There are many reasons to travel and one should define one’s goals before setting off to places unknown. Sometimes the goal is to immerse oneself into a culture very different from your own. Yet another is to awe over natural beauty, or it might be for a much needed rest from the stresses of daily life, and yet another reason is to behold the beauty that can be created by humans when its energy is channeled in a positive direction.
Some of these goals require long periods of time to accomplish and others can be accomplished rather quickly, so be realistic when setting your goals. We only had 10 days to explore Spain and Portugal, of which 2.5 days were to be spent in Barcelona. Barcelona is known as a city of art, so our goal revolved around seeing as many works of art as possible.
So we gathered up ourselves and our belongings after our month long stay in Perpignan, France (see www.vinohiking.com for more details on our visit to France), which took all of 20 minutes, and hopped on a bus headed for Barcelona where we would hook up with Carrie’s brother who was flying in from the US.
Carrie’s brother, Bill, met us as we got off the bus for our 20 minute taxi ride to our Airbnb accommodations located in the Badalona Barrio. This wasn’t our first Airbnb experience, but it was our first time staying within the host’s home. We had our bedroom, but shared a common area and bathroom. Michael was a very gracious host and made it a pleasant experience. And since we were not centrally located, we were totally dependent on mass transit to get us into and out of Barcelona proper. Fortunately, the subway system was reliable, affordable, clean, and safe. Safe with one caveat: Beware of Pickpockets. I always carry my wallet in the deep front pockets of my pants. But that didn’t deter one woman from trying. I caught her in the act after her partner had pushed me into her. They got off at the next stop empty handed. Always stay alert in crowded situations. The next day I added a leash to my wallet that was secured to my belt. Better safe than sorry!
And now for the fun stuff. We were settled in by mid-day and ready to explore. The subway entrance was only a 5 minute walk away and after a 15 minute ride we exited the subway at the top end of Las Ramblas. La Rambla is a kilometer long street/pedestrian mall crammed with people, locals and tourists alike, enjoying the many restaurants/bars, tapas joints, souvenir shops, and ice cream stands. But the true spirit of Las Ramblas is located a few blocks off the main street, down the narrow semi-walking streets. Your reward for exploring all these dark little streets?
Tapas, sangria, wine, laughter, singing, more tapas, and more wine! Exhausted, we head back to Badalona for a good night’s rest. Tomorrow’s a big day: Gaudi and more Gaudi.
Reservations are required to enter Antoni Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia Cathedral, and since we had a full day planned, ours were early. However, we will not, hell, we cannot start out a day without a proper dose of caffeine, so our first priority was to find coffee and a light breakfast. One advantage to staying outside the tourist areas is that you can find inexpensive, high quality eateries that are frequented only by locals. “Cafe Americano y dos croissants, por favor” we said in our muddled Spanish to the order taker of the bakery we found just outside the metro entrance.
Twenty minutes later we stood at the entrance to Sagrada Familia with mouths gaped open. Shit! What the hell is that? was my first thought.
It was like seeing the Taj Mahal for the first time. You’re awestruck. But in this case, you have no idea whether to think that what you are seeing is incredibly beautiful and creative or Paul Bunyan drooling over Notre Dame. At one point I turned to Carrie and asked her if the word gaudy was derived from Gaudi’s name. But, as the shock wears off, the enormity, complexity and incredible beauty sink in. Below is a short video that I shot inside Sagrada Familia. Geez, I really need to learn how to shoot video.
After nearly 134 years under construction, cranes still obscure the facade to this UNESCO world heritage site because it is still not completed. The anticipated completion date is now 2026. OK, so there were a few years that construction was halted due to war and lack of funds, but still, that should give you some idea of the scope of this project. And we’ve only seen the exterior so far, what about the interior? Will it be equally shocking?
No, it was twice as shocking. Huge columns, stretching 45 meters in the nave, are drenched in a
kaleidoscope of colors by huge stain glass windows that give it a surreal look. And the ceiling, not to be outdone, glows mysteriously with hues of liquid colors not seen before by this old hippie, that are just mind-blowing.
No electric koolaid acid tests needed here.
Minds blown, we can’t just head off to our next destination which is Gaudi’s home and a park he designed or we would need a lobotomy. We need food, and you guessed it, an adult beverage to dull the senses back to somewhere near a normal range of motion. A nice little sidewalk cafe was close by that served tapas and cold beer.
