I was sitting in my room as I wrote this, when all of a sudden everything exploded with noise. I heard my host mom running around the kitchen as she called my name, and when I came out, completely confused, she was leaning out the open window banging a pan with a spoon.

As I peered out the window I saw Catalans from every building banging pots and pans too, all in unison. Cars in the intersection stopped and blared their horns. Listening, I could hear noise echo from everywhere in the streets.

Barcelona was alive in anger after the Spanish Supreme Court suspended the second bid on the upcoming vote on Catalan independence scheduled for Nov. 9. They were protesting in the most beautiful way I have ever seen. What will happen next is unclear, but witnessing such history is exciting to say the least. Although the current political atmosphere in Spain is full of unrest, this week’s local travels have still reaffirmed my love for the beauty of this country.

An amusement park in the sky. That’s something that will make the little kid in anyone come alive. Mount Tibidabo lies on the outermost northern edge of the city, directly across from Montjuïc.

In the evening sky, lights illuminate the grand cathedral on top, making it visible all the way across the city.

Cap. - Credit: Caroline Humphrey/The Good 5 Cent Cigar
Cap. – Credit: Caroline Humphrey/The Good 5 Cent Cigar

My friend and I thought we might be able to hike up, but instead Google Maps led us to a dead end that looked like something out of a horror movie, so we turned back and got on a bus that brought us to the funicular station. The funicular looked like a groovy bus from the seventies, painted with bright yellow and blue stripes, and it went straight up the side of the mountain through the trees, and suddenly we were transported to a dreamworld 512 meters up.

With candy apple dripping on my hand, I looked back into the world of childhood and smiled for the rest of the afternoon. On the 100-year-old airplane ride, I went around and around in the sky, the lights in the blue darkness a swirl of colors in my eyes. Up above, the tiny twinkling lights were visible from the city below and on the coast, they glistened off the sea.

The next day, I woke up early again and decided to go on another unplanned adventure with a friend. This week brought me to Girona, a small city about an hour and a half train ride from Barcelona.

The most beautiful part of Girona is the River Onyar, which runs through the city and is lined by colorful houses. The houses hang over the water, sending reflections of yellow and pink across the river, and in the fall breeze the scent of roasted chestnuts fill the air coming from the nearby outdoor market.

Unfortunately I didn’t plan for the windy day and wore a skirt mistakenly. Skirts on a bridge over the river don’t mix too well when trying to take a picture, although they do make the day of the man begging for change, who laughed hysterically at my unintentional impersonation of Marilyn Monroe.

Further into the city is the medieval quarter, dating back to the thirteenth century. There we found an abandoned castle covered in bright red and green ivy that climbs up the ancient walls. From the highest tower of the castle, the whole city and beyond into the mountains is visible. It was a crisp fall day that reminded me of home. Hot chocolate and churros, coconut macaroons and panallets (a traditional Spanish pastry during the holidays) filled my belly, and I happily slept the whole train ride back.