I’m way behind on my posts, so this one is over a month late. It’s been busy… On an extended trip to Europe, I had a weekend free and decided to head to Barcelona. I had almost two full days to explore a city that I really like. The weather was amazing, and I made the most of my time.
I had been in Toulouse for a week of meetings, then had a customer meeting in Nice on the Friday afternoon. As I was spending most of the following week in Toulouse as well, it meant that I had a weekend in Europe. As I looked at the flights back to Toulouse, it ended up being less expensive to fly to Barcelona versus BOrdeaux or even Toulouse - so I decided to spend the weekend in Barcelona. The hotels in Barcelona were a little cheaper too, so it was al all around win.
My flight arrived into Barcelona around 6ish, and by the time i sorted out the train into the city center and checked into my hotel, it was a little past 8:00. Which was fine - it was Spain after all, and still too early to go for dinner! So after getting settled, it was time to head out and go for a walk. It ended up being a theme for the weekend - a lot of walking - as Barcelona is a a very walkable city.
I initially headed down into the old city, and onto La Rambla, the central pedestrian street that runs over a kilometer through the heart of Barcelona. As it was Friday night, it was crazy busy. I tried unsuccessfully to find the place Justine and I had stayed at the last time we were here (in fairness it was about 8 years ago…), but generally enjoyed the walk. I made my way over to the old cathedral, then decided it was time to find something to eat. I eventually settled on an interesting tapas bar in the old part of the city. It wasn’t my first choice (that one was jammed full and it looked unlikely I would find a seat), bit it was pretty good. A pile of tapas and half a bottle of rose later, I was pretty happy.
After dinner, it was pushing midnight and I had been up since about 4:00 a.m.. So it was time for me to call it a night. Instead of a long walk home, I hopped in a taxi and headed back to the hotel. It was a good start to the weekend.
Saturday morning I allowed myself to sleep in a little bit, to let myself to catch up after a few weeks of travel. I had breakfast (a very nice buffet) in the hotel, then got myself organized to head out. My first stop was to be Park Guell, a place that Justine and I went to last time we were in Barcelona that I really liked. I got myself a weekend pass for the subway which worked out really well, and hopped on a train to the north end of the city.
The walk up to the park is considerable - a very steep hill - and it was already getting warm. Sadly, most of the park was under considerable renovation, so I decided to forgo paying to enter, and wandered about the free external part of the park. There was still lots to see. I’m sure I’m repeating myself, but the sights in Barcelona are often (and are always for me) about the work of Antoni Gaudí.
Gaudi was a Spanish architect known as the greatest exponent of Catalan Modernism. Gaudí's works have a highly individualized, one-of-a-kind style, most famously, his main work, the church of the Sagrada Família.
Gaudí's work was influenced by his passions in life: architecture, nature, and religion. He considered every detail of his creations and integrated into his architecture such crafts as ceramics, stained glass, wrought ironwork forging and carpentry. Under the influence of neo-Gothic art and Oriental techniques, Gaudí became part of the Modernista movement.
The Park Güell is a public park system composed of gardens and architectonic elements located on Carmel Hill, in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. With urbanization in mind, Eusebi Güell assigned the design of the park to Antoni Gaudí, a renowned architect. The park was built from 1900 to 1914 and was officially opened as a public park in 1926. In 1984, UNESCO declared the park a World Heritage Site under "Works of Antoni Gaudí".
The park was originally part of a commercially unsuccessful housing site. Güell and Gaudí conceived this park, situated within a natural park. They imagined an organized grouping of high-quality homes, decked out with all the latest technological advancements to ensure maximum comfort, finished off with an artistic touch.
Walking up to the park, I could tell that it was already very busy. I’m guessing that even if I had wanted to go inside, it was unlikely I could have got in. Sadly. most of Europe is getting to be this way. Still, it wasn’t too bad to wander, and find some quiet spots to take in the gardens.
One of the more notable elements in the Park are these amazing walkways and staircases that have been designed to mimic “natural” forms. They are themselves worth spending considerable time walking around and underneath, to see the sheer effort that went into designing and building the Park.
After a bit of wandering I went into the Gaudi House Museum, as it was something we didn’t do last time. The museum is a historic home museum that houses a collection of furniture and objects designed by Antoní Gaudí. It was his residence for almost 20 years, from 1906 till the end of 1925, and opened as a historic home museum on 28 September 1963.
It’s not a big museum - it maybe took 45 minutes to walk through and look at all the exhibits. Mostly it wa sa recreation of what it was like in Gaudi’s time, and had a collection of furniture that we had designed and had built for various projects. That was probably the most interesting part.
As I was leaving the museum, I noticed some of the cool little parrots flying about and building a nest in one of the palm trees near the entrance. I spent a while checking them out and got some good pictures.
At both Park Guell and Sagrada Familia these small green parrots were everywhere, squawking and flying about building their nests. I was lucky to note a number of the birds, and get some pretty good shots.
It was moving to early afternoon, so I jumped back on the subway and headed down to the beach. Barcelona has some great beaches right in the city, and it felt like a good way to spend the afternoon. I started by walking up the beach to have a look about, and see what was going on. There were huge numbers of people out (not a surprise for such a perfect day), and there was a little market set-up at one end.
Eventually I got hungry and stopped at one of the restaurants right on the beach and had paella! So good paired with a glass of rose, watching life go by on the beach. After lunch, I continued wandering and headed the other way along the beach. The beach volleyball was making me nostalgic for days past, but it was fun to sit and watch for a bit. Most of them weren’t very good…
Eventually I was wiped and because it was easy, took a bus back to the hotel. Along the way we passed the south end of the Rambla, and noted that they had a whole street party thing going on. That was a worth checking out at a later time. The evening was pretty low-key, with more time spent in the old part of the city, and more tapas for a late dinner!
Sunday I once again slept in. I had almost the full day, as my train to Toulouse was at 6:30 p.m.. But it did mean that I needed to check out if I was going to spend the day exploring. I had a leisurely breakfast, got myself organized, got checked out and dropped my bags with the hotel. My plan was to spend some time over at Sagrada Familia, but my late start was going to make that difficult.
Sagrada Familia, or more formally Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família (Expiatory Church of the Holy Family) might be my favorite building on the planet. And yes, I know it’s a Catholic church… Still, how can you not appreciate the vision and the attention to detail that has gone into building such a place.
For the background, Sagrada Familia is a large unfinished Roman Catholic church, proclaimed it a minor basilica in 2010. In 1882, construction of Sagrada Família began under architect Francisco de Paula del Villar. Gaudi took over in 1883, when Villar resigned. Gaudi transformed the project with his architectural and engineering style, combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms. Gaudí devoted the remainder of his life to the project, and he is buried in the crypt. At the time of his death in 1926, less than a quarter of the project was complete. Sagrada Familia's construction progressed slowly and was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War. Construction resumed to intermittent progress in the 1950s, and passed the midpoint in 2010. Some of the project's greatest challenges remain, including the construction of ten more spires, each symbolising an important Biblical figure in the New Testament. It is anticipated that the building can be completed by 2026, the centenary of Gaudí's death.
Last time, Justine and I managed to get inside (which is even more spectacular than the outside), but this time, as I didn’t plan in advance I had to be satisfied with a wander about the outside. In slightly less than a decade, the amount of change and building on the cathedral has been impressive.
I spent a good hour walking around, checking it out from different angles. It’s just spectacular, and the more you look at it, the more you see. I just can’t wrap my head around the amount of work, then level of detail and the dedication that’s gone into it over 100+ years.
After exhausting my ability to deal with crowds, I went for a walk, with the intent to see some more of the sights and just enjoy a relaxed summer day in Barcelona. It was a bit overcast, so not perfect, but it was still very nice.
After finishing my walk at the end of La Rambla, it was time to head back to the hotel and get myself organized - I couldn’t risk missing my train! I ended up being a bit early, so I went for a short walk around the neighborhood of the hotel. I ended up finding a little restaurant and order more paella, as a perfect way to wrap up my weekend.
From there it was a short 15 minute walk to the train station. I was in good time, and after getting through security, found my comfy 1st class seat and got ready for the trip home. The train is such a great way to travel, particularly in Europe. Fast, reliable and comfortable. The train from Barcelona to Toulouse goes up the coast them makes a hard left turn to head inland. The scenery was amazing (I saw a flock of flamingos at one point!), and despite my intentions to do work, I didn’t do much but relax and watch the scenery go by.