Saturday, July 26, 2014

Spain is My Soul Sister

Barcelona rekindled my love affair with Spain. 

I adore Italy with all of my heart, but Spain speaks to my soul. Somehow (you know, with all that studying/partying/traveling downtime) I never made it to Barcelona while studying abroad but after my visit with Holly I am just head-over-heels for the beautiful, colorful, sun-shining city. Prepare for a gagillion pictures, I couldn't choose my favorites. 

Flower market on Las Ramblas
Outside Boqueria Market

Inside of Boqueria Market

I did my best with booking our rooms, despite trying to stay within a budget and making plans pretty last-minute. 

I’m going to go ahead and give myself a high five because all of our hotels were in the perfect location! In Barcelona, we were just off Ramblas, which put us on one of the main streets of the city. Walking for ten minutes in any direction brought us to the port, Place de Catalunya, or through Barrio Gotico to the Cathedral. It was perfect! The Boqueria Market was right down the street from us and I do love a good market! A man selling fish at the market told me that while it is a destination frequented by tourists, the winding maze of food stands really is where many locals do their grocery shopping. 

If you, like me, have never taken a tourist bus, I’d highly recommend it, even just once. 

Holly and I saw them around Rome but decided to wait until Barcelona. Yes, it was more expensive than a metro ticket, and yes sometimes the route took much longer, but there’s something about sitting in the front seat, top deck of one of those busses that’s pretty fun! We enjoyed hearing the history of some of the places we were visiting, and it gave us a nice overview of the city as a whole. It might not be something I’d do in every city, but definitely worth the cost of a two-day pass! We took the Bus Turistico route, and mostly stuck to the blue route, which covered a few of the main Gaudi destinations.

Comparing the facade of, from left to right, Barcelona Cathedral, La Sagrada Familia, and the Church of Santa Maria del Mar.

I’m so obsessed with Gaudi now. 

We spent time at Casa Batlló, Park Güell, and the Sagrada Familia, and each was incredible. Casa Batlló looked like Floop’s house from Spy Kids, and it blew my mind to think that it was really someone’s home. The shingles on the roof looks like the scales of a multicolored dragon, and I had read that it is meant to be the dragon that was slayed by Saint George. I thought it was such a cool story to begin with, but apparently Saint George is the patron saint of Catalonia and that makes it even more interesting!

Park Güell was built to be a garden community and was originally meant to have 60 homes. After walking through the beautiful gardens, the organically inspired arches and pathways, and appreciating the breathtaking views I have absolutely no idea why the idea was unpopular and eventually abandoned.

Finally, La Sagrada Familia, one of the most awe-inspiring places I’ve ever seen. 

First of all, it is ginormous; the sheer size is enough to make it impressive, but it’s so much more than that. The inside is like a colorful forest, with the columns as trees reaching up to the roof. The stained glass windows were more abstract than I’ve seen in any other cathedrals, and filled the space with rainbow light. For such a colorful and creatively designed space it is surprisingly relaxing and serene, truly a place of worship and reflection. Something I found especially pleasing was the fact that it is still being built. You hear of beautiful monuments or cathedrals being built over generations, but we’re a part of a generation building this one. The cathedral is entirely funded by donations, and tickets bought to enter go towards the building project. Feels good to contribute!

Another, possibly less exciting, major highlight of Barcelona was coffee. 

I’ve mentioned my tiny coffee pot in previous posts, but I don’t know if I’ve expressed how much I miss a huge, steaming mug of coffee in the morning, or, more importantly, iced coffee. Yes, Italian coffee has a wonderful taste, but it’s more the atmosphere of savoring a cup of coffee that I miss. Italy doesn’t have Starbucks, but Barcelona does! Needless to say, I was highly caffeinated for pretty much all of our trip to Spain and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Iced caramel macchiato fo lyfe.

This little cutiepie lobster
When Holly and I would split up for an afternoon, I liked exploring different areas of the city and loved going into the beautiful cathedrals. Barcelona Cathedral and the Church of Santa Maria del Mar are both worth visiting! It was incredible to see how much they varied through the years, especially compared with the the Sagrada Familia. The port area was also beautiful to walk through. On one walk, I found a tiny antiques market, and walked down the Passeig de Colom to the surrealist Cara de Barcelona. It was a nice afternoon and gave me a to-do list for my next trip to Barcelona: visit the aquarium, the Picasso Museum, the Maritime Museum, and travel up the port cable car. Next time…

Cara del Barcelona, by Roy Lichtenstein

When I’m home, I’m going to be honest, I’m not really into sports. 

Soccer (‘football’) isn’t a sport I can honestly say I pay much attention to. The world cup, however, is another story. Keeping up with how the world is doing, choosing favorite teams along the way, and being in a bar full of divided, cheering fans is so much fun! The World Cup final between Argentina and Germany took place while Holly and I were in Barcelona, and we spent some time that night seeking out the perfect atmosphere to spend the evening cheering along with… well… whoever, we really didn’t care. At first, we saw an Argentinian couple completely painted in blue and white and tried following them, assuming that whatever bar they ended up at would be a fun one. They were going to a friend’s house though, so we hopped in with a German group who looked like they were having a good time. Unfortunately, we mistakenly mentioned that we hadn’t picked a team and they did NOT want our company. Luckily we found a great bar, full of fans from all over the world. When we met a new group we didn’t make the same mistake and, noticing their colors, cheered along for Argentina with them. It’s so great meeting other travelers because you all have that one tremendous thing in common: an intense desire to see the world. Anyways, that night was one of our most fun in our summer adventure.

Notes for future Jesye: When I live in Barcelona, I’m going to church every week at the Sagrada Familia, doing my grocery shopping at Boqueria Market and having a picnic every weekend either at the port or in Park Güell.
Inside Church del Santa Maria del Mar
Inside Church del Santa Maria del Mar

Barcelona Cathedral
Barcelona Cathedral

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the pictures and the story! Fun as always! Barcelona has never been into my featured destinations but after your post I may change my mind, it looks very promising.

    So you ended up going along ith the loosing team? What a shame, imagine the screaming and the joy if you would have said "we want Germany to win" and ended up with the group of germans you found? Germans may not be the funny fun fun people you may think, but when they get happy, like after winning the worl cup, they are very fun to be around!

    Oh just one thing, let us say, a suggestion. The Little title that says "When I’m home, I’m going to be honest, I’m" it' sa bit scrambled between 2 pictures and its really hard to read and to understand, so if you could just edit it, would be great for the future you when you read it again.