Growing up, the Mad Hatter from “Alice in Wonderland” was one of my favorite characters. The guy was certifiably nuts. But he was also a genius.
That’s kind of how I feel about Antoni Gaudí. His style is so strange, so different, so out-of-place that it feels like he should have been confined within the walls of a mental hospital. Everything he designed was amazing. His curved lines convey a sense of movement that I’ve never seen another architect able to express.
He was a genius.
Clare and I were told by a few different people that, as amazing as Barcelona is as a city, there isn’t really all that much “touristy” kind of stuff to do there. But, the once thing everyone stressed that we absolutely had to see was Gaudí’s masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia.
The outside of the church is magnificent. The intricate designs and topsy-turvy style really draw you in. After looking at so many buildings in the old architectural style with things like carved facades, rose windows and spires, it was a nice break to see something
in such a different structure. Don’t get me wrong, La Sagrada Familia still has carved figures, stained glass and towers, but everything Gaudí did was in such a different architectural style that you can hardly compare the church to, say, Notre Dame.
But it’s when you get inside that everything just stops for a second. After letting out a loud gasp as we walked in the church, I literally had to stop and rein in all my emotions. The place was so colorful and bright that it seemed more like a place to laugh and play rather than a place of holy worship and prayer.
Every inch of the church seemed to hold some sort of secret. The ceiling was covered in these glass tiles in an extremely intricate pattern that made it seem like it was full of sunbursts. The stained glass windows look like they just
stole the rainbow from those darned leprechauns.
In short, the church was stunning.
It does kind of suck, however, that there’s still so much construction ongoing. Gaudí passed away unexpectedly, and, while he left behind plans for the church, no one could quite match his mind. As a result, it’s taken a number of architects who have studied Gaudí quite intensely to put together the rest of the church. They say it won’t be completed until about 2050. (The people at the church seemed excited about that. All I could think about was the fact that I’d be 56 when that happens. Wow.)
But Gaudí wasn’t the only mad genius we saw today. After a delicious brunch at this little Irish place called Milk that came highly recommended (and after the 45-minute walk because we got lost), Clare and I decided to
check out the Picasso museum.
When we got there, we couldn’t decided if the super long line was worth it or not, but, in the end, we decided to brave the heat and the standing and waiting (a hard task for someone as impatient as me).
I’m so glad we did.
The museum covered Picasso’s work as an artist from when he first started to his last pieces before he passed away, and seeing the change in the artist was fascinating. His early works were quite tame, a young man who learned his craft from some of the earlier masters. So, while absolutely incredible (especially because some of these paintings were done when he was 14-16), it wasn’t the Picasso everyone has come to know.
The museum was set-up in chronological order, so you could see the tangible change as he got older — the start of the blue period, to his work with carnival folk, to his style more centered around shapes.
Possibly the coolest thing we saw were the numerous paintings Picasso did as a kind of
study of Velásquez’s “Las Meninas.” While you could see the same characters and elements as the original, Picasso’s work was made up of cats and dogs as triangles and circles and little girls who didn’t have any distinct facial expressions. It’s always cool to see a copy of a piece of artwork, but Picasso didn’t try and copy the original. He used it as a template and let his brilliant style shine through.
We then made our way back to our hostel, which, by the way, is just about the coolest place ever. Our first night there was great, partially because the hostel is incredibly centrally located, has the most helpful and friendly people at the front desk and has accounted for every possible need. Seriously, every bed has a plug right near it and a little light you can use without waking everyone else up, which is handy when you’re in a room designed for 10 people.
And the people in our room are really nice, too! There’s a group of young Swedes who speak impeccable English and a couple of American girls who just graduated from college. It’s a pretty fun group, even if the whole changing in the center of the room with everyone watching does still take a little bit getting used to.
Because everyone in Barcelona eats so late, we had a little bit of time to relax before dinner. I actually really like the whole eating late thing because it makes more sense
when you’re always moving around. For example, you eat breakfast, get ready and go to a museum, and when you’re done it’s 2 or 3 p.m., which is when you normally eat lunch in Spain. Then you go to a couple more museums and then have time to relax and get ready before dinner. It’s genius!
A friend recommended this tapas-style restaurant and, even though there was quite the wait, Clare and I knew it would be worth it. Man do I love having friends who know what they’re talking about. The whole thing was delicious.
We ordered a pitcher of sangria (Clare actually liked it and drank more than three sips!) and just started picking and choosing things of the menu. We got these delicious potatoes covered in a creamy sauce with a marinara-like dipping sauce, jumbo shrimp that still had their eyes — Clare made me shell them all for her — huge calamari rings and some octopus in a kind of chili powder rub. So. Freaking. Good.
By the time we got back to the hostel, it was late and was time for bed. I’m hoping that some sleep will help my feet, which I’m convinced are going to look like a hobbit’s by the end of the trip. Well, I’m hoping without the hair. But they’re certainly going to be hard as a rock and calloused. Guess I should order a pumice stone for when I get home!
We’re trying to decide between going to Milan or Lucerne tomorrow, but we’re leaning toward Milan just because of time. Tomorrow is really just going to be a travel day, so we’ll see which train (and destination) makes the most sense for us!
Things I learned in Spain:
- People obey street signs about crossing and not crossing the street. It’s incredibly strange.
- Spanish from Spain might as well be a different language from the Spanish I’ve learned from Central and South America. Guess I should have paid more attention to the “vosotros” form of conjugation in eighth grade Spanish.
- The siesta is real. That’s all the reason I need to move here.
- You can buy lottery tickets everywhere. Our cousin said that she thinks people in the U.S. believe more in creating their own luck, while people in Spain will wait outside a place that sells lottery tickets for hours around the time of the Christmas lottery.
- Emily also said the Spanish education system is a bit weird.
- Oh, apparently the Spanish can also be quite rude. Back home, people try and phrase a rude sentence in a manner that dances around things, but here, people just say stuff point blank.
- Spaniards are incredibly flirty. And I mean incredibly.
Oh, we survived the Spanish pickpockets!
Just a few more photos from the day: