Before I left for the Spain’s Ciudad Condal, the Roman Barcino, host of the 1992 Olympics, and every DJ’s dream club scene, I had expectations almost as high as the Sagrada Familia. Georgetown is chock-full of SFSer’s that utilize any opportunity to say “I studied abroad in BarTHELona, and here are all the amazing things I did.” It’s tough to grapple with these stories and not know whether you will be able to accomplish everything in the guidebooks, photographs, and bucket lists of the world. Overwhelmed with this Sisyphean task, I tried to prep as thoroughly as I could - this meant finding every pop culture reference to the picturesque city and researching Google about everything from castelleres to the best café con leche.
The Cheetah Girls soaking up the sun in Parc Guell
Of course, I started with the second Cheetah Girls movie, where the four glamorous amigas strut like they mean it and explore the fashion and music scene of Barcelona. I listened to Barcelona by Ed Sheeran a few times, but was more interested in George Ezra’s Barcelona, which features his soulful vibe and could be an instant road-trip classic. However, my favorite pop culture inclusion was Dan Brown’s most recent thriller, Origin, in which famed Harvard professor Robert Langdon traipses across Catalunya in order to uncover the mystery of where life as we know it came from. Ambitious, I know. Brown’s in-depth descriptions of Barcelona beauties such as Gaudi’s Casa Mila, the Sagrada Familia, and the renowned library of Montserrat have already had a profound impact on the way I explore Barcelona. Unlike the previous references, Origin incorporated Barcelona’s charm from the locals’ perspective through year-long research and interviews. My largest expectation is that I get to know some locals, whether from Sant Cugat or Barcelona, that help me unlock the true beauty of the culture here.
The cover of Origin, featuring Gaudi’s greatest architectural feat, the Sagrada Familia, due to finish construction on the centennial of his death in 2026.
Some pop culture references miss the mark a bit when it comes to expectations. For example, the new Netflix movie, Ibiza, heavily exaggerates one’s likelihood of being invited to a billionaire’s home after clubbing near the Barcelona beaches. And every song about sangria misrepresents its fruitiness. However high my expectations were and still are, Barcelona has not failed to impress. The only disappointment has been the weather. As a city known mostly for its perfect climate, the rainy days have not gone away. There is still much to be seen, modern and historic, so I’ll leave my readers with this: put down the computer and come see Barcelona with me!