I welcomed 2014 in a crowded plaza in Barcelona, fireworks bursting above my head, twelve juicy grapes shoved in my mouth, and loving life, despite my struggle to say “Happy New Year” in Spanish.
But before I got there, I had to, you know, get there, which meant taking a bus from Paris all the way to Barcelona. Don’t ask me why we decided to take a bus there. It was cheaper, it was our most convenient option at the time, the trains weren’t running properly into Spain, take your pick, but we decided to take a bus from Paris, France to Barcelona, Spain. That is a long bus ride. An uncomfortable bus ride. A bus ride which forced me to use a toilet which was nothing more than a hole in the floor with two poles to hold yourself up (the struggle was most certainly real). And was it worth it? Most definitely.
First of all, the weather was warm. In December. That, for a Canadian girl like me, is unheard of, even one from mild ol’ Vancouver. My skin didn’t know what the heck was going on. Warm sun in December! At the beach! Amazing. Thrilling.
Our first official day found us on a free walking tour of the city, which is by far the best tour I have ever been on. If you’re ever in a city that offers a Sandemans tour, I highly suggest you take it. I have since been on one in Amsterdam and a couple in London and they were all amazing. You learn a lot about the city – the big stuff, the fun quirky small stuff – and the tour guides each have their own personal spin. The Barcelona tour gave us stories behind some of the cathedrals, such as why 13 white geese are kept in the Santa Eulalia Cathedral., and suggestions on where to get the best mojitos. (Our tour guide was also the one who told us about the New Years grape tradition, which explains my grapey situation at the beginning of this post.)
The next day, December 31st, we climbed up Montjuïc, a mountain dedicated to the Jewish people who were expelled from Barcelona in the 15th century when Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand were trying to unite Spain in region and religion. At the top stands a fortress and you get an amazing view of the city expanding all around you.
After a long day of exploring the fortress and the grounds, we made our way back down the mountain, passing by the 1992 Olympic stadium and the Magic Fountain (which was unfortunately not operating due to construction).
We went to the grocery store to buy some grapes. We had been told that it was a tradition here to take twelve grapes and shove them in your mouth for the twelve seconds before midnight, one each second. I’m foggy on the details – this either brought you good luck for the new year or gave you a wish with each grape – but regardless we thought it would be fun to try.
So that was how I ended up in a very busy plaza, eagerly awaiting my midnight snack of grapes. The countdown began and in went the grapes. We had bought a huge container, so we passed them around to everyone near us and we all gobbled up the grapes, trying to keep up with the countdown, giggling and getting covered in grapey stickiness. In the end, everyone looked like chipmunks. It was one of those ridiculous moments that everyone agrees is ridiculous and all the more fun for being ridiculous. I almost choked. It’s rather hard to chew with your mouth full of grapes. Then the fireworks started and the fun went on.
Some of the things I went around and saw while I was in Barcelona: