I've heard many people say that they love Barcelona. While it was a fun city with some interesting sites, I can't say that it was one of my favorites. It lacks many spectacular must-sees (exception: La Sagrada Familia), it feels like a very modern city and its food is less than impressive. (Side note: I was so excited to speak some limited Spanish after my many years of the language, only to realize that Catalan is more prevalent...it's a weird mix of French and Spanish and all the signs are in both languages.) On the flip side, it does have a wonderful public train system, some funky buildings unlike any others in Europe and a nice mix of beach and city.
|Spain in January? Works for me!|
Due to the flight schedule, we had a quick trip to Barcelona, but we made the most of it.
On day one, we hit the Ramblas and rambled down the famous street lined with vendors and shops. I wouldn't quite compare this grand boulevard to the Champs de Elysee or the Unter den Linden, but it did have some interesting human statues and a great market selling some of the nastiest animal parts that I've ever seen. I may have even been hit with some fish guts as one vendor hacked his catch as we passed by.
|Fascinating Market off Las Ramblas with some crazy meats!|
We toured the older section of town and stopped by the Cathedral. Luckily, we were there when the Cathedral did not charge an entry fee. I still can't figure out who would pay to go in- the church is under massive construction and it looks like most of the art has been removed.
|While pretty from the outside, there's not much art inside|
We jammed as much as we could into day two. The day began with a walk down the Passeig de Gracia to the famous modernista sites of Antoni Gaudi.
I was much more impressed with Casa Batllo than Casa Mila, although both were interesting sites.
From there, we hiked over to La Sagrada Familia. While the church is certainly a tourist attraction, it is captivating and every angle offers a new and different perspective. A nice American from Phoenix even offered to take our picture.
|Tough angle for our tripod- thanks American Man!|
|Close-up of some of the detail on the church|
Next, we headed to Park Guell- a former gated community for the wealthy designed by Gaudi. It's a fascinating place and completely free. We spent a good deal of time walking the ground, admiring the views and even trying out the ergonomically designed park benches. I highly recommend this site to anyone traveling to Barcelona- it's worth the slight adventure to get there (it's a little out the way).
|Views of the park and city|
|Flowers in January!|
|Entrance to Park Guell|
We made a compromise on the next two sites- I agreed to go to the aquarium in exchange for a trip to Montjuic, the site of the 1992 Summer Olympics. The exchange worked wonderfully.
Here I am outside the Olympic Stadium where I remember watching the opening games on television. I still have the Dream Team poster I bought at a school book fair in its plastic wrapping. (Could it be worth something now?)
|My Olympic Dream|
We ended the day walking around the grounds of the Catalan Art Museum (Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya).
|Sadly, the magic fountains were off in the winter.|
Barcelona ended up being a brief introduction to Spain, but I'd love to come back (not between June-October) to experience more of the country.