been another extensive waiting period and I was ready to be in bed ... so I took him up on the offer and finally made it to my hotel room... in one piece.
Besides the uber experience Barcelona was off to a lovely start.
The following day I had plans to wake up bright and early to make it to La Sagrada Familia and then head to the beach for a beach bum day. But my sleep schedule had a different idea. I woke up right at 1PM, talk about sleep recovery!
I had text messages from R asking me about my morning ... LOL.
He and his friends had taken full advantage of the morning and did so much! I told him I would be headed to the Sagrada soon. It was Sunday and the tickets to go inside of the Basilica were sold out so a guided tour was the only way in.
They had already purchased tour tickets... and apparently I had been included in the group (such a sweet gesture)
The tour was set to start at 4PM so I had more than enough time to walk there and find food along the way.
I walked past the cutest little coffee shop so naturally I had to stop.
There were two guys at the counter and ohhhhhmy they were good looking I totally panicked ordering a coffee and said the dumbest thing "me puede dar un cafe dulce... " translated to "can I get a sweet coffee".
It may not sound as dumb now but it was... I'm assuming he found it adorable because we laughed it off together. He told his coworker in his sexy Spanish accent "haz el cafe mas dulce para la señorita".
Ahh and how was the coffee you're asking?.. SWEET, just as I asked (they even gave me sugar packages just in case haha .. ) and off I went continuing my walk to La Sagrada Familia.
I arrived before R and his friends and I found a front row seat to the beautiful monument. I was in awe.... I could not take my eyes off of it. There's soooo much depth to it
I was lost in my thoughts enjoying the view when I heard someone randomly say something next to me. Besides the fact that there was a million people surrounding me it was safe to say he was talking to me.
He was quite the talker, very charismatic, and sarcastic.
I quickly learned his name ... and forgot it almost immediately (I'm awful at remembering names), he was from London, and he was solo because his friends had taken earlier flights and his wasn't till later that evening.
We'll call this stranger London
( I actually saved his number on my phone with that name because I was ashamed to ask for his name again .. so if you're reading this now would be the time to ask for your name again LOL).
London mentioned that this monument was one that could easily be appreciated from the outside and going inside would be unnecessary.... which is when I mentioned that I was actually waiting for my new friends so that we could go inside.
In a very serious tone he then mentioned that we had 10 minutes to become friends and he would take all of my touristy pictures. I did not oppose to that so we walked around the Sagrada while I awkwardly *posed* for 10 minutes.
Soon enough our 10 minutes were up and R and his friends had finally arrived to the meet up location so I exchanged numbers with my new found friend London and never expected to hear from him again...
The tour was about 1 1/2 and it was incredibly informative. Our tour guide was Argentinan and he had the best accent (I love accents).
FUN FACT: most of the people that I interacted with (uber drivers, bartenders, etc) were not born in Barecelona most of them moved there after going to visit and falling in love with the city.
Apparently we chose a great day to tour the Sagrada because they had just opened up a section inside that had been closed for a long period of time.
The inside of the Sagrada was mesmerizing and every detail was just as impeccable as the outside was ... but in a way I had to agree with London and say that you can get about 76% of appreciation from the outside.
However, I would actually love to attend an actual mass inside of the Sagrada and I think I would appreciate it 1000% more. So I've added that to my bucket list for my next visit to Barcelona.
Once our guided tour was over we lingered around taking pictures and admiring the little details.
R is an actual professional photographer (HE'S SO TALENTED) so he was getting content and I was constantly bothering him to take my picture for my instagram.
I originally had planned to beach bum it out after visiting the Sagrada which is why I was wearing a swim suit and not a regular shirt but R and his friends were planners and they were headed to another tourist trap: Park Guell.
That park also sells out fairly quickly and they had purchased tickets already. They insisted I'd join them and try to get a ticket at the door, so I went along with it.
Upon arrival there was a big sign stating SOLD OUT so my chances of going in were NONE.
I didn't know much about the park so I wasn't too interested in going inside so I left on a solo walking adventure that would lead me to empty streets and beautiful views.
I came across a lovely tiny bookstore that was closing soon. Unfortunately, I didn't stay long enough to explore and find a good read.
But it was a sweet treat to have ran into it.
I thought I'd never see London again but I ended up having a beer with him right before he was set to head to the airport.
My favorite thing about him was that he spoke his mind and was incredibly sarcastic ... he was like a male version of myself but in a much much cooler way.
