The day after Thanksgiving was our day to explore the must see sites in Barcelona. We did take some time to sleep in, but were soon out the door into the beautiful fall morning. Brandon was the tour guide of the day, first leading us to Park Guell. This public park, designed by Antoni Guadi, was built between 1900 and 1914. It displays a plethora of mosaic work, uniquely columned structures, and beautifully lush gardens. Located on Caramel Hill, it also gives a great view of the city and Sagrat Cor Church on the nearby Tibidabo mountain.
We were here on the off-season, but there were still long lines to get into Park Guell. I highly suggest purchasing your entry ticket before arrival so that you can avoid those lines. It will make your visit much more enjoyable. It is also nice to have a friend read the information pamphlet for you as you walk through, since they have been there many times before. Thanks, Brandon! We couldn’t ask for a better tour guide.
After getting our fill of Park Guell, we set off to our next destination, The Sagrada Familia. Since we had some time to kill before our reserved visit time, (This is another destination that is better visited with a reserved ticket, and I suggest splurging and getting the audio tour, as well. It is well worth the money.) we stopped into a nearby kabab shop, and ordered some lunch. I wish I could remember what I ordered, but all I remember is that it was incredibly delicious and filling.
When the time came to go in, I was just expecting another architecture tour of a beautiful building. I knew that this was a Roman Catholic church, also designed by Antoni Gaudi, and I also knew that it had been under construction since 1883 and probably would continue until 2030. However, I feel like I left that building a completely different person.
We entered from the side with the Nativity Facade. This area of the church was meant to showcase the beauty and life that was brought through the birth of Jesus Christ. It is filled with carvings of flowers, plants, and creatures representing life. Of course the Nativity wouldn’t be complete without its typical components; Baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Shepherds, etc.
At this point in the tour, I was feeling a great appreciation of Guadi and his attention to detail and symbolism. And then we stepped into the church. I have to admit, I let out an audible gasp as I walked through the entry way. I’ve been to many churches and cathedrals, all beautiful, but none can compare to the beauty of the interior in the Sagrada Familia. The first thing to notice are the columns, designed to look like trees, that lift your eyes heavenward. And then you notice the light; colorfully coming at you from all directions. I was drawn to tears.
I didn’t think that the tour could get any better, but then we went to see the Passion Facade. Designed to oppose the light and lively quality of the Nativity Facade, the Passion Facade details the events before Christ’s crucifixion. Since the building is still being constructed, much of this side was hidden from view with scaffolding, but what we could see was incredible. The angular, bare, and rugged carvings, in contrast to the other parts of the building was a penetrating reminder of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I was especially drawn to the statue of Judas defying Christ with a kiss. Once again, I was brought to tears.
Two and a half hours later, when the audio tour didn’t have anything else to share, we decided it was time to go find Brandon. Since this was another site he had seen many times, he had patiently waited for us to get our experience with the Sagrada Familia. Meanwhile, he had found a shop with amazing churros for a little train ride snack. Could this day get any better?
Let me tell you, it did. The three of us caught the train back to San Cogat to meet Rachel and the kids. The men were going to be babysitters for the night while Rachel and I went to a flamenco concert at a theater along Las Rumblas. That also meant stopping for the worlds best and prettiest gelato before the show at Amorino. The show itself was stunning. As a dancer, I loved being able to see the culture through its traditional dance and music. I love that Rachel and I also got to have some girl time while the boys were back at the apartment watching American football and playing with the kids.
At this point, one might call it a night. But when in Spain, the night has just begun. Brandon and Rachel hired a babysitter so that we could meet for dinner at 9 in San Cogat! It may seem late, but in Spain it is completely normal to dine at that time. When we arrived at the restaurant, near 9, it was close to empty except for us and the staff. However, within the next hour, it was filled to capacity.
The restaurant was for Catalonian barbecue, chosen by Brandon and Rachel to give us a literal taste of the area. We started out by ordering three appetizers to share; sweet onions in with a dipping sauce, potatoes, melon wrapped in prosciutto, and Spanish toast (a piece of grilled bread that you rub with garlic and tomato, then drizzle with olive oil and salt). All were delicious!
For the main dish, you received a big plate of meat with few to no sides (hence why we ordered appetizers). Kyle and Brandon both got the Big Catalonian Sausage (yes, that’s what it was called on the menu) and I stuck with some pretty delicious ribs. To finish off, each couple shared a dessert; Catalonian Crema (a slightly citrusy creme brûlée) and orange juice with vanilla gelato (which happens to be one of my all time favorite desserts).
After paying for our meal, we strolled through the streets of San Cogat, laughing and holding hands with our loves. Though it may sound silly, that was another highlight of our trip. I am a romantic at heart, and walking on moonlit cobblestone paths, with the monastery bells chiming, and with our dear friends was one of those moments I wish I could have captured. It is safe to say, that I had fallen in love with Barcelona.