We select one of their specialties, some kind of mollusk thing. Not very good, but the beer was excellent and did its job properly.
Our senses are nearly back to normal as we reach the
Gaudi compound. Although impressive, with its beautiful grounds, it thankfully, doesn’t have the same impact as the cathedral. We upgraded our ticket to include touring the Gaudi home.
Although the home is not designed by Gaudi, the furniture is a Gaudi design. Both are impressive and
worth the visit. We spent the rest of the afternoon strolling around the grounds situated high atop a hill overlooking all of Barcelona. It’s a great spot to enjoy a bottle of wine and a picnic lunch while listening to one of many minstrels along the pathways.
Gaudi lived well!
A full day of walking certainly wears one out physically and all the incredible architectural art wears one out mentally.
So, you know what that means: Apero Time! Finding a subway station close by we head back to Las Ramblas for tapas and wine.
And so goes our first 1.5 days in Barcelona. And what an incredible 1.5 days it was. Tomorrow, our last full day in Barcelona, we plan to visit the Picasso and Miro museums, stroll through some of Barcelona’s beautiful parks, and of course, eat and drink in Las Ramblas. Oh, and maybe some pictures of Barcelona’s beautiful parks for good measure.
Rested? Well, I did get a good night’s sleep, but all the walking had taken its toll on this old body. I’m sure that some caffeine and croissants will sooth the pain. So, per routine, we head down to the local bakery before heading off to the Picasso Museum, our first stop. As with Sagrada Familia, tickets are required in advance and available on-line. We arrive a bit early, which is fine, as more caffeine is needed. A cafe is located around the corner from the museum and features artwork from, you guessed it, Picasso. The museum is located in the Palua Montcada,
five adjoining medieval mansions, and is worth the visit alone. Picasso was a prolific artist and this collection features over 4000 works of art, many from his youth and formative years. We were amazed at what he was doing at the ripe old age of 15!
Unfortunately, pictures were not allowed in the museum, so we got nothing except some shots from the cafe and the museum courtyard. Besides, it really doesn’t matter as pictures would not do the originals justice. If you are into Picasso, this has to be a must see museum on your bucket list (also Museum of Modern Art in Ceret, France. See www.vinohiking.com for details). After over 2.5 hours of oohing and awing, it was time to find some lunch and wine. It was getting to be Apero Time after all. Not knowing where we were, we
decide to just meander through the graffiti strewn narrow streets and walkways in search of the perfect Apero Time spot, passing ancient churches and medieval building along the way until, finally: Wait! What? Are those beautiful huge hunks of smoked meats hanging in that window. We thought we had died and gone to heaven, as we had stumbled upon Sargardi’s, famous for their traditional Basque Pintxos (http://www.sagardi.com/restaurantes/19/sagardi-bcn-gtic?l=en_en). Pintxos are delectable little tidbits of meat, fish, or some other concoction served over a small piece of scrumptious bread. Below is a video that Carrie shot inside Sargardi’s.
The procedure is to walk up to the bar and order your wine and receive an empty plate. Then pick from over 80 pintxos, which are located on platters throughout the restaurant, until full. Each pintxos come with a toothpick holding it together. When you’ve had your fill, simply hand over your toothpicks to the bartender, who tallies them up and provides you with the damage done. The place, packed to the brim with people enjoying great food and drink, was awash with the sounds of happy, happy people. I told you we had died and gone to heaven. You have not properly seen Barcelona until you experience Sargardi’s.
But, alas, all good things must come to an end, so we departed this bastion of gastronomical delights in search of the Miro Museum. A short hop on the metro locates us in the vicinity, but is still a
decent hike away.
Fortunately, part of that hike is through a beautiful park with gardens throughout, an amphitheater, and a beautiful building.
Miro’s museum is equally as impressive as Picasso’s and also a must see for any lovers of surrealism. Fortunately, they allowed pictures, so we can give you an idea of what we saw. Miro didn’t care much for the art establishment and that is reflected in some of his works.
Well, we did it. We survived, although heads were a
whirl after 2.5 days of the likes of Guadi, Picasso, Miro, and an enchanting city that is a work of art unto itself. The barrios, the cuisine, the architecture, and the lifestyle all combine to form a singular work of art. VIVA CATALAN!
Apero Time: Hike Drink Live Laugh And more pictures below…
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