Before you freak out that I’m yet again in another country, I will just say that a last minute work meeting came up in Barcelona on Thursday. I’ve never been to Spain, so obviously, I decided to stay the weekend to explore. So yes, less than 48 hours after returning for a whirlwind weekend in Italy, I was off again on another adventure.
In short, Barcelona was AMAZING! (So far, it is rivaling Amsterdam and Colombia as “favorite places visited since moving to Europe.”) I actually have so much to say about it that I’m going to write three separate posts – one for each day of fun. I had such high expectations, because of all the things friends told me about their recent visits. Thankfully, it did not disappoint.
Day 1 was dedicated to all things Antoni Gaudi. I have several architect friends, and I thought of them all day. I know they would’ve LOVED this day. First stop…Sagrada Familia Church. (One of the things I managed to do in the 48 hours between trips was to book a hotel and buy all of my tickets in advance for museums, churches, etc. to avoid the lines during the weekend. And boy, am I glad I did! There were SO many tourists in town this weekend! And it’s not even summer yet!)
I actually don’t even know how to tell you about this church. Antoni Gaudi started working on it in 1883. He worked on it for 43 years – until his death in 1926. They are STILL working to complete it today (based on detailed models and designs left by Gaudi). I’ve never seen anything like it. I will show several pictures below for you to see for yourself. The intent is for the church to have three exterior facades – the Nativity (Christ’s birth), the Passion (Christ’s death), and the Glory (Christ’s resurrection). The Nativity facade was completed when Gaudi was alive. The Passion seems to be mostly complete to me. The Glory hasn’t been started (partly due to the fact that it is an extension that requires the demolition of the apartment complex across the street). All of the non-stained glass windows inside will one day be stained glass. Gaudi was inspired by nature, and all of the pillars are meant to look like trees in bloom. Many of the remaining spires have yet to be constructed. The current goal is for the church to be complete by 2026 – the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death. Unfortunately, the tower was closed for the day, so I couldn’t go up to the top to take in the city view. Maybe when I come back to see the completed work, I’ll be able to take the tower elevator to the top, too.
[My view while waiting in line to enter the church]
[There are 12 different sculptures on the Passion facade depicting scenes from Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, trial, and crucifixion]
[Scenes from Jesus’ triumphal entry are on the floor as you enter the church]
[The Interior. Photos don’t do it justice, but I tried to capture the beauty.]
[The Nativity Facade. Again, these pictures don’t do it justice, but there are multiple sculptures depicting the events surrounding Jesus’ birth – angels, shepherds, wise men, etc. This portion was completed by Gaudi.]
I was inspired by some of the postcards in the gift shop to walk across the street and through the park to capture the entire church.
Wow. That’s basically what I left the church thinking. Just, wow.
While Sagrada Familia was incredible, I knew there was more Gaudi to see. Next stop…Park Güell. I was excited to see some more famous works by Gaudi, but I was even more excited about the fact that the sun was shining – especially after my Weather Channel app called for 90% chance of rain. (Have we talked about how the Weather Channel app is ALWAYS wrong?!)
Park Güell was originally intended to be a residential development, but the masterminds were a little bit ahead of their time. It would take several more years for the affluent socialites to leave the city center for the suburbs. Today, Park Güell is a World Heritage site. It is a BEAUTIFUL park overlooking Barcelona. Gaudi lived in a pink house in the park for more than 20 years. (I think it was his father’s house?) He created some incredible mosaics, including the wavy bench, the lizard fountain, and a couple of small buildings. The grounds are amazing, and again – I tried to capture some of the beauty in photos. It’s so hard to capture it in an image, but I hope you get a glimpse (and even more, I hope you can feel the warm sunshine!)…
After the park, it was time for lunch. Most restaurants don’t start serving lunch in Barcelona until 1:00pm. I read about a place called “La Rita,” which was located a block away from my next stop. It was a wonderful surprise…10 euros for a 3 course meal in a GORGEOUS setting, inclusive of chandeliers and white table cloths! I got there a few minutes after 1:00 and was seated immediately. By the time I left, the line was out the door. One thing I noted while I was eating…someone has to teach me how to eat a piece of fish where bones are still intact! I know there has to be a way that is more graceful than the surgical procedure that took place on my plate.
Now to see the first of two Gaudi apartments – Casa Battló. This place was WILD! I know I keep saying it, but I’ve really never seen anything like it. The audio guide did a great job of explaining things I would’ve overlooked. It helped me appreciate the detail throughout. I was amazed by the wavy doors and windows, and of course, I loved the stained glass windows. There was so much natural light throughout the house – something Gaudi is known for. We walked through several floors and then up to the roof. It was the most ornate rooftop I’ve ever seen with the fanciest chimney covers ever! I know you haven’t seen the second one yet to judge for yourself, but I’ll go ahead and tell you that this was my favorite of the two!
I had a couple of hours before my entry time at my final Gaudi site of the day, which gave me time to look in the beautiful shops on Passeig de Gràcia. This is the Eixample neighborhood, which is high-end and full of designer shops. I saw so much formal wear. The next time I need a gown, I know where I’m coming! Thanks to my rooftop experience last weekend in Florence, I’m more aware of looking up. Thankfully, I looked up at the right moment and saw what looked to be a gorgeous rooftop restaurant. It just so happened it was the terrace at the Majestic Hotel – a five star hotel in the midst of the lovely neighborhood. What a perfect place to stop for a drink and a snack! I settled in on a comfy sofa on the roof overlooking the street below and Casa Battló.
Everything was great until Weather Channel app proved itself right…it started to rain. It didn’t last for long, but long enough that I had to migrate to the hotel lobby to finish. Oh well, it was good while it lasted.
At 6:30, it was time for the final site of the day – La Pedrera (or Casa Milà). As is bound to happen from time to time when traveling, the entire front of La Pedrera was covered in scaffolding. I’ve learned to not be too upset by this. It’s much worse when it’s Cristo Redentor in Rio de Janeiro or the Duomo in Milano. After surviving those disappointments, Gaudi’s apartment is nothing to get worked up about. It was probably one architectural gem too many, but I wasn’t as impressed by this work as I probably should have been. The thing that was really amazing was the rooftop. It was so weird. So wavy and so many unusual chimney covers. Some of them look creepy in my photos, because the sky looked so ominous after the rain shower. I didn’t take nearly as many photos this time, but I took several on the rooftop trying to capture different angles to show off just how much craziness was going on up there.
[A model of what the outside of the apartments look like]
[The quirkiest rooftop I’ve ever seen]
[A view of Sagrada Familia off in the distance]
After a day full of architecture, it was time for some tapas. I must say that ordering tapas for one is not very fun. With a group, it’s acceptable to order a lot of things to try, but after rattling off four items to the waiter, I felt compelled to stop.
There were only four blocks between the restaurant and my hotel, but somehow I ended up at the hotel with a new puffy vest from Zara and an ice cream cone. These are the kind of things that happened when I’m left unattended.
I love when I have a day in a new city where I see things that take my breath away and leave me thinking, “I’ve never seen anything like that before.” Thanks to Barcelona and Antoni Gaudi accomplishing that for me today!