Barcelona’s Jaw-Dropping Structures

“There are no straight lines or sharp corners in nature. Therefore, buildings must have no straight lines or sharp corners.” ~ Antoni Gaudi

So far, our Spain vacation has been wonderful! After traveling from Madrid to Segovia, Logroño, and Zaragoza, we are now visiting Barcelona which is the capital of the Catalonia region. Oh my, what beautiful architecture they have! So much to see and do, and so little time! If there is one place that we need to visit again with more time, it is Barcelona.

Ibis Sta Coloma

The first thing we did was check-in to our hotel. We stayed at the IBIS Budget Hotel Santa Coloma in Avenida Pallaresa. It was not the closest to most of the places we wanted to visit but it had a parking garage which was important to us. It was an underneath parking garage which seemed like there was no end. It just continued spiraling downwards so many floors! I felt a bit claustrophobic – not a fan of those underground garages. Other than that, the hotel was clean. Remember what I had previously said about the IBIS Budget Hotels? I love that they are modern looking and no yucky carpets! The service was good – not that we required much of it – we left the hotel early in the morning and returned very late at night just to shower and sleep. We checked-in dropped off our luggage and out the door we were to explore our surroundings. It was a beautiful sunny day with temperatures in the high 50’s. So, we drove to the city center and parked wherever we found a spot.

Parque_Guell

For about 26€ each, we hopped on one of those double-decker sight-seeing buses to get a sneak peek at this spectacular city. The bus took us around Barcelona’s main attractions and ports. There were stops at every major city attraction. We hopped off whatever stop appealed to us and hopped back on to other places as well. We took the bus close to La Pedrera (Casa Milá) and Casa Batlló, so we just walked from one to the other. It was about a 10-minute walk. Then, we boarded the bus which took us to Catalunya Plaza, Gothic Quarter, Port Olympic, Catalunya Museum, World Trade Center of Barcelona, Port Vell, Park Güell, Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, and Teleferic Montjuic among many other stops.

Basílica de la Sagrada Familia

My favorite place in Barcelona was by far, the Basílica de la Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudi’s most famous work. A friend, who had recently returned from Barcelona, mentioned that she was unable to see the interior of the basilica because the line to get in went around the entire perimeter of the structure. So, before we ever left the U.S., I booked a reservation to visit the basilica and I don’t regret it. Even before the doors opened the lines were already around the corner. We were among the first ones to enter the premises. The cost was 29€ per individual and included the entire structure and an audio guide and map.

This basilica is unique. There is no other like it. It is a symbolic expression in stone of the Christian faith and the largest Catholic church in the world. It is also the most visited by tourists in Spain. It was originally planned by Josep Bocabella with the first stone laid in 1882. Antoni Gaudi took over the project in 1883 and chose to combine the basilicas traditional Gothic style with Byzantine cathedrals. This majestic structure is full of detailed art – so much intricate details. The facades represent the life and teachings of Jesus. One of them represents his birth, another his passion, death and resurrection, and the third his present and future glory. Gaudi loved nature, therefore, the inspiration for the interior. The interior pillars represent trees with branches. Every art detail is representative of a story in the Bible. Gaudi believed that nothing man-made should ever be higher than God’s work. Therefore, the basilica’s height will be one meter less than Montjuic, which is Barcelona’s highest mountain. It is spectacular and a sight so worthy of seeing as you will see below in the pictures. We spent approximately an hour and a half to two hours inside just taking it all in. I found it to be a mesmerizing experience. The basilica’s estimated time of completion is 2026. I am hopeful that I will still be alive to see it completed.

La Boquería Market

Boquería Market in Barcelona is one of the most famous markets in the world. There are so many stalls selling seafood, meats, poultry, cheeses, fruits, olives, nuts, groceries and so much more. They have tapa bars, butcher shops, and delicatessens. Everything is so beautifully displayed – so many vivid colors! Also, this is where I first tried dragon fruit and it was deliciously refreshing. I was curious about this fruit since I have a dragon fruit plant but had not bared any fruits yet. So, when I saw a fruit stand selling them ready to eat, I just had to try it. I’m so glad I kept my plant and nurtured it.

La Rambla

We walked La Rambla, Barcelona’s iconic pedestrian boulevard among the many tourists and locals. It expands from Plaza Catalunya to the Barcelona Port – approximately 1.3 kilometers. There are many kiosks selling souvenirs, flower shops, food stands, cafe, restaurants, bars, and even newsstands. Entertainment is always available with local performances, characters and human statues until the wee hours.

