We spent this past weekend in Barcelona, Spain, where we met up with my college roommate, Dave, and his wife (and also a college friend of mine), Kelly. They came to Europe to celebrate their five-year wedding anniversary — their first time back on the continent since their honeymoon. We also met up with Dave’s good friend, Jeff, and his wife, Melissa. The two of them are from the States, but they’ve been living in Dublin, Ireland, for the past 18 months. It was fun to spend a couple of days with fellow ex-pats!
We flew into Spain on Vueling, a Spanish airline that seems to straddle the line between mainstream carrier and low-budget. It was a pleasant trip without incident. We’d definitely use them again if the price was right. We then caught a shuttle bus from the airport into the heart of Barcelona where we met up with Dave and Jeff and were escorted to our apartment.
The place they picked out was on a tiny pedestrian street just off of the famous La Rambla boulevard. It was spacious, came with three bathrooms and a kitchen, and had a pretty sweet view of the hustle and bustle below.
Shortly after dropping off our bags we made our way to a flamenco show to take in a nice Spanish dinner while watching classic Spanish dancing. Both the food and the dancing were great — a little touristy feeling, but great nonetheless. It’s definitely a popular thing to do when visiting the region.
We followed up the entertainment with some gelato before heading back to the apartment for some down time.
The following day we set out for the famous Sagrada Familia by way of a hop-on-hop-off bus tour of the city. The church became the life’s work of a local Catalan architect by the name of Antoni Gaudi. He worked on it from 1883 until his death in 1926 (he was tragically killed by a city tram). And get this — because the church uses only private donations to fund its construction, it’s still not done! 130 years after breaking ground, the building is still far from complete (they say it’s about 60% done).
But that doesn’t prevent visitors from enjoying what’s already there. Two of the building’s three exterior facades are finished (Passion and Nativity — only Glory has yet to be built). Each facade depicts scenes from the Bible and Jesus’s life that fit either of the three themes. The Passion facade is very plain and modern looking, whereas the Nativity facade is very intricate and “busy.” I liked the style of the Passion one better.
Within the building, it’s impossible to take your eyes off of two main features: the stained glass windows and the tree-trunk-like columns that rise up to meet the ceiling just like a tree’s trunk would meet the branches and leaves above. It was the effect Gaudi was going for and he pulled it off perfectly.
The stained glass windows are everywhere. Their patterns may not be the most complicated I’d ever seen, but the light that shone through produced a richness of color I’m not sure I’ve ever seen with stained glass before. It was a beautiful thing to see in person.
I also really liked the crucifix that hung over the altar and the massive choir lofts that sat on either side of the church near the back. The church became a minor basilica in 2010 after Pope Benedict XVI made a visit — pretty interesting considering the church is barely half done. We each had to pay 18 Euros ($23) to get in, but we felt better about it once we were told that the money goes to help finish the church. Every little bit helps, I guess.
After grabbing a sandwich nearby, we hopped back on the bus and rode around a good chunk of Barcelona. We eventually hopped off at the Plaza de Espana where we sat on the steps for a few minutes and enjoyed the amazing view of the city below. The plaza itself is down at the bottom of the hill where we were dropped off, but we spent our time on the hill just outside of the national art museum.
We rode the bus back to the waterfront where we walked up La Rambla street and back to the apartment. Dinner that night was at a tapas restaurant called Taller de Tapas. We saw a few of them in the city, so it’s some type of franchised establishment. But the food was reasonably priced and very delicious. I hadn’t had tapas in quite some time and had forgotten how much fun it is to order a little bit of food at a time and try a variety of things.
The next day we walked around the old city of Barcelona and made our way to the beach. Dave and Kelly had already been earlier in the week, but Katie and I wanted to see it for ourselves. We didn’t go in the water, but we had a nice lunch on the sand and enjoyed some people watching. The boardwalk that’s right off the beach is very clean and paved, making it easier for people to get along the beach whether they’re walking, jogging or biking.
At this point Dave and I indulged our wives and let them window shop for a few hours as we slowly made our way back to the apartment. Katie and I looked and looked and looked for an ornament to add to our collection, but we couldn’t find anything. We looked on other days, too, and even at the airport — but nothing. Barcelona became the first city where we didn’t buy an ornament. So I’m going to take the two corks I saved from the wine we had at one of our dinners and make them into something I can hang on our Christmas tree. I’m sure Katie will love that … : )
Later that night we walked to a restaurant Katie read about online called Cerverceria Catalana. There was a 45-minute wait for a table when we got there (and this was at 9:15 p.m. — so still kind of early for dinner) so we grabbed a drink around the corner while we waited. And boy am I glad we waited. The food was even better than the night before and probably a little cheaper. I think the best thing from this night were the veal sandwiches and the baked camembert cheese. Delicious!
Katie and I left the next morning, but managed to sneak in a walk back to the Plaza de Espana before flying out. We liked that area because it was very laid back and offered awesome views of the city below. From down in the plaza itself, you can get some pretty nice views of the national art museum that sits at the top of the hill.
There you have it. It was a quick visit highlighted by the Sagrada Familia and the amazing local food. You can see more photos on our flickr page.
Spain was country #14 for the year. The hope is to drive through Liechtenstein for lunch tomorrow (it’s on the way back to Munich) to give us #15. Not sure if we’ll get to our goal of 20, but 17 or 18 for sure.