Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Continuation of Barcelona, Spain

 I'm done apologizing for the late blogposts but if you want something to blame, blame the Irish weather which gave me tonsillitis. Between that and the plague earlier this semester, this country is wearing me out! That's why it was nice to get away to Barcelona although it's hard to believe I've been home for over two weeks!
This is follow up post to the one previous so if you haven't read about our first two days in Barcelona, go here. Then come back and read this one. Please.

So day three was Saturday, and once again, we dedicated a lot of the day to Antoni Gaudi, that famous architect I talked about last time. Perhaps the most famous work of Gaudi's is the Sagrada Familia, a magnificent church (not to be confused with a cathedral, I learned). The first thing we were told about the Sagrada Familia (of which I knew nothing about) was that it was a pain in the ass to get tickets the day of. The line is probably about half a mile long, no joke. So thanks to our hostel, we were talked into buying our tickets online early that morning and were able to escape the line that I had absolutely no intention of standing in.
The second thing we learned about the church is that it is giant. Looking straight up at the tallest towers made me dizzy, and they are still building more towers, taller towers. The building takes up about about a block in downtown Barcelona, unable to help drawing attention to itself by both it's giant stature and intricate design (not to mention the throngs and throngs of eager tourists surrounding it). My parents had suggested we pay up for the audio tour and boy was it worth it. It was about an hour and a half long and listening to the background of the church and it's design was rather soothing as you wandered inside the church.
Stained glass has always fascinated me and because the Sagrada Familia boasts almost floor to ceiling stained glass windows, I stood there for a while in plain awe. I'm not particularly religious. Raised Catholic, I attend a Jesuit school, but religion is still so abstract to me and the only thing I'm sure of is that there's a God out there somewhere and maybe a heaven. But let me tell you, as soon as I walked into that church, an incredible feeling of peace and content filled me. Maybe it came from God, maybe it was standing in such a majestic building, I don't know, but I do know it's not something I'm ever going to forget.

We spent a couple hours in the church before meeting up with our friend Eden, a fellow American who is studying in the Netherlands (and staying at our hostel). The three of us set out to find two of Gaudi's famous houses. Well that was the goal at least. Despite having two maps and asking directions about ten times, we ended up wandering around the Barcelona streets for a good two hours, learning later that we were walking in circles, about a block or two over from the houses (oops). However, the weather was warm, I was wearing good shoes, and I was with two friends. We stopped into a cafe to ask for directions and ended up staying for lunch. Of course once I saw the chocolate croissant things in the bakery window I had to have dessert first. Oh adulthood how I love thee.
After finally finding the houses (one of which was covered up: joke's on us), we moved on. Because we were running out of time and money we decided to do the tour of one of the houses at another time. That's coming, I promise. Just bear with me.
We made our way to the Arc de Triomf. It's literally just a giant memorial arc that was built in 1888 as the main gate for the Barcelona World Fair. It was nice. Very big. While we were there taking pictures, we bumped into Chris, another one of our new friends staying at our hostel (I bumped into more people I know in Barcelona than I do at home where I've lived for ten years). Chris just happened to be on his way to the Picasso museum which was our next stop as well.
Wow. Much impressive.
The Picasso museum (which boasts thousands of Picasso originals) is hidden away in the backstreets of Barcelona's Gothic District. There are pretty much no signs or anything but Chris had his nose to the map and he lead us there with little trouble. It was a little expensive to get in and the four of us were debating if it was really worth it at all when an employee came up and told us if we could prove we were students, we could get in for free. More free things? Sign me up!
So into the museum we went. 
I can appreciate different kinds of art. Obviously, I like writing. Music is awesome. Drawings and paintings and sculpture are all pretty great too. And there's no doubt Picasso was one hell of an artist.
It's just, as I went through the museum, I couldn't help but feel like I was missing something. A couple of the paintings really took my breath away, I admit it, but for the majority of them I felt nothing. I hope this doesn't make unappreciative of art and perhaps it's just a lack of any kind of art background but as the minutes dragged on, the more I wanted to leave. Just how much abstract art can someone look at without needing a drink? Answer me that.

