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9 posts from October 2013


The Best Kitchen in the World

Name: Sam
CIEE Barcelona Program: Business & Culture
Semester: Fall 2013
Home School: University of Denver

Last weekend our business and culture program took a trip to Girona. Many people asked, what’s in Girona? Why are we going? Then there was me, a hospitality student who plans on making his concentration in restaurants later this year. Ask me what’s in Girona and I’ll quickly respond, El Celler de Can Roca — the world’s newly crowned best restaurant run by three brothers each with a different expertise. Getting a reservation at this place is next to impossible so my agenda was to at the very least go and see it.

We arrived in Girona and everyone headed for lunch. Having eaten a bocadillo made by my host-father, Nacho, on the bus I was not hungry. I snuck away to the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot and pulled up Google maps on how to get to the restaurant. After a 30-minute walk I strolled up to the door and walked right past it on purpose. What can I say? I was a little nervous. Walking into the Mecca of all restaurants was a little unnerving. I did a loop and for lack of a better term, got my sh*t together. I walked through the narrow corridor that leads to their courtyard, looked around for a minute, then walked in the door.

CR1I was greeted by a man who I’d assume was the maitre’d (head host) and we proceeded to talk about what I study and if I could look around. He said sure, but not in the dining room. Could you imagine some American with a camera interrupting your $200 per person tasting menu? Not exactly what you pay for. He offered a tour of the kitchen, something I more than happily accepted.

CR2I didn’t really know what to expect out of this. I’ve been in a lot of kitchens and they all pretty much feel the same. Incredibly hot and space is used efficiently, or put differently it’s packed in tight. Not this place. There were separate areas or each preparation of food- meat and fish, pastry, assembly and a back area. They also have a team of 35 chefs. I finally mustered up enough courage to ask if pictures were cool in the back area so what follows are the last 10 minutes of my tour.

Here’s a picture of their distiller. It takes foods that everyone loves (strawberries in this case) and extracts and concentrates the flavour into clear water (shown on the left at the bottom of the sphere). This thing looks like it belongs in a science lab.

The maitre’d let me peek in the dining room at the very end to grab a picture from the door. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen. Massive closure in the center that allows natural light to fill the room and you could hear a pin drop in there.


**Want to know more about the Celar de Can Roca? Check these links:



Cultural Differences

While on a weekend trip to Seville & Cordoba, Business and Culture students were asked to take a moment to reflect on the cultural differences they witnessed - differences between Barcelona and Sevilla, between the US and Spain, or between different religious practices, music or ways of life. To make it more difficult, we asked them to take a photo illustrating those differences, with the winner picking up two tickets to a Barça game! Here were some of their thoughts:

Bedor Jeffrey, University of Minnesota: "I decided to take a picture of this eagle on a t-shirt in a tiny shop in Sevilla. It highlights the similarities in the commercialism of Spain and the U.S. It is surprising to see all of the American clothes just about every shop I go with English words and American cities all over them. It highlights the fact that certain study abroad hotspots became mini-college towns in a way, where marketers and businesses can target market to students who are led to believe they are being unique 'abroad' versions of American clothing."

Screen Shot 2013-10-15 at 9.27.11 AMSam, University of Denver: "Everything in Andalucia moves a little more slowly. Two representations of this are white jasmine and dripping fountains. The scent of white jasmine is very refreshing in the hot summer months and the water flowing is very relaxing, which reminds Sevillanos of the slow paced lifestyle they choose to live."

Shivam12Shivam, Babson College. ABOVE: "Past, present and future – The Alcazar, is the perfect example of cultural fusion between Muslim and Christian art. At the bottom of the Alcazar is the representation of the past, present and future which one experiences during their life. Keeping the goal in mind, it is the journey that is more important." BELOW: "The world is a melting pot. Wherever we go, we carry our own cultural perspective with us and gain experience from a new culture. Eventually, all
the cultural experiences define us and influence in what we become."

FlagsRevathi & Daria, Georgetown University: "In Barcelona, we frequently see the Catalan flag in the streets but it is much rarer to see a Spanish flag. In the streets of Sevilla, we found the Spanish flag to be much more common, often side by side with the flag of Andalucia. This cultural difference is indicative of the political tensions between Catalunya and Spain. The difference highlights the strength of the Catalonian independence movement in Barcelona, especially in comparison to the Spanish and Andalucian unity in Sevilla."

