The sounds of shouting, stomping, singing and the Spanish guitar filled the room as the Flamenco show began.
The show was a beautiful work of art that I feel incredibly grateful to have experienced while in Barcelona, Spain, and it was easily one of my favorite things from our European adventure.
I have always loved dance and the outlet it provides for people to express themselves when words alone are not sufficient, so the significance of Flamenco was not lost on me.
The expressions of the Flamenco dancers and musicians were so intense, passionate and proud.
Not only did they dedicate their lives to sharing such a unique form of art with the world, but they also were sharing a living part of their culture. They have much to be proud of.
The surrounding area has a rich history, and the remains of times long ago are still very present in the city. Barcelona has managed to modernize without destroying all remains of the past. They renovated old buildings instead of tearing them down and starting over.
It’s clear over time that this action also allowed them to preserve the area’s architecture and history.
I was surprised to see so much beauty in a city, since there is truly nothing comparable to it in America. It was wonderful to see old buildings now housing new stores, corporate businesses and even fast food restaurants. Buildings, statues and artwork of historical significance can be found everywhere in the city.
All of the history lessons about Europe felt so distant until I was actually walking down some of the historic or famous streets such as the Avenida De Las Ramblas.
Actually going by the Christopher Columbus Monument, walking through the Plaga de Catalunya and discussing the mark Christopher Columbus left on the city felt surreal.
My favorite church we visited was the Sagrada Familia because of how beautiful it was and all of the thought that had gone into the design. The local tour guide pointed out so many details on the outside of the church that I never would have noticed, and he was very informative.
I learned many things about Antoni Gaudi and his critics, but I found it very hard to believe that anyone could dislike something so stunning. I wish I could have stayed there forever just admiring the church, but there was much more to see in the city.
We visited the site where the Olympics had been held in 1992. We also stopped by a chocolate museum, and the entry ticket was a bar of dark chocolate. They had different displays that showcased the history of chocolate and the traditional tools used. The museum had sculptures of dragons, houses, gorillas and even Messi.
Although Barcelona has an incredible history, it also has a heavenly beach. The color of the water is the most beautiful shade of blue in the world, and the sand is cool and coarse. When it was time to leave, I was sad to say goodbye to Barcelona.
Our group boarded a bus early the next morning and went to France. We drove by the Pyrenees Mountains and the French countryside. Then we arrived in Carcassonne and were able to view the medieval ramparts. It was a unique area, and it felt very medieval.
After that, the group went to the Pont du Gard, which was absolutely breathtaking. It’s incredible to imagine the Romans engineering and building the aqueducts. I stood in silence for quite a bit because I honestly didn’t know what to say. It was so gorgeous, and the view was so magnificent.
The surroundings include an olive tree that was planted in 908 AD in Spain and later moved to the Pont du Gard. Then we traveled to the small area of Avignon, and I thought it was one of the most charming places that we went in France. We were able to see the Palace of the Popes, and then there was the realization that the area was part of a very influential point in Roman Catholic history that involved the Great Western Schism.
Of course all of that rich history also was accompanied by one of the most memorable parts of the trip, the wonderful dance on the Bridge of Avignon, which was performed by Cynthia Camp.
Before we traveled to Nice, we spent an afternoon going to markets and shops. I stopped and bought the spoons made of olive wood from a local vendor in a market that were traditionally used for feeding babies.
The waves of the Mediterranean crashing into the rocky beach and retreating back to the sea perfectly complement the beautiful seaside city of Nice.
Even though Nice is a large city, it had a welcoming presence similar to what I would have expected in a smaller area.
While Nice is modern, it is quite charming and has delightful architecture. Within one short afternoon I felt like I was ready to move there and embrace everything the French Riviera has to offer.
When we arrived in Italy, I immediately realized how gorgeous it is. The roads offer an amazing view of the ocean and the mountains. We drove by mountains that looked as if they were covered in snow, but it was actually just the marble that Italy is so famous for.
Florence had a massive collection of wonderful artwork. Being able to see some of Michelangelo’s work, while we were there, was incredible. The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore was even more majestic than I imagined it would be. I loved the Fontana Del Porcellino, because it was so adorable.
Learning more about the Medici family while visiting some of the historic buildings in Florence was definitely a highlight of the trip. I loved looking around and trying to spot more symbols in the city. Talking about the Vasari Corridor that was created for the Medici family while actually walking on the Ponte Vecchio was very nice. It is the only bridge in Florence that survived World War II.
The Medici family originally used the Vasari Corridor so they would not have to walk through the streets with others, but Benito Mussolini altered the corridor for Adolf Hitler’s visit in 1938.
A few years later, the Nazis destroyed all the other bridges, but the Ponte Vecchio was spared. We also visited the olive tree that was planted to remember those who were lost in 1993.
After we left Florence, we stopped in Siena before driving to Rome.
Standing on the Spanish Steps and looking at the Sallustiano Obelisk felt like a dream.
I had imagined it so many times, but physically standing there in Rome was so much better than what I had envisioned. The Fontana della Barcaccia was one of my favorite fountains in Europe.
The absolute best one was the Trevi Fountain, and hopefully I will return to Rome soon to throw more coins into the fountain and eat gelato beside it.
After tossing a coin into the Trevi Fountain, we visited the Roman Colosseum and then the Roman Forum.
Then we continued on to the Vatican.
I had wanted to see the Sistine Chapel my entire life, and it is so magnificent. It was also louder than I had expected. It sounded like hundreds of people were whispering.
After we had exited the chapel, we went to St. Peter’s Basilica, and it is one of the most beautiful things in this world, and was much larger than I expected.
Actually standing in St. Peter’s Square felt unbelievable.
After two last stops in the Vatican and Pantheon, we headed home.
Since the minute I arrived at home, I have been thinking about going back. I miss the food, the architecture, the history and the doors.
The entire trip can be best described as majestic.