After Dublin I went right back to the chaos of grad school that has become my life. It wasn’t all bad though, on Friday I was able to attend the Annual Graduate Symposium, which was really awesome. I’ve always loved conferences, and I would be super disappointed if I brought my suit jacket all the way to Spain and never even took it out of the dry cleaning bag, so needless to say I was pumped. I don’t yet have anything to present, but I enjoyed listening to my classmates (of which there are two) and seeing students from other nearby universities. Overall it was an interesting day and I learned quite a bit.
The Symposium ended around 8, so afterwards I promptly returned home, ate dinner, and packed my bag because Nish and I had tickets for the night bus to Barcelona! Our bus left around 11pm and was scheduled to arrive around 6:30 the next morning; everyone said it was such a bad idea, but I actually got some semi-quality rest. We arrived to the city bright and early and managed to navigate to our hostel. Everything was super quite and still, which was pretty serene. We actually had trouble finding a place to eat because everything was still closed. We eventually wondered into a small, and quite overpriced cafe that was alright. Afterwards we just sort of ambled around for a bit and stumbled upon the Batllo house, which is one of Gaudi’s famous creations. The museum happened to just be opening, so we took a spot in line and started quite a curious tour. So I’m still not sure the intended purpose of the building in the first place, because it seemed obscenely large for a single dwelling, so maybe it was an apartment building. Anyway, the architecture was extremely unique and very colorful. We were able to visit some of the living areas and the patio, which were really cool. It was difficult to capture in the pictures, but this place really was a wonder.
After the museum we decided to make our way to the Segrada Familia, which is an enormous cathedral that is technically still being constructed. We didn’t go inside because there was a huge line and it was expensive, but it was quite the site from the outside. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a building with such a presence. I mean the Gothic architecture literally towered over us and everything around it. It was almost intimidating, but extremely fascinating. Once we had marveled sufficiently at the structure, we continued up to the Guell Park. We had to walk for probably almost 30 minutes straight up hill, and the view from the top was totally worth it. We meandered around the park for a bit and eventually came to the part that was also designed by Gaudi. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m sure you’ll recognize it when you see it. It was surreal to be standing at such a famous landmark, and to top it off the weather was warm, sunny, and generally incredible. We sat on one of the colorful benches and basked in the sun for quite a while – it was pretty perfect. When we felt we had absorbed enough vitamin D, we slowly made our way back down the hill, taking our time to stop in all the little shops along the way.
By the time we made it back to the hostel we were more than ready for some downtime. So while I had been walking through the cold rain of Dublin the previous weekend, I started to feel like I was getting a bit of a cold, but nothing too severe. By this point, however, the pain in the my throat was becoming unbearable. I actually started to get worried that it might be something more serious because my throat has never hurt so bad in my life! The rest didn’t really help it, so we found a good Mexican restaurant for dinner. Incidentally, we ran into a large group of students there from our university! The food was quite good. Afterwards we settled back in at the hostel, and I tried to drink as much tea as I could. We turned in a little early that night, but at one point I literally woke up and could not go back to sleep because it hurt so bad. I mean, I couldn’t even move my tongue without cringing!
It was feeling a bit better by the time we got up to check out the next morning though. There was a pretty cool cathedral around the corner from us, so we were excited to go to mass there. Nish knew the whole thing anyway, but I was eager to hear it Spanish. The only problem was that there was also some sort of marathon right in front of it, so we had to strategically dart through the runners to get across. It was pretty cool to attend a service in such an old and beautiful building. We had a nice lunch after then made our way to the beach. Although the sun was out today as well, it was a bit chillier but not bad overall. There were some children daring enough to splash in the waves, but when I went to dip my feet in I had no idea how they did it; it was freezing! I guess I’m just getting old. Probably the funniest thing was this little girl who was running around in her underwear; so there she was, standing in the water with no pants but with a thick coat zipped up all the way and with a hood on as well. There were a lot of people walking along the beach trying to sell stuff, and they kind of got annoying but they were harmless.
By now the sun was beginning to set, but we still had a few hours before our bus. I finally relented and went to a pharmacy for some sort of relief; they gave me this detestable spray, but it legitimately felt like I was spraying straight Novacaine in the back of my throat so that was nice. We then collected our bags from the hostel and found a Starbucks to take advantage of. I think we sat there for at least six hours, and I did my best to knock out as much of my poetry as I could. When they were about to close, we made our way back to the bus station. Oh so while we were waiting in the metro station, I was standing next to a vending machine and this guy came up right behind me to face the corner of the machine and the wall. I kind of did a half turn because he was literally right behind me, and it was no secret what he was doing! He was clearly ingesting some sort of substance via his naval passage, and was not shy about clearing them out once he emerged from his not so private hiding spot. I know Barcelona has a bit of a higher crime rate, but I can’t believe he was so blatant about it on a crowded platform! Anyway, I finished most of the rest of my essay at the bus station, and we boarded around 1 am. We arrived back in Madrid Monday morning around 8:30 or so ready for another week of class! Within a few days my sore throat completely went away by the way! It was the quickest, most severe one ever, but I guess the intensity was worth the duration.