Last Stops in Barcelona

Our time in Barcelona ended with a walking tour of the old city and Gothic Quarter.  I wish we would’ve been able to do it at the beginning of our time there.  I always like doing a tour toward the beginning because you can find things you’d like to go back to and it gives you a good overview of the history and feel of the city.

Another beautiful church,  the Barcelona Cathedral.
Art by Picasso on a public building.  It actually has 3 large murals by the artist.
Gorgeous fountain in the park.
Arc du Triomphe, Spanish Style.
Cathedral at Night.
Ending with tapas and sangria.

We loved Barcelona!  The city is beautiful, easy to get around, right on the water, and has tons to do and see.  This really sparked my interest in wanting to see more of Spain.  I’m hoping to get to southern Spain before our time in Europe is over.  For now though I’m so happy we were able to visit Barcelona, I would highly recommend it to anyone!  Another city to add to our list of favorites over here!

Barcelona & Gaudi

After our long morning at the Sagrada Familia, we decided to try and squeeze in one more major sight.  We jumped on the metro and made our way to Parc Guell.  It was designed by Gaudi and intended to be an exclusive living community.  It was never fully realized and now is an interesting and unique park for visitors and locals alike.

Curvy mosaic benches.
Hubby and I are making our best “try to act normal” faces, as by this point we have amassed a large group of Asian tourists laughing and cooing at Baby Girl.

View of the Sagrada Familia in the distance.

This mosaic lizard is famous in Barcelona.  You can find many variations of him being sold in every tourist shop.
This building was not designed by Gaudi, but he did live in it for a time.

 This park has very iconic features in it.  It is really interesting to think about what it could’ve been like had it really been turned into a residential neighborhood.  It would have been a very colorful and vivacious place to live!  Gaudi has 2 other very well known buildings back in the central area of Barcelona.  You can buy tickets to go inside both but we chose to just take a look from the outside.

This is Casa Batllo.  Our photography doesn’t do it any justice, but you can see that the balconies are designed to look like skulls.  Also on the top of the building, it looks like a dragon or lizard’s back.  Casa Batllo is on what’s know as “the block of discord” because there are 2 other buildings designed in very elaborate, but very different styles.

The final one is La Pedrera or Casa Mila.  If you were to Google it, you would be able to see some images of the strange decorations on this building.  The roof is supposed to be the highlight.  It undulates up and down and has many intriguing sculptures.  It is very surprising to come upon these buildings that stand out so much from their surroundings.  They are right in the middle of the city, on main streets, surrounded by shops and restaurants.

Those are the Gaudi highlights of Barcelona.  You can see why he was so important to the city.  He had such a distinctive style and is thought to be very ahead of his time.  If you have any kind of interest in architecture and design, you would love to go around the city admiring his work!

Sagrada Familia

Barcelona is the city of Antoni Gaudi, a spanish architect responsible for numerous iconic buildings in the city.  The most grand of which is the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia.  Construction on it began in the 1880’s and continues to this day.  At first we were a little disappointed to think we were going to go see an incomplete cathedral covered in scaffolding and cranes.  Then we thought about it and realized there aren’t many other churches like this still being built today.  So it’s a very special opportunity to see something of this scale and this type of design while it’s still under construction.  I know there are new sky scrapers being built all the time but this is different.  This was designed over 100 years ago, is a mix of different aesthetic styles, and the building itself is a work of art.  I hope to return one day when it is complete to see the final masterpiece.

Nativity Facade-first completed facade.

The first part of the basilica we came upon was the Nativity facade.  It was the first one completed and is the only facade reflecting Gaudi’s true style.  As you can see it’s extremely busy, ornate, and strange looking.  It does not look like your typical European church!  This facade has several scenes depicting the birth of Jesus and  his early life.  There are also the Passion facade depicting the crucifixion of Jesus, and the Glory facade which will represent his resurrection.  Each facade looks extremely different from the other.  The Sagrada Familia has towers upon towers and even has mosaic fruit sculptures adorning it.

