And here is the last installment of the Euro2016 travel blogs… Barcelona!

Being in Barcelona was bittersweet; bitter in that it was our last vacation destination and sweet because where we stayed, we were surrounded by blue water and bustling beach life. If there was anywhere to go to forget that you have a job, it would be Barcelona- where the people take daily siestas and the weekends are spent scouting out the biggest club parties. Here, I’ll share some of my favorite memories from our time in Spanish paradise.

Sunbathing among the very nude locals

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Our first endeavor when we arrived in Barcelona was to find a beach, sprawl out in the sand, and do absolutely nothing. As we made our way down to shore, we noticed not the variety of bikini and Speedo attire, but rather the lack thereof. Being from the states, this took us aback at first, but as we laid down on our towels to discretely people watch, we realized that this was just a reflection of the social culture in Barcelona – to be happy in your skin and to live the life you enjoy. Too often in America, you do things to define your worth or get something in return… and I’m not saying that this is absent in Barcelona, but in that moment on the beach, you feel free of judgment and free to reflect on the things you love most in life.

Eating Paella at Paco Alcade in Barceloneta
After a morning dip in the Tyrrhenian Sea, we wandered into Barceloneta, a small section of the city entrapped by tall, residential buildings housing local cafes and mini food markets. By referral of Yelp, we found a small, family-owned Spanish restaurant called Paco Alcade whose known for their seafood and paella. It was around 1pm right before the lunch rush, so the restaurant was a little empty, but the wait staff was extremely helpful and attentive. We ordered the seafood paella and seafood platter, and oh my god, it was the best food we had in Europe.

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Since Rey has had a lot of paella in his time, I trusted him when he said it was the best paella he’s ever had. It was around 2pm when we got our food and we noticed that the lunch rush had come in by storm – the restaurant became vibrant with locals coming in to greet the restaurant staff like old friends and grabbing a table to banter among themselves. When the people of Barcelona gather for lunch, it is truly an event. Bottles of wine were going around and people sat to catch up for hours at a time. Unlike in the states where lunch is an in-and-out event, people in Barcelona actually take time to recuperate and enjoy a break from the workday (whether or not they actually work).

Riding a Vespa through the Gothic Quarter

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Since we only had 2 days to explore the beautiful city of Barcelona, we decided to rent Vespas to zip through the city a little faster. Our friend Mike got one and Rey and I shared a bike (I was too chicken to rent my own). This was probably our best decision in Europe – if you have a chance to ride a Vespa or motorcycle in Spain, do it. As we cruised down the narrow streets of Barcelona, we took occasional pit stops to soak in the unique architecture such as La Casa Batlló  or La Sagrada Familia. La Sagrada Familia, a giant basilica visited by tourists from around the world, was unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Circling the building from the outside felt like a trip throughout the ages. The building was adorned with so many architectural styles from different time periods that it seemed like multiple artists were working on it at the same time. However, all the credit and glory goes to Antoni Gaudi, perhaps the most well-known artist in Spain. When this building will be completed? According to an officer patrolling the building, “When the city runs out of money.” A picture won’t do this building much justice, but at least you can start to see the intricacies of this continuously growing art piece:

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Club-hopping along the coast at Pacha and Opium
At night, the day has only just begun for Barcelona locals. Nightlife in Barcelona is no joke and neither are the night goers who wander the city in search for the best club party. The first night in Barcelona, we decided to check out Pacha Nightclub, which is apparently the Liv of the city (Liv in Miami’s biggest and best club). On a Thursday night, the lines at the front and back were packed with people trying to get in for Otto Knows. Luckily, our group bought tickets beforehand, so we were let in with ease. Inside, there was barely any room to walk with people dancing like spastic sardines. For a Thursday, this was the most crowded I had ever seen a club. One tip for going out in Barcelona when a big DJ is playing: make sure you’re fairly inebriated. Otherwise, the crowds and blaring music will annoy the hell out of you. After 2 hours of sweaty dancing, we decided to head home and save our energy for the next night, which was a club hopping tour that we had booked online.

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A random snippet of Natasha and I out and about that night

If you’re only in Barcelona for a couple of nights like we were, I highly recommend booking a VIP tour with Barcelona Nightlife. Sure, it feels a bit touristy, but the pros highly outweigh the cons: no lines, transportation from club to club, drinks lined up at every bar, and a quick way to make friends. While we were on this tour at a bar called Mirablau overlooking the Barcelona skyline, we met a couple from Texas who we befriended immediately.

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The view from Mirablau

A couple of glasses of champagne and shots of tequila later, we found ourselves laughing and dancing at Opium, another big club in the city. There were multiple rooms with electronic music playing, some of which had dancers swinging from the ceilings. The crowd was lively and the vibes were amazing. After sweating it out inside, we decided to take a breather on the patio outside, which had a great view of the beach. Opium was probably the most well-rounded club we went to, with multiple dance rooms, relatively quick bartenders, clean bathrooms, and a patio outside. It was the best way to end our last hours in Barcelona.

Those last couple of days in Barcelona were a true test of our bodies’ strength. After traveling hundred of miles on foot, bike, train, and plane for 2 weeks, we gave Barcelona every ounce of energy that we had left and in return received our most memorable nights in Europe. As we drearily packed our suitcases the next morning, we promised ourselves to take back to the states all of the lessons we learned in Europe: to pursue what makes you happy and enjoy the company of others as much as you can. Our Europe trip wasn’t just about checking off destinations from our bucket list; it was about immersing ourselves in different cultures and expanding our perspective of life… and that I can safely say we achieved. As I’m closing this blog, I’m truly grateful to have the friends and boyfriend that I do, who are willing to travel the world and do new and exciting things with me. Quite frankly, I’m already mentally preparing for our next worldly vacation.