It’s been nearly two and a half years since I promised myself that I’d travel to different countries and experience their cultures, food, wine and lifestyles. Travel has a big impact on my life and wellbeing. Depending on the type of travel sometimes it’s good sometimes it’s challenging. My first trip was in October 2015 to Barcelona. It was an experience that I loved. From getting Euros, to ensuring my passport was in my bag and packing my flip flops to wear in the Autumn. It was an exciting and memorable experience. I’ll share why.
Being British means that towards the end of October the nights get darker and longer, the clocks turn back and for me the unwelcome gloomy days arrive. I remember landing in Barcelona in the early evening, leaving the plane and feeling the warmth hit and relax my body. My S.O. and I checked in to the hotel and went in search of food. We walked for less than ten minutes before we came across El Santet, a bar on the corner of some buildings. There was a gazebo set out on the pavement to sit under, with plastic chairs and tables. To me it didn’t look that inviting but it was late and we were ravenous for tapas and a glass of red wine. The food was delicious and to sit outside in the evening in October was heavenly. I’m not sure how long we were there for but it felt like an age with plates of tapas arriving and glasses of red being consumed.
We stayed in Barcelona for six nights, walked miles and miles and saw some of the most amazing architecture. It’s a city with so much to look at that I can’t choose a favourite. For me there were two of the most architecturally different buildings that I’d ever seen. The Sagrada Familia de Gaudi and La Pedrera also known as Casa Mila. Both buildings were designed by Antoni Gaudi whose eye for Modernist Design must have been incredibly forward thinking for the time and looking at the buildings it’s unbelievable that he was ridiculed.
La Pedrera was built between 1906 and 1912. It was added in 1984 to The World Heritage Site list and restored in the 1990s. It houses the original designs with a spiralling staircase, curved self supporting walls inside and out, as well as the most overwhelming creative rooftop courtyard consisting of decorative (robot like) chimneys covered with lime, broken glass or marble. Even if you don’t have a head for heights (I don’t), it’s a definite must to see.
Unlike La Pedrera I wasn’t fortunate to go inside the Sagrada Familia de Gaudi. A tip for planning a visit to Barcelona is to check which tourist attractions you can or should book online in advance. Sagrada Familia de Gaudi is prebookable with time slots for visitors which we were unaware of at the time. Despite this there were hundreds of people waiting to go in or absorbing the outside of the building. The Sagrada Familia de Gaudi is a project which is not yet complete. Over 136 years ago the construction of the building commenced and is still surrounded by builders and scaffolding. Additions to the building are questionable but decide for yourself whether you approve or not.
Not far away from Sagrada Familia is Parc Guell, a public park with a few areas where there is a charge to visit. The park is a delicious mosaic of colours, sculptures and gingerbread type buildings. Built in 1914 it too is now World Heritage listed. The entrance is enclosed by two beautifully curvaceous mosaic, gingerbread type buildings with tall lofty chimneys which lead to a magnificent mosaic salamander. From here steps lead you to the Doric columns which support a vast central terrace with seating all around providing great views over Barcelona. The park also is home to the Gaudi House Museum and a colonnaded pathway. No trip to Barcelona could be complete without seeing the park.
On our last evening in Barcelona we went visited the Tibidabo Amusement Park which is on a mountain. Getting there was exhilarating with a tram ride half way up the mountain and required riding on the funicular train the remaining way. The incline was steep, very steep. At the top of Tibidado is the amusement park alongside a walk up to a beautiful church Temple de Sargent Cor which at 575 metres above sea level has the most amazing view back down to the city and beach. It’s worth remembering the check the time that the funicular ceases to run and also that at such as high point above sea level it can get chilly as it did when we visited with the clouds rolling in around us. Not for those who are faint hearted is the colourful ferris wheel, a rollercoaster and the airplane ride which hangs precariously over the side of the mountain.
Barcelona has so many places to visit the markets, the beach, the Montjuic mountain (accessible by cable car), Miro’s art installations which are dotted around and tempting you to find them as well as churches, museums, galleries and La Rambla. It offers a great sense of history, culture, flavoursome food and wine. Six days was not enough time to see everything although we were exhausted from the walking and sightseeing. I love Barcelona and the fact is, is that there is so much to see which gives me a great excuse to return. Barcelona provided not only warmth from the sun but from the people too however………
George Orwell wrote in his Homage to Catalonia in 1938, ‘I went to have a look at (Gaudi’s) cathedral, a modern cathedral, and one of the most hideous buildings in the world’.
Take a look, I’ll let you decide if you agree.