Friday, November 1, 2013

Barcelona, Spain

The first time we ever visited Barcelona was when Carter was a baby. We took a trans-Atlantic cruise and one of the stops was Barcelona. It was a rainy day, and we spent much of the 8 or so hours we were there sitting on a bus, looking through dirty, rain-streaked windows while Carter dozed in our arms. Two years later, we had another cruise that ended in Barcelona, and so we decided to take advantage of the opportunity to explore the city. We ended up really loving it, and so it was a place I wanted to visit again on this trip.

We decided to stay in the same hotel we'd stayed at before, the Hilton Diagonal Mar. It's not in the center of the city by any stretch, but it's in a great location a few blocks from the beach and across the street from a shopping mall. The hotel's location was just as convenient as we remembered, though we didn't take advantage of it as much as we'd planned.

It rained the first day we were there, and so we ended up visiting Barcelona's fantastic aquarium.  

Carter really likes aquariums, perhaps because you can get so close to the fish. And of course, many sea creatures are really fascinating -- even downright weird.

Seriously, this fish? I don't know what it is or what it's called, but it looks like a large chunk of it is missing. 

The sharks are always exciting to see.

It took us two tries to visit Barcelona's epic work-in-progress basilica, Sagrada Familia. On the first day we went, the line for tickets was so long that we gave up and decided to buy them online and come back the next day. We then decided to go and find one of the big markets of Barcelona, La Boqueria. After a long taxi ride across the city, we discovered that it was closed - apparently it was a national holiday in Spain that day. Plan C was to head to the Hard Rock Cafe and have a late lunch (and add to my pin collection), and that finally worked out!

Despite having been dragged all over town for hours, Carter took it all in stride.

The next day we arrived at the Sagrada Familia with tickets in hand, and were finally able to go inside. It's a stunning building, unlike anything else in the world. Construction on it began in the 1880s under the direction and design of Antoni Gaudi. Only a fourth of it was complete at the time of his death in 1926, and it still isn't finished. The projected completion date is currently 2026.

It's amazing because it's a sort of modern reinterpretation of gothic architecture, with a Gaudi twist. The sculptures are distinctly modern on one side of the basilica, and classically-inspired on the other. The more modern sculptures tell the story of Jesus' trial and crucifixion.

The more classical-looking sculptures on the opposite side tell the story of Jesus' birth, with beautiful nativity scenes.

These huge doors are amazing.

The last time I was here, the interior was covered with scaffolding. So you can imagine my surprise to see all of it gone, with a clear view of the ceiling at last.

The stained glass is utterly vibrant.

Gaudi designed the columns to look like trees. He apparently wanted people in the church to feel connected to nature. The effect is very striking. 

The modernity of the basilica just fascinated me. After seeing so many churches, cathedrals, and even mosques all around the world, I have to say I've never seen one before this that embraces the modern world so completely. The basilica has seven small chapels, like every cathedral I've been in, except that these have flatscreen TV monitors in them.

--or this artfully presented prayer.

The pipe organ is massive.

I found these four glass medallions representing Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to be very impressive.

It's truly an impressive building. I look forward to seeing it completed one day!

We accidentally explored more of the city when a taxi driver dropped us off on the wrong side of town. 

We even happened upon Barcelona's Oktoberfest!

We finally made it to our intended destination, the Cosmo Caixa Science Museum. We'd read online that it was one of the best science museums in Europe, and that it was full of hands-on exhibits perfect for kids. We had a fantastic lunch in the museum's restaurant and then spent a few hours going through the exhibits.

It really is one of the best science museums I've ever seen!

There was a fantastic rainforest exhibit that had a huge aquarium you could walk through,

Since we were close to the beach, we also spent a morning there. It was lovely to be able to hang out in a beach cafe, drink cappuccino, and watch Carter play in the sand.

Unfortunately, we all three came down with colds during our time in Barcelona, and so we ended up not doing as much as we'd hoped to do. One thing that had been on my must-do list was to go out for tapas one night in the older part of the city, and alas, we just weren't up to it. One of the interesting things about traveling for a year is that you have to step back at times and give yourself a chance to catch your breath and get better, and sometimes that means sacrificing something you really wanted to do. It wasn't the first time, and it won't be the last.

We still had fun, of course! From Barcelona we flew to Bordeaux, France, which I'll cover in the next post.

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