We had light hearted conversations about life and relationships and then he was off to the airport.
At this point I had zero idea of where I was so I gave in and called an uber to take me back to my hotel.
Later that evening I went to the Gothic Quarters which was very similar to Las Ramblas but a bit more of a dark vibe.
I walked around the area for a bit and settled in for a solo dinner and wine. R joined in shortly after. He was also in Gothic Quarters taking photographs. (I've seen his edited pictures from this trip and WOAH, it's definitely interesting to see the images through his lens and how beautifully he was able to capture everything).
I was ready to call it an early night because I was pretty darn exhausted. But not before I had the brilliant idea of walking back to my hotel without using GPS because I slightly remembered where I was and I wanted to go with the flow and follow my instinct.... (terrible idea).
R was a bit skeptical about not using a GPS but he rolled along with my silly idea... and off we went on our walk that would eventually lead us to some dangerous/ fun experiences.
A few miles into our walk I realized that I no longer knew where the heck we were .... but I could sense (I'm such a weirdo sometimes) that the beach was nearby so I suddenly wanted to go to the beach rather than my hotel so our walk continued heading onto a different direction.
During our walk we had many red flags on it being a terrible idea. But the conversation was lovely and the night was beautiful and we didn't turn back.
We found ourselves circling and with no beach in sight I was about to call it quits and just call in an uber BUT we broke the no GPS rule and that's when I realized I was only 9 minutes away from my hotel so I wasn't too off on the location.
The beach was a further walk so I opted to go on with the original plan and walk towards the hotel.
The streets were all pitch black and me and R were the only walking souls. It was as if we stumbled onto a movie scene and everyone was off on their lunch break.
The GPS said we were 3 minutes away from the hotel and I spotted a cute corner that I wanted to take a quick picture in ...
somewhere in between taking the picture and getting distracted we ended up walking in a direction further away from the hotel.
But hey, at least I got my picture for the 'gram
Somehow, someway, we ended up walking towards a street that was filled with bars.
We mutually agreed that we were in need of a drink because:
A. We'd been walking for a while
B. Why not?
C. The bars were cute! (okay this was probably only me)
The first bar we went in was pretty empty and they were closing soon.. so we left.
The bar next door seemed pretty packed so we walked in ... and the first thing I heard was latin music (salsa to be exact) I LOVE SALSA MUSIC!
We got our drink and as soon as we settled in ... the music changed.
This bar had a downstairs section to it and we decided to check it out... it was a whole new world down there. Literally.
It was like a cave, so dark and filled with fake smoke.
The music was a lot better than it was upstairs so we stayed and just followed along with the party.
I was enjoying watching the locals dance .... it was such a thrilling experience. I've been to many clubs/bars before but this one was just something else, the vibe was everything.
Also, watching R dance was seemingly entertaining. Apparently this was his FIRST club experience EVER.
We stayed there until the music stopped and the lights turned on .. dancing our toes away.
Once exiting the bar/club we were greeted by the cutest little dog who was busy skateboarding ... I can't make this stuff up and I wish I had a picture to show. It was the cutest little pug on a skateboard.
After carefully deciding our options I felt confident in continuing our walk .... even though I was slightly dreading it.
The streets after dark didn't seem too inviting but we went for it anyway.
As we turned a corner a guy in a bike rode past us and I got instant chills. I had a weird feeling about him.
There were others groups of people walking around us at this time which helped calmed my nerves.
But as we turned another corner a random man told us to be careful that the streets weren't safe. We picked up our pace and once again found ourselves in the location where we took THE picture.
This is when everythinggggg took a turn for the worse in a matter of 20 seconds.
I spotted the guy with the bike and as soon as I turned around there was another guy that was lunging towards R with the ill intention of stealing his camera (he had it strapped around his body and was carrying it because of the photography he had done at the gothic quarters earlier that night).
R was on the floor holding onto his camera and my phone (he had taken it just moments before to check how close we were).
I was freaking the fuck out. I was just about to try to push this man off of R but that's when a random man told me to run to his taxi as he pushed the bad guy away.
As soon as the taxi man pushed off the bad guy he took off.
Luckily, he was unable to steal R's camera and we both ran towards the taxi. Turns out the man who helped us was a taxi driver and he was out looking for a group of passengers that had called for a taxi which is when he saw everything go down.
Once inside the taxi I had some sort of panic attack first it was internal ..and then I just started sobbing like a baby.