LaughTaro, George Washington University: "This was taken at a bar in Seville, and although it does not clearly show the cultural difference, we were able to enjoy more of an authentic bar experience there as compared to Barcelona, which is full of touristy areas where people can all speak English. In addition, I felt like they had a much different atmosphere in the bars, and it was interesting to see so many people spilling out of the bars. This sign also shows how cheap it was to eat lots of delicious tapas, many of which I had not had before, including the flamenquín and berenjena con miel. We were really able to 'comer,' 'beber,' 'reir,' and 'disfrutar' at such a great price."

Screen Shot 2013-10-15 at 9.48.30 AMKatherine, Elon University "In this photograph, the foreground depicts a traditional (although cheap) flamenco dress, which captures the importance of the Flamenco style dance. Women wear these dresses on special occasions to dress up and it is very common in Sevilla, although it is not worn in Barcelona. Our tour guide even informed our group that she and her daughter sometimes wear matching flamenco dresses and they buy a new dress every year because the tradition is very important to them. Additionally, in the background of this photograph, I also captured a huge difference that not only I noticed, but also our tour guide pointed out. All of the merchandise is stamped with the word España. This is normal in Sevilla and would make sense to visitors that have never traveled to Barcelona, because Sevilla is also in Spain. However, in Barcelona all of the merchandise says "Barcelona" rather than "España". This truly shows Barcelona's pride in it's own city and emphasizes their desire to separate from the country of Spain, rather than Sevilla's pride for both their own city and their country. Lastly, the 7 euro price of the dress is one small example of the poor economy in Sevilla, which has a higher unemployment rate than Barcelona. While I was there, I really noticed that the prices of items, even in the tourist locations, were significantly cheaper than in Barcelona."

And the winning photo:

Taro, George Washington University: "This was taken inside of the mezquita in Córdoba, and it strongly shows the Muslim influence especially in the southern region of Spain. The Arabic written around the pillars in the mezquita represents a part of culture, language, that definitely does not exist in churches or monuments in Barcelona. The arches in the background also demonstrate the different artistic styles between the Christians and Muslims: the Christians made simple arches or Gothic pointed arches, whereas the Muslims built layered arches to symbolize how perfect and holy the upper area (and/or the heavens) were. Everything about it had little resemblance compared to works of Gaudi or the Gothic churches in Barcelona, which surprised me a lot."




Name: Maddie
CIEE Barcelona Program: Architecture & Design
Semester: Fall 2013
Home School: Miami University

This Friday I packed my bags for the Architecture + Design and Economics trip to Granada in the south of Spain. We had received an itinerary a couple of days before, and I was so excited for planned activities that included a tour of the neighborhoods, meeting locals, seeing a Flamenco show, and, of course, visiting the Alhambra.


Tapas, tapas, tapas...
Once we got settled into the hotel we sought out a good place for tapas. The cost of nearly everything in Granada is cheaper and we were able to get a plate of 20 small tapas (pictured above) and 4 beers for 24 euro. Next we received a guided tour of the Albayzin neighborhood, an area dating back to the Roman period. Albayzin, like most of Granada, we found out, has winding narrow streets that are only about three people wide and meant to be 2-way for cars. It's also up in the mountains and only a small valley separates it from La Alhambra. So, when you aren't in your car worried about stalling out on a steep hill as another car is approaching you from the other direction, you have a magnificent view of a beautiful palace. The area is a little bit easier to navigate for pedestrians, but it was still a little scary to be walking in the street  and hear a car's engine and see its approaching headlights from around the bend. Whenever this happened (and it happened quite often), we all ran around in the middle of the street like ants, unsure of where to go, before finally choosing a side of the street to run to and plaster ourselves against the wall.



Cobblestone streets in the Albayzin
Streets of the Albayzin
Later on we met some local students who took us on a walk around the city and then out for tapas. This time we got 3 trays of tapas and 3 pitchers of sangria for 8 Euros split between 7 people. At this point I was already certain I never wanted to leave Granada. After finishing our feast we met up with the other groups and went to a bar where you drink out of a porrón. We had no idea what these were called at the time, so which just used the gesture for using a porron whenever we talked about them. A porron is commonly used for drinking wine, but this bar had mixed drinks. To drink out of a perron, you hold the smaller spout above your mouth without touching it and pour whatever it is you're drinking. The goal is to create a long stream of beverage either by holding the perron as far away from you as you can or by having someone else hold it from higher up. It was really fun!



