Our last stop on our 2015 EuroTour was Barcelona. Complete with glistening beaches, incredible tapas and sangria, it was a perfect way to top off the trip. We arrived via high-speed train from Paris (thank goodness), and immediately hunted down the Barcelona Metro. It was, by far, the easiest subway system to navigate on the trip. By the time we made it to the hotel, it had begun to lightly rain. It was early afternoon, and we were hungry. Luckily, one of my coworkers had recently been to Barcelona and shared restaurant recommendations before our trip. Our first spot was Carmelita’s (which, sadly, the internet tells me is permanently closed now!). Since it was midday, we practically had the place to ourselves, and received plenty of attention. A belly full of tapas later and we were ready for afternoon naps.
The next day, we had first-entry tickets to the Sagrada Familia, architect Antoni Guadi’s world-renowned masterpiece. We took the metro there and then walked up to the immense cathedral. The crowds of admirers hadn’t arrived yet and it was still blissfully quiet outside. We probably could have spent a full day just roaming the grounds, admiring the facade’s artwork.
I’m so glad the Sagrada Familia was the last cathedral visit of our trip. Words don’t do the experience justice, and truthfully, neither do photos. It’s a spiritual experience, one you can only have on your own pilgrimage. Gaudi draws inspiration from nature and the ocean, exploring and mimicking the structural integrity of things like coral, beehives, and tree canopies. If you know me, this sort of design is not my cup of tea. I think things like coral and honeycomb, for example, with all of their deep pockets and holes, are incredibly creepy and anxiety-inducing. Yet, I didn’t get the weird feelings I expected as I explored Gaudi’s masterpiece; I was simply in awe. Knowing Gaudi declared his intent to bring this massive structure to life over 100 years ago, and few called him crazy or said it was impossible…that alone is awe-inspiring.
We spent the rest of our time in Barcelona eating, beaching, or admiring more of Gaudi’s work. Aside from the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi has over 10 works scattered across Barcelona. The city takes every opportunity to laud his work, and rightfully so. Nick and I have yet to see an architect so highly acclaimed the way Gaudi is in the city he called home: Barcelona is Gaudi, Gaudi is Barcelona. Do either of us love his work? We don’t love it, but it’s hard not to get captivated by the theatrics of it all.
For our fellow architecture nerds, once you’ve checked Gaudi’s work off your list, don’t forget about the Barcelona Pavilion, Germany’s show-and-tell moment from the 1929 International Exhibition, designed by Mies Van der Rohe. And the fish. Frank Gehry designed a giant, sparkling fish known as Peix Olímpic for the 1992 Olympics and it sits at the end of Barceloneta Beach. (The latter is just as exciting as it sounds though, so don’t get your hopes up). And, this is Spain, after all—keep your eyes open on the beach…or don’t. Remember, some things can’t be unseen!
Map with our recommendations after the (mostly architectural) eye candy.