Back when I was in high school and thought I knew everything, I was offered the trip of a lifetime.
One of my father’s business associates (not quite as sinister as it sounds) was based out of Barcelona. They had met many times and spoke often on the phone, the subject came up of both their teenage daughters getting ready to head to college in a few years. A plan was hatched. Child swapping.
The terms: for that upcoming summer, I would be shipped off to Barcelona for a few months and live with the family of this associate, and her daughter would come to the US and live in my oh so very exotic hometown, about 30 minutes outside of Boston. I’d be able to learn a new language through immersion, travel a bit around Spain and other parts of Europe with the family, and eat tapas until I exploded; I’ll be the first to admit that she would have gotten the short end of the deal.
Both my parents were so excited, traveling was something that was fundamentally important to them for advancing myself, learning about other cultures, and experiencing the world. At that time, I hadn’t really done much of it, my paltry travel resume was limited to once to Canada, trips around my native New England, a couple times to California, and my most prized passport stamp at the time, Bermuda.
So, to recap:
- a summer away from my parents, 2. in an amazing European city, 3. with pretty much zero responsibility to do anything besides suck in culture like a sponge.
No brainer, right?
Wrong. My *#*$* 17 year old self said no.
If I ever got the chance to ride in a time machine, my first stop would be to punch my 17 year old self in the face right before the words fell out of my mouth. This was totally just like the time on The Hills where Lauren chose to spend the summer in the Malibu beach house with Jason, instead of going to Paris with Teen Vogue, right? She ended up regretting it, of course, and her boss never let her forget that she was “the girl who said no to Paris.” I know the feeling. And yes, I did watch The Hills. Not ashamed.
At the time, I gave all the reasons I could think of, my friends, my extra-curricular commitments, my summer reading list, anything I could find. The real reason, I was scared. Scared to leave home, scared to be by myself in a foreign city, with people I didn’t really know. Of course, I never would have admitted that then.
So, I spent the summer at home. And even now, I totally regret my decision. I knew I should have gone deep down, and when the opportunity presented itself again to go study abroad for a semester, I practically pushed the plane down the tarmac to get to Europe as quickly as possible. During my 6 months there, I traveled as much as I could, from Dublin to Budapest, Luxembourg to Greece.
But I never got to Spain. I’ve yet to set a pinky toe in Barcelona, the place that was given to me on a silver platter over a decade ago and I turned away.
And now, maybe a chance to change all that.
This post is my entry into a competition, to win a stay for one amazing month in one of ten incredible cities in Europe from the fine folks at Go With Oh, psst there are prizes for you too so check it out. Normally a list that includes places like London, Vienna, Florence or Berlin would send me into mind-twisting travel hyper-drive, so hard to pick, right? But then, boom, hiding there in the middle of the list, Barcelona. Case closed. I might have just been offered a chance at redemption by the travel gods, and this time, I am grabbing the chance by the you know whats.
So, without further ado, Liz’s List of the Five Things She Would See in Barcelona After 13 Years of Planning What She Would do if She Ever Actually Got There:
The summer I did not go to Barcelona I spent at soccer camp, trying to coax those hidden Mia Hamm like skills I was sure I had out of me, and FC Barcelona was well on it’s way to having another dominating season. Being a fan of soccer all my life, since my little 5 year old feet found their way into cleats, I’ve longed to watch a game of one of the great teams of Europe. Pretty sure Barca fits the bill, and who wouldn’t want to see Messi in person, even if he’s a tiny spec from the nose bleed seats!
When I was in my study abroad program in the Netherlands, my roommate was Spanish (a sign?), and her parents ran a butchers shop in her hometown in Spain. Whenever she’d go home to visit, she’d come back with the most spectacular ham I’d ever tasted – the Jamon Serrano – yes it does deserve capitalization. I could not get enough of it. When I got home I begged my parents to order some from Spain, ‘come on just one leg, we’ll hang it in the garage!’ No dice, but I’d be sure to reacquaint myself with Jamon in a very serious manner.
One of my earliest memories was my pregnant mother’s reaction as she caught me flinging myself off the arm of the couch towards the glass breakfront in our living room. Obviously, Mom, I was practicing my vault, just like my hero (or as much of a hero you can have when you’re 4) Mary Lou Retton, was doing on TV during the LA Summer Olympics. I’ve been obsessed with the Olympics since. And of course, in 1992 my dad just happened to be going to Barcelona on business and came back with a bag full of Cobi emblazoned Olympic related schwag for me and my sister. So my soul would not allow me to spend any time in Barcelona without stopping at the Olympic village and paying my homage.
During my aforementioned study abroad in Holland my college roommate back home was doing her study abroad in London. We made an effort to send each other postcards of places that we went that the other had not visited. So, imagine my surprise when a postcard arrived with the most bizarre looking cathedral on the face of the planet on it. I flipped the card, and the first line read: “Hello from Barcelona!” I hung the dastardly card on my wall with the rest, and it mocked me from it’s perch. But it did make me want to find out more about that church, and the name Gaudi appeared over and over, the artist who has arguably put the biggest stamp on the city of Barcelona, and it’s time to see it in person.
Nerd alert! I’m a member in a monthly book club, this month’s pick, the excellent Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, who sets the story in, where else, Barcelona, of course because Ruiz Zafon is from, where else, Barcelona. This is a gripping book, I’ve devoured reading it and when he goes into depth describing the streets of Barcelona by name and the shops that populate them, I want to explore it all and follow the path of the main character in his city. There is no better way to learn about a place than to wander, find hidden squares, have a coffee in a cafe full of you and 10 old men. Nothing better.
Since you’ve stuck with me through my story of Barcelona, you should know there is something in this for you too, yay! Check out the Go With Oh site, and you’ll see for travel blog readers there are some pretty awesome prizes like an iPad, £500 towards a vacation, a sweet new set of luggage, and a brand spanking new Panasonic camera.