Thanksgiving in Barcelona - what a novel idea! This year, instead of being sad because we were missing our family time, Elizabeth and I decided to ship out. We opted for Barcelona, which was, even at 50ish degrees, significantly warmer than anywhere in the UK.
Our trip began flawlessly. Despite having no method of communication, we still managed to find one another in the airport. We located a shuttle to
the city center, found a cab, and checked into our hotel. Our first night was nice and chill. We found a lovely Tapas place not too far from our hotel, where we dined croquettes, prawns and mushrooms, and a bottle of wine. What a delicious way to begin our trip.
For our first full day, Thanksgiving, we journeyed to the Catedral de Barcelona, which has the feel of a very classic cathedral. There was plenty of gold adorning the walls and statues of Jesus, complete with the massive crucifix suspended from the ceiling. Outside there was a courtyard rife with fountains, palm trees, and statues hidden in the greenery. Elizabeth and I spent quite a bit of time walking around and admiring our surroundings, admiring the ornate art and exotic plants.
(View down the nave of the Catedral de Barcelona)
(The courtyard/garden in the center)
From there we wandered and somehow found La Rambla -- which is a sight to be seen! Walking in the center of this stretch of road, you are surrounded on all sides by little shops, vendors, and street performers galore. Our night ended at Plaça de Catalunya, where we encountered our first gypsy (curses!) before trying to find our way back to our hotel.
(Chillin' with Jack Skeleton on La Rambla)
Friday was our Gaudi day. Antoni Gaudi is an artist from Spain that is adored in Barcelona. Our first stop on la tour de Gaudi was Casa Batllo, which he designed to look like there were bones protruding from the facade. Indeed, the exterior looked like a cross between The Little Mermaid and Nightmare Before Christmas. To me, the balconies looked like the top half of a skull and a portion of the roof looked like the back of a dragon. It was one of those buildings that I couldn't even believe someone commissioned, let alone lived in. I mean, all of the tile work alone made it look like it was covered in rainbow scales.
(The front of Casa Batllo)
(Part of the roof of Casa Batllo -- designed to look like a dragon's back!)
From there we continued our journey on the metra to La Sagrada Familia. If Casa Batllo was funky, then this cathedral was just downright strange. The outside looked like it was covered in coral, and a lot of the overhangs looked like they were melting. Plus, the tall spires had a weird spaceship vibe. All together, a very surreal effect. The sensation was so strange, in fact, that Elizabeth and I were not even sure if we liked it. Yes, it is impressive. I was definitely in awe. But is it pretty? Well, in a lot of respects, no.
(The famous Nativity facade)
(Statue overlooking Barcelona)
To add to this, once you enter you are flooded with colorful lights coming through the stained glass windows. The tall columns were designed to look like trees, so you feel like you're in the middle of a forest. This is not to mention the scaffolding everywhere, since, after all, La Sagrada Familia is far from complete. Building began in 1882, and the goal is to have it done by 2026, making this the most visited construction site in the world.
(Elizabeth and me inside La Sagrada Familia)
(Me on the top of La Sagrada Familia)
From the massive sensory overload that is La Sagrada Familia we wound our way through the city to Park Güell. To get there, we had to climb up a massive hill that was, from my perspective, straight up the side of a mountain. Barcelona, though, does it right. About halfway up this intense climb we found some escalators that took us the rest of the way to the top. My knee says, "Gracias, Barcelona."
When we finally made it inside the park, darkness was just starting to fall. It was fairly empty, so we got to enjoy the sites without the massive crowds. The Park Güell is where Gaudi did a lot of his early, experimental stuff. The stone columns are swirling, and almost every inch of the park is covered with tiles. My favorite part? The long, winding benches at the top. The twists and turns of the bench make it just that much more fun, and the mosaics here are absolutely gorgeous. Gaudi broke apart a lot of the tiles so that they were molded perfectly to the surface he was working with.
That night, Elizabeth humored me and let me drag her to an ice bar. A silly ambition, I know, but I have always wanted to go to one. An ice bar, for those of you that don't know, is a bar completely made of ice...the walls, the chairs, tables, glasses...everything! When you go in, you're immediately given a bit, fluffy coat complete with a fur hood. We had a blast sipping on our drink while we danced near an ice sculpture of La Sagrada Familia and Happy Feet played on the TV. The funniest part? We ordered screwdrivers, and they came out of the bottle half-frozen.
One thing that I got to briefly experience was the insanity of nightlife there. After a full day of sightseeing, Elizabeth and I were beat by 1:30 -- which is when most people were finally emerging. The vendors on the streets replaced their day products with nightly goods -- namely, cans of beer they tried to sell you the moment you stepped out of the metra. Couple that with the multiple offers for pot (or "hasha? marry-jew-wanna?" aka marijuana), and I was a little overwhelmed with the scene. And I thought I was living in the land of drinking! Sheesh...they could teach Scotland a thing or two.
On Saturday we went back to the Park Güell, where we got to
experience it during the day. This time, the park was PACKED. The weather was nice, so a lot of people were just enjoying the outdoors. You couldn't turn your head without spotting a vendor or a street performer. Elizabeth and I found a spot on the benches and wrote our postcards. The best part? Actually needing sunglasses because it was that sunny. Silly, I know, but it actually becomes an enigma when you live in a country where the sun starts to set at 3:45 in the afternoon.
Before our dinner that night, Elizabeth and I headed over to Font Màgica de Montjuïc, which is a laser/fountain show. If you know what the fountains at the Bellagio look like, it's fairly similar except there's music pumping and lights coloring the water. It was, in a word, mesmerizing. We were both perfectly content sitting on the steps of the National Palace watching the fountain show -- especially when they started playing the scores from The Godfather and Highlander. It made it that much more awesome.
For our last day, Elizabeth and I enjoyed another leisurely stroll down La Rambla down towards Monument a Colon -- the huge statue of Columbus pointing towards America. From there, we found ourselves at the Picasso Museum, which is free after 3:00. Win! They had a wonderful exhibit of Picasso and Degas, so it was a special treat.
(La Rambla, home of fun shopping)
(In case you were wondering in which direction America is...)
All in all, I had a great time in Barcelona! It was a ton of fun, especially since I was traveling with someone that I know so well. Plus, it was the perfect distraction from being so far away on Thanksgiving. When your family is all gathered without you, you can't help but feel a little sad. We were going to find a Subway for lunch so that we could at least say we had a turkey sandwich on Thanksgiving, but alas, we were unsuccessful.
(Gettin' sassy with the lions around Monument a Colon)
(Sitting in the benches in Park Güell)
(View from the plane as I took off...finally)
(Mid-flight, this what I found outside my window. Hello, Pyrenees!)