Friday, November 9, 2012

Estoy en Espana - the Barcelona portion

Hola de Espana!

I've been enjoying the last five days in Spain! I began my trip flying into Barcelona, where my brother and nephews picked me up and we went to their place in Castelldefels, a beach city just south of Barcelona. We spent the afternoon celebrating my nephew's third birthday. I then took advantage of my niece and nephews' nap time with a little nap myself to overcome my jet lag.

Post nap we headed in to the city at Camp Nou to watch the Barca Futball game. That was a fun experience. The Spanish really get into the game, and are quite focused. There aren't too many distractions with little advertisements and no alcohol,everyone is solely focused on the game, cheering and chanting. Interesting note, one of the chants was about independence for Catalonians, which my brother later explained many Catalonians want to break off and form their own country, separate from Spain.

The next day was a bit of a low key day hanging with my brother's family before my sister-in-law and niece flew back to Amsterdam for a funeral. It was nice to hang around their house, which they live just off of La playa (the beach), especially since I was still a bit jet lagged. We took my nephews for a walk down the beach with their big wheels (not a common toy in Spain) and picked up some pizza. My brother and I capped off the night chatting over some wine.

I wish I could say I spent the next day site seeing in Barcelona as I had planned, but I didn't. Apparently, John and I polished off a few bottles of wine and I wasn't feeling so hot. So I spent the day hanging out at his house with my nephews who also happened to have a sick day from school. it was nice to spend a little more time with my nephews and get over that jet lag. Plus I knew I would be doing plenty of touristy things later in the trip.

My last full day in Barcelona and I did make it into town! I managed to navigate the bus from Castelldefels to Barcelona. I grabbed a quick bite to eat by Placa de Catalunya, the center of the city, and acquainted myself with my surroundings. I then wandered over to Las Ramblas, a big tourist filled street filled with shops and restaurants. I wandered in and out of the alleyways, and found myself at one of the bars I frequented when I studied abroad 10/11 years ago, La Oveja Negra.

I knew I wanted to see a couple of sites that were a little further out from Placa de Catalunya and Las Ramblas, so I decided to do one of those hop on hop off buses. I was going to do the Fat Tire bike tour but I did not make it in time and this seemed to work out well. It was a great way to see more of the city in less time. I also could hop off at the spots that were of interest.

The first stop I hopped off was at Sangrada Familia, an unfinished gothic church. This is one of Gaudi's most well known pieces of work. He began working on Sangrada Familia in 1883 until 1926, when he died. The church hasn't been completed and isn't expected to be until 2026 tentatively. It is a quite impressive design! I did not make it inside due to a long line and lack of patience, but I know I will make it back again and will make time to go inside. I've seen pictures and it looks pretty amazing.

My next stop was Parc Guell, another design of Gaudi's. It was about a ten minute walk uphill from the bus stop. Parc Guell was one of my favorite stops of the day. There were several mosaic designs, and some fun architectural stairways and columns built into the park's design. There was an interesting mosaic dragon fountain as you climb upstairs to the "hall of 100 columns.". Looking at some of the columns, it seemed to be a bit of an optical illusion. At the top was a big outdoor space with mosaic benches overlooking the city. I believe there is more to the park but I hit up the main attractions and made my way back to the bus

After Parc Guell I rode the bus and saw some additional sites while making my way back to where I started. I got off at Placa De Catalunya and walked up the street to see some more of Gaudi's work: Casa Batillo and Casa Milla. I did not make it in to tour Casa Batillo (I'm pictured in front), as my day was running short and Rick Steves recommended touring Casa Milla over Batillo. Next time I'm back in Barcelona I'd like to tour Casa Batillo. Gaudi's work is quite impressive, I was blown away by his rooftop design (pictured below). I spent quite a bit of time snapping away up there. It was great lighting as the sun was just beginning to set. I'd highly recommend checking it out. I then hopped on the bus back to Castelldelfells to enjoy my last night with my brother's family before heading to Seville the next day.

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