Paying Attention In Barcelona

I+traveled+alone+to+Barcelona+and+got+the+opportunity+to+experience+the+country+in+a+much+deeper+way.%0A+%28KARALEE++ROGERS%2F+THE+OBSERVER%29
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Paying Attention In Barcelona

I traveled alone to Barcelona and got the opportunity to experience the country in a much deeper way.
 (KARALEE  ROGERS/ THE OBSERVER)

I traveled alone to Barcelona and got the opportunity to experience the country in a much deeper way. (KARALEE ROGERS/ THE OBSERVER)

I traveled alone to Barcelona and got the opportunity to experience the country in a much deeper way. (KARALEE ROGERS/ THE OBSERVER)

I traveled alone to Barcelona and got the opportunity to experience the country in a much deeper way. (KARALEE ROGERS/ THE OBSERVER)

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By KARALEE ROGERS
Contributing Writer

My friends and I had excitedly made plans for a weekend trip to Copenhagen— three  days of fun,  filled with trying new food, seeing the sights and making unforgettable memories.  However, sidelined by a nasty illness, I had to opt out of the trip I had been so looking forward to.  After a call to my airline, I re-booked my ticket for Barcelona— my first solo trip abroad. In my solitude, I could observe things I might have otherwise overlooked had I been with other people.

(KARALEE ROGERS/ THE OBSERVER)

(KARALEE ROGERS/ THE OBSERVER)

9:03 a.m.: My eyes open to the light of day streaming into the window overlooking my bed. It is still and silent, with only the faint sounds of morning traffic making their way to my lofty fifth floor room. I am filled with excitement, anticipating the adventures I will undertake by myself today— I have never roamed a city abroad entirely by myself, but this is what makes it all the more exhilarating. I exit my hotel and begin walking down the street, in no particular direction. I’ve always been a fan of wandering— ambling through unfamiliar places and seeing what I can discover. As I turn onto a small side street, I am greeted by a small shop. It’s sign is red, with “Arlequi Mascaras” painted on it with curling yellow letters. I am instantly mesmerized— this is not the kind of store I am accustomed to seeing amongst the delis and markets in the Bronx, or even in the beachside shops of my own home. Beautiful masks decorate the windows, which are busy and colorful, reminding me of the ornate pages of the I Spy books I used to enjoy as a child.

(KARALEE ROGERS/ THE OBSERVER)

(KARALEE ROGERS/ THE OBSERVER)

10:06 a.m.: I wander wistfully through small streets, craning my neck to view the buildings around me. I’m in a neighborhood like I’ve never seen before. Small footpaths, narrow and uneven, run in between a patchwork of interlocking buildings and roads. It is quiet and uncrowded, which I find surprising. I had expected Barcelona to be overflowing with people, deafening with the loud chatter of tourists and locals. I have seen busy areas, but I feel lucky to have encountered a space like this.  It is an area that is calm and uncluttered— simple and beautiful.

(KARALEE ROGERS/ THE OBSERVER)

(KARALEE ROGERS/ THE OBSERVER)

11:14 a.m.: I’m on the Passeig Sant Joan, in a small cafe with large gaping windows and window seats that serve as booths. I lean my back against the glass and look out at the passing cars.  I take a deep breath, the kind that reaches all the way to the stomach, and slowly exhale. I pay my bill and begin to walk once more.  Ahead of me, I see a huge, brick structure rising out of the earth.  It is the “Arco de Triunfo,” an overwhelmingly large arch, built in 1888 to act as the main gate for the Barcelona World Fair. It towers over Passeig de Lluís Companys promenade.

(KARALEE ROGERS/ THE OBSERVER)

(KARALEE ROGERS/ THE OBSERVER)

12:24 p.m.: The winding paths of Antoni Gaudí’s Park Güell sprawl in front of me. I walk through gardens blooming with bright pink and orange flowers and overflowing with tall palm trees.  Green vines creep up the rock walls on either side of me, and I take my time allowing the  natural beauty of this place to imprint upon my memory. The vibrance of the scene amazes me— it is one thing to see pictures of places, so full of color and life that they almost seem unreal, it is another thing entirely to experience them in person.

(KARALEE ROGERS/ THE OBSERVER)

(KARALEE ROGERS/ THE OBSERVER)

2:36 p.m.:  I sit on the top of a sparsely filled double decker bus and watch as a group of friends a few rows in front of me argues over who gets the outside seat. The spot next to me is empty. The wind blows through my hair and I wonder how long it’s going to take for the man behind me to get tired of being hit in the face with my curls and move. I pass by “La Monumental”, the very last operating bullfighting arena in this area before a law was passed that banned the practice. It is made of brick, with splashes of blue and white tiles along its facade and topped with rounded sculptures. I find it strange that such a beautiful place could house so much violence and destruction.

(KARALEE ROGERS/ THE OBSERVER)

(KARALEE ROGERS/ THE OBSERVER)

4:33 p.m.: I lean my head on the railing of the bus and allow my eyes to close for a moment. The rhythmic movements of the bus are calming as it navigates the busy and chaotic Spanish streets. My vision suddenly grows darker and I look up to see Gaudí’s La Sagrada Familia obstructing the sun. It’s said that thousands of people from all over the world flock to this location every year, and now I can understand why. It is huge, extending hundreds of feet above my head, and covered in beautiful façades which depict the birth, death and resurrection of Christ. Tall spires stick straight up, towering high above the city. The cameras of the other people on my bus click rapidly as we pass the basilica.

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Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

4:49 p.m.: A V-shaped building, the Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau, sits on the corner of the Carrer de Cartagena and the Carrer de Sant Antoni Maria Claret. The building, used as a hospital for a century, now exists as just another beautiful part of Barcelona’s architectural history.

(KARALEE ROGERS/ THE OBSERVER)

(KARALEE ROGERS/ THE OBSERVER)

4:53 p.m.: The smell of salt water fills the air as my bus passes a seemingly endless stretch of beaches. The sand overflows with people. From my bus, they are almost indistinguishable – small  dots of color on the sand among the colorful hues of umbrellas.  The coast turns into a sprawl of bridges, sitting high above the blue water.  

(KARALEE ROGERS/ THE OBSERVER)

(KARALEE ROGERS/ THE OBSERVER)

5:33 p.m.: My gaze travels upwards towards the very tops of Casa Amatller and Casa Batlló, two adjacent homes of two very talented architects.  Each house is beautiful in itself, but it is the merging of these two buildings that interests me the most— the very line where they meet, and the two styles of each of the homes become one.  

(KARALEE ROGERS/ THE OBSERVER)

(KARALEE ROGERS/ THE OBSERVER)

6:08 p.m.: A woman stands on her balcony, watering her plants and allowing the wet, humid air to coat her skin. I feel as if I’m getting a small glimpse into life of the locals. For me, Barcelona represents an exciting adventure— an unknown city waiting to be explored.  For the people who here, however, this is just another day, and they go about their business as usual.  

(KARALEE ROGERS/ THE OBSERVER)

(KARALEE ROGERS/ THE OBSERVER)

6:35 p.m.: I‘m on a giant hill and I’m lost. I hopped off my bus to take a picture of the amazing view of Barcelona, but I cannot find my way back to the bus stop. The area is not very crowded and it’s getting darker. If I don’t end up stranded on a hill in Spain forever, the picture will have been worth it. I eventually find my way back and let out a sigh of relief. The picture feels like a small victory now.