Barcelona, Spain: Arc de Triomf

Once we left La Sagrada Familia, my sister and I decided to stop at a local restaurant for traditional tapas. Tapas are small appetizers or snacks that serve the purpose of helping one get through the difficult time before or in between meals (or at least that’s what I view their purpose as).

As we sat down outside—only a few blocks away from La Sagrada Familia—we couldn’t help but enjoy the beautiful weather and take in the incredible sights around us. It also didn’t hurt that we had delicious snacks in front of us to feast on.

Throughout our time in Spain, I found that sitting down to enjoy tapas allows you to put your busy life on hold and take a few moments for yourself. You aren’t necessarily stuffing your face (unless you order multiple items like we did), but you’re stopping the needless worries around you and putting all of that on hold for just a short while. That is exactly what we did, and it helped us better appreciate the fact that you don’t have to be somewhere unique or special to take some time for yourself to unwind. (But then again, this realization was much better seeing as we were in Barcelona).

After our mid-day snack, we walked back to our hotel to get dressed for our evening activities, but on our way, we came across some more fascinating sights. Barcelona hosted the Universal Exhibition in 1888, and the Arc de Triomf (pictured below),  was built as the main entryway to enter the fair.

 

 

 

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Barcelona, Spain: La Sagrada Familia

As we concluded our visit to Gaudí’s Casa Battló, we walked over to another one of his masterpiecesLa Sagrada Familia. In 1882, construction on La Sagrada Familia began with its first architect, Francisco de Paula del Villar y Lozano. However, due to various disagreements and conflicts, Antoni Gaudí was asked to take over the job in 1883.

To give some background information about Antoni Gaudí, he was born in 1852 and died in 1926 a few days after being hit by a tram. Nobody recognized him since he appeared to be a “beggar” due to his clothes, so he did not receive the immediate treatment. By the time somebody recognized who he was, his condition had deteriorated, and he unfortunately passed away within a few days at the age of seventy-four.

Alongside the church is a museum that showcases the numerous stages of La Sagrada Familia’s construction. One of the walls in the museum highlights a quote from Gaudí (pictured below), and it has since stuck with me. The quote states, “We must all contribute, as it has to be the church of a whole people.” Even after Gaudí’s passing, construction of La Sagrada Familia has continued, and his dream for the church is still, to this day, becoming a reality. Its expected completion date is set for 2026, so there is much to look forward to!

People from all over the world come to see La Sagrada Familia, and both the beauty and spiritual energy that fill the church are truly incredible. There are no words to describe how breathtaking the church is—inside and out—and the fine details in every nook and cranny are immaculate.

The structure of the church is quite interesting. Once completed, “The design will be completed with four domed structures, some 40 metres high, sited at each corner: two sacristies on the northern side; and on the southern side the baptistery and the chapel of the Holy Sacrament and Penitence. These four constructions and the three facades will be linked by a wide, covered corridor, with a double wall, referred to as a cloister by Gaudí, which will insulate the central nave from noise from the street, and allow circulation from one building to another without the need to cross the main nave.

Gaudí’s plan was for a group of 18 towers: 12 shorter ones on the facades (bell towers which will be 100 metres high, representing the Apostles), and six taller ones in the centre in a pyramidal layout reflecting the hierarchy of their symbolism. Of these, the tallest will be the one above the central crossing, representing Jesus Christ, reaching 172.5 metres in height. It will be surrounded by four, slimmer, 135-metre-high towers representing the four Evangelists and their Gospels. A further tower will cover the apse and will represent the Virgin Mary.

Gaudí wanted to construct a building that would make an impact on the skyline, but also show his respect for the work of God, which in his opinion should never be superseded by man: at 172.5 metres tall, the Sagrada Familia is one of the tallest religious buildings in the world but remains a few metres below the height of Montjuïcthe highest point in the municipality of Barcelona”(http://www.sagradafamilia.org).

Days 18-21 in Spain: Barcelona!!

