Spain wasn’t originally on my list for my trip to Europe; I added it thanks to my friend Chrissie, and I’m so glad that I did. I chose Barcelona, as I had heard great things about this city, and it would be an easy train trip to the south of France from here. It was certainly a bit of a culture shock to go from Ireland to Spain, but my prior time in places like Venice and Rome prepared me well. Barcelona is so alive, with an addictive rhythm to the constant motion of the city. I opted to use Airbnb for most of my last three weeks in Europe so that I could get right into the neighborhoods of the places that I’m visiting, and immerse myself into the local culture in a way that hotels can sometimes preclude. I chose the El Born neighborhood in the Old City area of Barcelona, and I’ve really enjoyed it. It is full of countless lanes and alleys, all lined with gorgeous shops and restaurants, infusing high fashion and style into a previously gritty part of the city. I was here for three nights, so two full days, and I fit in quite a bit in that time. First up…
The incomparable La Sagrada Familia. I don’t even know where to begin… it’s just so incredible, it defies adequate description. I have been in many churches during my time in Europe, since it’s such a huge part of the history and culture here, and while it’s hard to pick a favorite, this church is now in the running. What I loved most about it was that the whole structure, from the most grand parts to the intricate details are inspired by nature. It was fascinating to see and learn about how Gaudi incorporated the structural perfection of nature into his architecture, both in terms of the actual structural engineering, as well as the aesthetic beauty. Love, love, loved it.
Later in the evening I made a trip to the Picasso Museum close to where I’m staying. As luck would have it, it was a Sunday, and the museum is free after 3:00 p.m., just requiring the patience for the long line, and then the wait for your timed window. I was glad that I went, as this museum houses Picasso’s early life’s work, and it was great to see the progression from his very beginning until later in life. And, to see the work of one of the masters for free… well, it doesn’t get better than that. I followed that with dinner in a local restaurant that of course had the Barcelona football (soccer) match on, and that fun experience was sweetened with a win. I’m sure that the guy that I met on the plane ride here from Ireland was happy about that, since he was in the stadium for the game. Viva Barcelona!
Today I had a ticket to go see Park Guell, on the outskirts of the city, which required a subway trip and then a bus trip, and both my prior metro lessons in Rome and Paris, as well as Rick Steves guide book had me navigating the public transportation here just fine. It’s so efficient and fast; I don’t know how I’m ever going to deal with the lame transportation in parts of the U.S. again. We really have a lot to learn. After about an hour all told to get to the park, I was a bit early and wandered around the free areas, stopping for a while to listen to some spanish guitar by a musician in the park. Once it was my time window, I made my way inside the park, and up the main staircase and into the world of mosaics and interesting architecture. Taken from a distance, it’s easy to miss the splendor of the place, and I found that capturing it up close and noticing the details was the key to really appreciating it. I had lunch in the park, and then made my way back to the Old City, with my bus and metro trips in reverse.
This afternoon I walked down to the marina and waterfront area, which was really lovely to see. It was redone years ago, and has several beaches and promenades, all lined with cafés, tapas bars, and restaurants. It was a perfect way to wrap up my day, complete with some gelato. I’m about to go wander out in search of my final dinner here, perhaps some tapas or some other Catalonian creation, and then enjoy the evening paseo in this vibrant place. Barcelona has a grit to it — a spicey edge that shakes you by the shoulders and then embraces you in its charms. I’ve loved it.