Barcelona was beautiful! We were staying right by the city center making it easy to get around. We started off with a bang – heading straight to the fountain show in front of Mont Juic palace. There were thousands of people there to see the show, but we managed to get a spot up high on a ledge so we could really see everything and not deal with the crowds. It was perfect. Rob explained this show to be similar to the Bellagio in that the fountain moves with lights and music. I expected a 10 minute show, some shooting water and a couple of lights. This show exceeded my expectations by far. It was a 45 minute show with all types of music – oldies, classical, current and lights in all different colors. It was awesome! Once it was complete we hightailed it out of there and went in search of food. We came across what appeared to be “restaurant row.” There were about 30 different restaurants serving toothpick tapas (we picked the one that appeared to be filled with the most locals). Toothpick tapas is not the official name, just what I call it. You get a plate and a cup, and then walk up to the bar where they have 20 or so different types of tapas spread out, each with a toothpick in it. As you stuff your face, you put each toothpick in the cup that you took and at the end you count up how many you have and each toothpick is €1. It is a pretty cool concept but can add up very quickly. The long row of tapas, often stacked on multiple shelves, are equally impressive in creativity and presentation as they are in taste.
We spent a lot of time just walking around somewhat aimlessly just to take in the city. We went by the beach, went to a couple parks, ate paella... it was an easy day.
My favorite day came on Saturday. I would finally get to see La Sagrada Familia… a dream come true for me. I have been in love with this church for years and honestly wasn’t sure if I would get there before the construction was complete or ever at all. This church was designed by Antonio Gaudi and has been under construction for over 100 years and is expected to be complete in 2030. It is absolutely magnificent! We bought tickets for the first available time so we could get in there before the crowds – there were still a lot of people but not even close to as many as there were later in the day. Standing outside looking up, it is so big and so beautiful – each and every inch of it is intricately carved into figures. I stood just a few steps inside the front door and I actually started to tear up it was phenomenal. The ceiling is so high that it feels like it never ends… just like the outside every inch of the church is craved into intricate shapes… an endless supply of stained glass windows allowing the light to shine inside in a hundred different colors. We did an audio tour, which allowed us to see the church and also learn about the reasoning and history behind each section. I don’t really have words to describe how fantastic it is nor do the pictures really do it much justice.
After Sagrada Familia we decided to rent a scooter for the next 24 hours. We sped around the city and made stops at a couple of Gaudi’s other buildings, an overlook onto the city, made stops by the beach... we got “lost” through the city, enjoying the fact that we could make it to sights that would have taken us at least an hour to walk to before. That evening we went to a neighborhood called Gracia where they were having a huge “bloc party” as they called it. Each month one neighborhood throws a weeklong party – bands in every alleyway, square, and restaurant. It was a lot of fun even without knowing many of the songs played, as they were 90% Spanish songs.
Our last day was a little mellower – we strolled the city going to the last couple places we felt were necessary before leaving. We found an art market and went into a couple shops around town until we found a ceramic running bull for Rob – something he has wanted since his last stop to Barcelona. We spent some time with our host back at the apartment we were staying in and packed up for our SUPER early train out in the morning to Narbonne, France. Barcelona was a great stop for us. We took in many of the well known sites around the city, but also had time for relaxation, exploration of the city, and getting off the tourist track. If we’re lucky, we can have this same type of experience in our next few European destinations!