Flying throughout Europe is relatively inexpensive on the many no-frills budget airlines that exist here. While we usually rely on train travel or a rental car, for this leg of our journey we flew from Naples, Italy to Barcelona, Spain on November 26. This is our first trip to Spain, and while we only plan on taking a taste of Barcelona (2 nights), we are considering our time an advanced research project for a future, longer adventure. The flight lasted 1.5 hours, then we made our way from the airport to the train station and our hotel, close to the station.
Barcelona is located seventy-five miles south of the Pyrenees in the northeast corner of the Iberian Peninsula (mostly composed of Spain, and Portugal). It is also known for being part of the Catalonian community. With only one full day in Barcelona, we chose to do only two sites.
Time to ramble Las Ramblas:
Ramblas is Catalonian for stream and for more than a century people have been rambling through old town on Las Ramblas, the grand pedestrian boulevard connecting the center of Barcelona to the port. The boulevard is about three-quarters of a mile long with two one-way traffic roads on each side. We rambled as everyone else was doing on the decorative tile representing a flowing stream. We followed our self-guided walking tour past cafes, bars, flower shops, newsstands, lottery ticket booths (popular in Spain), and various street entertainment. Fashionable shops mix with old town atmosphere in a blending of historical with trendy.
There were a lot of street people begging for money, many with noticeable health problems (not something we've seen in Europe previously), but the most amazing thing we saw was a guy holding his six-pound hernia like a baby while begging for money for one might think would be surgery. I was intrigued having never seen anything quite like it, so I stopped a bit further down Las Ramblas to watch what he was doing, and I must say, to gawk at the size of the herniated growth.
Halfway towards the port we stopped and made our way down a side street to see Roman ruins. Then we grabbed a light bite at a recommended tapas (small foods) bar, Taverna Basca Irati, and found ourselves in tapas heaven. We were having Basque style pinchos where we stood at a bar and chose from the many beautiful dishes in front of us. Each item had a toothpick we could grab to move the tapas onto our own plate. As the hot ones came out of the kitchen, they were paraded down the counter until the serving plate was empty. The wine was good and inexpensive and all tapas were €1.90. When we ate our fill, the waiter added up the toothpicks. It was fun, it was reasonably priced fabulous food, and it was what one does to experience Spain. We had a ball!
Barcelona is notorious for pick-pockets and scammers, while we didn’t have any issues, it pays to always be aware because these things happen within seconds. As a matter of fact, we were witness to such an incident moments after it happened later in the evening. As with all big cities, there are places one does not go after dark, and ways to keep your belongings safe.
Sagrada Familia Basilica – Holy Family Church
Antoni Gaudi started his masterpiece back in 1883 and worked on it for over forty years. To date it is unfinished but currently a completion date is set for 2026, the one-hundredth anniversary of his death. It is difficult to describe this building. From the outside entering the Nativity Façade the exterior looks as if it is dripping or running together. I’ve seen photos of his work but could not truly appreciate what I was looking at and decided I didn’t care for his work – until now, that is. While the exterior had me wondering about his vision and how the heck this type of work was achieved, the interior left me breathless. Beautiful doesn’t even come close to describing what we saw. I felt such a powerful feeling of joy as I followed the fifty-six giant pillars up into the canopy, yes canopy, of tree like structures. Upon entering we were met not only with the immense space, which many Gothic style cathedrals have, but the vibrant colors of the rainbow with light filtering in through the many colorful glass panes. It was absolutely striking. Gaudi’s vision was that of nature, and the artists who continue his efforts here are doing a good job of capturing this vision. I think he would appreciate what is being done here.
We enjoyed the sights and food of Barcelona, and look forward to returning. But next time, I’ll look forward to seeing more of Gaudi’s work, and will no longer be so quick to judge artistic endeavors I haven’t seen in person. The one thing we saw in Barcelona that stands out in my mind, though, is the size of that guy’s hernia! Just know, while at Sagrada Familia, I said a little prayer and sent it his way.
Thanks for joining us on our journey.