Thursday, July 31, 2014

Travel like you're 30- I love Barcelona

When meeting new people in a hostel, or really anywhere when traveling in Europe for that matter, there is a sort of ritual that takes place. First, you ask the person whom you're meeting where they are from. After they tell you, you ask them how long they are in the city in which you are having this conversation. Then, if they don't volunteer this information first, you ask them where they have been, followed by inquiries about where they are going next. Most of the time, while you collect this information, you can interject follow up questions like, "Did you like _________?" Or, "What was it like in __________? We are going there on Tuesday." One of the things that I found interesting about these kinds of conversations was that, when it came to discussing cities in Spain, people tended to have a preference for either Madrid or Barcelona. When people comment on somewhere like London or Paris, there is no real comparison. How can you compare them? But, when it comes to Madrid or Barcelona- it seems that you must pick a side. As I wrote in my last blog, I loved my experience in Madrid. The people and the parks were great. But, when it comes down to picking my preference- I am team Barcelona all the way.

Of all of the cities that we visited, Barcelona is probably the one that I want to go back to the most. I loved Barcelona. Not so much for the people- we stayed in our first apartment rented through the website airbnb- which was great- except for the fact that you had to climb seven flights of stairs to get to it. See picture.

So, we didn't really meet anyone new- though Dodo, who owned the apartment we rented, was just lovely. I think I loved Barcelona because of its liveliness and color. The architecture is also really unusual- to say the very least. It's an old city with lots of life bubbling up everywhere you look- a beautiful, bustling harbor, a good beach, rambling streets that are fun to get lost in, ancient ruins, fantastic markets and every type of shopping experience you can imagine. Everywhere you look people seem to be enjoying life. Barcelona seems to be permanently on vacation- or at least that's how it seemed to me. Lots of time to ramble and soak up sun, casually cruise on a bicycle or sit and people watch. I loved every minute of my time in this city.

The day we arrived in Barcelona, I went for a walk that lasted all afternoon. As I walked from our apartment towards the center of the city, I encountered these vibrantly colored birds snacking in a park. 

Cathedral near the city center 

Details of a door near the cathedral.

Lazy Sunday afternoon for this hound dog in his art shop. 

This picture is so Barcelona. Colored mosaic tiles are a big thing there. And the graffiti is a reminder of how old meets new. 

Even though we were close to the harbor, I didn't realize it until the very end of my walk. As I tried to get my bearings, I walked away from the harbor into the heart of the city, up into the hills, and then back down to the harbor. By the time I reached the harbor and snapped this shot, I felt familiar with the layout of the city, and was happy to look back into the center from the harbor's edge, smiling to myself because of all of the fun I'd just had getting more and more lost in the ramble and sprawl that is Barcelona. 

This red funicular makes it possible for people to get from the city to the beach without needing to circle around the harbor. 

Sunday night was the last game of the World Cup. We ate at a place along the harbor, and were lucky enough to get a spot beside some hardcore Germany fans. I downed this entire paella before the game even started, but we enjoyed the whole evening watching and cheering for Alemania (Spanish for Germany) 
The next morning, I saw this jersey hanging proudly in the front of a sporting goods store. Gotze scored Germany's game-winning goal. 
Monday, Chandler, Nicole and I went up to Park Guell, which is a park with famous mosaic structures designed by the renowned Catalan architect Antoni Gaui, who designed most of the really famous buildings in Barcelona. To my disappointment, I realized when I got to the park, that you have to purchase tickets to get in, and that the wait is extremely long. Since we didn't have much time or money to spare, we just walked the outskirts of the park and then headed back down into the city center. But, if I were to visit Barcelona again (which I will), it is definitely on my to-do list. And I'll make sure that I book my tickets online ahead of time. 

This is the very famous, very strange, ever-growing church- La Sagrada Familia. Construction on the church began in the late 1800's and the intricate and abnormal original design was by Antoni Gaudi. The church is an expiatory church, which means that it is built using only money from donations. Over the years, those donations have served to create a unique structure that tells the story of the holy family with its architecture. It is supposed to be stunning inside, but as it was with the Park Guell, tickets must be purchased and the wait is long. As you can see, the church is still under construction. It is supposed to be finished in the late 21st century. 

This is one of my favorite pictures from Barcelona. I loved catching this dog pointing at the pigeon. Pigeons are another Barcelona "thing" the central plaza there is literally covered in pigeons. These bicycles are also sort of iconic. And, another glimpse of the graffiti, which somehow manages to add something visually appealing in Barcelona, where it would take away from the aesthetic in so many other cities. 

The rambling streets that I will hopefully walk again one day.

I was sad to leave Barcelona. If I get to go back, I will schedule more time and save more money so that I can- take a bike tour of the city, go into the Park Guell and La Sagrada Familia, eat more paella ;), go to the beach on the funicular, and wander aimlessly for more hours in a city I instantly loved.

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