After a 5 hour train ride, we arrived in Barcelona at 11 pm. The next day, we purchased a 48 hour bus tour ticket, which took us to all the far and away parts of Barcelona. On this bus we got to see the FCBarcelona stadium, the Olympic village, the works of Gaudi around the city along with many parks and churches. This was also a great way to see some modern residential areas outside the city center. The only downside was that just like the rest of Spain, Barcelona was experiencing a heatwave so we had to keep trying to hide from the sun or else we would melt in the +40 degree weather.
We saw the port where all the cruise ships arrive and dock for the day. Fittingly, there is a statue of Christopher Columbus near the port, pointing towards the sea.
I read that every year, over 6.5 million people visit Barcelona. Not bad for a city with a population of 1.5 million!
Walking around Barcelona in the winding streets of the historic center was a great way to get a feeling for this lively city. There's something to see at virtually every corner. We discovered cobblestone alleys, museums, art, shops and beautiful cafes On one of our walks we stumbled upon a magnificent structure, the arc de triumf of Barcelona. It was for some reason left off the route of the bus tour, and we are happy that it was because we got to experience it as if we personally discovered it :)
We had set aside an entire morning for La Sagrada de Famillia (the sacred family). This church is the last project Antoni Gaudi worked on, and he devoted the ending decades of his life to it. It is still being built, making it a work in progress since the late 1800's. When Gaudi was planning the church, he said "we will build a church so grand that future generations will think we were mad" and trust me, they have accomplished this. I did a lot of reading on the story of this church both before and after visiting it, and it is a fascinating structure. This church has the highest shock value that we have ever seen. You just can not take your eyes off it. But, it's not beautiful, romantic or spiritual the way you would expect a church to be. There are currently two completed facades, the Passion and the Nativity facades. Andrew liked the passion facade best and I preferred nativity. Passion tells the story of the pain and torture prior and during the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ (Andrew didn't know that though). It has sharp, crisp lines and is a modern interpretation of a traditional story. I think the people look like Star Wars characters and that's why he liked it :) The nativity facade is a great example of Gaudi's style of including nature in his work an all elements of life are represented here. The third facade started in 2002, it will be called the glory facade and will show ones ascent to god, including heaven and hell and purgatory.
We spent a total of 2.5 hours here, including a climb to the top and a trip to the museum in the basement. It was a great experience. When Gaudi took on this project, he was asked if he minds that the work will take so long, he said "my client is not in a hurry. He has all the time in the world". We were told that the current estimated date of completion is 2040, but I assume it will be pushed back a couple of decades!
The highlight of Barcelona however, was a sailing trip that we had booked for our last evening. We left from the Old Port for a 3 hour sail around the coast and really enjoyed the views and the breeze over the water. Our captain was very entertaining too, he spoke no English, but Andrew could speak Spanish to him and I got to practice my Italian with him since he spoke Italian. He was very keen on discussing current events and sharing local secrets with us!
Our next stop is Brussels, Belgium. I distinctly remember sitting in Manaus and discussing the plan with Andrew. I remember saying that by the time we reach Spain we'd have been in hot weather for almost 5 months straight and that we might need a break. In his usual agreeable manner he told me to make whatever decision I think is best. And we are both satisfied with this decision. Belgium is on average about 20 degrees cooler than Spain at this time of year and we are looking forward to not feeling nauseated from the heat.
Barcelona was a great way to wrap up Spain. We would definitely visit here again, maybe next time in May :) Yasmin and Andrew