Right now the entrance is through the Passion Facade.  When you round the corner and see this compared to the Nativity Facade, it is extremely different.  This side is much more stark and austere.  The figures are sculpted in a very geometric style, it lends itself very well to the feelings of despair that accompany the death of Christ.  These sculptures were not designed by Gaudi but by Josep Maria  Subriachs.  Though Gaudi did leave detailed plans for future architects since he knew he would not live to see the cathedral completed.

Passion Facade.

Walking through the doors to enter the building.

When you enter the Sagrada Familia, the interior can really take your breath away.  It was designed to look like a forest.  The columns branch out like trees and the ceiling is covered in what is designed to look like palm fronds. Gaudi was a lover of nature and this is another way you can see his love reflected in his work.  The other really striking part of the interior is the array of colors reflecting through all the stained glass.

Even little girl was amazed the beautiful ceiling and surroundings!

View of the elaborate and gorgeous ceiling.
Light reflecting from the stained glass.
View of three windows, one of which is still incomplete.
View down the nave from what will become the main entrance when the Glory facade is completed.
Loving our time wandering the cathedral.
Forrest of columns.
Another view of the ceiling.

After spending easily over an hour just in the nave the audio guide led us back out to the Nativity facade.  You could spend hours staring at it and examining all the intricate details.  There is a mosaic “tree of life” in the center covered in doves.  Many say this facade looks as if it is melting.

Model of what the completed cathedral will look like.

Turtle carved into the base of a column.
Somebody had a great time on the tour!

The final area we toured was the museum underneath the cathedral.  There were original drawings by Gaudi, views into the workshop, videos about the construction, photos of the cathedral through various stages of construction, etc.  We throughly enjoyed our day at the basilica.  We spent much longer there than we had planned for.  It really is an amazing sight to see and probably my favorite church that I have visited.  Pictures can not do it justice, and it is so different than any other church you will see in Europe.  If you ever go to Barcelona this is definitely a “must!”

Barcelona

On a long weekend in November 2013 we were able to take a trip to sunny Barcelona. We loved the city, and the warm weather didn’t hurt either!  We flew in early in the morning so by the time we had arrived and checked into our hotel, we still had plenty of day left.  We stayed in the Eixample neighborhood just north of Placa Catalunya.  Barcelona has a great public transportation system but it was very walkable.  Most of the time we walked everywhere.  There was nothing particular on the agenda for the day except to explore.

We made it to Barcelona!

From wandering down through Placa Catalunya and Las Ramblas, we found La Boqueria-a large public market place similar to Pike’s Place Market in Seattle or Borough Market in London.  These markets are fun to visit because you can get a glimpse into the local cuisine and see some things that you aren’t used to seeing in your typical grocery store.  My favorite thing from this market was all the different juices.  There were several fruit stands also selling fresh fruit juices in countless combinations.  I had a strawberry-coconut juice and it was delicious!  Definitely go to the market hungry because there will be plenty of things catching your eye!

Entrance to La Boqueria
So many fruits and vegetables
Tons of candy
Sea urchins for sale.
She also enjoyed the market and the many people inside who stopped to tell her, “Que ojos! Muy guapa, muy bonita!”
Seafood including lots of octopi, gambas rojas or big prawns, and live lobsters and crabs on ice.

We continued down Las Ramblas eyeing all the shops and stands, keeping our eye out for pick-pocketers.  Supposedly if you are going to get pick-pocketed in Europe, that’s where it would happen.  But I’m happy to say we did not have any trouble at all.  We made it all the way down to the harbor and to the Columbus Monument.  It was put up to commemorate Columbus’ first trip to the Americas.  He reported back to Barcelona to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella after his journey.

We had been walking a while at this point so we decided to sit down on a bench to relax and figure out our next move.  Then this adorableness happened:

I took about a million more, but I will keep it to a minimum for now.  We decided to explore the Gothic Quarter and find a place to eat.  On the way we found this happy little guy…

The Gothic Quarter is a really interesting and charming area of town.  It is full of character with hidden plazas and churches, most of which we didn’t even find until we were lead through on a walking tour a couple days later.  We wandered a while then made our way to “happy hour” while we waited for some restaurants to open up for dinner.  We ended up having tapas and sangria, both of which were wonderful!

