On the 23rd of August, at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, I was undertaking a short journey from London to the exotic and beautiful Barcelona. Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain; settled on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, it’s population is upwards of 1.6 million people.
My itinerary involved four solid days, and 5 nights, completely dedicated to exploring the city and experiencing the culture through spontaneous adventures. Instead of the expected diary style blog post about my time there, and because it was such an amazing holiday, I have decided to put together my top 4 favourite things about what, possibly, is one of my favourite cities I’ve seen so far.
1. SAGRADA FAMILIA
This is one of the most spectacular things I have ever seen and experienced.
Sagrada Familia is an unfinished, Roman-Catholic church in the city of Barcelona; architectural design of Spanish catalan, Antoni Gaudi. Gaudi’s design is beyond describable. It’s a place I find so hard to explain to people, even to capture its unique beauty on film proved difficult. The church’s architecture includes beautiful facades, sky-high towers, and stained glass windows that cast a light onto the interior; creating a place of true peace and reflection. The interior roof is designed in such a way, that as you look up, you feel enclosed in a jungle. The feel of this church affected me in such a way, even sitting here now months later, I can’t help but smile and feel calm. I try to regularly meditate to centre my thoughts and encourage inner peace, so while I was at Sagrada Familia I spent close to an hour of mediation, and the remaining time in complete silence. I was speechless. I did have an audio guide tour which helped me understand the space. I heard something said by Gaudi himself, that Sagrada is place where “people of all religions, any belief, can come together and meditate”. I was in this church for 4.5 hours, and even then, I didn’t want to leave. If you go to Barcelona, it’s well worth seeing and experiencing it’s power for yourself
2. EARLY-MORNING SOLO ADVENTURES, AND AIMLESS WANDERING.
I was lucky enough to be brought up by parents who believe in wandering and encourage attacking situations with careful spontaneity. There’s something very enchanting about Barcelona in the summer; long days, short nights and a warmth that draws you into dawn til dusk adventures. Every morning, being up before the sun had completely risen, came with a beautiful feeling of wanderlust. I didn’t want to be wasting a single second on sleep I could catch up on back in London. Stepping out of my hostel, being hit by a wall of warmth and fresh, coastal air, every morning was a new adventure that could end up anywhere. The aimless wandering resulted in coming across a beautiful cathedral named Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia, also known as Barcelona Cathedral. This cathedral was enchantingly beautiful. The most touching part of this cathedral was, after walking under the most beautiful stone archway, finding myself in this hidden square – the Cloister of the Cathedral – complete with the most exotic and cared for jungle like greenery. Here, there was also a pond, home to 13 white, prepossessing geese which represent the age of Saint Eulalia when she was martyred.
Another place I discovered was the Picasso Museum/Museu Picasso. Pablo Picasso was a Spanish artist, with a name most people will come to recognise in their lifetime. He was a human with extraordinary talent, imagination and respect; seeing his art firsthand and hearing his life journey, was inspiring and an experience I thoroughly enjoyed. Museu Picasso was established in 1963, and holds one of the biggest collections of Picasso’s work. I strolled around this museum, alone, with my headphones plugged into an audio guide. Here I found myself immersed in this new world of complete appreciation and awe for unadulterated talent.
3. PARK GÜELL
Park Güell, also designed by architect Antoni Gaudi, was a place I 100% intended to visit. Originally designed to be a new housing development that would be more one with nature, it is now a showcase for the most unique designs of Gaudi’s mind. This park was beautiful to walk through, and as much as I immersed myself and enjoyed Gaudi’s work, the two most memorable things in this park I think to be less obvious. Within the borders of Park Güell, you can walk up and around to a cross perched on the edge of a hill. The view from this lookout point is spectacular – set up on a hill Gràcia, the park invites all to see over the beautiful City. From this angle Barcelona was a different kind of beautiful I’d seen before. Being so built up you could mostly only see rooftops, but the city is absolutely an urban gem. Ultimately, beauty is in the eye of beholder, and for me, I stood there looking out over that city – smiling.
Park Güell, being a tourist destination with a usual 5 hour waiting time, is home to many buskers. There was one busker who caught my eye, or perhaps more appropriately, caught my ears. He had the perfect, shaded perch under a Gaudi walkway. Sitting on a fold out chair, his CD and tip bowl at his feet, he smiled whilst playing the most beautiful spanish music. You could see it in his movements; the way he shut his eyes, and smiled as he perfected each verse; his passion for the music reached everyone in listening distance. I was enjoying this man’s music so much, I decided to buy his album and have a chat with him. When he stopped to take a sip of water, my opportunity came. His name is Rafi Mora. Rafi has been playing in Park Güell for 22 years, and he says he probably will never stop. I bought a CD and he explained every track; where he recorded his music, who he played with, where the music originated – even informed me that a Kiwi man bought a copy a few months back. He truly was a beautiful souled, passionate man, and I still listen to that CD, close my eyes, and imagine myself being back there.
4. A CRUISE AT SUNSET, WITH LIVE JAZZ?
When you go to a coastal city, especially one like Barcelona, you have this deep longing to go out on the sea. The blue, sparkling waves are forever teasing you with every movement. On the second night, whilst walking near the harbour one day, I noticed a Sunset Jazz Cruise advertised. My friend and I decided that the next evening we would return and partake in what looked to be an amazing opportunity. We were right – being one of few cruises that actually left the harbour, we had amazing views accompanied by a live saxophonist and varying jazz music. The front of the catamaran was netting, which meant once we were sat down at the front of the boat, we were left with the blue to be fully visible below. Drinking a beer with the warm setting sun radiating through my body, looking out at the city of Barcelona, and hearing a melody of ocean waves and live jazz; I was in heaven. For a not so expensive cruise, it was one of the most enriching experiences.
I went to Barcelona in August, 2015. It is now November, 2015. I am dealing with some serious wanderlust.