*Disclaimer: because I’m sure you’re getting tired of reading about the sheer awesomeness of Barcelona (but really, my memory sucks and I’m not sure how much I’ll remember after this week), I’ve decided to lump the last two days of the trip into one post. Break out the caffeine shots, friends.*
Another early-ish wake up call for this gang, but worth it for the sunrise again. We didn’t have a million dollar view, but we did have a few million-dollar sunrises.
When we decided to
ambush join Husband’s fam in Barcelona, Husband’s Dad mentioned that they had booked themselves on an 8-hour tour of Barcelona and Montserrat. It would highlight all the popular spots and then take you up to Montserrat, which is a Benedictine monastery in the mountains. He also mentioned that they were going to visit the Sagrada Familia after the main tour was over, so we could tour it more in-depth. I was just happy to knock off another country on the map at the time, so we decided to join in the fun. We booked through Barcelona Day Tours. After a couple of misunderstandings and a little bit of sweet, smooth talk on my part, we were able to get booked on the same tour as the fam. They were super nice and very accommodating. The tour was €99/person for the 8-hour special.
Our first stop after being picked up, was the Casa Batlló (yes, I’ve been spelling and pronouncing this one incorrectly too…another Spanish fail)–another one of Gaudí’s creations. I like this one a lot better than La Perdrera. It was vibrant in color and the architecture seemed more detailed. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a good pic. But, you can go here and check it out. We did a stop, drop and take pictures kind of thing, so we didn’t get to go inside. I would probably pay the €21.50 fee to check this one out.
The next stop, drop and take picture site was La Perdrera. I won’t bother too much with this one, as I covered it in the last post. After seeing Casa Batlló and then seeing this one again, my vote still goes with Casa Batlló. We drove through the city and the tour guide, Ana, pointed out a lot of the different architecture and history behind what we were seeing. The next stop (which we actually got out of the van for about 40 minutes for) was the Sagrada Familia. We stayed on the outside of the church and just marveled at how awesome and how weird this place is. You would think that building something so ornate and majestic would become the seat of the church diocese, right? Nope. You’re wrong. This monstrosity will only ever be a basilica…not a cathedral and not the diocesan seat. This “basilica” (seriously…I wouldn’t even know what to begin to classify this thing as) has been under construction for 133 years. They’re hoping that it will be done in time for the 100th anniversary of Gaudí’s death, which is 2026. Yes friends, this is another one of Gaudí’s creations, and boy does it show. Each facade of the basilica is different. The Nativity Facade is the most ornate and quite possibly the weirdest looking thing you’ll see. It’s almost ominous looking from first glance, but then you see the amount of detail and the stories that have been brought to life and it just takes your breath away. Uncle mentioned that it looked like it was melting and after looking at it, I kind of have to agree. The other facades pale in comparison to this one.
After we finished our 40-minute gawking session, we got back into the van and headed up into the hills of the city to the Park Güell. My advice here, if you’re not on a tour, is to buy your tickets in advance so you can bypass the entrance lines. They have been limiting the amount of visitors in the park each day, so if you do it early, then you should be golden. Here’s where Husband and I split on our opinions. Husband loved it. He liked the history behind it and what the vision of the park was. I felt slightly underwhelmed by it. I think maybe it was because we didn’t get to see as much as we wanted (there was a whole section we didn’t get to), or maybe I had been expecting something slightly different. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a really cool place and I would highly encourage you to go. It’s was designed again by…you guessed it…Gaudí. He had a vision of turning it into something that we would equate to a gated community. Dude was about 50-70 years ahead of his time with his ideas.
After the park, we jumped back into the van for the trip up to Montserrat. I mentioned earlier that it’s a Benedictine monastery in nestled in the mountains. What I didn’t mention was the hour-long, windy van trip up the mountainside. If you get a little queasy, I’d advise you to probably use that time to catch up on a few zzzzs. I also recommend that if you aren’t part of an organized tour, to go first thing in the morning. The line of vans, buses and cars to get into the main gate was insanely long. It did zip by quickly, but I’d still knock it out first thing, or make it a day trip. Montserrat is a pretty neat compound. They have two claims to fame: Benedictine monks (that make ridiculous alcohol–good ridiculous from what I’m told) and a Black Madonna sculpture (no…not *that* Madonna…we’re talking the Virgin Mary here).You can stand in a really long line to see, touch and pray with the Black Madonna. Or you can do what we did and go inside, kneel in the front pew, say your prayers and mosey on out of there. After we meandered a bit, we grabbed a bite to eat in their grab and go cafeteria. If you go, please make sure to eat downstairs and not up. The cafeteria on the upper floor isn’t good. This is coming from someone who eats just about any kind of junk possible, so trust me when I tell you it isn’t bueno.
We spent a good chunk of the afternoon at Montserrat and then we headed back into Barcelona. We stopped off at Montjuic, which at one point was primarily a Jewish cemetery, but has now been overrun with Catholics. Montjuic has beautiful views of the city. You can see both downtown and the port from up there. As we went back into town, we also stopped by the Magic Fountains, which is kind of like an older and smaller version of the Bellagio fountains. They have free (emphasis on free, since very few things in Barcelona are free) shows in the evenings. After having seen the fountains, we drove by the Olympic Stadium. There is some really interesting history behind this stadium (more details below) and they hosted in 1992…the last year that both the summer and winter games were held in the same year.