Walking the Gothic Quarter.

Finally it was off to bed to rest up for our next big day touring the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, one of Europe’s most famous churches.

Mallorca

We jetted over to the Spanish island of Mallorca for a long weekend in 2012.  It’s off the eastern coast of Spain in the Mediterranean Sea.  We had heard that it was a favorite vacation spot of Germans and Brits, and I would say that was about right.  Our flight was full of people who seemed like they were in spring break mode, plus a group of excited men on a stag party.  They were so happy to be going to Mallorca, that they brought their own beer and boom box onto the plane so that the party could continue.  This wasn’t that amusing to me at the time as I had recently found out I was pregnant, and I had worked all week-I really just wanted to sleep on the plane.

 

We got into Mallorca relatively late and we weren’t staying in Palma (the biggest city, close to the airport) so we had arranged to take a bus out to our resort area Cala d’Or.  The bus seemed like a great idea at the time.  It was cheap and it would take us right to our hotel.  What we didn’t plan for was waiting on the bus in the parking lot for an hour for it to fill up with people, and then stopping at everybody’s hotel along the way.  This bus adventure took almost 3 hours from the time we got on to the time we walked into our hotel lobby.  Not so fun.

Nevertheless, after a full night’s sleep and a good breakfast in the morning, we were ready to hit the beach!  We decided to venture away from our hotel to this other little beach we had seen on the way in.  The local bus that takes you over to the other town was a cute, little, topless minibus!  A fun way to get from place to place (as long as the weather is good).
Cruising in the open air bus!

 We arrived at the other beach Cala Mondrago,  with just enough time to take a walk around the edge of the cove and settle in for about an hour of sun.

Right before the weather turned nasty.
Cala Mondrago

After this hour of decent beach weather, it started to rain and got very chilly.  I had prepared for this, so I put on my layers, put a towel over me and hunkered down under my beach umbrella with a book hoping the weather would turn around.  Well…it didn’t.  Eventually we abandoned our beach chairs for the nearby restaurant for some more cover from the rain.  Once we decided the weather was pretty much done for the day we hailed a taxi (the open air bus was not sounding as fun) and headed back to the hotel.  We spent the rest of the afternoon on our balcony with blankets watching the rain and reading.

View from our balcony, probably right before we ran down to the beach to catch some sun.

The next day was similar.  We stayed at our hotel’s beach, tried to soak up as much sun as we could, but when the weather went bad we retreated back up to our balcony.  The day we were leaving we had the best weather of the trip.  I stayed on the beach mostly, and Hubby went out for some snorkeling.

Lunch by the beach.

Beach by our hotel.
Our hotel.

Late in the afternoon, Hubby finally convinced me to give the snorkeling a try.  I had tried to snorkel before in Mexico and it didn’t go well.  I just remember struggling and swallowing a lot of salt water.  However, this time it was much better and I really enjoyed it!  It was fun to just float around looking at the fish.

One last look at our hotel and beach before heading home.

Before long it was time to head back to the airport.  We opted to hire our taxi driver from the other day, rather than dealing with a multi-hour bus ride and it was the best decision because it gave us so much more time to enjoy the day.  We loved Mallorca, as you can see the beaches are gorgeous, as is the water and we had a very relaxing weekend there.  We learned that “Cala” is the word for a beach in more of a cove and “playa” is a long stretch of sand, a big beach that you’re probably used to seeing.  We liked being at the Calas though because the rocks do give you a better snorkel opportunity and it’s a little less crowded than a regular beach.  We would love to go back, we liked our area but would probably try a new town just to see what else the island has to offer!  My only regret is that I wasn’t able to try the sangria!  Oh well, more reasons to go back…

*Mallorca is possible to visit by ferry from Barcelona.  If you have the time and want a relaxing getaway from the big city, it is a great place to visit!