On the third day of our trip we got to sleep in a bit, enjoy the hotel breakfast, and began our tour at ten. Our first stop was the Parque Güell not far from the Sagrada Familia. If you've seen any photos of Barcelona, you've probably seen this park with its strange architecture, tiled benches, and "wave" tunnel. It was a pretty big park and we only had an hour and a half so we had to walk through rather quickly. In addition to strange structures and walls of tile, the plant life and flowers were lovely and there were even parrots flying around, building nests in the palm trees.

The Güell park was not originally intended for public use and is not situated very well for the thousands of tourists that visit. It was designed by Antoni Gaudí, architect of pretty much anything strange that you will find in Barcelona. Built from 1900-1914 for the Güell family, it was originally on the outskirts of the city, but as Barcelona grew and surrounded the park and it became more and more of a tourist attraction, it was soon engulfed by tourists and travelers from all over the world.

Today the park serves as a main attraction and display of the work of Gaudí as well as a nice place to get away from the streets of Barcelona. It's still busy in the park but we enjoyed walking through the paths and taking photos with more personal space to stroll that one would find in Las Ramblas. The higher points offer a good view of the Barcelona skyline and a closer look at the Sagrada Familia, rising above everything else.
View of Barcelona through the smog.
After we left the park it was only a short drive to one of Spain's most known icons (besides bulls and flamenco dancers): La Sagrada Familia. I researched this strange church a bit last year and all I could think was that it was quite odd and would be interesting to see, but doubted I would love it. I'm happy to say that I was wrong, it was actually one of my favorite churches I've seen (and at this point we have seen a lot). After a bit of history I'll tell you why.

The Sagrada Familia is probably Gaudí's most famous work, even after his death and the fact that it's been continued by other architects. Construction began in 1882 and Gaudí joined the project in 1883. It is still not complete even though it's been in progress for 130 years, and I heard that it could be even fifty years more until it is finished (although wikipedia states that the completion date may be as soon as 2026). Like all things Gaudí, the church is not like anything I've ever seen and is different on each side. One side has this odd, almost drippy style, that, when you look closer, is actually scenes of the early New Testament such as the birth of Christ and visits of the wise men and shepherds. We each received an audio-guide in Spanish and I was delighted to discover that I understood basically everything it was telling me, and I didn't even have to worry about taking a DELE listening test with it. 

The Sagrada has three main towers which represent Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. The other side has carvings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and what is believed to be Gaudí's self-portrait in the middle. Another side also has fruits of Cataluña atop each pillar, something colorful that I enjoyed and found quite fun.

Once inside, the excitement of taking photos and staying close enough to Loli, our sponsor, took over and it was harder to focus on listening to the audio-guide. Unlike the "drippy" looking side of the outside, the inside of the Sagrada seemed clean and simple, although still odd and unlike any other cathedral I've seen or will ever see. The tall pillars are made to look like tree trunks and where they join to the ceiling is supposed to be like looking up into the leaves of trees as light filters through. All the white was a nice break from the over-the-top gold and red churches we usually see. Work on the stained-glass appeared to have just begun and only the front of the church and several windows were complete. Of course the stained glass was my favorite with brilliant colors filtering in on the white interior. 

Our tour seemed to go by very fast and all to quickly it was time to leave. Even though it's not a typical cathedral and is very different, I really loved seeing it and was refreshed because it was so unique compared to all the other churches we see everywhere we go in Europe.
The buses took us back to our hotel and from there we had the afternoon free for lunch and activities. Jon and Seth and I found some delicious pizza just off the main road and went to the open air market. There I found probably the cutest candy I've ever seen–tiny chocolate hedgehogs! I got one for myself and a white chocolate for Rachel along with a tiny chocolate mushroom! If you know me well then you know that this discovery was way better than any dinner or fancy sit-down food I could have gotten. Later that night I  walked around the port and then went back to the market with Rachel, Seth, Anisha and Beth and we got even more fresh fruit juice to finish off a perfect day.
Auntie Judy
2/22/2013 10:28:51 pm

So glad you're back in blogland! I've missed your interesting and insightful updates. Oh I do so love those chocolate goodies of all sorts. Eye candy....did you actually eat them? I had to giggle because I can imagine gma' Geraldine being quite thrilled with your tiny cute candy discovery. I can't wait until you get back to good old Kansas and us...but whatever will you blog about?

Sheri Seibold
2/22/2013 10:51:51 pm

I remember learning about this cathedral in art history when it was under construction, but I wouldn't have guessed it would still not be done, so many years later. I always thought it looked like an elaborate sand castle that had a few waves gently dissolving it's crisp, clean edges. The inside is amazing and beautiful and I love the stained glass coloring against that white framework. Wow! You've been there!

Keep those great blog posts coming with the clever titles, love those and you too!

2/23/2013 10:35:05 pm

Yes, I'd say Gaudi did some very strange architecture. The Sagrada Familia is, well, very strange on the outside but I love the interior. Oh, I can't believe you're getting to see all of this. And those little hedgehogs are pretty cute---as well as the two girls holding them! Looks like fun.


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