I’m in love! But not with a person, with a country. Over the last few years I have slowly been falling in love with the Spanish language and culture. It started with a flirtation, taking Spanish as an elective in high school instead of French. Later, when I moved to Vancouver, the love grew; one of my first friends in the city was a lively Spaniard who reminded me how beautiful the language is and how full of life the Spanish people are. This infatuation has continued, as I began Spanish classes again this past year.
When the holidays rolled around this past December, I decided it was time to come face to face with this love, developed for a place I had never been to. I hopped online and found some cheap flights to Barcelona and began counting the days until I would be immersed in the language and culture.
A few days after Christmas my friend and I headed to the airport and boarded our plane to Barcelona, full of excitement. As we got close to landing in Spain, I looked out the window to see a beautiful coast line. The flight crew began making announcements in both English and Spanish, and I was pleased to realize that I could pick up quite a bit of the announcements in Spanish as well. I loved the beauty of every word.
It wasn’t just the Spanish language that I loved, as I found out on this trip; I was also smitten by the architecture, especially the mix of modern and traditional that is such a part of Europe. One morning early in the trip, we woke up at 4 a.m., still struggling with jet lag. We crawled out of bed and headed to the beach to watch the sunrise over the sea. After sunrise we continued to wander about and suddenly found ourselves in a park looking up at a beautiful monument with gold detailing and a large cascading fountain. We had stumbled upon the Cascada del Parc de la Ciutadella. This monument was constructed in the 1880s and the park in which it was built has a long history. I was in awe at how commonplace it was to be walking down relatively modern looking streets and stumble across beautiful old monuments full of history.
By far my favourite stop happened later in the trip, my visit to that architectural wonder, the famous Sagrada Familia. This Gothic-style basilica began construction in 1882 and is still currently being built, with hope of completion by 2026. I was amazed by the ultra-detailed grand exterior, but it was the multi-coloured rays of sunshine passing through the intricate stained glass inside that truly left me in awe.
One of the best parts of visiting a new country is experiencing the local cuisine, and Spain did not disappoint. Even in December the temperatures were still in the double digits, and it was quite common to find cafes and tapa bars with outdoor seating. We spent most mornings enjoying a cappuccino and pastries in the fresh air.
My favourite meal in Spain was a dish I have had in Vancouver a few times. Paella is a traditional Spanish dish that incorporates beans, rice, vegetables, and meat or seafood. It is usually served as a large dish to share. Vancouver may be a foodie’s dream, but the paella here doesn’t even compare to the paella I ate in Barcelona.
And of course, there’s the wine! In many parts of Europe, a glass of wine is actually cheaper than a bottle of water. This was a nice change from the highly taxed alcohol found in Canada.
Walking around every day in Barcelona, I was surprised to find differences in the lifestyle people enjoy. Even on weekdays, most shops and restaurants didn’t open until 10 or 11am, were closed for a few hours in the evening, and then would reopen at night. In the mornings, the streets were quite quiet, but the excitement of people would be maintained late (by North American standards) into the night.
Now that I’m home, I’m still in love and a little broken-hearted to be back. The Spanish people are kind and lively, and I love being surrounded by such a beautiful language. I hope to continue working on my Spanish, so the next time I return, I can learn more about this amazing culture in the native language. Until we meet again, I will miss you Spain.