While studying abroad in Paris, we had 2 weeks off for spring break, which was awesome. What was not so awesome was the fact that our break started on the Friday immediately following the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland. My flight to Barcelona was definitely not happening. On that Friday (when I was supposed to have been on a plane to Spain), my friend Emilie, my roommate Ashley and I scoured Paris for a train that would take us to our destinations. Gare du Nord, Gare de Lyon, Gare d'Austerlitz...we couldn't find anything promising. We even tried the French train company SNCF's offices to no avail. Finally, Ashley went all the way back out to Gare d'Austerlitz and was somehow able to find us a train to Barcelona departing the next evening. The next day we tried to soak in as much Paris time as we could, realizing that an unexpected extra day in that city was definitely a blessing rather than a curse. Later that day, we packed up our belongings and loaded ourselves into the métro, making our way to the Austerlitz station. When we arrived, we were greeted by chaos. Sheer chaos. Our train and departure time were not listed on any platform, which left us incredibly confused and fearful that we would not actually make it out of France. After consulting the information desk, we were sent outside. There we found an enormous crowd, all huddled around a couple of coach busses. Wait, busses? We shortly discovered that the French train workers were striking. Impeccable timing. But never fear, we would be transported to Barcelona by bus.
16 hours later.....
We arrived in Barcelona and were greeted by our hosts, the parents of a friend I had made only a few months previously but who generously offered his home to Ashley and me. His family was incredibly hospitable and treated us with more attention and kindness than we deserved. Without them, our entire arrival, stay, and departure from Barcelona would have been stressful and complicated, but they helped us to ensure that everything went smoothly. I am incredibly grateful for all that they did for us and I truly hope to visit them again someday soon!
Las Ramblas, a pedestrian thoroughfare lined with shops and restaurants.
Ashley had the most delicious (practically solid) hot chocolate.
Ariel, our wonderful host, loves collecting these glass bottles. When he spotted them from a far at this open-air market he had to stop in to take a look.
As the sun was setting Ariel drove us up to an old mountaintop castle so we could catch this amazing view...
Since our flight to Italy was canceled the next day, we were able to explore Parc Gûell.
After the park, we figured we should see the beach since it had been months since I had last sunk my toes into the sand (and longer for Ashley, who is from Kentucky). On the way we walked through the old town section of Barcelona.
The next morning, we headed to the airport for our rescheduled flight. However, our arrival at the airport was accompanied by the same news we had been hearing for 3 days. Flight canceled. Instead of heading back to Sant Cugat, where we were staying, we decided to try our luck with a flight later that day. We had two options: Rome or Pisa. Since we were trying to get to Florence, we opted for Pisa since it is closer. 5 hours later, that flight was also canceled (although the flight to Rome departed on time, as planned. Bad luck.).
While we waited, I took some pictures of the airport, which was really quite beautiful.
That evening, back in Barcelona, we spent our time exploring the market on the Ramblas.
This trip was definitely a lesson in flexibility. In the end, we really enjoyed our unexpectedly longer stay in Barcelona. It was also pretty interesting being right in the middle of all the disruption caused by that crazy volcanic cloud.