Barcelona, Spain: Catedral de Barcelona

The hop-on/hop-off bus dropped us off in the Barrio Gótico, also known as the Gothic Quarter. I’ll describe the Gothic Quarter more in depth in a later post, but as we walked around the area, we spotted the Catedral de Barcelona, also known as the Cathedral of Barcelona.

After waiting in line, we finally entered the Cathedral, which was absolutely stunning.  Construction for the Cathedral began during the 11th Century, but whatever had been built was destroyed by the Moors in 985. Construction began once again a little later on and the central part of the building was completed in the mid 1400’s. However, the building’s facade was not completed until the late 1800’s.

There are twenty nine side chapels within the church, one of which is said to contain a “miraculous crucifix,” which supposedly helped defeat the Turks during the Battle of Lepanto (http://barcelona.de/en/barcelona-cathedral-la-seu.html).

Some other interesting facts about the Cathedral include the fact that the Cathedral is dedicated to Santa Eulàlia, the patron saint of Barcelona. During the Roman period, Santa Eulàlia was tortured to death, and her body lies buried underneath the high altar. February 12th is dedicated to her, as locals celebrate a day of feasting in her memory.

On the side of the Cathedral, there is a beautiful Cloister with additional chapels, tranquil fountains, and beautiful landscaping. It has been said that from this area, you can hear nearby geese. Years ago, the geese supposedly “warned against intruders and thieves” (http://barcelona.de/en/barcelona-cathedral-la-seu.html).

There is a small elevator inside the Cathedral that takes visitors up to the rooftop. From there, we saw incredible views of the city from such a unique and special vantage point.

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Barcelona, Spain: Casa Battló

After lunch, my sister and I reserved a time slot to visit Casa Battló—another incredible building designed by Antoni Gaudí, which is located near the center of Barcelona.

Between 1904 and 1906, Gaudí designed and built Casa Battló for a wealthy man by the name of Josep Batlló. Battló lived in the bottom two floors with his family, and rented out the remaining floors, which were used as apartments. As you can tell by looking at the pictures, Gaudí used colors that can be found in nature, but more specifically, marine life.

The outside of the building is designed to look like it is made from skulls (which are the balconies) and bones (which are the supporting pillars for the building). The roof is designed to look like a dragon, and as you walk around the exterior and see the different angles of the house, you’ll notice different colored tiles on the roof. These are meant to represent the scales of the dragon’s spine.

As you walk inside the house, the shapes and colors of the rooms and features are constantly changing. There is something to be seen everywhere you turn. The railing for the staircase is meant to fit the palm of your hand, as are all the door knobs inside the house. The banister itself represents another spine of a large animal. With incredibly large ceilings, Gaudí shaped each skylight like the shell of a tortoise, and made sure that there is an even distribution of light throughout the entire house.

This can be noted in one of the pictures below where the tiles from the bottom floor going up start off as a light blue. As you continue walking upstairs, the tiles become increasingly darker. There is also a glass casing on each floor by the staircase that provides a special effect. So, when you look at the blue tiles through the glass, it seems as though you are underwater, and the different shades of blue really accentuate this. And as if the inside of the house wasn’t beautiful enough, the various views of the city that can be seen from the rooftop are also stunning.

Below, you’ll find a video provided by Casa Batlló that shows the house come to life, as Gaudí originally imagined. It is truly a spectacular piece of art, and besides being a historic and fascinating staple for Barcelona, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

http://vimeo.com/81086090

Day 5 In Costa Rica- Hanging Bridges and Zip-lining In Monteverde

This morning we woke up and enjoyed a delicious assortment of fruit, cheeses, eggs, and bread, all typical of Costa Rica. The food here, especially the fruit is so fresh that it makes you question the quality of what we eat back in the States. After we finished eating, we embarked on our morning tour which was the Selvatura Canopy Tour.

The Selvatura Canopy Tour is known for being one of the best ones in Costa Rica. The cables and platforms are built into the Cloud Forest, which really allows you to feel as though you are in the sky. With 15 cables and 18 viewing platforms stretching over two miles of cloud forest, Selvatura Park has the longest cable length in Costa Rica. The Costa Rican Cloud Forest is known for its incredibly diverse ecosystem. It is home to 120 species of reptiles and amphibians, 130 species of mammals, an astounding 500 species of birds, and more than 3,000 species of plants.

We began my viewing all of the “Hanging Bridges,” which have this name due to the fact that the bridges honestly feel as though they are hanging over the entire forest. From there, we zip-lined all throughout the Cloud Forest, which was scary to say the least, but definitely worth the experience. To be able to see the breathtaking views everywhere you look during this exhilarating adventure is truly an experience of a lifetime.

At the end of the tour, we came across a “Tarzan Swing” which is a small platform suspended above ground in which you have to jump off and swing out above the Cloud Forest. There was no way I was going to partake in the Tarzan Swing, but after hearing everyone who did it say how exciting it was, I figured I would give it a try. Here I was boasting about how incredible breakfast tasted, and I felt as though it was about to come back up! I hesitated before jumping off the platform but when I did, a rush of wind hit me in the face. I closed my eyes for a few brief seconds on the way down, but knew I had to open them again if I really wanted to enjoy this. I opened my eyes and saw the cloud forest in front of me as I swung towards it. It was truly invigorating, but I have to admit that I was overcome with gladness when my feet reached the ground upon landing.

The tour was followed up with a much calmer activity, as we entered the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve to visit the Gallery of Hummingbirds. Costa Rica is known for having 50 species of hummingbirds, many of which are known to nest around the Cloud Forest. It’s difficult to take pictures of them since they fly so quickly, but if look closely at the pictures below, you can see them eating at their feeding stations. We had to keep a watchful eye though because they had no problem flying right up to us, but there were so many of them flying up to us at once!