Sister and I arrived at the airport in Barcelona around 8pm. (How did we get here? If you’re new to My Travel Diary, go to the beginning here: The First Leg) After reclaiming our bags, we spoke with the lady at a tourist kiosk about the best way to get to our hotel. It was quite far away from the airport (actually, quite far from everything, as it turned out). She told us all these different routes and public transportations to take. As soon as she finished telling us all this, I turned to Sister and said, “Taxi?” She agreed; we headed outside. It was a breath of fresh air. This sounds cheesy, but it felt like Spain. Welcome home, Close. (I would later find out the people of Barcelona don’t even want to be a part of Spain. Sorry, but you’re totally Spain.)
We waited in the long taxi line and were quickly ushered into a car. It was a nice car! Our driver was nice too. Taxis are funny because you’re always taught— Never ever get in the car with a stranger! But here I was, paying a stranger to put me in his car. He drove wickedly fast. Like, fast and furious, slamming your body back and forth, fast. I watched the meter tick up, but we arrived at our hotel in around fifteen minutes. It didn’t even cost that much!
Our hotel was ridiculously nice. Here we were, walking in with our large backpacks and comfy travel clothes into a sparkly white lobby. We checked in and headed up to our room which was equally as nice. The relief of spending two nights in one place is one I hope to never get over. I got to put my bag down, empty things out. I didn’t even have to repack before going to bed! I got to shower, make a mess, and then not clean it up before comfortably falling asleep!
So this day was weird. Sister and I had a plan for the next day to get to our tour; the tram then the subway to the square where the tour agency was located. Unfortunately, we underestimated how long the public transportation would take. We arrived in the square at the time our tour was supposed to be leaving. Normally they go a little late so that might’ve been okay, but we couldn’t find the building. We had a map (but we’re so bad at those!) and knew the name, but it was nowhere to be seen. Another tour company was near by, so Sister and I walked inside and asked about their tour options. Either way, we were going to need money, so we headed to the ATM. While Sister got more euros, I discovered a wifi signal and loaded my maps to see exactly where our tour company was. We followed the map to a hidden side street off the square (no wonder we couldn’t find it!). Our tour had left, but the lady at the desk was very nice and helpful. They called our phone number, but no one answered (probably because it was mom’s phone number and she was very asleep). Desk lady told us we could still catch our tour; we’d just have to meet them at the first stop—Sagrada Familia. Luckily, there was enough time that even our terrible directional skills couldn’t keep us from getting there on time. We even had time to grab some breakfast at the cafe next door.
Sister and I found our group out front and were only slightly embarrassed as we reintegrated. I liked our guide well enough, and she gave us good explanations about the history and details of Sagrada Familia. It’s weird, dude. It’s one of those cathedrals that will be incredible in a thousand years. We were used to seeing all these ancient European monuments full of history; a hundred year old church was worth a stop? It was though, considering the beautiful stained glass and incredibly detailed carvings. We learned a lot about the artist who designed and worked on it, Antoni Gaudi. The construction on the church actually isn’t finished, even though construction started in 1882. Gaudi was very interested in the natural lines and shapes of the earth; to make sculptures of donkeys he actually made a mold of a live donkey! There are no straight lines or angles in the church because they don’t naturally exist.
Our tour group left the church and headed down to the city center. There, we took a walking tour that explored fun, modern shops and also ancient streets all the while learning about the history of the city. Surprisingly, Jewish and Catholic people were able to coexist in the city for hundreds of years with minimum conflict. That came to an end at the dawn of the Black Plague. Because Catholics did not value cleanliness as much as the Jewish people did, the Catholics were dying at much higher rates. They assumed the Jews were poisoning them and retaliated appropriately.
