Hannah and I started the day by visiting Segrada Familia and Parc Guell, two of Barcelona’s most popular attractions. Segrada Familia was a three-minute walk from our hostel so we crossed the street and rounded two corners before we came to the end of the line to get in. We waited for an hour, but time passed quickly. Soon enough, we were inside.
Segrada Familia is a giant, unfinished cathedral and is the brainchild of Spanish architect, Antonio Gaudi. It is also the most visited construction site in the world. Although incomplete, the church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in November 2010 was consecrated and proclaimed a minor basilica by Pope Benedict XVI.
Though construction had commenced in 1882, Gaudí became involved in 1883, taking over the project and transforming it with his architectural and engineering style – combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms. When the church is finished, it will have 18 towers: 12 dedicated to the apostles, 4 to the evangelists, one to Jesus, and another to Mary.The first thought that came to my mind was: incredible. For the past three months, I’ve seen Italian renaissance churches with frescoes and marble statues everywhere. But I was longing to see something different and Sagrada Familia was my ticket to do that and so it was nice to see a different style church..
After the basilica, we went to Parc Guell. The long route to the park took us past ceramics and mosaics shops. We stopped for lunch just before the park for Paella Valenciana, a traditional dish from the area.
Park Güell was commissioned by Eusebi Güell who wanted to create a stylish park for Barcelona aristocracy. Gaudi conceived the park, which was built on a mountain (the height ranges between 150 and 210 meters in respect to the sea) to project a path of spiritual elevation. Interestingly, Niki de Saint Phalle’s Tarot garden that was inspired by Gaudi’s design.
On Friday, Hannah and I took the metro to the shopping district where we browsed local clothing lines as well as some worldwide ones. We disembarked the metro where Gaudi’s La Pedrera and his Batillò buildings are built. Gaudi constructed these in between the years of
1904-1012. Looking at his designs, I noticed that he incorporates mosaic glass into all of his works in some capacity and the buildings follow a rounded architectural design. The exterior stone is smooth and the balconies emulate crescent moons on masks.
We began walking towards the Barcelonian version of the Arc de Triomf. The Arc was built as the gateway to the fair, which was held in the Parc de la Ciutadella. The monument is classical in shape and proportions and features groundbreaking sculptural and decorative finishes replete with symbolism. It has become one of the city’s iconic landmarks.
In Parc de la Ciutadella, a large green garden park with contemporary style pathways and a quiet pond similar to the one in Boston Common, there were boats available for rent. The park has a giant elephant. It seemed to fit in well considering the zoo, geological, and zoological museums in the park. Another Gaudi architectural site is the Gaudi Fountain. This fountain is another great project of famous architect Antoni Gaudi. This huge fountain is a tribute to the god Neptune. There are huge griffins spouting water, Neptune on his chariot, and a gold statue on top. I would compare this to Rome’s Trevi Fountain.
After lunch, we walked through some modern gardens en route to Castell de Montjuïc. This castle is perched on a high hill overlooking the seaport. There is only one way in and is nearly impossible to breach from the sea. Guns and cannons reinforce all sides. I can imagine this castle to be a maritime force and critical to protecting Barcelona’s precious port.
We descended the castle to look at the site of the 1992 Olympic Games, which were held in Barcelona. The Olympic stadium was ready in 1929 but history decided something different, the stadium not being used until 1992 for the Games. It can accommodate 65 000 people and is the stadium of the second football team of the city – Espanyol. The stadium is in brilliant shape and was worth the deviation.
Then we saw the famous Magic Fountain, The magic fountain is a spectacular display of color, light, motion, music and water acrobatics – if you mix all these elements together in just the right combinations, you end up with pure magic!
On our last day in Barcelona, I woke up to pouring rain. We ate quickly and went towards Las Ramblas, the central most boulevard, which cuts through the heart of the city centre and is a vibrant and lively promenade filled with Barcelona action at its best.
We roamed the streets for hours and hours wading in and out of puddles of rain, dodging the onslaught of rain every chance we could. We stumbled upon La Boqueria, the local open market that is pumping with locals and tourists every day. It was crowded as all hell and there was virtually no room to move. Still, to see hundreds of vendors selling fruit, meat, fish, lunch, and other produce at competing rates was exciting.
I just about died and went to heaven when I saw a Dunkin Donuts next to the market. For those who have never had America’s best loved, and best tasting coffee, I encourage you to make your way east, or at least to the market I mentioned above in Barcelona.
Later that evening we saw a flamenco show. Flamenco is a Spanish traditional dance brought from the south. There are over 50 different kinds of flamenco, which incorporates the guitar, hand clapping, singing, and dancing. Only about 35 of the styles are used today, most popular in Japan and Spain.
The reclusive lighting mixed with the passionate dancing made it very special to watch. The dances performed by the crew were some of the best moves I have seen. I’m so happy I saw a show before I left Barcelona. If you go to Barcelona, go see a Flamenco show.
After the show, we concluded the night with a typical tapas feast with all-you-can-drink Sangria. With such a traditional show and meal, it was nice to end the night and trip this way.