Monday, January 30, 2012

Barcelona . . . or Barthelona

       Taylor had a 4 day weekend a few weekends ago (yes, I am behind) and I found some cheap plane tickets to Barcelona, so off we went! We drove to one of Venice's airports and flew the hour and a half to Barcelona on Saturday morning. Barcelona is in the northeast corner of Spain and is the capital of the Catalunya region. 

        The region of Catalunya has its own language, history, and culture. It is not the land of the bullfighters and flamenco that I envisioned when I thought of Spain. They are very serious about their culture. This was written on the side walk and supposedly a common saying in the area.

Right after we stepped off of the plane into the airport we heard some guy say, "Hasta la vista." We both looked at each other, smiled, and said, "ahhhhh, it almost like home." We were so excited to go to a country so we could use the Spanish that we…sort of…know. We would still answer and say things in Italian all the time though. I didn't realize this until we came here, but they all speak like they have lisps! Their ssss sound is a th. That is why the title is Barthelona. It sounded so different! 


I decided to start this post off with what really matters…FOOD!!! :)
Tapas bars are very common here. The best way to describe tapas is that they are basically just fancy hors d'oeuvres. Most the time people stand or sit on bar stools and just choose what they want to eat. 

This was our first experience with tapas. We weren't exactly sure what we were ordering, but we ended up with a mini hot dog, hamburger, flautas, and fries. We definitely had to get an afternoon snack before dinner after this tiny lunch.

One night we ate at (the best) restaurant called La Rita. I had grilled chicken with cheese sauce and apples. It sounds like a weird combination, but the flavors went really well together. 

But, the best part of this restaruant experience was Taylor's hamburger. When he ordered a hamburger, I thought to myself, that is not food of this region! Oh. My. Gosh.  I'm so glad that he did order it because it was the best hamburger of my life! Seriously. It had only one side of the bun and then caramelized onions on top. The flavors of the meat and cheese and onions were just heaven in my mouth. It was all I could do to not return to this place the next night and order the hamburger!

And for dessert…almond ice cream with a creme brulee sauce on top and chocolate syrup... of course. Yummers.

The last night we ate at this restaurant and ordered the Seafood Paella, which is a Spanish rice dish. Every restaurant that we had been to had this on the menu, but it was about 10-15 € per person, and it took a minimum of 30 minutes to make. We figured we need to experience this mysterious rice dish. These are just half orders that we split. They were both really good. 

Yes, those are snails. I did try one, but they were not my favorite. You had to pull them out of the shells with this little toothpick hook thing…no thank you. 

Taylor really enjoyed the San Miguel beer.

Now for all of the sites…


Rambla means "stream" in Arabic and this street used to be a drainage ditch along the medieval walls. The Ramblas is now a pedestrian only street and there are always tons of people on it no matter what time of day. 

Plaçe de Catalunya- This is Barcelona's large central square that is at just north of The Ramblas.

They were tearing a stage or something down from the night before.

This is El Corte Inglés. It is a department store that has everything from haircuts, picture developing, bonsai trees (yes we actually saw them), a huge grocery store,  a travel agency, and much more. It is humongous and puts Walmart to shame.

This is the Fountain of Canaletes. Legend says that if you drink from it you will return to Barcelona some day. If it is true, then Taylor will be returning by himself because I did not drink the water.

Along the Ramblas there was a little pet store kiosk! They sold birds, bunnies, turtles, and other little pets. At night they fold the kiosk up and you can hear the birds chirping. 

A little off the road they uncovered these old Roman ruins. These were tombs that supposedly lined a rode in Barcino, which is what the town was named when Rome had control. 

Bon Nadal is Merry Christmas in Catalunyan. Unfortunately they were not turning the lights on anymore.

This church was the only Baroque style building in the city.

This particular flower shop on the street sold stems of cotton bolls. 

Dried bouquets of cotton bolls.

And even cotton boll flower arrangements! Weirdest thing ever. I might have expected to see this in West Texas, but definitely not here! It made me think of my childhood because when we lived in Slaton, our house was surrounded by cotton fields.  We used to play in them all the time.

This is La Boquería which is a fun market off of the Ramblas. 

They had the usual...





And something new we have never seen…animals with their fur and skin still on. Here is Taylor picking out his rabbit. I guess they skin them for you??

I, on the other hand, chose a fresh fruit smoothie. No blood, guts, or skin.

This little square was unique in that there were tons of palm trees inside of it and these lamp posts that were made by Gaudí. Gaudí is a famous artist from Barcelona.