Restaurants

One of our dinners was at Restaurant Bar Picasso at Carrer de Mallorca 422 – just across the street from Basílica de la Sagrada Familia. We were tired and hungry, therefore, had a quick bite of what they had available with little wait time. It was okay – good enough to satisfy the hunger – not good enough to make it memorable. I do recall it was quite pricey for what it was. Probably because it was across the street from the basilica.

We also ate at Cuines Santa Caterina at Mercado de Santa Caterina, Avinguda de Francesc Cambó. It’s a tapas bar which is open all day from breakfast to dinner. We had a mixed variety of tapas. I loved the patatas brava (brava style spicy potatoes). Other tapas we had were cured Iberian ham, fried aubergine with honey,  mozzarella with tomato, the mini hamburgers topped with brie, and anchovies (yuck!). Of course, we could not miss the wine of the house.

One of the things I observed in Barcelona is that there are many monuments which I don’t know what they mean or represent but I do have a few photos below. Yes indeed, Barcelona is a major cultural center with a remarkable history. I loved that we created our own itinerary which allowed us to explore at our leisure. This is a trip we will definitely repeat.

If you’ve been to Barcelona, have you seen any of their random structures? Feel free to share your Barcelona story with us.

 

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Zaragoza Celebrates In Honor of La Pilarica

“I would sooner be a foreigner in Spain than in most countries. How easy it is to make friends in Spain!” ~ George Orwell

 

From Logroño to Zaragoza
Driving to Zaragoza from Logroño

After our wonderful stay in Logroño, we headed towards the city of Zaragoza between Madrid and Barcelona. The drive was such a beautiful scene – clear blues skies, mountains afar, green landscape, and driving through small, old villages. Our stay was short but we did make sure we made the best of it by visiting as much as we could and taking in as much of the culture as possible.

Zaragoza sign

Even though Zaragoza has over 2000 years of history, I found that it was a bit more modern looking than the other cities visited. It is a beautiful city too and the people were so courteous. Everywhere we stopped we were very well received. Spaniards were friendly and always offered suggestions as where to eat or what to visit. Among their suggestions were La Lonja Palace, The Aljafería Palace, San Salvador Cathedral and Basilica Nuestra Señora del Pilar (The Pilar Basilica), all a part of Zaragoza’s historic medieval styles, as well as renaissance and baroque elements.

zaragoza-aljaferia-palace (2)
The Aljafería

The one that piqued my curiosity the most was The Pilar Basilica. It was October when we visited Spain and there are many celebrations during that month. In Zaragoza it was “Las Fiestas del Pilar,” in honor of the Virgin. The festival includes parades, music, food, concerts, exhibitions, arts & crafts, and fireworks. The celebration lasts nine days and the festival begins with the offering of flowers to the Virgin in a procession. People from all over the world come to partake in this celebration dressing in their native costumes. Reports show that over 400,000 people participate in the floral offering and that more than 5 million flowers are offered to the Virgin. On the days to follow, there are different offerings, praying of the rosary and many other activities until the ninth day. It is believed that the Virgin, which is the patron saint of Zaragoza, appeared to one of the apostles and told him that a church must be built in Plaza del Pilar Square, hence the celebration in her honor. While hearing the story of “La Pilarica” I was imagining this beautiful, large statue of the saint, therefore, I was surprised to see a statue of about 2-3 feet tall. Don’t get me wrong, it is beautiful but very small.

The Basilica of Nuestra Señora del Pilar is a massive beautiful baroque art structure built between the 17th and 18th century. With impressive beautiful frescos painted by Goya above the choir area and the most famous “Pilarica” statue. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed inside the basilica. But, we were able to gather the beauty of the outside structure in the photos below.

We stayed at the Hotel Ibis Zaragoza Centre just across the Ebro River from the Basilica. It was about a 10-minute walk to the Basilica and museum among other places. The rooms were clean and again, no yucky carpet – which I just love! Unlike the Ibis in Madrid, this hotel’s bed was comfortable. For 50€ a night you can’t go wrong. And, we were fortunate to have booked our reservation months in advance because, due to the festival, there were no vacancies available in this or any other hotel nearby.

We ate at “El Molino San Lazaro” on Calle Cecilio Navarro. Excellent service and great food with spectacular views of the river bank Ebro and the Basilica. It was a bit pricey at about €50 including wine, but it was worth it. I recommend this restaurant and a visit to Zaragoza. And, when you do visit, make sure not to miss the Basilica.

Zaragoza was the 4th city visited in Spain and I must say, I was not disappointed at all. Every city is as beautiful – if not more – than the previous. In my next blog I will take you to Valencia. So, stay tuned in for more of Spain.

If you’ve visited Zaragoza, what was your experience like?

[Some photos are courtesy of https://www.spain.info/en]