29.06.2012 - 01.07.2012 30 °C
The anticipation of our trip had us barely sleeping the night before. We Checked and re-checked our luggage, even though we knew we were set. We skipped out a bit early from work on Friday, and finally were getting away from the rain and on with our European vacation. We said our goodbye’s to our lovely chauffeur, Eric, and proceeded to the check-in counter. Joking about whose bag weighs more (mine!), we casually handed over our passports, feeling as if all our worries could now disappear. Of course, this is just when the troubles began. The attendant handed back Andrew’s passport and asked if he had another one because, “it’s expired, you need a new one.” Meanwhile, we were only an hour away from our flight and the dread took hold as we realized that we might not make it to Barcelona after all. Calling Eric in a panic to turn around and come back for us, I confess to a few tears being shed. After the initial shock passed, we realized that this could mean two wasted tickets, so I ended up taking the flight alone, leaving a devastated Andrew behind. Andrew rushed down to the passport office in hopes of getting an emergency passport in time to meet me at some later point in the trip; I confess that I had little faith this would happen and sulked the entire way. My flights were uneventful and pleasant enough, getting the window seat all the way from Victoria to Vancouver and continuing to London where I had a five-hour lay-over. On a hard plastic chair, worn out from the day’s events, I tucked my backpack under my head and took a nap in the London Airport as I waited for my flight to be announced. Suddenly, I felt a hand on my shoulder and, startled, I sat up to see Andrew smiling down at me. He managed to get a passport within an hour (for a hefty price of course), and was only 2.5 hours behind, giving him just enough time to catch up and join me for the last leg of the trip. Disaster averted and with tired smiles, we made our connection to Barcelona, showing up near 11pm at our hotel.
Initially when planning out trip, Barcelona was simply a detour to change flights on our way to Ibiza; however, when we realized that there may be time to explore the large city, we decided to book our connector flight for the following day and give time for some quick sight-seeing in the beautiful city.
Dropping off our bags in the room, we wandered for a couple of blocks and found ourselves standing under Sagrada Familia –the most famous of Gaudi buildings –all lit up with a full moon beaming above. Continuing on, we found little tree-lined streets full of people eating dinner close to midnight, and pizza shops fervently making pizzas. Following some good advice from my sister, we found the metro and, buying ten passes, we quickly figured out the intricate maze of lines that crisscross everywhere under the city. The scale of this transportation system was in itself a marvel. With the routes running exactly on time and within 5 minutes of the last tram, we set off to see La Rambla –the main tourist street in Barcelona. The street was overcrowded with tourists and locals alike, strolling along the promenade and showing off in their attire. Women wear their high heels and mini-skirts regardless of the time of day or weather, and men are always fashionably dressed (and compared to our standards, over-dressed) in their tightly fitted pants, deck shoes, and low-cut V-neck T-shirts. Little flower stands lined the street, amidst tantalizing smells of freshly made waffle cones and home-made ice-cream. Peddlers were mixed in the crowd, selling little trinkets as a rouse and whispering offers for any illegal substance you could imagine. We finally called it a day after countless hours of travel and our watches saying 2am, heading back on the metro for our hotel.
Waking up the following day later than initially planned, but with a much needed rest, we hurried out to see all we could in the seven hours we had before needing to return to the airport. Retracing our steps, we went back to the incredible Sagrada Familia with the hopes of seeing it from the inside, but were met with a line wrapping around the building and knew that if we waited for this queue we would see nothing else. While unfortunate, we made the most of it by walking around the incredible feat of architecture multiple times and took countless pictures.
The construction of Sagrada Familia began in 1882 and is still not completed. Gaudi’s architecture is a blend of Gothic and Art Nouveau, clearly visible in the towering spires and elaborate details. Each spire represents an Apostle, an Evangelist and the Virgin Mary (18 are to be constructed by completion). There are three façades: Nativity, which faces East, Passion facing West, and the Glory façade, which is still to be constructed, will be facing South. Gaudi worked on this famed church until his death in 1926, at which time only a quarter of the building was finished. With the Spanish Civil War and a lack of donations, the construction ceased until 1950, from which time it has been under constant construction. In 2010 building was deemed to be at its mid-way point, with a hopeful completion date of 2026 –the centennial of Gaudi`s death.
Heading back to La Rambla the rain began to pour (I think this is Karma for me bragging about our sunny vacation), but un-deterred, we wandered to the Gothic District and saw old buildings converted into expensive shop fronts, and were able to go into one of the churches and witness a mass in progress. We continued down to the pier, saw the large monument in the central round-a-bout, and then headed back to the metro. One main stop on our list of “must-sees” was the Park Guell –an incredible and famous park, built between 1900-1914, by Gaudi. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is more than deserving of this title. A park open to the public, without fees or lines, the pathways wind you through the gardens and amazing Gaudi artistry. Long columns look as if they were dug from the dirt and support a grand terrace above. They reminded me of the stalactites and stalagmites we’ve seen diving. Even the railings were created out of an intricate pattern of rock work that neither of us could fathom the process and time it took to build. The large terrace is a popular gathering place and is surrounded by a long wave-like bench, covered in irregular ceramic pieces, meant to represent a sea serpent. Climbing up even higher, amidst beautiful blue and white flowers and masterfully made columns and balconies, there is a breathtaking viewpoint that overlooks the entire city of Barcelona below.
In reading this, it may not seem like we covered a lot of ground in this quick tour of the city, but we saw enough to know that we need to come back one day and take in all that Barcelona has to offer. It is full of art, architecture, music and food, and is one of the cleaner large cities we have visited in our travels.
Rushing back to the hotel to pick up our bags and running in the rain to the metro, we realized that we weren’t quite sure how to get to the airport. With my broken Spanish, gesturing, and repeatedly questioning strangers in the metro, we found our two connections and finally the train that dropped us off at the airport. Pleased that not only had we figured it out, but also had made it just in time, we went to check-in and get started on our time in Ibiza. Unfortunately, due to the rain and our plane was delayed for three hours. We spent our time in front of the T.V. with a crowd of people watching the final match of the Euro Cup. You can imagine the excitement when Spain won 4-0. Neither Andrew nor I are big soccer (football) fans, but it was fun to watch the cheers of encouragement and later the flags waving from buildings, shops and car windows.
Good-bye Barcelona, we will be back!
It's time for some dancing in Ibiza -where the sun always shines!
Love to all…
ps. We have been having troubles getting WiFi, so while blogs are written and pictures await, they are a tad behind but are on their way.