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.

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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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Making Our Way to The Wines In Logroño

“Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions, and more tolerance.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

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Parque del Espolon

We arrived at Logroño around midday and it surprised us to see it was an empty canvas. We knew that “siestas” were common in Spain, but since there is so much tourism in Madrid, we did not see it as much. However, Logroño was a different story. The streets were empty, the restaurants and stores were closed, even the park, “Parque del Espolon,” was deserted. We walked throughout the many narrow streets and spent some time at the park too. There were just a few tourists walking around. Everything came back to life at around 5:00 p.m. with locals and tourists flocking to the restaurants and bars. The “siesta” was over!

Logroño is a city in La Rioja, which is Spain’s top wine-producing region in the north. Its history and traditions date back to the Middle Ages. Its medieval churches are the essence of Logroño’s culture. There’s the Church of Santa Maria de Palacio which is a Gothic style, as well as the Church of San Bartolomé. The Co-Cathedral de Santa Maria de la Redonda, with the two towers and art by Michelangelo, is one of the most important stops of the pilgrim’s route to Santiago de Compostela (Camino de Santiago). The museum, “El Museo de la Rioja,” houses a collection from the prehistoric era up until today. The museum itself is in a palace built in the 18th century. You will also find the Center for Rioja Wine Culture. It has a museum, exhibition rooms, tasting rooms, a wine shop and a wine bar. The 4-story building was a palace in the 16th century.

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Co-Catedral de Santa Maria de la Redonda

We stayed at the Hotel Mercure Carlton Rioja. A very nice 4-star hotel centrally located on Ave Gran Via Juan Carlos I. The hotel lobby and gathering areas were very nicely decorated. Our room was a little outdated in the decor, but it was clean and had no yucky carpets which was important to me. The service was very good and everyone was polite. I would stay at the Mercure Carlton Rioja again and definitely recommend it.

During our stay in Logroño, we did a few wine tours. Our first tour was at Bodegas Ontañon in Ave. Aragon in Logroño. We visited its museum, went for a wine tasting and did a little wine shopping. The museum is small but housed enough information from its beginnings to its actual quarters. This winery has been open for more than 30 years. I wasn’t too impressed by it.

We also visited Bodegas Marqués de Cáceres, at Avenida de Fuenmayor in Cenicero about 20 minutes from the hotel. Marqués de Cáceres has been a family-owned wine producer for five generations. We toured their premises and learned about their wine-making process, types of wines, aging, barrels, cork, etc. By the way, did you know that the cork comes from a tree? It is the bark of a cork oak tree. I never gave it any thought so I didn’t know it. But it was a very interesting tour. What didn’t impress me was that the fermentation process is done in stainless steel tanks. I expected to see this process in old wooden barrels. We did, however, enjoy a fabulous wine tasting with local hors-d’oeuvres and the wine was excellent!

The Bodegas Franco-Españolas, in Cabo Noval Street in Logroño, was my favorite tour. This winery was founded in 1890. No wonder they have great quality wines, that’s 128 years of wine production! Their premises houses thousands and thousands of wooden barrels and their fermentation process are done in huge wooden tanks. The tour was educational and interesting. We ended the tour with a spectacular tasting and local tapas. And, of course, we bought some wines. Good thing we have our wine suitcase.

Our last wine tasting took place at “La Tavina Taberna y Tienda de Vinos” in the famous touristy Calle Laurel. It was within walking distance from our hotel. The wine tasting included wines paired with an excellent choice of local tapas. La Tavina also has a wine store. We ended our tour with a delicious local sherry which took a toll on me because I don’t remember how we got back to the hotel. Good thing it was within walking distance. But it was an excellent wine tasting and more wine to bring home. I would definitely visit “La Tavina Taberna y Tienda de Vinos” again.

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La Tavina Taberna de Vinos

Logroño is a beautiful, clean city with less traffic than Madrid and a laid-back lifestyle. It is a bit far from other cities. To get to Logroño we drove through a few country roads with breathtaking landscapes. It took us about 4 hours from Madrid to Logroño. Of course, we made various stops for snapshots along the way. I love that “siestas” are so important in Spain. I really did like Logroño and expect to return to this charming little town someday soon. Not to mention the many spectacular wines that I bought back home. If you have not visited Logroño, I encourage you to do so and visit one of its many wineries.

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Ferrovial Bridge in Logroño

Have you visited Logroño? If so, what do you recommend? If not, would you be interested in visiting Logroño?




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