Next up, we took an hour break downtown to have some lunch individually. We had lots of time, so Sister and I got some light sandwiches at a little cafe. We ate, and then we went back to a little candy store/bakery we had seen before. Inside the window, I had noticed some delicious-looking cupcakes, and we both knew we needed them! We ordered in Spanish, got a bottle of water, and then headed outside with our amazing cupcakes to eat. We were so excited! I took a giant bite of the frosting and…. it wasn’t a cupcake. We’re still not sure exactly what they were (maybe some sort of marshmallow?), but they were not good. That was probably the biggest disappointment of my entire life. But hey, it photographed nicely, and as a blogger, what could be more important?
We met back up with the group and boarded the bus to a place called Park Güell, which was designed by Gaudi. A wealthy man, Güell, owned an entire mountain and decided he wanted to turn it into an exclusive neighborhood. Gaudi was to design all the houses and the public areas. Each house was to follow strict standards and be completely designed by Güell, who would make all the rules and charge lots of money. Surprisingly, only one person bought land on the mountain and purchased a Güell/Gaudi house. Because of this fail, the land was turned into a park (even though the one house that was bought still remains in private hands). The park is beautiful and a popular tourist destination. I was amazed at the impressive mosaic details, the intricate water systems, and beautiful greenery that was moved in. It was very hot outside, so we did not stay long.
Our final stop and where our guide would leave us was another work by Gaudi. This time, it was an entire apartment building he designed. The top and bottoms had been converted into a museum honoring the design of the building and Gaudi, but the middle levels still had real life residents! By this time, we were honestly kind of sick of Gaudi. His work was incredibly interesting and complex, but I had not realized we had signed up for the Gaudi Tour of Barcelona. We toured through the house, the attic, and down to an example of apartment of what they would have been like when they were first built. The audio tours were nice and convenient, so Sister and I breezed through the museum quickly.
Sister and I took the subway and then the tram back our hotel. We refreshed, and then we walked down to a street a few blocks away that had a couple restaurants. They were all “mom and pop”-type places, and it was nice to talk to a local restaurant owner. It was obvious they didn’t get a lot of foreigners, which was an exciting change to the over-touristed places we had been to. Sister and I both had spaghetti with sausage. We ate quickly, and then we headed back to our lavish hotel. After washing off in the elegant shower (there wasn’t even a curtain!), I called home and then went to bed.
Our train wasn’t until the early afternoon, but the train station was far from the hotel. We took the tram to the subway to the train station. Like always, we found a locker to put our bags and deposited them for the day. Sister and I figured that we might find something outside the train station to do, and we did! There was what my mother would call a “crap fair”–a craft fair. It was like a flea market selling old trinkets. I searched for a ring to no avail, but I enjoyed looking at all the goods on display. Next to the station was a large pond. It looked rather dirty, but that might be because the other side appeared to be a dog park. Several dogs were jumping and splashing around, along with their owners throwing balls and calling for them. I quickly realized the large metal statue of what might have been a dragon was a slide. We watched small children slide down the metal for a little while, but we also knew we had a lot of time.
A few searches and looks at maps lead us to agree that a visit to the beach would be worth our time. I think we were both thirsty to go swimming, but we wouldn’t be able to change or shower. Settling for looking at the beach was the next best thing. Sister and I hopped on the subway. We had a sort-of plan, but once on the subway it became clear that we just had to follow the people in the bathing suits. As soon as we were off the subway, we could smell the sea and headed in the flow of others. We were both hungry, and while I was leaning towards a quick bite at McDonald’s, Sister picked a steak house. I ordered a salad that ended up having a million different ingredients in it that weren’t listed on the menu. I was not into it. Sister ate her meats, and then we finally got down to the beach with ten minutes to spare. We looked around at the overcrowded beaches and appreciated the scene.
Then, it was a mad rush back to the subway to catch our train. I think we were both giddy, knowing in just a few hours we would be with the Spanish family we had missed for a whole year. We made it back to the train station, reclaimed our bags, and literally ran through the train station. We had to go through some security, which was strange for a train station, and then made it on the train just minutes before it left. We made it. We were about to be back to our Spanish Home.