After a few train transfers and a metro ride we arrived at our new place in Barcelona-the L’Eixample district. Just a 5 minute walk to the Barri Gotic and Las Ramblas, the location was perfect. Off the main drag so a bit quieter, but really close to most things we wanted to see. This time, we were renting a room within an apartment and our host was wonderful. A super sweet guy from Argentina who had been living in Spain for many years, he was able to give us the low down on anything we asked him. Our room was big, bright and spacious and we had lots of privacy thanks to our host.
Our host, Francisco, had told us that there was an Air Show going on at the beach, so on our first day we took the metro out to see the spectacle. It was amazing! It was fun to do something that one usually never sees in another country. Being from San Diego, I’m used to the Blue Angels Airshow but this was quite different. They had plans come on like “acts” so there was a bi-plane flying around doing tricks for one act, a giant 777 careening around turning in the air (bit terrifying really), a group of fighter pilots like the blue angels, streaming red and yellow smoke (Catalan colors).
Our wonderful friends Kat and Romero used to live in Barcelona so we arrived with a whole list of things to do and tons of information. First stop, their old neighborhood: the Barri Gotic, or Gothic Barrio. This is the neighborhood that Barcelona is known for, lots of dark and mysterious winding alleyways all centered around a Gothic-Baroque Church. We wound our way through this neighborhood several times throughout our stay here as we made our way to and from home. We were a bit surprised to see how much of it consisted of shops, but you can tell that there are also undiscovered treasures lying among the tangled alleys.
Of course we visited what must be the most important site to see in Barcelona-the Sagrada Familia.
Even though I had visited once before I was excited to come back, take photos and draw. The Sagrada Familia (Sacred Family, i.e. Joseph, Mary and Jesus) is the epitome of whimsical, art nouveau design. Construction started in 1882 and is still going! That’s 129 years folks! Completion is estimated for 2028. Gaudi is rumored to have remarked on the amount of time the construction would take, “My client is not in a hurry.”
Each facade represents a different period in Jesus’ life from Nativity, the Passion and the Glory. Each facade is done in a different style to underscore the themes and lessons from each period of Jesus’ life. It’s almost as if the building in and of itself is a story book. The front Nativity Facade is filled with plants and animals, farmers and shepherds and is meant to connect with the everyman who can see things that are present in his everyday life (such as local animals) in the facade to bring his connection closer to God.
The Passion Facade on the back is in a much more modern, almost Cubist style. I remember specifically that this interpretation of the cruxifiction is unique in that Jesus’ face is not portrayed.
We entered the Basilica through the Passion Facade and found ourselves in a completely new environment. One that carries you to an space similar to a forest. Tranquil, colorful, full of meditative silent ambiance.
Then we took the elevator up, up and up to the top of the towers. Eventually there will be 18 spires, there are 8 currently. We could see all of Barcelona, from the hills to the ocean.
Then we took some time to draw the stained glass windows on the inside. We were actually the very last people in the church because we were so quiet no one noticed we were still there! Gettin’ thrown out of the Sagrada Familia! Rock on!
One of our favorite things we did was visit the La Boqueria, a giant epicenter of fruit, veggies and fresh food in the heart of Barcelona. We had a great time tasting new finds, buying food for the upcoming week and eating lunch!
Of course we visited the famous Casa Batlló, built by Gaudi. The outside is said to represent a dragon. With the facade referencing scales, the pillars and balconies referencing bones and the chimney a lance the house seems to be an homage to the story of St. George and the dragon. We loved all the neat details of this wonderous house. The only regret is that they haven’t restored and opened up more of the house!
On one of our last days we visited Parc Güell, another Gaudi creation. Originally, it was intended to be an entire neighborhood or suberb of Barcelona. It wasn’t completed so there are only a few houses here but extensive parks and green space. One of the most famous parts was the plaza with a serpentine mosaic-laden bench encircling the whole area. Although it was massively crowded with tourists, you can still see great views of Barcelona. We started with a picnic in the park and then strolled through the park areas. We bought a few cd’s from the musicians performing throughout the park; one gypsy jazz and one renaissance Lute music!
We really enjoyed Barcelona’s mysterious, real and livable nature. We stayed for 9 days and felt like we needed at least another 9 more to start to understand this city. We wanted more time to explore the Barri Gotic and learn the night life even better. We did have one night were we visited a champagne bar were the cups of the lovely pink bubbles were .90 cents each! It was a crazy mashup of cheap, cheap champagne and rustic food like grilled onion and cheese sandwichs on a crusty rolls. Delicious and perfect to counter the schnazy champagne! The place was more like a deli than a bar and was as crazy as a mosh pit.
To leave you on a good and sad note, here’s a little story about how I almost got a pet duck.
So one day, Eric and I are walking down one of the larger avenues of the Barri Gotic, full of shops and people. We come across a singer playing guitar and belting out old school Spanish songs. There’s a group of elderly people in front of him dancing. Some of the women are dancing together because the men are just standing and watching. We watch the performer and the dancing for a few songs. When we’re ready to leave, I walk up to the singer to give him a euro. As I turn to go, one of the old men grabs my arm. At first I think he wants to dance (I’m about to be shown up by a 90 year old) but then he starts saying something in Spanish. I, unfortunately, don’t speak Spanish and I try to tell him this. “Hold on, hold on!” he says. His friends gather around and start yammering at me in Spanish. At this point, I have no idea whats going on. Moments later, he returns with a little cardboard box, just big enough to fit a coffee mug in, with holes punched in it…..he opens it up, and what’s inside? A tiny and perfect, fuzzy. yellow baby duck!!!!! Quacking at me!!!!! “Do you want it? Do you want it?” they all start asking. I try not to understand that one of them says “It will be good for dinner in a few weeks”. I pet the little ducks head with the pad of my forefinger for a few minutes. My brain is screaming “YES YOU WANT THIS DUCK!!! TAKE HIM!!!!”, but what I have to say is (in broken Spanish) “I don’t live here! I can’t! I want to!! I’m sorry!”. Eric is conveniently out of sight and sees nothing so I couldn’t try and talk him into it with puppy dog eyes. After a few more pets and a few more quacks, they say “Ok, we understand” and take my new best friend away. Of course, it made my day to pet a baby duck, but also made me sad for about 3 days afterwards. I was THIS CLOSE to having a pet duck!!!!
Next time I’m taking the duck.