While some girls were given fabulous sweet sixteen parties and new cars, my mom and dad promised me a trip for my sixteenth birthday. The world was mine, with the stipulation that I plan it. This was my dream come true. Pouring over maps, excursions and itineraries, I chose an Italian cruise departing from Barcelona, Spain. Since the cruise was a mere six days, we opted to spend an extra four days exploring the city of Barcelona. It was here that I fell in love with Spain, and a large reason for deciding to study abroad in Spain as opposed to my second choice. Studying in Valencia, a mere four hours south of Barcelona, I knew that I had to visit at some point this semester. Upon my return, I fell in love with it all over again.
I departed bright and early on Friday to maximize my mere 30 hours in the city. The buses work so well here and before I knew it I was smack in the middle of the city I had thought about so much for the past four years. The majority of my time in the city was spent wandering. I walked down the main stretch and past Gaudí’s Casa Batlló and Casa Milá. I kept walking and walking and walking and found myself all the way at Park Güell. I spent quite some time here wandering, and trying to put myself into Gaudí’s mindset. I visited his house that he lived in during his earlier years which has been converted into a museum holding many examples of his work. Interesting designs of things from dressers and couches to doors and tables all are the genius of Gaudí.
For those of you who don’t know. Antonio Gaudí was a Catalan architect who spearheaded the modernist movement in the region. Seven of his works have been classified by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites, and most of his works are in Barcelona. He was very influenced by nature, and things such as the vault of the Sagrada Familia are made to look like a tree. Antonio Gaudí has added an invaluable element to the city.
His crowned jewel is the Sagrada Familia. He spent 40 years of his life, until his death working on this basilica and even moved into the building to oversee work more thoroughly. Construction is still going on at this building, and it has been stopped completely at more than one point in time due to lack of finances. When he died, less than a quarter of the structure was completed. There is really no way to describe it, so my few pictures will have to do. Much had changed since I was here last and it dawned on me, and anyone who has been there before will understand, but there are so many windows in the basilica. Windows surround the entire vault, and all of these plain windows, upon completion, will be stained glass. When I realized this, I was almost paralyzed, imagining Gaudí’s genius in creating such an interesting building, with light reflecting from every single angle within the basilica. Things like this make the building so interesting. I had a nice time wandering around and heading up the towers to get a birds eye view of the city and a closer look at the architecture of the towers. I returned in the morning and went to a Saturday morning mass in a small cathedral beneath the building.
There are, however, other things to do in Barcelona besides admire Gaudí’s genius. I walked down Las Ramblas, an interesting neighborhood with narrow, winding streets that are fun to get lost in. Here I stumbled upon the main cathedral of Barcelona, Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia. Here holds the crypt of Saint Eulalia, the Patron Saint of Barcelona. It’s a magnificent cathedral.
At night Barcelona turns into wonderland. Lights hang in the middle of every street, for miles in every direction. Trees are completely decorated with white lights and many of the buildings twinkle. The street vendors are out selling crepes and gofres, while musicians litter every ally. The environment is incredible. It was the first time that it felt like the holiday season. I met up with my friend Kat and her brother for tapas at a hole in the wall type of place with some of the best tapas I’ve had. It was chilly, but the city was immaculate at night. While I didn’t receive the beach experience that Barcelona is known for, I would suggest visiting during this time in the year. There are less tourists and the night was so beautiful.
Exhausted, with my back aching from carrying my backpack and my feet blistered and swollen from the miles and miles and miles I had walked around the city, I caught an early evening bus back to Valencia, promising to frequent Barcelona throughout my life.