Guitar players and a perfect view of the Alhambra
However, the next day started early with a trip to the Cathedral and La Alhambra, so I didn't stay out too late. In the morning we walked to the Cathedral to see the Royal Chapel (Capilla Real) of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabelle (pals of Christopher Columbus), where they are buried. It was a beautiful space and had a space behind the altar that showed many stories from the Bible and even events that were going on at the time through sculptures and relief paintings. The chapel was in the plasteresque Gothic style, which meant that it had a lot of ornamental features, such as non-structural ribs along the ceiling, painted carved pieces on the ceilings, and whole lot of gold.


After going to the Capilla Real we got on a bus to go to the Alhambra, where we were greeted with a bagged lunch. Now, I made a detrimental mistake when packing and I didn't bring my iPhone charger or my camera, so I wasn't able to take pictures at the Alhambra. I know, bummer. But instead of frantically snapping pictures of all the overwhelmingly detailed walls, ceilings, and courtyards that is Alhambra, I was able to really look at and appreciate everything. I also tried to sketch a lot (quickly, however), which also allowed me to study some of the details of its design (at least this is what I'm telling myself so I don't feel awful about not having pictures of La Alhambra. If anything, I learned to always have a backup method of taking pictures or at least an emergency charger).


Sketching at the Alhambra
When entering La Alhambra, you go through a long outdoor passageway lined with bushes formed into thick arcades. These bushes separate the passageway from delicate courtyards to the right, which house beautiful beds of roses, intimate arbors, and the tall, piercing cypress trees. Ancient ruins from 700 years ago lie on either side of this passage, which eventually brings you to a more open "city" area. While the palace is the main attraction of the Alhambra, there are a number of other buildings and monuments throughout the area that span between the 13th century when the complex was built to the Renaissance era, when the site was turned over to Catholicism.


M7From here you make your way towards the palace, which is truly a harmony of architecture, landscape, and interior spaces. You never truly know if you are inside or ouside bacause you are constantly fluctuating between these spaces as you travel through breezeways, courtyards, and rooms. Inside, outside, and the spaces in between are ornately decorated with Arabic inscriptions, colorful patterns, and lacey designs. While this was a little overwhelming at first (especially when trying to draw everything), the repetition of the same patterns, features, and colors in each room made the palace more visually manageable. There was also a wonderful gentle breeze coming through the open patios and intricate windows, while La Alhambra´s complicated irrigation system allowed water to trickle peacefully throughout the spaces. Although we were only able to be in the palace for a short time (the tickets are timed), it was truly a beautiful and inspiring building to be in.

However, the day had only just begun. Me and my friends Emily, Kelly, and Ali had made plans to go to the Hamman Baños Árabes, baths that date back to the 13th century and have been restored. These baths, which included a cold room (with tea!), a hot room, and a warm room, look just like the baths of the Alhambra, and because we had just come from there it felt like we bathing IN the Alhambra. For 25 euro, we also used the steam room AND got a massage. It was my first time ever being so pampered and I felt great afterwards.


Flamenco show in a cave
Later at night our group was scheduled to see a Flamenco show in the mountain caves of Granada. I didn't really know what to expect but soon found out that Flamenco in Granada is a much more intimate production with a lot of improv. Two small troupes performed while only one person danced at a time. Two men, one playing a guitar and the other singing, sat behind them. The group talked to each other even while on stage and cheered for one another with an ¨Ole!¨ or other indiscernible words.


After the show some of us decided to stay in the mountains for the night. We walked along the street looking for a place to eat while dodging cars and came along a small bar up the hill. While the owner, Antonio, said he didn't serve food, he recommended Casa Juanillo up the street. Jaunillo turned out to be a terrace-turned restaurant with excellent food. There was only one other group of locals there so we felt like we were really immersing ourselves with the culture.

