Just blogging fresh from the Barcelona trip, which was short, but incredible! Although the city is gorgeous and very European, with all of the shopping you could possibly imagine, a ton of history (dating back to the 1st century), and rich culture, I was so happy to return to Alicante. We only spent a day and half due to the 7 hour bus trip, but I feel like we packed some very important things into it. Some background: they speak a different language in Barcelona, and Cataluna (the province where Barcelona is), called Catalan, which is literally impossible to understand. Spaniards outside of the province don't learn or speak it, and the second language there is English more so than Castellano (what we Americans think of as "Spanish"- what is spoken in the rest of Spain). Barcelona's culture is more Parisian, generally a bit colder than the South of Spain, very high fashion, more business/proper. They all are very well-dressed and you get a lot of everything there as far as fashion is concerned. Sort of like New York. Cataluna actually wanted independence from the rest of Spain for a while because they considered their region distinct from the country. I swear it seems like "Hola" in normal Spanish is "Holxcadla" in Catalan- a mix of French and Spanish with some German thrown in or something. Anyway, this was my weekend:
Friday- drive to Barcelona, we stopped at a vineyard/bodega (winery) called Codorniu on the way- a 20 generation family business that is one of the longest in European history. They make "cava" - chardonnays, roses, and champagnes there. We got a tour of the beautiful winery and got to go down to the cellars (1500 ft long) where the wines are actually fermented. They have levels for each place where the wines will go- ex. "Cava Londres" or "Cava Brussels"- for London and Brussels, and it was truly incredible. There were tunnels like Harry Potter winding through the levels and lots of side rooms where the older wines were kept. We got on the same train-type vehicles that they have in Disney World to show people around, with bench seats, 2 people each, and one driver...hopefully that paints a picture for everyone. Anyway, our precious 60 year old Spanish tour guide/driver drove us through all the levels of the cellars, weaving in and out of barriers like it was a roller coaster ride- very fun. We ended the tour tasting a rose and a chardonnay, which naturally everyone enjoyed.
|At the Bodega|
We also got to our 4-star hotel in Barcelona- which was very very nice. Hotel Cristal Palace was its name, and it was 2 people to a room which was extremely comfortable. Natalie and I opted to enjoy the comfort of the beds and slept for about 12 hours that night.
Saturday: incredible continental breakfast, followed by a tour of the city. There is so much history in Barcelona- we saw original columns built in 1080 or so by the Romans that have been preserved in the center of the city. You actually have to walk down about 15 feet or so to get to see them, because over the centuries dust and debris have raised the level of the city from what it used to be. We got a tour of a Jewish district that was bombed during the civil war, and a temple where you can see the areas that bombs carved out of the sides. Sadly, during the attacks, many children who sought refuge inside lost their lives. The architecture in Barcelona is largely influenced by Antonio Gaudi, an architect born in 1852 who lived until 1926, and designed 3 major big houses in the city as well as all of the streets, streetlights, and many other buildings. His architecture is very surreal, very odd, sort of like sand castles or coral that would be under the ocean. We get the English word "gaudy" from his name. He was a combination of a genius and lunatic, in my opinion. He designed his rooms so that the light would be reflected equally from bottom floors to top, by making an atrium area get narrower as you go up the levels, with windows getting gradually smaller and tiles gradually getting darker as they stretched toward the sunlight. Who thinks of that stuff, anyway? We also toured a park with incredible views of the entire city, homes and buildings designed by Gaudi amidst gardens and a central open area where small vendors sold trinkets and school kids played. His home is a mixture of something from Alice and Wonderland and Willy Wonka.
We also saw the only cathedral (official Catholic term) in Barcelona, called La Sau, which was built around 1600 and was decorated inside very ornately with gold and murals everywhere. Pictures hardly do it justice, mostly because everything is so OLD. The benches there are almost 200 years older than our country. It was a very surreal, quiet place in the middle of the city's busy areas. Apparently La Sagrada Familia (designed by Gaudi), is a Basilica, not a cathedral, and these have some differentiation that I don't understand.
Ended the night with a BBQ sandwich at Hard Rock Cafe.
|Some of Gaudi's architecture in his park|
|Note the graffiti: "idiot"|
|The cathedral from the outside|
|Barcelona central government building at night (or maybe a bank?)|
|Man attempting to be Cristiano Ronaldo|
|Detail of Gaudi's influence on city buildings|
|In the cathedral, there were alcoves on every side with gold statues and murals dedicated to every saint|
|The temple where you can see the bomb marks from the Civil War|
|This architecture is all over the city|
|Oldest Roman columns in the city|
|The name of the temple to Augustus from which the columns came|
|Gaudi's residence from 1906-1926, when he died|
|One of Gaudi's buildings in the park|
|Views of Barcelona|
|One of Gaudi's 3 residences in Barcelona|
|Real priest chanting something in Latin in the Cathedral|
|This big building is La Sagrada Familia|
|The cathedral in Barcelona|
Sunday: La Sagrada Familia- the Basilica designed completely by Gaudi that is breathtaking, overwhelming and ENORMOUS. Gaudi died in the midst of constructing it, but the Spanish government has mandated that the state continue construction exactly to his blueprints. The outside is the most ornately decorated thing I have ever seen, only pictures can describe it. And the inside is at least a football field large, incredible, obscure, and 2 floors (the bottom of which is used for actual services). The construction has continued since 1926 when Gaudi died, and I'm certain won't be finished in my lifetime. The church itself is in the shape of a cross, but Gaudi's plans are that at each entrance there will be four giant pillars- for a total of 16, with a huge pillar for Jesus in the middle and one for the Virgin Mary on the right side. The pillar for Jesus will have a cross atop it that reflects beams of natural sunlight outward, and at the church's entrance will be an archway covered in demonic figures, with torches all around. I would go to Barcelona solely to see this church. In some of the pictures that I have of the city of Barcelona from Gaudi's park, you can see the Sagrada Familia above all, despite the fact that the city is so dense. Hopefully some pictures will do justice to what I saw, but I doubt it. I took a video in hopes of capturing it better.
|This detail is all over La Sagrada Familia- everyone has faces.|
|Front doors- detail.|
|One of the four main entrances- this is where we entered.|
|Eventually every window will be stained glass|
|Above an altar in the center of the cross shape of the church's design|
|Gaudi designed these numbers so that they have a signification going up, down, right left, etc...|
|This detail is of the front doors- all the words are in different languages- some are gold. Que es la vertiat means "What is truth?"|
|Creepy demon character- the only statue without a face|
|Part of the ceiling|
|This level of detail is all around the outside of the church...and the state is copying every last inch of Gaudi's blueprint|
|Three wise men- at one of the entrances|
Barcelona is very very beautiful, full of history, and a place I am glad I went- although I have to say that I am so glad to be home. "Hogar" in Spanish, by the way, means "home".
Love you all-
P.D. (Spanish version of P.S.)- Here's a snapshot my friend just sent me of the "chicas de oro" night. Notice the jolly Spanish woman in leopard- that's my madre. My friend Allison is on the left, her madre is the small head above the white shirt in the center of the picture, Cati is the blond older woman in the center, and that lucky man is Cuban...but I don't know his name.