I ended up a taking a day trip to Barcelona. This is my favorite city on earth and the tickets were dirt cheap on account of a 700k+ person protest planned for the night of my visit.
I’ve hit up all the tourist spots here multiple times over the years. I just wanted to walk around and enjoy the city, drink some beer and sangria, eat some paella and hang out. I started in the gothic quarter which is one of my favorite sections of the city. There was a Catalan festival going on with groups performing traditional Catalan dances and telling folklore stories. Catalonia has been in the news lately regarding their independence referendum, but there is a long history between Catalans and Spaniards. Catalonia has long been a rebellious region. During the dictatorship Franco tried to suppress Catalan culture, banning the teaching of Catalan, the use of and certain Catalan cultural practices. Because of this, there was an increased desire among the Catalans to keep their culture alive.
Catalonia has a very interesting history which has helped shape the city. Barcelona changed hands between Christian and Muslim empires throughout the middle ages. This swapping of cultures is evident in the architecture of the city. Some of the churches here were once mosques and offer an interesting mix of architectural influences. Moorish influence is even present in some of the more modern builds such as the Arc de Triomf.
Barcelona is also dotted with the unique works of Antoni Gaudí, whose modernists creations are easily recognized throughout the city. His most well known creation, La Sagrada Familia, has been under construction since 1882. Gaudí’s buildings are the only man made creations that really have a deep emotional affect on me. I don’t know what it is, but this building gets me every time. I didn’t go inside this time because of time constraints, but if you visit Barcelona make sure to enter the basilica. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. These are crappy pics I took, so I encourage anyone who hasn’t seen this building in person to look up some better images. I actually tear up a bit every time I come here (and it has nothing to do with the religious connotations...or maybe it does and I just don’t realize it).
Gaudí is burried in the crypt of the La Sagrada Familia. He was mistaken for a beggar after being hit by a tram and wasn’t given proper medical care. A chaplain later recognized him in the hospital, but it was too late. Pretty tragic stuff. His headstone reads:
“Antoni Gaudí Cornet. From Reus. At the age of 74, a man of exemplary life, and an extraordinary craftsman, the author of this marvelous work, the church, died piously in Barcelona on the tenth day of June 1926; henceforward the ashes of so great a man await the resurrection of the dead. May he rest in peace.”
While I love the food and architecture, my favorite part of the city are its people. Barcelona is a very diverse and welcoming city filled with beautiful and friendly people. Every time I’m here I make sure to spend some time in the neighborhoods rather than the touristy areas. I only speak broken Mexican Spanish, but am still able to communicate reasonably well with the city’s residents. I like to chat with some of the migrants selling trinkets as well. Most of tem speak pretty good English and have interesting stories to tell.
I ended up walking to Tres Cruces overlook above Park Güell to get one last look at the city. The vibe of this park has kind of been ruined by tourism over the years, but it is still an awesome place. It was also designed by Gaudí and features both his unique modernist and naturalist designs.
Before heading out I made sure to get some paella and sangria. Keep in mind when visiting Spain that eating out is much different here than in the states. Much slower paced and relaxed. The food is some of my favorite on earth.
As I made my way through the city I could tell everyone was gearing up for something. There were lots of people walking around with Catalan independence flags, and the Spanish government buildings were surrounded by federal pokice in riot gear. Thankfully the protests went off without a hitch and had an attendance of around 750k people. Until next time, Barcelona!