After getting food we returned to Antonio's bar and had some drinks in the presence of the Flamenco guitar players and other locals. They seemed to be playing well known traditional songs, which made us all feel really immersed with the culture. The bar, like the restaurant and the Flamenco site, was also in one of the areas ¨caves.¨


Terrace Restaurant for Tapas
We decided to continue the cave trend and went to a club further down the street (all of these places were on the same street!) called El Camborio. This club was unlike any other I've ever seen. Rather than having a singular room of sweaty bodies and alcohol the main spaces of this club was situated up on the hill with smaller, more intimate spaces leading up to it. The main spaces consisted of an outdoor terrace, a large dance floor, two smaller rooms, and a small room with a bar. They played both familiar American songs as well as Portuguese and Spanish pop and rap songs. Both kinds of music were equally fun to dance to and it was so awesome we stayed out until 5 am!


It should also be mentioned that the entire night we had a continuous view of the Alhambra lit up in all its glory. The whole day was truly magical, not to mention the entire weekend in Granada.

*Check out more of Maddie's blog:


My goals for this semester

Name: Shreyas
CIEE Barcelona Program: Business & Culture
Semester: Fall 2013
Home School: Babson College

GoalsMy goals for this semester are:

Learn to appreciate art and architecture: Barcelona is home to numerous buildings designed by great architects like Antoni Gaudi. Also, Spain has produced genius artists like Picasso, Dali and Miro who each brought about a revolution in art. I aim to expose myself to the works of such great artists and imbibe as much as I can. I have enrolled in two liberal art classes at my program which will guide me in fulfilling this goal. Apart from these classes I will also conduct my own research. This goal will be accomplished when at the end of semester I will be able to write about a piece of art I like the best. This I will post on the blog.

Understand the business environment of Spain: The Spanish economy is in a very interesting period right now. It is still in recession but has shown signs of recovery. My aim is to understand the dynamics of the Spanish economy and the business environment in the country. For this I have enrolled in an economics class which will give me the basics tools to understand the economy and a business class- Culture and Business in Europe- in my program. I will also be doing my own research. This goal will be accomplished when I write a small research paper or exhibit my findings through any other media.

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Improve my Spanish language skill: Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world after English. Learning this language will help me understand the Spanish culture better and interact with Spanish people in their native language. For this I have enrolled in a Spanish language class in my program. Apart from this I will maximize my interaction with locals and speak in Spanish as much as I can. This goal will be accomplished when I will be able to communicate in Spanish independently.

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Learn about the Spanish culture: The Spanish culture is very rich. There is a lot of history and tradition and I would like to learn as much as I can about this culture. For this I will take active part in traditional activities in the city and will travel to the major parts of Spain.


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Make new friends: This semester is a fresh start. Apart from my Babson College class mates, I do not know anybody else in Barcelona. Therefore, this will be a very good opportunity for me to interact with new people and make friends. Apart from the Americans I would also like to make local Spanish friends to get a taste of local life in Spain.


Travel around Europe: This is the best time in my life when I can travel solo without much responsibilities. This is also the only time when I will get to spend three and half months in a foreign land. So, apart from the goals above I am looking forward to travelling around Europe and having a lot of fun. While travelling I will also get the opportunity to explore the local cultures of different European countries.


See more from Sherya's blog here:


Business & Culture, Fall 2013, Issue I



In the US we shake hands, we nod to acknowledge meeting one another, but here in Barcelona, we give the dos besos (two kisses).  We go left and offer the right cheek first.  This is our greeting for friends, family and first encounters, such as meeting your new host family. While for some it’s a natural affair, for others it takes awhile to get used to and a few times to practice and get it right.  Students practiced with each other as they anxiously awaited meeting their host families at orientation and after a few fumbles and giggles, they came out ready to meet their families and give their first dos besos.

DosbesosChristina from Georgetown, Christianne from Babson College and Jeffery from University of Minnesota Twin Cities meet their new host families during orientation.


We challenged students to get out there and get step out of their comfort zone, whether it be a baby step or a twirl.  Kanish from Villanova Univeristy and Thomson from Georgetown joined the girls for a dance off earlier this month at a local gym.  



We’ve organized several open practices with a local soccer team this month and students got to see how their “futbol” skills measured up to the locals.  Babson College came out strong to represent with 4 students: Taro, Shreyes, Shivam and Alex.  Christianne came for Georgetown.  The locals were impressed and have invited them all back to practice throughout the semester!