The Columbus Monument marks the city where Ferdinand and Isabel welcomed Columbus home after his first trip to America. 

Here is Taylor riding one of the lions in front of the monument. I should have taken pictures of his "graceful" climb up there! :)

Barcelona's harbor.


Barcelona's Gothic Quarter is just east of the Ramblas. The main site here was the Cathedral.

Catedral de Barcelona

The original cathedral was built in the 14th century, but what you see today was redone in the 19th century in the ornate Neo-Gothic style. 

Below the altar is the tomb of Eulàlia. She was 13 years old when she was tortured 13 times by Romans for her faith.

The Cathedral had a Cloister, which was full of more chapels, just off of the main church. Wealthy merchants thought their financial generosity would win them favor with God and so they built chapels and were buried here close to the altar. 

There are always 13 geese in the courtyard in memory of the patron saint Eulàlia.  They act as the alarm system for the church. Any commotion would get them quacking and then alert the monk. 

So every Sunday at noon and supposedly every Sat. at 6:00 pm the locals spontaneously appear in front of the Cathedral and do the Patriotic Sardana dances. The dancers hold hands and raise their arms as they hop and sway gracefully to the music. It is a symbolic and patriotic dance they do to inspire Catalan unity. I made sure that we were there before 6 on Saturday, but no one showed up to dance. :( I kept waiting for the random people that were walking around to just bust out in dance like a flash dance, but it never happened. :( This is my sad/I really wanted to see the Sardana dances face.

I found a clip of the dance on YouTube, so you can see what we missed. And you know I would have totally made Taylor get out there and dance with me! He would have loved it! :)

This is Plaça Sant Felip Neri. This little church was attended by Gaudí (which I'll talk about more later) back in the day. The large pock marks are from bombs during the Civil War. They were meant for the nearby Catalan government building. 

This is the top of the ceiling of Church of Santa Maria del Mar. During the Spanish Civil War the church sided with Franco against the people. In retaliation the working class took their anger out on the church by burning all of its wood furnishings and decor. Today you can still see where the carbon blackens the ceiling.

Just outside the church is a square where Catalan patriots were buried in a mass grave after being massacred by the Bourbon King. The eternal flame burns in memory of this event that happened over 300 years ago. 

Palau de la Generalitat: This place has been the home of the Catalan government for over 600 years.

The Eixample is a neighborhood in Barcelona where you can find a lot of Modernista art. Modernisme was an art movement in this area at the end of the 19th century. Antoni Gaudí was one of Barcelona's most famous Modernista artists. His style is extremely unique. Luckily I have pictures to show you and don't have to attempt to describe it because it would basically be impossible! 

This is Palau Güell which is one of Gaudí 's first innovative buildings. The parabolic doorway was just a hint of his emerging non-rectangular style. 

This is Casa Battló which is another one of Gaudí 's works.

Next door is Casa Amatller which was done by Josep Puig i Cadafalch.

This is Gaudí's most famous works…Sagrada Familia or the Holy Family Church. He worked on this church from 1883 until he died in 1926 and they are still working on it to this day. The half finished church is not expected to be finished in the next quarter century. 

When Taylor and I saw the church, our first reaction was, "oh wow." It is the most unique church ever. I know I said that about St. Mark's in Venice, but this beats it!

I would apologize for all the cranes in the picture, but since they have been working on this church from 1883 I bet every tourist's pictures have some kind of construction equipment in the background.

This the the front entrance to the church. The facade is full of symbolism from the Bible. Jesus' head is actually on open book…the word of God.

The grid of numbers adds up to 33 which was Jesus' age when he died. 

This is a replica of Gaudí 's desk the way it looked on the day that he died. 

Right beside the church Gaudí put up a school for the children of the workers that were building the church.

This is a picture of what it looked like back then.

It had to be rebuilt due to a fire, so this is a replica of the old classroom.

This hanging model shows how Gaudí used gravity to calculate the perfect parabolas incorporated into the church's design.

This shows which portion of the church was built in specific years. 

The picture shows the two sides of the church. The tan colored part is construction that has been completed and the cream color is pending construction.  

Here are some pictures from inside the church. 

He based a lot of his design on nature. Does this kind of remind you of a rain forest??

Gaudí was a man of God and when he undertook a lengthy project he said, "My client (meaning God) is in no hurry." Another reason it is taking so long is that it is all privately funded. So basically the cost to get in and other donations is the only thing paying for this church.  

This is Barcelona's Modernista style hospital.

Our last Gaudí stop was Parc Güell.  This park was supposed to be a 60 residence housing project, the idea flopped, and now it is a 30 acre park.

