Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia gets its own post. Because. It's magical. It's also under construction and set to be completed "this century", as a sign informed me. How's that for church-building timescales?!
I really loved how the Nativity facade of the building was [nearly] traditional sculpture, with the Passion facade fully seated in art nouveau sculpture. It was a really lovely effect, almost like visiting two cathedrals in one. Two cathedrals that both happen to be topped off with Gaudi's signature trencadis spires.
But what was truly magic was the interior of the church. Despite the crowds and construction noises, between the facades there's a beautiful sculptural forest holding up the roof. The stained glass art work is abstract but in concentrations of color washing the church over with reds and blues, separately. I could have spent hours just sitting and looking...and I did. The only real downside to La Sagrada Familia is that you must purchase a timed ticket in advance, and also a separate timed ticket to ascend one of the towers. It's a little bit like being at work, where you must keep to a tight meetings schedule. But once you arrive at the appropriate time, you're free to consume as much of the sights for as long as you'd like.
After a week in Madrid, it was time to move onto my wonderfully-located, insanely overheated AirBnB in Barcelona. Barcelona, where I pretty much just spent each of my four days split between walking around in the morning (either the Gothic section or a Gaudi building) and at the Barceloneta beach in the evenings before dinner. This city is sprinkled with amazing art nouveau architecture from Gaudi, among others. I saw Gaudi's lampposts in Placa Reial, Palau Güell, Park Güell, La Pedrera, Casa Batlo, and La Sagrada Familia. I could've spent a few more days just staring at the parabolic curves, crazy ironwork, and trencadís mosaics made from broken tiles we saw in Alhambra in Granada. It was really incredibly fascinating.
By this point in my journey, I had done so much walking that my blisters had blisters, so it was nice to be able to return home and go to the beach until my room cooled off a bit. This was followed as always, with the standard 8pm dinner which is considered quite early in Spain. I really loved Barcelona, and there was a lot more that I wanted to see, but just didn't either due to time or due to my feet just not being able to take another step. Either way, I consumed my body weight in ice cream, so that's all that really matters.
I'm a firm believer of the travel policy of not leaving the country you're in. For instance, having two 11 day trips in Spain might seem silly, when you could easily go to Portugal, but there's just so much to see in any one country, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to leave. This is what I did when I studied abroad in Turkey, co-oped in Scotland, or interned in Japan and Spain is no exception. If I had months in Spain, it would've been fantastic to dig into all the smaller, lesser-seen Catalonian towns. Or even, say, to get to Malaga, Picasso's hometown on the coast.