Monday, June 11, 2012

Finally Barcelona

Gaudi Park.

  Of all the big cities in Europe, Barcelona was the one that had always managed to escape my travel itineraries. It wasn't on purpose however. So it was only a matter of time before I got there. After four flawless days on Sardegna, I was finally on my way to Barcelona.

  That Friday morning was the epitome of breakfast on the go. We had, at the last minute, decided that the best way to get our bearings in the city and see a few major sites, was to join a bike tour. But in order to make the bike tour, Linda and I needed to be in the city center by 10 am.

  We grabbed a few things at the market below our hotel, and made our way to the subway.

  Little did we know, however, that we needed to make a reservation for the bike tour. So when we got to the meeting point, there was no one from the tour company to be found! The bike tour was supposed to last for four hours, so we had planned for our morning and afternoon to be occupied riding bikes and learning the lay of the land in Barcelona.

Beautiful boat in the harbor.
  Guess we had to go with Plan B. Plan B that we didn't have! Talk about putting all your eggs in one basket.

  We had to adjust on the fly, and come up with something to do without really knowing where we were, or where we were going. So we started walking, to see what we would come across.

  We ended up at the Port (I guess we couldn't get enough of the beach, after all), and made our way through Barceloneta.

  There was a lot of action in Barceloneta. Hoards of guys working out on bars on the beach, roller-bladers, runners, fishermen, boats coming in and out of port, and of course, tourists. But we had just spent four days on the beaches of Sardegna, so it was time to see something different.

  Linda and I planned to go back before our time in Barcelona was up though. Because both of us needed one more relax day at the beach before our vacation was over.

  We decided La Sagrada Familia would be our first stop.

  We must have taken the wrong exit out of the subway, because when we set foot onto the street, there was nothing in sight that resembled anything as breathtaking as La Sagrada Familia was supposed to be.

  OR, we were just facing the wrong direction. After looking at our map, and trying to figure out which way we were supposed to go, Linda looked up behind us, and said 'whoa, what is THAT?'

  There was La Sagrada Familia!
La Sagrada Familia.

  You can call that our American tourist moment. Not knowing where we were, what we were supposed to be looking for, or what it even looked like.

  The temple was crawling with sight-seers and tourists. And with good reason. The cathedral, designed by Antoni Gaudi in the late 1800s and early 1900s, is incomparable to any other church I've ever seen. A very spectacular sight.

  La Sagrada Famlia actually, remains unfinished. It was less than a quarter complete when Gaudi died in 1926. Then, construction was interrupted during the Spanish Civil War. Now it's progressing slowly towards completion, and the year 2026 is the target date -- the centennial of Gaudi's death.

  Don't get mad, but we didn't go inside the church. Too many people, and too long of a line for my liking. But it certainly was amazing to see.

  After a quick bite to eat, our attempt at being tourists continued. So we walked, and walked, and walked. First to the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, and then on up the hill to Gaudi Park (Parc Güell).

Kids playing hoops in the Gràcia district. 
  Since there didn't seem to be a subway stop that was very close to the park's entrance, we decided to walk the entire way. About two miles (mostly up a steep hill) and an hour later, Linda and I finally arrived at the entrance of the famous park, sweaty, hot, and tired.

  Through our walk, we did get to see a different side to Barcelona. We were definitely off the beaten tourist path. It was where locals lived, and where kids were walking home from school. They probably wondered what we were doing walking through their streets. It was a long and tiring walk. Both Linda and I were hoping the park would be worth it.

  Gaudi Park was worth that long, tiring walk...and then some.

  What a spectacular place! Another design by Antoni Gaudi, the 42-acre park is made up of gardens, unique structures, fountains, and since it sits atop the hills of the Gràcia district, incredible views of Barcelona.

Gaudi Park.
  We walked through the grounds of Gaudi Park, though we hardly covered it all. It's the kind of place that you could go to every day for a month, and still see something new every time you visited. Something unique and beautiful at every turn.

  After exploring the park, Linda and I were in desperate need of a little rest before heading back out for some famous Spanish tapas. So we made our way back to our hotel in the Sant Martí district.

   For tapas that night, we took a friend's suggestion and went to Princessa 23 in Barri Gotic. While we were there a little earlier than the Spaniards usually eat dinner, the atmosphere was still fun, and the food was good.

  I tried salmon (smoked) for the very first time (and was surprised when I actually liked it). Of course, Linda and I tested out the sangria as well. One fun thing to note: though there is music playing, old cartoons are shown on the TVs throughout the restaurant.

  Though we were unprepared, day numero uno in Barcelona turned out to be a pretty good one, thanks to the brilliance of architect Gaudi! La Sagrada Familia and Gaudi Park can make any day a productive one as a tourist.

  Stay tuned for the rest of our trip to Barcelona! Enjoy more pictures from day one below!

Hanging at Barceloneta.
Linda at Barceloneta.
Me at La Sagrada Familia.
Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau.
Gaudi Park.
Barcelona from Gaudi Park.
Barcelona from Gaudi Park.
Me in Gaudi Park.
Barcelona from Gaudi Park.
Barcelona from Gaudi Park.

Looking the backside of Gaudi Park.
Looking into Gaudi Park, with Barcelona behind.
Gaudi Park.
Gaudi Park.
Gaudi Park.
Gaudi Park.
Gaudi Park.
Entrance of Gaudi Park.
No, I'm not in Paris.
Arc de Triomf.


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