IMG_3299 IMG_3305


The advanced level Spanish classes headed out last Thursday night to meet up with local students to practice their Spanish and get to know more locals.  Many timidly entered and didn’t know how to start, but after encouragement from their Spanish teachers and CIEE staff, they got started and ended up staying for hours getting to know each other.




Name: Ally
CIEE Barcelona Program: Architecture & Design
Semester: Fall 2013
Home School: University of Florida



My housemate, Paige, and I :)

I’ve been having the time of my life! Seriously. Words cannot describe how happy I am with the decision to study abroad. I highly reccomend this to anyone and everyone in the whole world. The world is beautiful! Magnificent! But there are no guidebooks on the planet that can truly prepare you for moving across the world. Traveling is one thing... living here is just unbelievable.

It will be 4 weeks on this upcoming Tuesday… 1 whole month!! I can proudly say that I’ve had the best day of my life every single day for the past 3 1/2 weeks & I plan to have an amazing 3 more months!

What have I been up to? Let’s see.. in just this short period of time there have been 2 huge holidays. The first being September 11th (the day of Catalunya) & the second being La Mercè, the 5 day festival of Barcelona. And get this, each of those holidays I didn’t have class! I had the day the celebrate and roam and just have a splendid time here in Catalunya! 

I also went to my first professional fútbol game, and started practicing with a local team.


Espanyol vs. Bilbao :D


First day of practice!!! It felt amazing to be on the field again.

The day of Catalunya was amazing. I witnessed history this day. For the very first time ever, local Catalans decided to organize and human chain to cover the entire length of Calatunya... 400+ km & I was a part of it! I definitely passed the Catalan pride test with flying colors... it wasn’t until they heard me speak that anyone thought I wasn’t anything less then a very devoted Catalan local. Haha!! It was pretty fun..I cannot even count the number of people that stopped to take my photo.


The history of this day is great, yet kind of strange for me. This same day that I was celebrating here in Catalunya, my fellow Americans were having a solemn day at home. It definitely felt weird to have an absolutely wonderful day on 9/11. However, the “Day of Calatunya” is not exactly a celebration for the reason that you might think. On 9/11 in 1714, the Catalans lost the war for their independce from Spain. Strange right? Well after much thought and research, I realized that they are celebrating their strength and ability to pull through and still stand tall. Whether they lost or not, they still claim that they are separate from Spain and on this day they, in a sense, celebrate how great it is to not be Spain (technically or not) and commemorate the men and women who worked hard, and still do work hard, to let their voice be heard. Beautiful.


The human chain (open to see the full size).


 With my host mom’s daughter and brother’s family.


Catalan pride at it’s best :)

The second holiday (La Merce) was actually a 5 day long festival that is only celebrated in Barcelona, and is awesome!


Castellers- The ‘sport’ of Barcelona. Basically really brave people who make human towers!!

Fire-breathing dragons, human towers, talented circus and street art performers, sounds from Catalonia and from across the globe… If you have had the good sense to plan your trip to the Catalan capital during the festival of La Mercè, you will have the opportunity to delve into its veritable soul. Over the course of the festival, Barcelona is filled with music, revelry, fireworks, traditions and street arts in a unique blend of festivities, which not only reveals the most avant-garde and creative side of the city but also offers the chance to discover traditions that define the nature of the Catalan people in general and of the people of Barcelona in particular."

Yep. Pretty much. Thousands of artists to hear and watch and things to do and see & when they say fire breathing dragons they’re not lying. “Among the most striking features present in Catalan festivals. In the correfoc, a group of individuals will dress as devils and light fireworks. While dancing to the drums of a traditional gralla drumming, they will set off their fireworks among crowds of spectators.”


 This photo was so worth the burn on my leg!


…ouch! Pretty freakin’ intense. I was having an amazing time run through the streets with my housemate and then 5 minutes before we head home... boom. Firework straight to the thigh!!! It’s been about 4 days now and I think it’s about time I go to the doctor.


I’ve been meeting some great people and have made amazing friends. My roommate, Paige (we share a homestay) on the left, is awesome! Seriously would not have been having such a great time without her. And in the middle is my other awesome Florida gal, Christina! 

Stay tuned for more awesome stories, because there are surely more to come.

*See more of Ally's stories on her blog:


Liberal Arts, Fall 2013, Issue I


Welcome to the Liberal Arts Program!

