Leading up to our trip to Barcelona, we were following the news on Catalonia’s independence movement very closely, since it was all happening around the time we had planned to be there. We waited until just the week before to decide if we would stop on our way through, and ultimately, we decided to do it (some of us may have been somewhat influenced by the fact that Lionel Messi and FC Barcelona had a home match scheduled when we were planning to be there). Despite news reports portraying chaos and demonstrations, we saw nothing other than a bunch of Catalonia (and a few Spanish) flags flying from balconies.
We were really happy with our decision to stay in a family room at the Generator Hostel right in the center of Barcelona, but had a stressful time finding a safe, convenient and somewhat affordable parking lot to stash our car for our stay (it didn’t end up being terribly convenient, but it was safe and relatively affordable, so we were happy).
The hostel was very central, and in a great area to walk around. We could walk to many places we wanted to see, and where we couldn’t walk, we had easy access to the metro.
Most of our highlights were Gaudí related, so let’s get started:
The Sagrada Familia Basilica is Gaudi’s most famous work, and probably Barcelona’s most famous sight. It was started in 1882 and construction continues today, with an estimated completion date of 2026, the 100-year anniversary of Gaudi’s death.
As big as it is now, it is hard to imagine the existing spires will be dwarfed by the tall central spire, which will rise far above the ones existing and yet to be built.
Knowing architecture is never terribly fascinating for the kids, we set them to work, with a promise of earning “points” for every animal they found in the facade.
Looking for animals while we stood outside the basilica was a lot of fun – there were so many things carved into the exterior, each telling a little story, and we loved finding looking through them to find the different types of animals depicted.
We got the audio guides for the adults, and it was good to learn about the building, since there wasn’t a lot of detail provided by signs on the inside.
Gaudi was pretty amazing in his architectural style. He liked to copy nature. You can see below, the supports holding up the building are built like trees, branching out as they rose towards the ceiling.
The stained-glass windows were designed to bring in warm colors with the sunrise and cooler colors at sunset. While we were there, the sun through the windows bathed parts of the cathedral in cool blue colors.
As you could imagine, given my (lack of) photography skills, my pictures don’t do this place justice. Every corner offers some new amazing element. Including, and maybe especially, the ceiling.
As crowded as it was, the high ceilings made it not seem too crowded.
We enjoyed our visit inside, but, as expected with three kids, we didn’t spend a ton of time there. However, the piece de resistance for a family like ours was…
Another day, another Gaudi sight to visit. This time, we took the metro to get to Park Guell, which sits above the city. The metro got us fairly close, but we still had to walk up a big hill, and (fortunately) we were also able to take an escalator part of the way.
Part of the park can be seen for free, but to get close to most of the “good” (gaudi) stuff, we had to pay (and book tickets in advance). We walked around the outside waiting for our scheduled time (they wouldn’t let us in a minute early from our scheduled time!).
There wasn’t anything too special in the free part of the park, and the most entertaining part was watching the vendors on the path pack up their stuff and run away when the police drove by. It was like dominos – the vendors would wait until the police were close, then pack up and run, then the police go by the next spot and clear the next guy. Clearly the police weren’t too bothered about actually catching them, because they were just rolling down the path slowly in their car, not even bothering to get out!
Once our scheduled time arrived, we entered and started walking through the Gaudi-designed area. I am not an architecture expert, or even particularly interested in it, but I really liked seeing Gaudi’s work. It was truly delightful – nature inspired and whimsical.
We didn’t wait in the long line to see the inside of these houses (#travelingwithkids). We just cruised around and checked everything out. We were probably only in there for an hour, I wouldn’t have minded staying a bit longer to just relax and enjoy the architecture but #kids. Given that we weren’t there long, it might not have been worth the money (it was a bit expensive for just one hour), but I liked it, and certainly wouldn’t have wanted to go all the way to Park Guell if we didn’t go into this part. I guess I would probably not pay for this again, unless I didn’t have kids with me to enjoy – not that this is a horrible thing to do with kids – it is outside and they can run around. If only they had a playground 🙂
We took the metro to Las Ramblas and got out at the top end (Catalunya stop) and walked down Las Ramblas. At the beginning, there wasn’t much going on, just some restaurants and shops with a fair amount of people walking by.
We did go by a Marilyn Monroe-type girl standing on a balcony with a fan blowing (she had shorts on under her dress) and all the guys in the vicinity were watching and filming her. It wasn’t really that exciting, and I can’t even remember what she was advertising, but it was kind of… (what is the opposite of impressive) that all the guys were so enthralled with her.
As we got closer to the port, we started seeing the street performers, and some were pretty impressive.
At the bottom of Las Ramblas, there is a big statue of Cristobal Colon (Christoper Columbus), pointing us home.
Once we got to the port, we enjoyed watching some super aggressive seagulls fight over food tourists were throwing to them, then spent a few hours at the Barcelona Aquarium, which was, for the record, totally not worth the price.
Our last exciting adventure in Barcelona (for some of us) was a trip to Camp Nou to see:
FC Barcelona Futbol match
C decided to take advantage of being in Barcelona while FC Barcelona had a home match, and go to see the great Lionel Messi (greatest player of all time!?) play. A, being a lucky 9 year old who is once again, at the right time and the right place, gets to accompany C on another great sporting adventure, ranking up there with watching Arsenal play a Premier League football match in London, watching Roger Federer play tennis in Basel, watching the Scotland national team play football in Glasgow, and watching Italy vs Spain in Paris in the Euro Cup 2016.
The match had an interesting political undertone, with the Barcelona team being associated closely with Catalonia and their independence cause. It was peaceful, but they certainly felt the emotions at the stadium.
After Barcelona, we have a nine hour drive ahead of us to get to the south end of Spain (who knew Spain was this big? not me!), where we will settle in for the winter. More to come on our everyday life in Spain in the next blog post.