We actually meant to go see Font magica de Montjuic, the “Magic Fountain” in Placa Espanya, on Sunday night, which lights up and is synchronized to music. The fountain was built in the 1920’s, when Barcelona hosted an International Exhibition, but it wasn’t until the 80’s that music was added to the light show in preparation for the 1992 Olympics. However, the shows are only on the weekends (Friday included in that) and the last one starts at 11:30pm. Needless to say, having left Mojito at midnight, we missed the fountain. How time flies when salsa dancing…
Monday my friend had a class to go to in the afternoon. We worked out the perfect schedule, however, to work around that. Since she had already been inside La Sagrada Familia, that’s what I would do while she attended to her studies. It helped that her class was only about 10 minutes away from the cathedral as well.
We spent the morning leisurely getting ready, having breakfast, and looking up which restaurant to eat tapas at for dinner that night while soaking up some sun on the roof. At around 1, we made our way to La Sagrada Familia where I proceeded to the ticket line as she went to her class. Luckily, it was a weekday so I didn’t have much of a line to wait in at all. With the student discount, I could get in to see the cathedral for 11 euros – I decided I could live without paying the extra bit to go up on the lifts to the top of the church.
What’s amazing about La Sagrada Familia is that is has been under construction since 1882, and is still not complete! Let’s see if you can guess who the mastermind behind this architectural masterpiece is – I’ll give you a hint, he’s done a few other things around the city. Yes, readers, it is Gaudi once again!
When you look at the outside, the first thing you notice are the four spires that tower over you, piercing the sky above. As your eyes move downward, you notice the statues carved over and around the entrance. One entrance, the Passion Facade, features statues of Roman cavalry, Jesus on the cross, and other biblical scenes and figures. The opposite entrance is the Nativity Facade, and so has happier biblical scenes; figures in celebration playing instruments and bearing gifts. If you look closely, some animals can be spotted carved into the white/tannish outer walls as well.
Perhaps more astonishing, though it’s hard to say, is stepping inside the cathedral. On a sunny day, you will step into a world of color. It’s brighter than you would expect any cathedral to be, perhaps because it is much younger than most European cathedrals and churches. The columns are all made up of lighter colored, felsic rocks. But that splash of color comes from the stained glass that is so beautifully placed throughout the interior. Greens, reds, blues, and yellows, combined with the pillars and fluidity of the architecture gives an almost forest-y feel, in line with Gaudi’s inspiration from nature.
Your eye is inevitably caught by the centerpiece once you gaze towards the altar. There is a barely visible line holding up a statue of Jesus on the cross between two pillars on either side of the altar. These two pillars, as well as two across from them (think four central pillars) each have an oval, one of each of the four colors previously stated, which appear to glow. One pillar is for Mark, one for Matthew, one for John, and one for Luke, each with an animal symbol as well.
While the La Sagrada Familia is truly an architectural marvel and worth seeing the inside, I do have to admit that it seems almost a little too theatrical (you know, for a place of worship). There is no doubting that Gaudi was a genius, though. All you have to do is read up about La Sagrada Familia and you’ll find that each element is symbolic; from the three entrances for “faith”, “hope”, and “love”, to the the tortoise and the turtle each holding up a pillar of the Nativity Facade to show land and sea. It truly is a work of art.
After taking my fill of the brilliant building, I found a bench in the sunshine in the small park across the street to wait until my friend was done. In the meantime, she had given me a copy of the Hunger Games for this purpose (which I am now going to have to finish it when I get home!). I read for about 45 minutes, enjoying the weather, but forgetting to put sunscreen on until it was too late of course, when my friend found me in the park a bit early. We walked back to her room and just relaxed for a bit before heading out to dinner.
I’d never actually thought much about Spanish food, always just associating the word with Mexican food instead, until I realized I’d be going there and get to try some for myself! From a quick search and what I’d heard from others, there are a few traditional Spanish dishes to try: paella, tapas, and churros con chocolate. Well, I would only get around to one of them (not for lack of effort for that last item), but if you’re only going to get one, this was the one to go for!
Going out for tapas is basically going out for appetizers, which makes it great for going with others, because you get the opportunity to share and try so many different dishes. We ended up splitting two tapas and getting two of our own. The two we split were a goat cheese and roasted pepper tapas and the classic “patatas bravas”, cubed and fried potatoes with a slightly spicy mayonnaise sauce. Then, being a vegetarian, my friend ordered a type of Brie which came covered in nuts and a line of jam, as well as a Spanish omelet. Though it was difficult to decide on which two, I ended up with an Iberian ham on tomato garlic bread tapas and a cod skewer. The ham was delicious, cut as thin as prosciutto but with a different taste. The cod skewer came covered in a light but creamy butter-white wine sauce, roasted peppers,and a sweet tomato relish.
