Central & Eastern Spain Trip: La Sagrada Familia (Barcelona)

Friday, July 31, 2015

Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

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.

Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia Cathedral Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia Cathedral
Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia Cathedral
Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia Cathedral
Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia Cathedral Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia Cathedral
Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia Cathedral
Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia Cathedral
Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia Cathedral
Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia Cathedral Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia Cathedral
Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia Cathedral
Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia Cathedral Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia Cathedral
Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia Cathedral Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia Cathedral
Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia Cathedral Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia Cathedral
Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia Cathedral

Central & Eastern Spain Trip: Barcelona

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Gaudi's La Pedrera (Casa Mila)

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.

Barceloneta Beach
Around Barceloneta
Barceloneta Beach
My dinner date Barcelona Columns
Around Las Ramblas
Placa Reial Gaudi's Lamppost at Placa Reial
Gaudi's Palau Güell
Gaudi's Palau Güell Barcelona Cathedral
Palau de la Musica Orfeo Catalana
Gaudi's Park Güell
Gaudi's Park Güell
Gaudi's Park Güell Benches
Gaudi's Park Güell
Gaudi's Park Güell
Gaudi's Park Güell
The Washerwoman Gaudi's La Pedrera (Casa Mila)
Gaudi's La Pedrera (Casa Mila)
Gaudi's La Pedrera (Casa Mila)
Gaudi's La Pedrera (Casa Mila) Gaudi's La Pedrera (Casa Mila)
Gaudi's La Pedrera (Casa Mila) Casa Batlo

Central & Eastern Spain Trip: Madrid

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Monument to Alfonso XII

Exactly one month after leaving for the Southern Spain Trip with my family, I flew back to Spain. This time the central region with significantly less traveling between towns. Also, I went by myself as it was a work related trip. For those long time readers out there, you'll recall this is something that happens when the occasion arises (whether it be the Greek Islands or Thailand or living in Japan). It's kind of nice to be able to turn what is essentially a long airplane trip for work, and add a few days on for fun as well.

I arrived in Madrid with two days to adjust to the jet lag prior to my conference. I started with the Sunday flea Market in El Rastro, and walked to the Reina Sofía Art Museum for their free hours in the afternoon. Having just arrived by plane, I knew I would be passing out shortly and could not appreciate the art to its full extent, so the brief free admission period was perfect. Like it was made for weary travelers missing a night of sleep. My roommate and I managed to get terribly lost on our way back to the hotel, and it wasn't until my book-guided walking tour the next day that I realized we had stumbled by all the top sights. The Royal Palace, Segovia Viaduct, Plaza Mayor, Plaza de Espana, and Gran Via were all in our neighborhood!

Just as before, the food was always amazing. In all of Spain, it really seems like you can't throw a rock without hitting a fantastic restaurant. Tapas. Paella. Sangria. All absolutely lovely. I sat in Plaza Mayor and drank sangria on three separate occasions, because that's just what you do. A lady could get used to this kind of lifestyle. A lifestyle that also includes eating family-style with friends/colleagues, an amazing array of amazing art museums, and 24-hour churros con chocolate.

My absolute favorite part of Madrid was the Parque del Buen Retiro. It was so lovely, I went there twice! I've also imbibed two pitchers of sangria while gazing at the Monument to Alfonso XII, with its lovely lake crowded with little rowboats full of rowdy teenagers. This park has everything. Beautiful neoclassical monuments, fountains with cherubs or fountains made of rocks, sculpted symmetric Italian gardens, pathways lined with marble figures, shady orchards, open forest areas, ponds, a Crystal Palace greenhouse, and swans. Every turn I took, I ended up in what should have been a completely different park, but it was all part of El Retiro. I'm jealous of people who live near it.

El Rastro Sunday Flea Market
Baby Head Statues
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum
We meet again!! Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum
Around Madrid Center
Jardines de Sabatini
Plaza Mayor
Museo de Jamon
Puerta del Sol
Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace
Around Park Buen Retiro
Sangria in the park Sangria at Plaza Mayor
UNED Conference
Chocolate y churros!
Tapas (and Spiderman) on Plaza Mayor
Train Views

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