I was so grateful nothing awful had happened. The taxi man was literally our guardian angel that night.
Meanwhile all of this was happening my phone was casually blowing up. Turns out I was getting awful text messages sent to me right at the exact same time R was on the floor with my phone in hand. I read all of these messages while in the taxi and it only added on to my anxiety... the night could seriously not get any worse.
Except it kinda did.
The taxi man couldn't take us to my hotel just yet because he had to wait for his actual passengers so he called on his taxi friend to take us. This man was a total jerk.
I explained to him what had just happened to us and he didn't even move a face muscle.
On top of that he insisted on dropping us off at the SAME LOCATION where everything occurred. He was not understanding our frustration and I was NOT getting out of the taxi until I knew where the heck I was.
He was not being helpful and finally I told him to drop us off in front of the Arc Of Triomf which was located right infront of my hotel. When I finally knew where I was we got out of the taxi and legit RAN to the hotel entrance.
I can't explain the feeling... but that run helped ease my anxiety.
Once inside my hotel room .. I broke down.
R had a front row seat to my dramatic show.
Besides almost being mugged all of the things that I had been feeling when leaving Amsterdam had been proven to be right by those messages. That was incredibly hard to process (female intuition is always right).
I instantly felt extra grateful for R's presence. I don't think I could have dealt with that alone, in a foreign country, away from all of my family and friends.
Also, I love getting the male perspective when it comes to relationships problems.
This is when I learned that R was madly in love with his girlfriend of many many years... and I was given hope once again.
That all good guys aren't extinct.
After calming down a bit and having a heart to heart with R he called a cab and left.
I'll forever remember this night as being the most bizarre night of my life.
I feel as if everything that happened that night held a deeper meaning/purpose. Something I can't fully explain but it was meant to happen.
That night I was up tossing and turning like a dead fish, I could not sleep.
The following morning I was checking out of my hotel room and going to an Air Bnb that was closer to the beach.
I was in dier need of a beach bum day. As soon as I settled into my new place I walked over to the beach.... holding onto my purse like it was my job.
I didn't have a beach towel.. but luckily the beach vendors were out and selling beer, water, and beach towels .. the sweetest combos.
I purchased the most adorable handmade beach towel with a tree engraved to it and I got cozy for my long beach day ahead.
My day consisted of tanning, reading, swimming, people watching, sleeping, drinking beer, and self reflecting.
Besides the negative things surrounding my personal life I was feeling blessed beyond measures. I was heartbroken but at least I was heartbroken in a beach in Barcelona.
t's important to add that this beach was not a complete nude beach but most girls were walking around topless. I felt so silly for wearing a one piece.
I wanted to run back home and change to my two piece just so I could walk around topless and get a proper beach tan, but I know for next time.
My solo beach bum day was just what I needed to get my heart and mind in the right place.
Around 8pm I made plans with R to have dinner since we'd be parting ways the next day.
Me back to reality and he and his friends would continue on their European journey. They were headed to Malaga, Spain.
We picked a spot on the beach for dinner and I finally got to try the famous Paella everyone had been telling me to try.
It was delicious! It reminded me of Jambalaya.
After dinner we layed out on the sand hearing the waves crash and star gazing.
Nonetheless, it was the perfect night with the very best company.
He was willing to listen to me and my constant rambling, question my actions, ask me about my dreams, aspirations, and my hopes for the future.
It's truly hard to find a kind soul these days and I'm eternally happy I was able to connect with him on a level that made my heart feel full and free.
R was the friend I never knew I needed.
I'll eternally be grateful for Barcelona for being the place for me to have felt my lowest all while showing me the brighter side to life.
I left the next day with a happy heart and a new found love for traveling alone... because traveling alone doesn't necessarily mean you'll be lonely.
If you're like me .. and scared to travel solo.
Just DO IT! You'll be surprised how fulfilling of a trip it'll turn out to be.
"The most beautiful thing about traveling ... is the people you meet along the way and the memories created.
Meet my wonderful friend R"
If you've made it to this part of the blog... you've officially traveled with me to Barcelona.
I hope I was able to make you feel like you were part of my journey.
I know it was incredibly long.. but it didn't feel right to shorten up a trip that meant so much to me.
Thank you for your constant support... I cannot stress enough just how much it means to have you reach out and tell me that you've read my post.
I hope this one didn't bore you to tears.
I love y'all.