My twenty-first birthday was definitely the best one of my life so far. It was amazing to go away for a weekend with my friends and have a mini- break from everything. I absolutely fell in love with Barcelona, and I would love to go back and spend more time exploring and really getting to know the city. The only downside of my weekend was how short it was- by Sunday evening I was back in Charlieu sleeping in my own bed, and by Monday I was back in school teaching.
The Wednesday before my birthday weekend was spent with my lovely language assistant friends in Roanne. It really meant a lot to me how much everyone cared- there was home-made pizza, cake, and a card that everyone had written such nice messages in. I worked on Thursday, and then Thursday evening took the train to Lyon to stay with Ellie overnight. We even had a kind-of Roast Dinner in the evening with Ellie’s flatmate Katie, which was a lovely taste of home.
On Friday we were off to Barcelona! Ellie and I met Emily at the station, and then took the shuttle train to the airport together. After a slightly delayed flight, we met Libby after her flight, and then set off on the trains to find our airbnb in central Barcelona. The weather was the first thing to strike us as particularly different; the Spanish city was as warm as 20 degrees Celsius during the day, while we were used to a maximum of 5 degrees in France. The other thing that was a definite cultural difference between Barcelona and Lyon was the prices- a cappuccino in Barcelona was only €1.80, whereas in Lyon it would usually cost around 2 euros more.
Arriving in our Airbnb in the Gothic Quarter, we asked our host Ettore where the best place to get tapas was locally. He turned out to be the best host ever, and accompanied us to the tapas bar himself, ordering the food and alcohol for us since the bar was crowded with locals speaking catalan. Ettore then took us to his favourite bar, which served delicious and very cheap cocktails. A few drinks later I confessed that it was my birthday, and returned from the toilet to find that he’d popped out to create a ‘Birthday Cake’ for me from buns, squirty cream, and candles. The whole bar stopped to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ for me, which was both surreal and kinda embarrassing! By this time we’d started talking to a few international students in the bar as well, and the group of us went on an impromptu tour of Ettore’s highlights of Barcelona: we ate some Venezuelan street-food, passed through a weird inside rain-forest room, and went by the outside of Gaudi’s house. We finished the night chilling out together in Ettore’s front room, and ended up going to bed at a reasonable hour so that we could spend a full day exploring Barcelona on Saturday.
On Saturday we spent a lot of time in the labyrinthine streets of the Gothic Quarter. There were dozens of cool vintage clothing shops to explore, as well as coffee shops and tapas bars. For lunch, we found a reasonably priced vegetarian restaurant, which was another big difference between Barcelona and Lyon- having a choice of vegetarian food, as well as cheap lunchtime food from all over the world, was certainly different to France! In the afternoon, we enjoyed a walking tour of the Gothic Quarter, which was super interesting. We then took the metro to the famous Sagrada Familia, and took a lot of photos. Unfortunately we were too late in the day to go inside Gaudi’s masterpiece, but the outside is very impressive also!
Saturday evening meant we had to start thinking about separating and returning to France the next day. We had a nice relaxed evening together, eating a lovely meal of traditional Spanish tapas, before heading to the Barcaloneta beach to chill out for a few hours. Libby had to leave us fairly early the next morning, but Emily, Ellie and I managed to get some delicious Greek food for lunch before heading back to the airport.
The next week was fairly uneventful as I was catching up on my work, and worked Monday as I had taken the day off Friday. The next Friday I went to play volleyball with a group of teachers for the first time, which was nice but also embarrassing because I was SO bad. Unlike in France and America, volleyball is not taught in British schools’ PE lessons, and so I spent a lot of the evening chasing the ball around and trying to understand the rules. We went to a house-party in Roanne, where I spent a lot of time speaking French and faire la bise (kissing people on both cheeks). It’s very rude if you don’t do this to everyone when you enter a room and when you leave, and I’m finally starting to get used to it!
The rest of my weekend was relaxed but nice- Hellie and I got some lovely pizza and freshly-made smoothies on Saturday, and had a fun Saturday night with Maddie. Yesterday I worked all day at the college, so I’m very tired today!
Today I’m looking forward to spending Galentine’s Day with my Roanne ladies; I intend to eat a lot of pizza and hopefully make a pink cake! On Saturday the holidays commence again, and I’m off to Les Menuires to ski with my family before going to Amsterdam with some friends.
Feeling incredibly lucky to be able to profit from my Year Abroad and do all this travelling…
Bonne Saint Valentin ❤