It was getting dark (and cold again) by the time we left the museum and us girls split off from Chris and headed to the gigantic park that boasted an impressive fountain. I wish we had been able to go back when it was warmer and lighter out because this place was seriously cool. And filled with hippies. It was like throwback thursdays on steroids (and if you don't know what a #tbt is then bless your heart). Groups of people were just sitting on blankets and playing guitar and smoking and singing while their dogs roamed around. Slack lines are also a phenomenon in Barcelona, I guess, because they had dozens set up around the park. If you don't know what a slack line is then you must not have an older brother who is a personal trainer that brought one home a couple years ago. It's basically a six inch wide and however many feet long strap of nylon that gets strung up against two trees. Then you try to walk on it. So, like a tightrope, but easier. Or easier in theory; they are still difficult and take a ton of practice to master. It was funny to watch the little kids on the ones about a foot off the ground and even funnier to watch all the hippie guys with dreadlocks fall off the ones seven feet from the ground.
After wading through the dogs and picnickers, we located the fountain which wasn't hard because it was about as big as that arc. Okay maybe not but it's one of the bigger fountains I've seen and the water was so clean! We spent a little while goofing off there before heading back for the night.

Continuing on with the adventure, let's move on to day number four. Don't worry, it wasn't as busy as the last few because we finally had some time to relax! Yes, you know what's coming, don't you? The famous Barcelona beach! But first let's hear how Sarah and I stumbled upon an authentic Spanish festival/parade.
The two of us were actually on our way to go take a ride in the cable car over the harbor (which we didn't end up doing) when we passed his interesting looking market. It was a line of stalls that sold everything from herbal, homemade cough drops to raw chocolate to empanadas to carved wooden utensils. We were perusing when we heard this noise from behind us and realized that there were just a few hundred too many people lining the streets for this to be normal. We went to go stand with the crowd and witnessed one of the coolest experiences ever. I can't really explain the costumes and the energy that surrounded the parade with any sort of accuracy so let me just leave you with some pictures.

Sunday was by far the warmest day so surprise surprise when we found ourselves laying out on the beach. There were guys going up and down the beach selling things like beer (and one ambitious fellow: crack) and Sarah snatched up a printed sheet/blanket thing so we could lay on the sand. Oh and lay we did. We laid on that sand all the up to the point where a Spanish lady came by asking if we wanted a massage. I shot straight up and said yes yes yes I do want a massage. Right here. Now. 
So Sarah and I ended up getting massages on a beach in Barcelona and it was beautiful. A cathartic experience really. Want to see a picture?

Two happy and stress free girls!
Not much else happened on Sunday except that we went out with the hostel and friends to an Irish pub for drinks. I know, I know, an Irish pub in Barcelona? You're supposed to be getting the Spanish experience, Marie! But we just couldn't help ourselves and it felt like home. Except that the drinks in Ireland are better, because man the Irish know how to handle their alcohol like no other!

*Deep breath* Okay here we go onto the last full day of our trip: Monday. To be honest we were pretty exhausted by this point, having been up late every night and out and about all day long so we kept it pretty simple. During the day, Sarah and I went back to one of the Gaudi houses, Casa Batlló, to take the tour. What was nice about this tour was that the audio tour was included in the ticket price. Plus we got to skip another long line by getting our tickets ahead of time from the hostel!
The house was impressive. There's not a single straight line in the makeup of the house (remember how Gaudi liked curvy things?) except in the attic. I was most intrigued by the courtyard and decided then and there that I would like a courtyard one day. One with mosaic art all around made for me by a famous architect. A girl's gotta have standards.
My other standards include a winding staircase that leads up to a rooftop adorned by more beautiful music art. Boys, take note. 

Front of the house

Open staircase. The walls are meant to represent water

That night was our last night in the great city so we treated ourselves to a nice dinner. We started off with strawberry daiquiris followed by some pink hummus (who knew?) on toasted bread and finished with the best goddamn burger I've ever had. Just the right touches to end an amazing trip.
I understand now why Barcelona is such a popular vacation spot but no, Dad, I still don't want you and Mom moving there for retirement!

I'll be back for you, Barcelona <3

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