Friday, April 15, 2016

Beautiful Barcelona: Part Two

Hi All,

To pick up where I left off in Barcelona: Part 1, after exploring the dream-like interior of La Pedrera, we decided to retire to the shade of an outdoor cafe for warm refreshments in the form of both drink and eats before walking the few blocks to check out Casa Batllos outer facade.

We enjoyed small sandwiches of vegetables and manchego cheese (which shockingly, I had never tried before, but is super delicious), as well as heartwarming green teas.  We had a lot of fun people watching during this time, watching the hoards of varying humans stroll up the street past us in varying degrees of fashion.  Lots of laughter floated between us as we pointed our own numerous opinions on outfit "dos and donts."

Once we finished our light meal, we took off towards Casa Batllo.  This proved to be an eye-catching wonder.  Mom and me stood just off to the side of a tour group, the leader a clean cut cutie pie, blonde haired, blue eyed guy telling the interested onlookers about Gaudis vision and apparent symbolism for the building.  He asked the crowd what they thought it resembled, waving a hand behind him to indicate the rainbow facade with thin twig-like extensions which made one think of scales and bones (at least it did for me).  People called out various ideas for the images they thought the building evoked until I spoke up and called out "a dragon."
"Yes!" he said, tossing a smile our way.  "From the person who isn't even a part of our tour group.  Thats exactly it.  A dragon!"

Mom and I posed for some photos in front of the building and then strolled up the street admiring the impossibly towering, ornate building facades.  We continued to remark upon and be shocked by the fact that almost everywhere one looked in Barcelona, they were met with gorgeous architecture.

We headed over to the Sagrada Familia as we had a reservation to get inside at about 5pm.  I had a feeling this would be the high point, in terms of a tourist sight, of the trip.  It absolutely was.  The Sagrada Familia was marvelous.  Totally breathtaking.  Aside from Notre Dame in Paris and St. Peters in Rome, it is my favorite church thus far.  Its totally unique, completely original.

The inside is akin to being inside a forest just chalk full of bare branches and tree trunks.  All the arches stretching up to the ceiling seem to resemble the towering branches of trees.  The numerous stained glass windows cast halos of rainbow colored celestial light dancing over the warm wood walls of the interior.  The church felt smooth, warm and bare, yet the detailing was intricate and eye-catching.  One could not help but look every which way in fascination.  The inside of the church was a feast for the eyes to be sure.

Mom had a ticket which permitted her to ascend the towers, which I had declined, so off she went while I wandered around the sanctuary snapping loads of photos.  We found each other 20 minutes later, my Mom flushed and smiling telling me I absolutely had to go to the top.  She pushed her ticket into my hand and urged me to try using it, despite the fact that the guards had already scanned the bar code.  Arent we ever the rebels ha ha.  She told me it was well worth it for the view and experience.  So off I went.

And she was right.  Climbing the 300 something stone steps which narrowed and steepened with every one brought a smile playing to my lips.  The view from the tops of the towers was stellar, all of Barcelona spread beneath me.  I snapped numerous photos and just stood, marveling at all of it for a few moments, before beginning my descent.

This would be the DOORWAY to the Sagrada Familia.  Yes, this is merely the entrance. Whoa, right???

More photos of the doorway....

Now begin the photos of the interior of the church...this first one would be the ceiling.

This church was literally a photographers dream.

After finding Mom back in the sanctuary, we agreed in excitement how astounding the church was, just mind blowing.  Then we decided to head back to our flat, get ready and go off to dinner soon thereafter as it was getting late.

Look at this group of ladies!?!  How fun is that???  The red and purple ladies ;-)

Back in the flat, Mom showered while I relaxed and did some research about where we should go for dinner.  We settled on Barraca, a supposedly awesome seafood and tapas restaurant.  We hopped aboard the metro and then upon exiting the station in the beach area of the city, snagged a cab to deliver us to the restaurant (as it would have been somewhat far on foot).

The food was awesome.  We agreed, another phenomenal meal of the trip (like Flax and Kale had been just the evening before).  I will post a separate review about both of these restaurants in my next blog entry.  However for the time being, highly recommended.

After dinner, we decided to hop a cab to Placa Reial, supposedly one of the most beautiful squares in the city as Mom was dying to see it.  We attempted to flag down a cab in the chilly night air, just on the corner of Barraca.  There were three cabs sitting unoccupied on the side of the road which we approached tentatively, asking if they might be in service.  One of the drivers pointed to a man who was exiting a bar across the street and coming towards us.  He was short, of nearly midget stature, squat, funny looking, big glasses.  He waddled across the street towards us.  Slight alarm rose in my throat, as he was in fact exiting a bar.  Ok....I thought, I hope this guy wasn't just drinking and is now going to get behind the wheel.  I whispered this to my Mom who also seemed to hesitate.  Before we could think about it in too much depth though, he hopped up the steep ledge (for him at least) into his mammoth van of a taxi and indicated we should slid open the side door and do the same.

He started the car and Fleetwood Mac FILLED the inside, causing the inner depth of the van to shudder, the beat resounding in our hearts, vibrating in our chests.  If it were any louder, it would be too loud.  It was just on the cusp.  Mom and me looked at each other, our eyes widened in shock before we dissolved into gut-busting silent giggles.  The driver rolled down the windows, the music filling the night air as we sped through the streets, other drivers peering over at us strangely.

We agreed this was a totally weird and utterly hilarious moment.

We found ourselves driving down La Ramblas so we spoke up and told the driver this was just fine, we could get out here.  He pulled over, screeching to a halt.  Mom and I tried our hardest to stifle our laughter as we got out of the car, her clutching my arm and finally letting loose her giggles as we walked away together down the bustling street, teaming with tourists, cafes, revelers, street artists and more.

We walked down the overly congested street for about 10 minutes before deciding to duck off down a side street towards Placa Reial.  And finally, we found it.

The square was small and in fact, very lovely (though personally, I find Piazza Navona in Rome and Old Town Square in Prague to be far lovelier).  It was very Spanish, charming, romantic.  On the way into the square, I had spotted an eye-catching bakery.  I told my Mom I wanted to head back and grab a slice of the decadent looking chocolate cake to-go and I would meet her back in the square in five.

The cafe decor was super fun, trendy and memorable.  I asked the cute and very gay boy who worked behind the counter if he would recommend the chocolate cake or the equally delectable looking brownies.  He said the cake, absolutely.  So I snagged a slice to go and met my Mom back in the square.

She and I made our way towards exploration of the Gotic Quarter, an area in particular that I was really dying to check out.  The two of us loved this.  The narrow winding streets like a mysterious labyrinth, quiet, intriguing, old and magical.  We found a spot outside and each ordered a drink, just to sit, take in the scene and enjoy the atmosphere.  Here is a cool description I found online at Tourist Guide to Barcelona in relation to this part of the city:

The beautiful neighborhood known as the Gothic Quarter is so called because it used to be the Roman village and thus has some remnants of its glorious past. These days because of the constant modernization it is easy to spot an ancient building right next to one built in the 90s. It is this mix of old and new that brings people from all over the world to stay in the Gothic Quarter.

Afterwards, we slowly made our way back to our flat. 

The next morning was a mad dash for the airport with a brief intermission for sandwiches, authentic Spanish churros (!!!!) and tea.  Then we were off to LISBON!!!!

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