In these first weeks, the Liberal Arts students have been getting used to their new environment, their new home, classes, friends and their new city: Barcelona!

After three weeks of intensive Spanish classes, students started their courses at the University Pompeu Fabra (our host institution) and their CIEE extensive classes at our study center. In the intensive classes, students participated in several field trips in order to learn language in context. There were visits to a local market, la boqueria, and a scavenger hunt through a popular neighborhood, Gracia, to practice asking for directions and to interact with locals. It is a fun way to really start using their Spanish as soon as they arrive.

Liberal Arts Students on a Scavenger Hunt in Gracia
Visiting a civil war bomb shelter as part of the scavenger hunt.

Students interview locals on a scavenger hunt in Gracia

Getting to know one another during orientation

Students meeting their new host families at orientation

Language assessment

This semester we have begun a new process of assessing the language level of our students over the course of their academic experience in Barcelona. They take a written exam prior their arrival and during the first week we conduct one on one interviews to assess their oral language skills. At the end of the program, students will be assessed again through a written exam and an oral interview to determine their language acquisition progress. While students always notice a major improvement in their skills, now they will be able to quantify it! 

Quijotes Club

Liberal Arts students are given the opportunity to join the "Quijotes Club", a group of students who sign an agreement to speak only Spanish (even with one another) and are dedicated to gaining a higher level of intercultural competence and integration. In addition to maintaining the language agreement, Quijotes need to participate in different cultural activities such as a salsa workshop, one-day volunteer campaigns, attending a casteller practice, visiting the Football Club Foundation, or watching a Barça football game with locals, among others. Quijotes students also need to attend the Intercambio (language exchange) nights, where they meet local students. At the end of the semester only those students who have completed the requirements will recieve a certification as a "Club Quijotes" participant. Many students find this program a great opportunity to push themselves a little more in the integration process. 

Club Quijotes - Salsa dance class
Quijotes students at the Barça foundation
Quijote Club - students visiting the FCBarcelona Foundation

Quijotes students volunteering at a local race
Quijotes Club - Students volunteering during the "La Merce" 10K race in September


La Mercè 2013

Name: Katherine
CIEE Barcelona Program: Language & Culture
Semester: Fall 2013
Home School: Tufts University


The Sardana, the traditional dance of Catalonia, than can go on for hours with participants dancing slowly, as one. The dance is emblematic of the community, “we are one” culture of Catalonia.

La Mercè is the annual festival celebrated in Barcelona to honor its patron saint, the Virgin of Grace, Mare de Deu de la Mercè. This year, the festival took place over the weekend of September 21st-24th. It was incredible to be in Barcelona during such a special time of the year and to witness the traditions of the city. We did many wonderful things over the course of the four-day weekend, including attending a Wine Far at the Arc de Triomf, seeing the Castellers at Plaça San Jaume, picnicing on the beach and watching beautiful fireworks, and participating in the special correfoc!

Photos from the amazing wine and food festival we attended! I had the best cheescake in the world (not exaggerating in the slightest) and we thoroughly enjoyed sampling various wines and cheeses from around Catalonia and Spain.

On Saturday, the first official day of the festival, we began at a wine tasting at the Arc de Triomf. I had the best cheesecake I’ve ever had in my life (no, I am not kidding), tasted different cheeses, and had all sorts of wine from around Catalonia and Spain. Afterwards, we walked down Carrer de Princesa, a classic small street in Barcelona, to Plaça San Jaume where we watched traditional Sardana dancing.


Le Correfoc, or the “fire run,” in which “devils” light giant sparklers in the streets and people dance around them in order to keep them from running through the streets (symbolically, of course).

That night, we went to see the Parade of Fire-Breathing Dragons and Beasts and the projection show of the history of Barcelona in Plaça San Jaume. Once we had seen the dragons come out of the building, we ran down to Barceloneta to watch the fireworks show! That night, we also discovered an AMAZING pizza place on a side street in Barceloneta. One Italian guy worked there, making individual pizzas to order by hand. As we got there on the late side, there was only ONE dough left, meaning the 5 of us had to share that one pizza. It was delicious, and we planned to come back the next day.

Km1One of my favorite parts of the festival was the castellers, or the human towers, in which people literally build human towers. It is exactly what it looks live, and is amazing to see them build and descend.

