Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A long weekend in Barcelona deserves a long post.

     Before leaving for Barcelona, Spain, we imagined three days in the city to be plenty of time--it wasn't.  We left the house at 5:40 on Thursday to be dropped off at the airport where our plane left at 8:30 and landed at 10:30.  Since we had plenty of time before check-in at our hotel, La Ciudadela, we took the train, walked through the Park and our hotel was directly across the street. We checked in early and then headed out to get some much-needed lunch at a nearby restaurant. We ordered the first thing on the specials board, it was tortilla espanola, and it was delicious--and only €3.  After that we hopped on the metro to visit the National Museum of Catalan Art.  It was our first overview of the city since the museum sat on top of a large hill overlooking everything.  After a long day of traveling, we ate at a Chinese buffet for dinner, and it was delicious!

     The next morning we walked about thirty minutes to Sagrada Familia, a church that began construction in the late 1800s and even today there is still construction going on, as you can see in the picture there are cranes surrounding the building.  This church is the center-piece of Barcelona and it was designed by Antoni Gaudi who is extremely visible in Barcelona--he has many buildings and museums dedicated to him.

     After enjoying the outside of the building we stepped inside to see a church that was different from every other church I have seen in Europe.  It is open and airy, it has no paintings or gothic architecture.  Rather, there are bursts of color everywhere.  Unlike the outside of the building, the inside has been finished.

     We spent an hour or two learning about the church and visiting the museum downstairs before we began our hike through the city to see Park Guell, another accomplishment of Gaudi.  This park was once destined to be a community of houses, but the endeavor failed because the people who could afford the homes outside of the city on this hill wanted to stay inside Barcelona.  Now, it remains as a beautiful park with trails and art.  For most of the afternoon on Friday we were walking around the park and enjoying the view.

     After having a very Gaudi-inspired morning, we had lunch and headed towards the city center where we found Museu d'Història de la Ciutat de Barcelona and in the basement were ruins of the ancient city of Barcino, originally a Roman city.  While I was too busy listening to my audio-guide to take pictures, I found this picture on the internet and it accurately shows what most of the ruins look like.  The explanations of the rooms and walls helped to imagine what each of the buildings were because it looked mostly like this.

     History of Barcelona from Roman times with Barcino in the Museu d'Història de la Ciutat

     To celebrate Stephen's birthday, on Friday night we ate at Dans Le Noir, a restaurant where you dine blind.  We showed up for our reservation, then chose our set of courses--these were the only things we were allowed to choose.  We decided to get appetizers, two plates and dessert--that is the only thing we knew about these dishes.  After making our decision we waited in a large waiting area with other groups dining there that night.  We were grouped together with four other Spaniards and we were introduced to our blind waiter, Jose.  Jose led us through a curtain and around a corner where we ate dinner--completely in the dark.  Afterward having about an hour-long dinner, we slowly made our way back into the waiting area--enter back into the light was very dizzying.  We had to guess what we had for dinner (very difficult!) before we were told what we had--I can't even remember what we had, but I do remember that the duck was amazing, and the chocolate cake was delicious.   On Saturday we began with a smoothie at a small restaurant tucked away, and then we headed for the Barcelona Cathedral.

     We didn't spend much time in the Cathedral--we took some pictures, sat down and then walked around for a little bit before leaving.  Unlike Sagrada Familia, this cathedral is very much like the churches we have seen in Paris, Pisa and Rome.  That afternoon there were acrobats performing to music outside of the church--that was very impressive.

     The last museum we visited while in Barcelon was the Palau Guell which was designed by Gaudi for his biggest client (who also commissioned him for the Parc Guell).  The house was still fun to visit, but it was very simply, a house.  The inside did not remind me of Gaudi's other works that we had seen (Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, etc.) but the rooftop did.  Below you can see the chimneys he designed (he had a fireplace in each room) which were all over the top of the house.  These mosaic, glass pieces were prominent in both the church and the park.

     On Saturday night we went to the Palau de la Música Catalana for a Beethoven symphony.  As you can see from the picture, the inside of the concert hall is very beautiful.  We had first floor box seats where we could see all the musicians very well.  For me, this concert flew by because I really enjoyed all the music, especially the pieces when the two pianists were playing.  

     On Sunday morning, we had breakfast at the hotel and checked out by 11:00 and made it back to the airport by noon.  It felt like we had just left that airport.  We finally made it back to the apartment at about 5:00 on Sunday, and while the weekend in Barcelona felt way too short, it was nice to be home.

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