April adventuring pt. 3: Barcelona and Prague

It’s the final post, finally. After this, no more block paragraphs about foreign countries. Get excited, people.

Barcelona, Spain: April 22-25

Remember how in my first “April Adventuring” post, I talked about how Edinburgh was my new favorite European city? Sorry, beautiful, I take it back. Barcelona’s calling.

Since we’d exhausted our store of EasyJet flights, we decided to slum it a bit and take the overnight Renfe train from Madrid to Barcelona. Because that’s what you do when you’re a college-educated idiot and you forget about the last three posts you’ve written about how you + trains = suck.

Long story short—it’s really difficult to get a good night’s sleep on an 8-hour train ride and your chair forces you to sit up straight.

When we got to Barcelona, we were delirious and exhausted, and I was wearing my glasses instead of my contacts so I was pretty much blind (not that I could read the street signs anyway—everything’s in Catalan). Another long story short? We got lost again.

So I stumbled into a nearly empty café to ask for help. This adorable woman in an apron came out from behind the counter, looked at me with concern, and described to me how to get to the street I was looking for in Spanish. Don’t ask me how I understood what she was saying at this point. Maybe all of my old Spanish classes came rushing back when I was finally too tired to even speak English, but somehow, I followed her directions and we got to our hostel and crashed.

The next day, we took a walking tour of Barcelona with an architecture student studying at the same school the famous Antoni Gaudí went to. She led us around the city and pointed out a few buildings he designed, including La Pedrera and Casa Batlló, two houses he designed specifically for their owners. The following day, we took an all-Gaudí tour and saw his incomplete masterpiece, La Sagrada Família.

I haven’t been inside a place that has taken my breath away since I visited Notre Dame in Paris three years ago, but La Sagrada Família did it to me all over again. It. Was. Spectacular.

That little café with the lovely cook who gave us directions? We went back on our last day, and the same woman recognized me and served us herself, even switching into English to introduce herself as Priscilla. She was a delight. If you ever go to Barcelona, look up Santa Gula café. And bring a notebook, because it’s the perfect writing nook.

Barcelona had a lighter, more airy feel to it than Madrid. Also, a funny coincidence—I was feeling a little blue that weekend because I was missing the LA Times Festival of Books back at USC. However, when we woke up on April 23rd and stepped outside, we were bombarded by booksellers and flower stands.

Apparently April 23 is St. Jordi’s Day, which is celebrated in Catalonia through a simple and wonderful tradition; men give women roses, and women give men books. My excitement that this is a thing that exists was only slightly dampened by a.) the fact that women don’t receive books, too, and b.) everyone and their brother was out roaming the streets. This is the crowd we braved:

It actually looks better than it was.

It looks better than it actually was.

And here’s the rest of my photographic evidence of my presence in the city:

Casa Batlló, the one with the dragon scale roof

Casa Batlló, the one with the dragon scale roof

Fountain Barcelona

La Sagrada Família

La Sagrada Família

Inside La Sagrada Família

Inside La Sagrada Família


Up in Park Güell

Up in Park Güell


Prague, Czech Republic: April 25-27

We weren’t in Prague nearly long enough to get even close to understanding the city, but in the day and a half that we had there, we managed to meander all around Old Town, hit up a castle and a souvenir shop or two, and eat at an old tavern that felt like it had just fallen out of some pirate story…

At Krcma restaurant...

At Krcma restaurant…


It was really interesting getting to our hostel, because we had to take a bus and their Metro further into the city, and when we got lost (inevitable) and asked for directions, we experienced just how friendly and obliging the Czech people are to clueless tourists (hint: not). As an added bonus, to me the Czech language looks a bit like someone punched a keyboard repeatedly. So there was that.

What does this even look like to you?

Exhibit A. What does this even look like to you?

But we managed to not die in Prague, and we happened to be there on their single warm day of the year. And there I was, expecting London weather. The city itself reminded me of a cross between Paris and Heidelberg (Germany). Lots of copper and light-colored buildings, all very romantic with the horse-drawn carriages and lampposts.

We also stumbled across a little shop on the road to the castle that was selling some of the best souvenirs I’ve ever purchased. Handwritten Czech postcards—decades-old, stamped, and collected by the shop owner himself. He was literally selling off his personal collection. I think he was amused by the way I was hovering over them like some kind of starstruck bird of prey.

But I couldn’t help it. These are people’s stories, little parts of their lives, shared with someone they loved. And as potentially creepy as it is, I now get to be a part of it, years later.

See? Horse and carriage. Smells like Czech spirit.

Horse and carriage. Smells like Czech spirit.

Looking up toward the huge castle...

Looking up toward the huge castle…

Stopped in a square while walking up to the castle...

Stopped in a square while walking up to the castle…

National Museum

National Museum


View of the city...

View of the city…

One last thing: I think I found my soulmate on our Wizz Air flight back to London. He was standing in front of me in the line to board the plane, his unkempt hair fluttering over his shoulders in the cool, Czech breeze. And if that wasn’t attractive enough, I looked down and was floored by what I saw.



Those are books. In. His. Pants. The other side had more. I totally checked. I don’t even care that it might be “socially unacceptable.” In that moment, I swear we were infinite.

But alas, Czech Pocket Books disappeared once we got to London Luton, taking half of my heart with him. It’s over.

And with that, my European adventure ended. 4 cities, 3 countries, 2 girls, 1 suitcase. And now… it’s my second to last day in London.

I know.

Samantha Chaffin


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