As professional as ever, we stuck a couple of meetings in our diaries and snuck out of work early, airport bound. Once through security we settled down for some food and more importantly Cava! This was soon followed by Easyjets finest (worst) warm sparkling wine on the plane.
Of course we were delayed. Of course. We landed at exactly midnight, precisely as the last train and bus departed without us. Standing in the dark outside the airport we attempted broken Spanish to airport staff – or at least my friend did, any language other than English (and even that sometimes) still beyond my grasp. Getting onto 1am we found ourselves bundled in a minibus taxi with a Spanish family we’d somehow befriended, all of us unable to communicate and driving for an hour into the heart of Barcelona.
The next day saw us head straight to the beach. Our poor English skin desperate for some European sun. The beach was crowded; with people practically sun bathing on top of each other. To add to this, with the exception of my friend and I, it was nothing but boobs! Big ones, small ones, old droopy ones, pierced, tattooed, every kind, just so many boobs! I didn’t know where to look; the British prudishness is hard to shake sometimes!
We didn’t last long on the beach, both of us melting and feeling a little inadequate to the Spanish models patrolling up and down the sand, plus we had things to see.
Sagrada Família is a large Roman Catholic cathedral designed by Anton Gaudí’s at the end of the 19th Century and still under construction today. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site and the most beautiful cathedral I have ever been in. A wonderful combination of Gothic design, Art Nouveau, Art Deco and modern concepts and engineering. The cathedral’s construction was incredibly slow because it relied on private donations and was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War. It is not due for completion until 2026, over a hundred years since Gaudí’s death.
The outside is covered in the most intricate façade of various religious scenes; usually the church façades I’ve seen are Renaissance’s or medieval in style but these had angles and sharp edges echoing it’s turn of the century roots. The magic really happens when you walk through the door. It’s like walking into a prism; giant stained glass windows, refreshingly not depicting religious scenes but instead simply full of colour and light, cover everyone in a rainbow.
For all the intricacies of the outside, the inside is nothing but space and light. The columns rise out of it’s belly like trees; it’s branches knitting together to hold up the roof. It feels like the building has grown from nature not built by man.
What I found especially wonderful was that all are welcome, every religion stared in wonder at the light dancing around them, marvelled at the carved skill of the ceiling, took a deep breath and let every thing out. That’s my favourite thing about religious buildings, I might not follow the religion or agree with some of the teachings but I have never been to a religious location and not found it to be a sanctuary of peacefulness.
Sometimes people just need somewhere to go to think, whether that’s a church or a mosque, a library or the local park. It felt like the Sagrada Família was aware of this –
‘Whatever your beliefs we encourage you to join in meditation. Put down your headphones and take a moment to get away from the hassle of life. If you are a believer remember the purpose of this church is to encourage prayer. ‘
We returned to the hotel, dehydrated and exhausted. After a quick rest we got ready to leave and then something found it’s way into my eye. After at least an hour of me prodding it and watching as all my make-up slipped down my face; followed by me making repeated jokes of various landmarks having fallen into my eye – which I found incredibly amusing, my hungry friend who’d been waiting two hours for me, less so; we finally headed out.
Once my eye and jokes had dried up we headed to Las Rambla – a central boulevard which cuts through the heart of the city, a lively promenade filled with street entertainment, cafes, restaurants and bars – so basically a massive tourist trap. We wondered up and down searching for somewhere to eat, finally managing to find the worst restaurant in town. This downfall was rectified with some swiftly drunk cocktails and then one or two beers. Thing’s didn’t get too messy but I’m pretty sure I was lunging in the street and spinning on the subway train pole before we finally got home.
The following day we made our way to Park Güell (Gaudí park). In the baking heat we climbed a steep hill before coming across an outdoor escalator. My friend smartly took the escalator but I felt the need to prove my healthiness and climbed the stairs. This was a mistake. A big fat mistake. A big fat sweating, dripping, gasping, downing the water mistake. We then stood in the queue whilst I dripped and watched as the police chased a pick pocketer down the cliff face.
Gaudí park, also a UNESCO world heritage site is a architecture garden from Gaudí’s naturalist phase, focusing on organic shapes found in nature. Apparently there is lots of fascinating things about the park such as its geometry, Catalonian style, symbolism, political and religious messaging, mythology, iconography, history and philosophy however I learnt none of those things and just wondered around a nice park for the day; I suggest you head over to Wikipedia if you’d like to know more on any of that. For me the park consisted of wiggly paths, amazing views over Barcelona and unusual structures in Gaudí’s style.
We found yet another terrible restaurant for lunch, I melted some more and finally we dragged our suitcases to the train ready to fly back home in time for Monday morning work.