This weekend I was blessed to have the chance with three other members of our group to visit Barcelona, a major Spanish port city and the capital of Catalunya – which, I have learned, desires to be the next independent state of Europe. It’s safe to say that the Catalonians are very proud of their culture and language, Catalán (it sounds different than Español, or Castellano, as they call it in Spain; the French influence on Catalán is very evident). One of my profesoras even went so far as to say it may be better to speak in English, not Castellano, since Madrid and Barcelona have quite a bit of animosity toward each other.
Barcelona is beautiful! It is like no other European city I have seen before. The best way I can describe it is unique. It is definitely influenced by its location on the Mediterranean, and by Gaudí, the architect, as well. Gaudí’s famous buildings – like the Sagrada Familia, Pedrera and Casa Batlló – are examples of the architecture that characterizes the city. He was inspired by the undulating waves of the ocean and certain trees, which are evident in his works.
Our first afternoon and night we spent exploring Las Ramblas, a street famous for the shops and vendors. We grabbed a late lunch and walked through un Mercat (Mercado, or market) called St. Josep La Boqueria, enjoying the bright colors of fresh fruit and fleeing from the sight of, well, tons of raw meat!
Next we walked up to La Plaza de Catalunya, then back down toward the port. We saw the Columbus statue and walked along a boardwalk, then out to Barceloneta, one of the more popular beaches. La puerta is huge, but we had a great tip for a lovely dinner spot, on the water, where we enjoyed the best Paella (a rice and, usually, seafood dish originating in Barcelona) in Barcelona! It was lovely to sit by the sand, feel the ocean breeze and just experience another beautiful city.
Day two we got a good jump on the day, grabbing a nice breakfast at this little hole in the wall near La Sagrada Familia. That church, once again, is like none I have ever seen. It is special – not only because of the architecture of Gaudí, with its unique curves and shapes modeled after plants and fruit native to the Barcelona area, but also because it is still incomplete. Construction began in 1882, but isn’t expected to be finished until close to 2041! The interior is just as spectacular as the exterior, with columns modeled after trees and beautiful stained-glass windows that create a soft ambience. It truly was a sight to see.
The rest of the afternoon was spent walking around the city. We saw the outside of Gaudí’s other two famous buildings, La Pedrera (with wave-like walls and seaweed bannisters) and La Casa Batlló (representing the ocean and Barcelona’s patron, St. George, slaying the dragon). We enjoyed some tapas along a prominent street in the city. Before we knew it, dinner was upon us, and we headed to La Plaza Real by Las Ramblas for a nice dinner (yummy pizza).
After relaxing there for a bit, we grabbed some homemade helado from this cute café called Artisa, before running to catch our night bus tour. Yep. A night bus tour of the city. It was so cool! We saw some of the same sights again, but the lighting gave it a whole new perspective. Some other stops, however, were the Agbar Tower; the Magic fountain, where we saw a gorgeous water, light and music show; the Olympic stadium; and el Pueblo Espanyol.
By the end of the night we were exhausted, but very proud of how much we had managed to see! We left the next morning to head back to Madrid, leaving behind Barcelona but bringing back memories we would never forget.