When we reached the end of the tour, we had them drop us off back at the Sagrada Familia. If you buy tickets, be sure to reserve them ahead of time as well…again saving you from waiting in line to get in. We were able to zip right in, although as we went in, we were given absolutely zero direction. We had bought tickets that included a tower lift and audio headset in English. We were never told where to go to get the headsets and we couldn’t go into the tower due to the rain (safety concerns). The tickets cost €72.50, and I’m sure that when you’re able to go into the tower and have the headsets, it’s worth it. I will say this though–the inside of the basilica is COMPLETELY different from the outside. Where the outside is almost ominous, the inside is full of color and light. It is truly breathtaking and takes it’s place as probably one of the most unique and beautiful interiors of a church/basilica/cathedral that I’ve seen (although, the one in Trier is still my favorite).
*A NOTE ABOUT CHURCH ETIQUETTE: Dear peeps: Church is a sanctuary and temple for prayer and God. It’s not the place where you decide to feel up your girlfriend who can’t bend over for fear of showing her you-know-what. It’s really not the best place to model your booty shorts, taking a gazillion selfies in front a crucifix or make out with your boyfriend. I’m sure that you may have just gotten lost in the beauty of it all, but please…have a little more respect for where you are and in all honesty, a little more SELF respect too. *Jumping off soapbox now*
After the interior tour, we headed back to the hotel to chill for a bit before dinner. Husband had found one of the top 10 paella restaurants (because really, going to Barcelona and NOT having paella and/or sangria is blasphemy), that was within walking distance of his parents’ hotel. Husband had made a reservation online that morning, so we walked over for dinner. The place we went to was Xativa L’Arroseria. However, when we got there, the host couldn’t find our reservation. There was no one else in the joint, so we didn’t think there was a problem. He sat us down at our table and informed us that it was actually a problem. Say what?!? I pulled out my handy-dandy iPhone and showed him a copy of the email confirmation of our reservation. He was a bit perplexed but plastered on his smile and took our drink order. Thanks, dude. We had two different appetizers and both were delicious. One was potatoes with a spicy sauce and the other was chorizo and potatoes. We ended up ordering seafood paella; Boy Child had to order chicken paella because he’s allergic to shellfish. The paella dish was probably as big as a lazy susan. Seriously, this thing was like a flying saucer. I’m not big into seafood, but it was really awesome. Boy Child’s chicken paella was equally delicious. We ordered a few desserts to share. The tiramisu is the second best I’ve ever had (the best belongs to Bloom Baking Co. in Kansas City, MO). Even though we started on a rough patch with the server, the food was great and the service turned out to be good as well.
This morning we woke up and were a little on the sad side. After having a ball with family for the past couple of days, today we knew that we’d have to say our see-you-laters again. We would also be leaving the wonderful 80*+ weather and heading back to rainy and cold weather (Germany is very much like the Pacific Northwest when it comes to climate). We met Husband’s parents, Aunty and Uncle at a great little cafe called El Veldromo. It’s a bar/cafe that is open 24/7. The breakfast there is wonderful. Excellent cappuccino, bacon, eggs and breakfast potatoes. When we finished, we walked the fam back over to their hotel and chatted with them for a little while. They were checking out and getting ready to head over to the port to jump on their cruise ship. We still needed to pack up (Hi, my name is S and I’m a procrastinator.) and check out, so we gave lots of hugs and a few tears.
When we checked out of the apartment, they staff graciously let us keep the luggage at the front desk so we could play a bit more. Our flight didn’t leave until the evening, so we still had time to burn. Because I have a thing about the Olympics (I went to the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta for my senior trip after I graduated high school–yes, I’m old.),
I We decided that it would be fun to go back to that area and see it in a little more detail. By the way, there if you take the metro to the Plaça Espanya stop, it will dump you off right near where you need to be. We decided to get off at a station we thought was close, but really, was nowhere near where we needed to be. We ended up hiking through a somewhat questionable neighborhood, up a hill (not in snow), up more hills, through some woods (but not over a river) and then finally made it to the stadium.
HISTORY TIME: The Olympic Stadium in Barcelona was actually built back in 1929. Barcelona was in the running for the 1936 Olympics and was narrowly beaten out by Berlin. The peeps on the Barcelona committee declared shenanigans and decided that they were going to hold a separate international sporting event (Olympics 2.0?). Well, that never materialized thanks to the Spanish Civil War. Amazingly enough, the stadium survived the Civil War as well as WWII, pretty much unscathed. When it came time for Barcelona to host the games in 1992, they were able to spruce up the place and use it as the main stadium. Even now, the stadium is still in use for large sporting events and concerts. They let you go in for free and take a peek. The park on the outside of the stadium is still the same as it was. The aquatic center has been converted into a public pool. Barcelona is a good example of how to reuse facilities and structures both before AND after the games.
After sucking down some sangria and snacks, we started to make our way slowly back toward the apartment. We stopped at the old bull fighting arena (illegal now) that has been turned into a shopping mall. It’s pretty awesome–you can totally get a feel as to what the ring used to look and feel like. The bottom level is all food and restaurants. We sold out and had Mexican food. Hey, out here that’s as close to legit Mexican food as you can get (without going to Chipotle in Frankfurt), so no judging, mmmkay? We did a little window shopping and then headed back to grab our bags and head to the airport. We grabbed a cab (€30) and checked in with a lot of time to spare. Our flight home was pretty uneventful, but the flight crew was having a hard time clicking with each other. You could tell they hadn’t flown together a lot…it showed in their body language and how they performed their duties. We made it to Frankfurt, grabbed the bags, drove the hour back home and passed out.
Barcelona is an amazing city. I would highly, highly recommend it. If we get the chance to go again, I’d definitely jump at it. A lot of interesting sights to see, beaches to bum at, and fantastic food to top it off. The locals were very kind and welcoming to tourists. We’d heard that there is an issue with pick-pocketing, so just be a little more aware of your surroundings. Metro stations in general can have a shady feel to them, but each station that we went to was clean and felt secure.