On Sunday, we met again in Plaça San Jaume to watch Las Castellers, or the human tours which are a tradition of Catalan culture! I had seen videos before, but they do not compare at all to watching them build in real life. It usually goes for about a minute or two, and as they build higher and higher, the crowd gets quiet and they play the traditional Castellers music until the child reaches the top, thrusts his hand up quickly, and scatters back down. The crowd always goes wild.

Km2We climbed to the top of Montjuic and had an amazing view of the city and the Mediterranean!

After seeing several towers, we forced our way out through the massive crowd and took the train up to Montjuic to picnic. We enjoyed our lunch on this hill overlooking the Mediterranean and the entire city of Barcelona. It was beautiful! On Sunday night, we went to the Correfoc, a tradition that is literally translated to “the fire run.” Check out the photos below to get a better idea of what it’s like! Afterwards, we gathered at the beach with pizza (we each got our own this time!), sangria, and white wine and watched a spectacular fireworks show over the water. It was one of my favorite nights in Barcelona so far.

On the third day of the festival, not much usually goes on, so we relaxed at the beach and worked on our tan.
On Tuesday (long weekend!), we went to the wine festival to finish up the rest of our tickets, then headed to a local pub to watch the Barça game! One of my favorite moments was a local who put his hand on his heart and sang loudly and proudly during the national anthem. At halftime, we headed to Plaça Españya to watch the final fireworks and light show that closes La Mercè! 

I loved being in Barcelona for such a traditional festival! It really made me feel like I was a part of the city, and often times it felt like being in a movie. Just more abroad life.


Language & Culture, Fall 2013, Issue I

Barcelona in Pop Culture

“Barcelona, archives of courtesy, shelter of foreigners, hospital of the poor, father-land of  the brave, vengeance of the offended and pleasant correspondence of firm friendship, and in site, and in beauty, unique.” Through these words Miguel de Cervantes described Barcelona in his masterpiece Don Quijote.

On the third day of Orientation, LC students explored this unique beauty on a Walking Tour dedicated to the representation of Barcelona in Pop Culture. The City has always been used as a setting for movies and music videos, as well as a constant source of inspiration for novelists and poets. Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona by Woody Allen, Perfume (based on the bestseller book by Patrick Süskind), The Spanish Apartment or the Italian movie Manuale d’Amore 2, just to mention a few, were shot in Barcelona. And Natalie Imbruglia, Evanescence and The Cheetah Girls selected the Gothic Quarter as location for their music videos. On the tour, our students reenacted scenes from some of these movies and video clips, while learning about the historical and social significance of the old city, the XX century expansion of the city and the specific identity of each district.

BacheloretteCheeta girlsPerfumeNeri2VickycristinaFrom top to bottom: The Bachelorette, The Cheetah Girls, Perfume, & 2 shots from Vicky Christina Barcelona. For more photos from the tour, check out our facebook page.

Barcelona’s Identity through Traditions and Festivals 

During their first weeks in Barcelona, LC students had also the opportunity of experiencing first-hand how traditions and festivals shape the city’s identity, together with language, gastronomy, and history. Through the National day of Catalonia (September 11th) and the Festival of La Mercé, the Patron Saint of Barcelona (September 24th) students were able to appreciate the values at the heart of Catalan culture: community, generosity, team-building, and equality. These values are visually represented in the sport of human tower building (the Castellers), the sardanas (the national dance) and parades. Free concerts, light mapping shows on important buildings (such as the City Hall) and fireworks added color and joy to the festival, integrating international visitors into the city’s natural flow. It is a fun time to be in Barcelona!

Correfoc_barcelonaThe Correfoc (fire run) part of Barcelona's "La Mercè" festival in September.

Discovering Granada

Our students enjoyed a taste of Andalucía during a weekend trip to Granada! A guided tour of the historical center and the Albaizín neighborhood introduced the cultural richness and a visit to the stunning Alhambra (where Washington Irving wrote his Tales of the Alhambra) allowed students to understand and touch wonderful Moorish architecture. The Cathedral and the Royal Chapel showed how Gothic style is blended with Moorish and Romanesque roots. Lastly, a flamenco show in a traditional cave on Sacromonte Hill added music, joy and rhythm to a great trip, an important bonding opportunity and an intercultural learning experience.

IMG_1871IMG_1857Students exploring the Alhambra in Granada.