The entrance to the park is set between two ginger bread looking houses.

Famous ceramic dragon…people were all about taking pictures with this thing!

This is the Hall of 100 columns which was originally designed to hold a produce market for the neighborhood. 

This is suppose to resemble a surfer's perfect tube or wave. Of course, Taylor had to climb it. Do boys ever stop climbing things??

And I surfed. Which is what you are supposed to do in a surfer's perfect wave of course.

There was a large terrace at the top with colorful mosaic benches and a great view of Barcelona in the background.

Although it took me awhile to find it, there was an actual playground in this 30 acre park. Some kids were having a birthday party like we would do in a normal park back home.

This was Gaudí 's home for 20 years until his father died. Now it is a little museum.


Montjuïc, or the Mount of Jews, overlooks Barcelona's port. 

This was the sight of the 1992 Summer Olympics. It was a little sentimental because this was the first Olympics that Taylor remembers watching as a kid. I don't remember the first year I watched the Olympics, but I do remember watching ice skating with my Grandmother long before 1992. I still remember my favorite ice skater was Katarina Witt because she skated to Michael Jackson's "Bad" in the 1988 Olympics. (I actually found the video on YouTube of her skating if you are interested in seeing…it's below Taylor's pic.)

The Castle of Montjuïc was built in the 18th century by the central Spanish government to keep an eye on Barcelona and end any citizen revolt. When Franco was in power it was the sight of hundreds of political executions. You can either hike up to the castle or take a funicular (which is what they call gondolas over here.) We are cheap and didn't want to spend 18€ on a gondola ride so we hiked. Thanks to Taylor's great climbing skills we found a short cut! 

The views from the top were the best!

Here is Taylor figuring out how to shoot this big cannon.


On the second day we took a train to Montserrat which is just northwest of Barcelona. It has a really cool monastery that sits on the mountain top. This has been the most important Catalan pilgrimage site for 1,000 years. And of course they were doing construction work/ruining my pictures. 

The monks planted the 4 trees just below their cloister. Each tree has a symbol…the palm for martyrdom, cypress for eternal life, olive for peace, and laurel for victory. 

Is this sign flipping the bird or telling us to be quite when getting candles to light inside the church? We weren't sure.

The inside of the church was just amazing. It was Sunday morning so they were having a service. There were tons of people there! We had to stand in the back.

The top attraction is La Moreneta, which is a small wood statue of the Black Virgin. Legend says that she was carved by the apostle Luke, brought to Spain by Peter, hidden in a cave during the Moorish invasion, and then discovered by shepherd children. You can't see it in the picture, but above the altar the Virgin sits holding a royal orb. You have to climb a flight of stairs and wait in line on the side of the church to pass by her and touch her orb. I would have taken a picture of Taylor and I touching the orb, but I didn't want to offend the ever-so-serious orb touchers in line behind us. 

The monastery has a Choir School which is made up of 50 boys, ages 9-14, who live and study in the monastery. They perform 6 days a week for about 10 minutes. Here is a small clip of their performance. It was really cool.

There is a lot of hiking to do around this area. We were not exactly wearing hiking clothes, but we did do a walking trail. 

We hiked to Santa Cova, or the Sacred Cave, where the Moreneta was originally discovered. I wouldn't call this a cave. It was more like a small chapel with a hole cut out in the wall so you could see the rock face. 

Later that day we returned to Barcelona and went to the Pablo Picasso museum. I have no pictures, because they were not allowed. Picasso spent ages 14-21 in Barcelona. His personal secretary collected a lot of his work and donated them to the city. Picasso continued to add to this collection throughout his life. The museum was mostly his early work before he got into the cubist-style he is known for. I'm not going to pretend to appreciate or understand the style that he is famous for, but it was interesting to see his old work. It looked just a like a normal ole painter's collection.


The next day our flight took off in the late afternoon, so we woke up early and went and walked around the beach area. The little village right on the harbor is called Barceloneta.

There were some amazing sand sculptures. It is kind of hard to tell, but this is Homer Simpson. He is lying on his back.

Of course Taylor found something to climb. 

Overall, we really liked Barcelona.  I definitely want to go back to Spain and visit Madrid some day. We will see. :)

A little extra-

I've seen lots of people trying to make money on the streets by dressing up as a Egyptian mummy or the Statue of Liberty, or some other character, but this guy was the most creative of them all.

The best street entertainment we saw was these 4 guys who did a mix a break dancing and gymnastics. They were so good! I took several videos. 

Steves, Rick. (2010). Snapshot Barcelona. Berkeley, CA: Avalon Travel.