This past weekend was one of the best yet while in Spain because I finally got a chance to go to Barcelona. Yes, Barcelona; the place we all dream about visiting (or at least I always have). It all started out on Thursday night when I took the Ave from Madrid, Spain’s fast train which got me there in a little over three hours, and arrived at my hostel at midnight. I went to sleep, but the next day was jam-packed with awesome sightseeing. My friends and I started off at Plaza de Cataluñya, which is Barcelona’s main plaza, housing various monuments, and incredible fountains. We then proceeded to walk through La Rambla, Europe’s biggest market with over three hundred stalls containing flowers, foods, souvenirs, art, jewelry, and anything else you can imagine. It was like a tourist’s dream come true! After making our way through the crowds on the street and taking in all that the market had to offer, we found a side market called, “Mercat St. Josep,” also known as “Mercat de la Boqueria” which had all the food and drink essentials possible! (Keep in mind that here in Barcelona, people speak a different dialect of Spanish called Catalan. This is why is why the market, for example is called “Mercat” and not “Mercado”). This side market was amazing! They had the freshest fruits and vegetables I have seen in a while, and all of the colors throughout the market were truly breathtaking. Not to mention, you could also purchase fish and/or meat here to prepare at home, or ones that are already prepared for you.

If you couldn’t already guess, as we neared the end of the market, my conscience was telling me to not blow my money here, and as difficult as it was to obey, I held off on purchases here. We continued on to the Barrio Gotico, Barcelona’s oldest quarter. There were many side streets, restaurants, and entertainment and  the architecture here was impeccable! (You can tell I get excited talking about my adventures when I use strong adjectives and exclamation marks). We came across a really great cathedral in the area, but unfortunately weren’t able to go in since not everyone in my group was dressed appropriately. However, that didn’t stop us from enjoying this old quarter, and we even decided to treat ourselves by having Melindros y Chocolate, a typical dessert in Barcelona, at an old, quaint pastelería (bakery). Once we refueled with baked goods, we continued to walk on until we came across Antoni Gaudi’s Casa Batllló, a house designed for a middle class family in the late eighteen hundreds, and with its unique structure, you can tell that it’s definitely different than any other building in the neighborhood. After passing this attraction, we made our way over to the Sagrada Familia, an extremely famous cathedral which was also designed by Gaudi. The details of the building, both inside and out were beyond what one can imagine, and I truly cannot even begin to explain how remarkable the architecture was. We then went underground to a smaller church where Gaudi is buried, and gained a ton of appreciation for his work. The night concluded with going out to a local club, so you can put the pieces together on your own with regards to how that went.

On Saturday morning, my friends and I ate at a small cafe shop on La Rambla, where we got to watch passersby and enjoy the surrounding scenery. When we finished, we walked up a mountain by the pier and took cable cars across to a building which allowed us to view all of Barcelona. As I’m sure you can guess, the view was incredible, and it almost made me not fear having to ride back to the mountain in the cable cars again. When we finally finished with the scenery part of the trip, we hopped on the metro and went to the other side of town where we took a tour of the Estadio Camp Nou, the stadium where Barcelona’s soccer team, Barcelona FC plays. The stadium was bigger than anything I have ever seen before, and there was even a museum inside which informed us of the team’s history and housed the countless trophies they won in the past! By the time we finished with the stadium tour, it was time to head back to our apartment which we rented out and get ready for the night ahead of us. The evening began with a 30 minute Flamenco show at Los Tarantos, a local bar and theatre. The show was by far one of the best dances I have seen thus far, and it made me fall in love with Flamenco dancing. Unfortunately, my camera died by the time the show started, but I am now able to say that I saw a flamenco show and it was better than anything I could have imagined!

After being thoroughly entertained, my friends and I grabbed dinner at a local restaurant and headed to the Dow Jones Bar afterwards. This stock market-themed bar has a big screen for all of the costumers to watch, with a set list of shots and drinks and prices next to each one. Every few seconds, the prices of the drinks change (like the stock market) according to which drinks are being purchased at that moment. Each hour, there is a stock market crash, and all of the drink prices are lowered significantly, and this is the time that everyone runs to the bar to place their order before the prices go up again. This unique and fun bar brought drinking and learning to a whole new level, and with that, my trip concluded the following morning. Before leaving, I made sure to drink plenty of water from the Fountain of Canaletas because it is rumored that those who drink from the fountain will return to the city, so we’ll see what happens! Needless to say, I had such a great time in Barcelona, and can only hope that my next adventure is as fun as this one!