It was here, at Cerveceria Catalana, that I also got to try another typical Spanish drink – the sangria. The restaurant did not do single glasses, however, so we ended up splitting a small pitcher. Good thing sangria is so tasty…with three glasses of it throughout the night, I think it’s the most alcohol I’ve ever had in one night! But it was enjoyable, and is basically a fruity red wine, though smoother as you can’t even taste the burn from the wine. It was perfect with our Spanish meal.
We went for a bit of a walk afterward (to walk off some of that food!) where we saw a small fountain we’d been to before, though it lights up at night. I felt slightly more professional taking pictures of it as we were right next to a photography class doing the same (though with much fancier cameras and tripods). We decided to check out La Batllo, the ocean Gaudi house, at night which was very cool and certainly worth seeing at both night and day. In fact, we weren’t the only ones to think the same, and it was rather funny to watch the group of people on the two benches, heads all turned up, similar expressions on their faces.
Tuesday was my last day in Barcelona, and we made that our beach day. While my friend had one more class to go to that morning, I slept in and took my time getting ready for the day. When she returned, we grabbed what we would need for the day and set out for the Mediterranean. It’s about a 20 minute walk to the water from her residence, and about another 15 to get towards the other end of the beach. Before claiming a spot on the sand, we went to the post office and then waited for a popular sandwich shop, Bo de B, to open. They open at one, so naturally we were let in at 1:30.
This place was great! Same concept as Subway, but better and way more authentic. You pick what you base is going to be – chicken, fish, veggie, or feta cheese, the meat is cooked right in front of you, and then you have a slew of options to add to your baguette and four sauces you can put on. I got a chicken baguette with rice, lettuce, cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and three of the four sauces (I opted out of the spicy sauce…). We went to the nearby lawns where we enjoyed our lunch and watched some kids skateboard nearby.
Then it was time to hit the beach. Ah, the beach – it had been too long since I’d been there. We arrived and I took it all in, the smell of the salt water, the feel of the soft, warm sand, and wait… topless women? Oh right, my friend said, I forgot to warn you it was that kind of beach! It wasn’t really that big of a deal, and most people were covered, however I can’t help but wonder how those who so chose can be so comfortable to do so, especially when the beach is plagued with men walking up and down, a constant flow of “Mojito? Fresh, fresh Mojito?” “Cold beer my friend?” “Agua? Cold water?”. Oh and let’s not forget the women going around with “Masaje? Massage?”. Of course, then there was a group of young guys nearby taking pictures “of the beach” at one point, too.
But hey, who am I to judge? Just another of those cultural differences I got to experience. Laying on the beach all afternoon was a treat, even though I got a bit burned despite reapplying sunscreen (hooray for interesting tan lines). Before we left, I had to at least put my feet in the water so I can now say I’ve been in the Mediterranean! The water was colder than I expected, and being a wimp without my wetsuit, just stepping in was good for me!
That night the plan was to get churros con chocolate and actually go see the Magic Fountain in Placa Espanya, even though it would not be lit up. Well, we got to the fountain and wouldn’t you know it – the water wasn’t even turned on! But we made our way up to the Palau Nacional where the National Art Museum is, where we were afforded with a stunning view as the last light of the day faded across the city.
Then, when we got back to the metro stop near her residence, the churro stand right across the street had closed – oh no! We went on a quest walking back towards the beach in search of any open restaurant or cafe that might serve churros con chocolate. Our search, however, would be in vain. So we drowned our churro blues in a pint of Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream and watched Rocket Power…yes, life was hard.
The next morning was not the most pleasant for me, and not just because I would be leaving my friend and sunny Barcelona behind. You may have read about my not feeling very well a few weeks ago and that’s when it began. But I made it back to Brighton without too much of a fuss, and am thankful to have such an amazing friend who was extremely kind and helpful in getting me off to the airport.
Barcelona is an amazing city, and one I would go back to in a heartbeat. It’s a city without too much of that “big city” feel due to it’s being spread out, yet still so full of life. The architecture, the beach (minus those irritating sellers), the food – what’s not to love? I think my friend has picked a great place to study, and I’m very glad to have had the opportunity to visit her!
Though I have only three weeks left, my days are filled up with things to do! This past week I’ve been to the Breakin’ Convention as part of the Brighton Festival, the beach, and the Harry Potter Studio Tour. Up next is the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in London this weekend, and hopefully a trip to the Queen’s Theatre to see Les Miserables (keep your fingers crossed for me for some good discounted standby tickets)! And I’m only about halfway done with the Travel Tales as well – boy, do I have a lot to catch up on! So readers, keep your eyes peeled for new posts aplenty.
Yesterday marks the day this blog hit over 1000 views! So a big thank you to everyone who has taken an interest in my adventures and the time to read about them. I will do my best to keep you entertained and engaged as I continue to write about my journey.
As always, thanks for reading, cheers! Until then…