As you have no doubt read by now, I went to Spain last month. That’s why I took that break a few weeks ago, so I could go and have a good time without feeling the need to do a bunch of writing while I was dashing around a new city, trying to take in as many of the sights, sounds, and tastes as I could before I had to leave. Honestly, it was a pretty exhilerating trip, beyond the reasons I already wrote about in my two previous posts. There was so much good food, so many interesting buildings, such interesting history, and the infrastructure of a country that seems to actually care about it citizens is something I miss most of all. A functional subway system with timers until the next trains, a city full of cops who didn’t harrass people just for existing (at least not that I saw in my many nights about town, though I’m sure it still happens plenty), and roads that weren’t full of potholes. Most places in the US tend to feel like they’re beginning to crumble the instant you step out of the expensive, high-end neighborhoods, but even the literally crumbling buildings in Barcelona looked like someone was attending to them.
I’ll be the first to admit that I got a tourists perspective. I went to a lot of touristy places, got an eye full of interesting architecture, and mostly stuck to the parts of the town with an active nightlife. I didn’t really go anywhere that was “off the beaten path,” so much so that I felt tempted to write that the whole city felt like the beaten path thanks to how walkable it is. I’m sure there are parts of the city that aren’t being cared for or that are being cared for in ways that the original residents don’t care for (I knew that gentrification and tourism are problems much of the city is unhappy with before I even booked my plane tickets, thanks to my research), but I didn’t encounter them. I’m sure if I traveled further away from the city’s heart, I’d have run into them.
Still, it’s difficult not to marvel when you walk into a city that has a building as complex and beautiful as La Sagrada Familia just sitting in the middle of it. Sure, it’s still under construction (the death of the architect/designer, Antoni Gaudi, stymied the project for a long while) as they work to complete Gaudi’s vision, but it’s already pretty magnificent even with cranes gathered around it.
Then, once you step inside, you are greeted by one of the softest stone building interiors I’ve ever seen in my life. Sure, the pillars are covered in hard lines near the top, but the space between and below them is all gentle, inward curves as they stretch from the ground to the ceiling above. Each one of them appears soft as you walk by it near the base, only ever seeming to be made of stone when you view them from far away. That said, if you manage to visit during the right time in the morning or afternoon, as sunlight is streaming in through the stained glass, all the hard lines of the place soften as they effortless capture the multi-hued light pouring into the building.
If you’re ever in Barcelona, it is worth your time and money to visit La Sagrada Familia. You should also spring for the Tower tour unless you’re afraid of heights or require a mobility device to get around. There was a lot of Barcelona that was not very accessible, though the main pieces of transportation and most roadways seemed to have at least considered things like wheelchairs when they were updated or built. Most of the buildings I went into had stairs of some kind, though, just to access the “ground” level. I bet there are ways to get around some of the places I went that are more wheel-friendly, but they definitely weren’t easy for me to see even after I started actively looking.
Since one of the people who inspired the trip (my close friend and the groom in this wedding party adventure) is a fan of Gaudi’s architecture and designs, most of our trip was focused on visiting La Sagrada Familia and Casa Batllo. Casa Batllo was amazing, though it was pretty rapidly overshadowed by La Sagrada Familia since it felt like the church was the final form of the techniques that Gaudi employed in the house. Everything in the house had a cozy, soft look to it, from the way the doors were shaped to the way the ceiling was formed. It felt very homey, even with dozens of other people wandering through the halls, in a way that matches what I’ve always imagined Hobbit Holes feel like. Even the massive, open interior space that let light and air into the rest of the building managed to feel comfortable despite beind just a bunch of windows and vents.
Those were the two major architectural sights we visited. I’m still waiting on some pictures of our other stops to trickle in from other members of the group, so I will probably do a second post about Park Güell and the hike we went on at Montserrat when they show up. And, you know, when I’ve got another blog post to do. This one is long enough and those two destinations (and the castle in northern Spain that we stayed in over our final weekend) deserve a full post rather than being crammed into the end of this one and none of them deserve to be made into a massive, bloated, meandering piece of text and images intermingled. Plus, all three places feature a mixture of nature and architecture whereas the two places I’ve mentioned already are mostly just architecture (admittedly architecture that was inspired by nature). It makes sense to split them up.
I’ve got a lot more pictures than just these, but so far I’m going to just restrict anything featuring faces of people to my private social media accounts (rather than any of my public ones). This blog post isn’t really about the people as much as it is about the places and I’m always shy of putting pictures of people on a personal blog. It feels more normal to put it on a website like Instagram or Facebook, where people can opt out of pictures linking back to their personal pages or more easily ask me to take things down if they don’t like what I’ve put up. Just feels cleaner. Here, it’s the wild west and I can do anything I want with images I own the copyright to, but that just feels kinda shitty.
Anyway, there’s a good chance the other half of my Spain trip is going to sat some point in the next month, so you can look forward to some nice pictures of mountains, buildings nestled in hills or mountains, and the distant border between Spain and France. Some of those mountain views were pretty stellar.