6 February 2018
The first and only full day of this spontaneous and fast-paced trip to Barcelona began with excitement amongst the group. After getting ready and enjoying breakfast together we were prepared to explore the new and enticing city we had heard about. All of us having never been exposed to the city, the first thing that hit us was the vastness and width of the boulevards. The streets stretching as far as the eye could see imparted a feeling of space that none of us were used to coming from England.
As we continued onward, we came across the bustling Plaza de Cataluña, where we met our tour guide. We were led through Las Ramblas, spotting the presence of political change as we traversed the streets, flags hanging from the windows, t-shirts on sale and brochures being handed out, all in the name of independence for Catalonia. “Spanish A-level has come to life” exclaimed one of us, as we saw the clear impact that political unrest has had on the capital of the region. Aside from the current situation of Spain, we were next exposed to its rich history, exploring the Roman quarter and Gaudi's Cathedral embodying his unique style inspired by Neo-Gothic architecture. Having finished the tour in the sun-soaked Plaza del Rey and saying our goodbyes to Luke, our energetic tour guide, we entered La Boqueria. This being the largest market in Spain, mounds of fresh and vibrant produce were stacked all around us, along with traditional Spanish delicacies such as Jamon Iberico.
Just across the road from the market, we took a break for lunch at a small restaurant, enjoying delicious traditional tapas dishes such as patatas bravas and a quintessentially large Spanish serving of seafood Paella. Having taken a break, we ambled down to the beautiful Barcelona port, this being the location for our political survey of the Spanish public. We prepared our questions and interviewed locals regarding their views on the situation, its possible effects on tourism and the prospect of Puigdemonts return. Attaining a rare opportunity to see the point of view of Catalonians, rather than the views of mainstream news outlets, proved incredibly useful for our grasp on this part of the Pre U course.
There was yet more spectacular Spanish cuisine to follow as we were led to a local tapas restaurant for some authentic dining - ‘las gambas’ proving to be of particular popularity amongst the boys. Plates cleared and supplies of jamón for the following day bought, an interesting evening walk through the city led us back to the hostel where there were some tired legs from a day filled with exploration. Even so, there was to be no passing up the chance to flaunt some dance moves at the in-house fiesta. When Señora Fraile proved to be the best dancer among us, however, it was clearly time for some well-earned sleep.
Following an exhilarating day, we woke up early on Sunday morning to get the most out of the limited time that remained for us in Barcelona. Bags packed and breakfast had, google maps led us (with the occasional help from Martin Man) to the awesome ‘La Sagrada Familia’. Designed over the course of four years by Antoní Gaudi, it was a hugely impressive sight and photo opportunity enjoyed by boys and teachers alike.
A short walk later, luck was on our side as we arrived at ‘Sant Pau Recinto Modernista’ - a jewel of modern architecture that served as a hospital until 2009 - on the only day of the month in which it was free to enter. After an interesting tour and some enjoyable DIY bocadillos, we were treated to some great singing by the local choir; unfortunately leaving just before the performance of ‘can’t nobody do me like Jesus’ - much to the disappointment of Will Franklin. Then, in true British style, the rain came pouring down signalling time to head to the airport, but not before indulging in some delicious ‘chocolate con churros’ on the way to Plaza de Cataluña.
Having passed swiftly through Barcelona airport, time was even found for giving nicknames and presents based on the weekend’s events - I was personally thrilled to hear about my future as a professional dancer. A slightly delayed flight carrying 11 tired boys touched down at Heathrow on Sunday evening, and we reflected on what had been a truly enjoyable and fascinating weekend. We owe a huge thanks to Señora Fraile and Señora Pradas for their hard work in organising the trip and leading us around such an extraordinary city; the trip wouldn’t have been possible without their unfailing enthusiasm and effort.
Written by Aron Lavis and Ethan Webb