Barcelona, Day 1
Friends of Graces en Route, so sorry to have been gone so long. I wish I could say it was because the five of us were traveling the world, but that would be a gross overstatement.
With that said however, Kelly and I have been doing quite a bit of traveling sans children. Him more than me – short trips here and there – and mostly for business.
I will get into some of those shorter trips in other blogs, but our most recent adventure is what is fresh in my mind at the moment. So, maybe we’ll start there and work backward.
Months ago, it was decided that Kelly would be the company’s representative at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Per Wikipedia, “The GSMA Mobile World Congress is a combination of the world’s largest exhibition for the mobile industry and a conference featuring prominent executives representing mobile operators, device manufacturers, technology providers, vendors and content owners from across the world.” In a nutshell, a conference for mobile nerds.
With the help of a “girl wonder” at his company, we soon had roundtrip tickets booked for Barcelona. Independently, I found a great apartment on Airbnb.com that was to be our home away from home for the week. As an aside, I have become a great believer in the quality hosts/properties that Airbnb has to offer. (And I’m not even getting paid to say that!)
As anyone with children knows, the preparation and logistics it takes to get your kids covered for eight days is almost – ALMOST – a reason not to go. But everything came together with the help of both sets of grandparents sprinkled in with a few friends and teachers to fill in the gaps – a community we are so thankful to have.
So on a Monday morning, we packed up our children for Grandmother’s house – hit up a local eatery for brunch – and left them in loving hands. We headed for our local airport, which is just a breeze to get in and out of. Sadly, this is because you can’t get a direct flight to anywhere from our airport. (Seriously?! In the middle of the country?!)
We headed for Minneapolis and then on to JFK in New York – it was almost as if we were on an Eastern U.S. tour. From JFK, we were bound for Barcelona by 8:30pm to touch down Tuesday morning at 10:00am. For the first time in history, we experienced no delays, no mechanical problems, no wicked turbulence and flights that actually arrived ahead of their scheduled arrival times. Who knew this was even possible in today’s age of air transportation?
It had been a long time since either one of us was in Europe. We sought out some advice from Kelly’s boss, who travels often to Asia and probably laughed out loud at the thought of us thinking a trip to Spain would cause us jet lag. He told us to just push through the next day until at least 9 or 10pm – a thought so daunting to me that it gave me anxiety. This girl needs her sleep!
As promised, we touched down in Barcelona before 10:00am. We arranged for a car to come and get us just so that we could get our things to the apartment quickly and get a jump on the day. A cab would’ve done just fine too, but arranging a car through Blacklane was only nine Euros more. And they stand at the airport with a sign that has your name on it. So how often do you get that type of travel treatment? Nine Euros seemed worth it to us.
My mom had given us Frommer’s guide to Barcelona that offerend up handy one, two and three-day itineraries for the city. There were also sections dedicated to travelers that wanted to focus on art, the outdoors or who were traveling with young family members.
After getting our bearings, we made our way to the Basilica and Temple, La Sagrada Família by way of La Rambla, a tree-lined street running up the middle of the southern part of the city. The Spanish poet, Federico García Lorca, once said that La Rambla was “the only street in the world which I wish would never end.”
I’m not sure he would have quite the same sentiment if he were to have walked it on a sunny morning in February 2017, but it was a nice walk. Unfortunately, it’s now home to many kitschy kiosks with Barcelona paraphernalia, overpriced cafés and some pretty savvy pickpockets. Despite the fact that we were warned by every book, blog and former traveler, we didn’t experience that phenomenon personally.
The upside? It is a pretty walk. You get to take in some beautiful Modernisme architecture and don’t have to deal with traffic. It also connects you to a lot of other little neighborhoods that you’d want to delve into further.
The hike to La Sagrada Familia – and it was quite the hike as one local explained it would be when we asked for directions – was well worth it even from a block away, where we got our first glances of the exterior of this architectural masterpiece.
La Sagrada Familia is a large Roman Catholic church in Barcelona, designed by Catalan Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí – pioneer of the Modernisme movement. Inspiration came from traditional Gothic and Byzantine cathedrals and other Art Nouveau forms but make no mistake, this is an unbelievably unique structure.
Gaudí was said to have been a devoutly religious man and lover of nature. The way he incorporates both in the Sagrada Familia is breathtaking. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of both the inside and the out. We also opted for tickets that allowed access to the top of one of the spires for a spectacular view of the city of Barcelona, as well as the construction that is still taking place.
Gaudí was killed by a streetcar before he could finish La Sagrada Familia, but fortunately for the rest of the world at large, he made drawings and took meticulous notes, which would allow construction to continue until its scheduled completion in 2026.
I would urge visitors to take the audio tours (for another five Euros if I recall correctly) as it’s well worth the investment to get an explanation of the inspiration and unending symbolism that is not always immediately obvious in the basilica.
The tour took several hours with the trip to the spire top but since the basilica is nestled between both El Raval and the Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter), we were well situated for exploring some of the oldest and most famous neighborhoods in the city of Barcelona.
After the La Sagrada Familia tour, we stopped for an early dinner at Gaudi’s iconic apartment building, La Pedrera. It houses the Café de la Pedrera and was our first foray into gourmet Spanish tapas on Spanish soil. We ordered the prix fix Chef’s choice and were pleasantly surprised by 1) the number of different small plates they gave us and 2) how unique each dish was.
Every plate was not only delicious, but also so pretty. And as beautifully as each small plate was presented, I could not force myself to eat the squid. I was willing to try a lot of new and different flavors on this trip, but I just couldn’t get past the texture of whole pieces of squid.
We made the long walk back to our apartment after a fairly lengthy endeavor with tapas, wine, dessert and digestifs. By the time we returned, it was almost 6:00pm and we were determined to stay up for at least a couple more hours to combat the jet lag.
Luckily, we had a few travel books to delve into and plans to make for our next few days. But by the time 9pm rolled around, we were ready for bed.
And sleep we did, for the next 12 hours.
Stay tuned for Day 2 of Barcelona…..