Saying so long to Spain

Being sick in bed with a worsening case of food poisoning is not my idea of the best way to spend the last week of my semester abroad in Barcelona.

In my travel book, now rife with creases in the spine and fingerprints on its once-glossy cover, visiting a hospital isn’t very highly recommended. In attraction terms, it ranks only slightly above the wax museum that, perplexingly, seems to be in every city.

Regardless, the overwhelming sentiment I have toward the city is one of enchantment. The boulevards, generally clean and safe, are lined with both the conventional,multi-story buildings found in U.S. and European cities, as well as an overwhelming amount of Catalan Modernism,

Gaudí’s Casa Milà | Photo Bekiempis

the Catalonia region’s own form of Art Nouveau that gives the city an enlivening boost of color and texture. On Passeig de Gràcia, there’s Gaudí’s Casa Milà as well as Casa Batlló, both of which are open to public visits.

The Cathedral of Barcelona, located in the Gothic Quarter, is well worth a visit, as well. Its ceiling stretches skyward, and the walk under its ribbed vaults gave me the sense of walking through a giant’s abdomen.

Cathedral of Barcelona | Photo Bekiempis

Near the Cathedral, in the direction of the coastline, are the winding alleyways of the Gothic Quarter. The alleys, often shaded from the sun, are calm and offer cafes and museums for ambling passersby.

The City History Museum of Barcelona was one of my favorites because it combines modern campiness and an engagement with the past. The elevator that descends below ground level – to the ruins, for example – indicates an air of unconventionality.

While descending, the digital dial simulates going back in time rather than downstairs. Once there, you can conduct a self-guided tour through Roman ruins and step on grated, metal walkways while getting a sense of the city’s layout.

Admittedly, though, one of the things I will miss most about the city and Spain as a whole, is the coffee, namely cafe con leche (espresso with hot milk), cortado (espresso with a dollop of steamed milk), and cafe solo (just espresso). These are inexpensive, yet priceless, luxuries for a girl raised on watery Maxwell House.

Bars, bakeries and cafes fill neighborhoods. The tables, shaded by awnings, pepper the sidewalk and make for a relaxing break during the day.

Yet, as beautiful and calm as Barcelona has been, I will be thankful to return to the United States. Without a doubt, I will value my citizenship even more than I did in the past. Having had the amazing opportunity to stay in another country for so long, I found myself homesick for America’s openness and the kind hardiness of its people.

Sure, I’m young, but after returning, I don’t think I’ll want to leave the United States anytime soon. I have hardly seen my own country, after all – I was a sojourner, not an expatriate.