Weekend Trip with IFSA
This past weekend, my study abroad program took our group of five on a jammed packed overnight trip to Tarragona. We embarked bright and early Saturday morning, after a killer nap on the bus we arrived in a cute small town called Mont Blanc. It was really refreshing to be out of the hustle and bustle in Barcelona which is seriously a city that never sleeps. At all hours of the night there are people and cars nosily going past my window. As we walked through Mont Blanc at 10am on a Saturday, there was not a soul on the street. All of the shops and restaurant, with the exception of one bakery were closed. By 10am in Barca the whole city is lively! We explored for a bit, had a coffee, and then made our way to our first destination, to see ancient cave paintings. We met up with our tour guide at a museum that used to be a prison. He spent about an hour teaching us the importance and history behind the cave paintings. It was a little hard to understand because he only spoke Spanish, fast Spanish with a thick accent. So got about 75% oh what he was talking about. But turns out he is this famous archeologist/professor in Spain, so that’s pretty sweet. After lots of listening, we hopped in two jeeps and started up the mountain!
The 30 minute drive both ways were by far my favorite part of the entire weekend. While the car sped through rough terrain and practically went up at a 90 degree angle, I sat back enjoyed the wind and sun on my face and the spectacular view! I have no picture evidence of the views due to the bumpy ride, but trust me it was amazing. Once at the top we walked about 5 minutes to the exterior wall of a cave, unfortunately we weren’t going into the cave which is what I assumed we were doing. Even so, the exterior was still exciting. The small faded paintings were hard to see at noon when we were there because the sun was shining directly on the rock. So we took turns getting closer and making shadows and the art suddenly emerged. Drawings of animals, baskets, a rising sun. It was all very basic, but insanely cools to see some of the first drawings in Spain. In my cultures class I’m learning how much of an impact art had on Spain’s past and present. Feeling really drained we were about to head to the next cave when we found a surprise by the jeep, coffee and concas. At least that’s what I think they were called. The savory concas were spinach and onion in a fried flat dough and the sweet concas were the same dough covered in sugar. So delicious, and it gave everyone enough energy to check out another cave about ten minutes away. After a lot of ooo-ing and ahh-ing we began our journey down to the town. Again, I had such a blast sitting back while we sped down the mountain.
Next we all split up for lunch in the cute town. Shaketta, Danielle, and I packed lunches. So after we ate on some benches we had over an hour to explore Mont Blanc. Practically all of the stores were closed, but the city was filled with families on some sort of Playmobile scavenger hunt, so that was cool to see. Eventually we all met at the bus and headed to our next stop about 20 minutes away, a working monastery in Poblet.
It was a beautiful building in the middle of a green field and hills. Our tour was in Spanish which was fine sense the tour guide spoke slowly and clearly, I understood about 98% of this tour! It was a little strange sense there are still 32 monks living and working in the monastery today, so we had to be extremely quiet and respectful. We toured a lovely courtyard, the kitchen, library, dining room, wine cellar, and lots of other rooms. It was the first monastery that I visited in Spain and hopefully not my last.
Poblet was a short and sweet visit, and soon after we arrived we were back on the bus heading 45 minutes to Tarragona, our final destination. We got there after the sun had already set, checked into our hotel (yay not a hostel!) After some naps and showers the five of us ditched the adults and went to explore and get dinner. We found a cool strip of restaurants in a courtyard and picked a random one. We realized that the food was a lot cheaper here compared to Barcelona, so we dinned like kings! I got sangria, salad, and calamari. There was also guacamole and patatas bravas being passed around the table, so good! After everyone was full happy we walked around the ancient part of the city and quickly ran into a live concert in a plaza. It was a combination of folk, Celtic, and Bollywood music, that’s how I would describe it anyways. Everyone was dancing and having a great time so of course we joined in. Some of the dances were traditional that everyone knew and others were freestyle. My favorite was a dance were everyone formed circles holding hands and jumping twice forward and twice backward while moving in a circle. It was such a blast! They boys left to find some bars, but the girls and I stayed all night until the concert was over and then we passed out in our cozy hotel room.
The girls and I started the next day by getting breakfast and walking by the beach, the sun was reflecting off the water, it was slightly blinding but definitely a nice sight. Around 11 we met the rest of our group and our tour guide named Esther in the hotel lobby. She gave us an in depth tour of the ancient Roman ruins in Tarragona. We started at the amphitheater ruins, then went to the circus (where they raced chariots), and ended by the Cathedral where the Roman temple used to be. She thoroughly described how the city used to be laid out and by the end of the tour I had a clear picture in my head. I really enjoyed the tour; the beautiful sunny weather definitely helped my mood too!
After the tour we had some free time which we spent by exploring a huge flea market throughout the old part of town. We ended our fun two days with a stupendous three course meal compliments of the program (or compliments of the program fee that my parents paid, thanks you guys!) I went with a seafood theme. My first course was pasta with clams and a red sauce, my second dish was squid served over rice with a brown sauce, nothing I’ve ever had before, but so delicious! For dessert, I chose cheesecake, the creamiest most amazing cheesecake that I’ve ever tried. I was in heaven. Afterwards, we walked around the small city one last time, and then we headed home. Getting back to Barcelona was sensory overload. The sidewalks were so loud and crowded the complete opposite of our quiet and peaceful weekend. It was a great trip, but it’s even better to be back in my city, Barcelona.