Erynn and I spent a long weekend in Barcelona with our friend Tanja. Barcelona has been on our "to-do" list since we lived in England. We have had so many people extol the virtues and beauty of the city, but until now we just haven't been able to make it. I am happy to say that I'm glad we waited and the city didn't disappoint. I say "happy" that we waited because if we had gone 10 years ago we wouldn't have been able to spend the time with our friend Tanja and also to see the glory of the Sagrada Família.
The original concept for the trip was a 4-day weekend in Barcelona enjoying the city and food. On one day the girls were going to go scuba diving and I would watch Greta. While "watching" Greta I would drive to Andorra to continue my pilgrimage to the micro-countries of Europe. By the way, this trip was Greta's 17th and 18th countries visited!
However, everything didn't go exactly to plan. When we left Germany it was only 4° C so I had long pants and warm shirt. Lufthansa was gracious enough to deliver everyone's bag except mine. The temperature in Barcelona was 25° C. Without shorts I was dripping in sweat just with the 100 meter walk from the car park to the apartment we rented from Friendly Rentals. This coupled with an incredibly tiring week at work I decided to spend the afternoon on the couch relaxing while Erynn and Tanja explored the city a bit.
The next piece of the puzzle was that the girls decided not to go scuba diving and accompany Greta and myself on a road trip to Andorra.
For full resolution photos from the trip to Barcelona click here.
The apartment Erynn found online through Friendly Rentals was great! It had three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a nice kitchen and common room. Most importantly, it had air conditioning that could make the place freezing.
It was at Rondo Sant Pere 29 and had a huge parking garage close (though not cheap), a Metro stop 10m away, and a nice little focacceria right next door. Great apartment, great location. It also had the coolest old-style elevator ever. Make sure you hear the click when you close the door!
The photos in this section were from Erynn and Tanja. As I mentioned, I was firmly ensconced on the couch soaking up the cool air. Not wanting to waste an afternoon in Barcelona, they followed one of the recommended walking tours from Lonely Planet. This route took them around some of the more famous architectural sites in l'Eixample.
The highlight of their afternoon was the tour of La Pedrera, or better known as Casa Milà. The masterpiece by Antoni Gaudí is a wonder of Modernista architecture. Check out the full resolution galleries here for tons more photos from their tour.
I think the girls had a great time on their afternoon out!
On the next day in town we geared up for a full day of walking around the old city. We introduced Tanja to her first ever Starbucks, which she liked, then set out in the drizzly rain. Our first main site was Barcelona Cathedral. The church was stunning on the inside and included a nice open courtyard with palm trees, geese and fountains.
We were slowly making our way down to the waterfront and checking out the sites along the way. We stopped at the beautiful Basílica de la Merced.
I was a bit conflicted here. Greta was asleep so I was walking around keeping her that way. We had stopped to get Smoothies, but it was taking... FOREVER... so I was waiting impatiently outside while Tanja snapped the left photo. However, my impatience for the slow service helped Greta sleep a bit longer. The sad thing was the Smoothie was mediocre at best. Oh well.
After hiding out a bit from the rain, we made our way down to the waterfront and the Port de Barcelona. It was a nice pedestrian area and Tanja wanted to see and touch the water. Near the entrance to the port is a statue of Christopher Columbus (left photo). Apparently many cities claim him as their own. A couple other cool buildings at the port entrance were an administration building (middle) and the customs house (right).
Some photos of us on the Rambla de Mar - a nice boardwalk in the harbor.
Here are just some interesting photos from the port. I liked the buoys that had human figures on them. In the left photo you can see the cable car that took you up to the top of a hill a few hundred meters away. Unfortunately that tower was closed, which we didn't discover until we walked there.
...and Tanja got to touch the ocean!!!
After our long walk around the harbor we headed up to La Rambla, which is the famous tourist area. Tons of people and a bunch of shopping for souvenirs. The architecture is also pretty amazing and worth a quick stroll.
Our lunch destination was Los Caracoles, which was based on a recommendation from a friend (thanks Wes!). It also just happened to be on the cover of the Lonely Planet! The lunch, though not cheap, was perfection. I love Serrano Ham, and this place was heaven. Thanks to the FDA it's not available in the US.
After lunch we hit a gelato shop, and Greta couldn't resist herself. The girls then punished the credit card a bit at Desigual before making a quick stop at the Hard Rock Cafe.
Across from the Hard Rock is the Plaça de Catalunya, which is the main square in town. When we were there it was pretty quiet and run over by pigeons.
I then essentially forced the girls to walk a bit more up into the L'Eixample part of town to hit the Superdry store. I don't think they were disappointed by the decision. As a bonus we got to see George Clooney who is a HUGE fan of Nespresso. Didn't you know that?
The next day we all drove to Andorra. The original plan had the girls going scuba diving, but they decided to tag along with Greta and I. The drive up into the Pyrenees was amazing. On the left you can see a photo of Montserrat and the amazing sky we had throughout the day.
Andorra has been on my list of places to visit. In fact, I have a goal of visiting all of the micro countries of Europe. This was also Greta's 18th country visited in just over a year. Not too shabby. Tanja and I jumped out at the border and asked a very nice police man for a tourist stamp in our passports. Mission accomplished!
Greta didn't have an enjoyable car ride to Andorra. Plus the traffic getting into the little country was terrible. Everyone goes there from Spain or France for Duty Free shopping. So we stopped just inside the border at the small town of Sant Julià de Lòria. We walked around a bit until Greta fell asleep in the pack and then had lunch. There was almost nothing in this little town except a very nice and friendly visitor center. During lunch we just propped Greta up in the corner...
After lunch we headed to the main town of Andorra la Vella. On top of the car park was an awesome playground, and Greta had a blast. We then walked up and down the High Street (not terribly photogenic), but most of the shops were closed for the afternoon siesta. So we picked up sticks and had a nice drive back to Barcelona.
Words can't describe what we saw on our last day in town. Maybe it was the anticipation, but we had swung by the Sagrada Família during our second day in town, but didn't arrive in time before it closed. So the priority on our last day was to get there early and see Gaudí's masterpiece with plenty of time to soak it in.
The church is not complete, and it has been under construction for about 100 years. However, there has been a large amount completed within the last 10, and it's slated to be completed in about 2026. Two sides are complete with the third started in 2002, and each has a name. The side in the above picture is the Passion Façade (west) and is now the main entrance for tourists. The Glory Façade is under construction and will be the main entrance into the nave once complete. Since it was under construction I couldn't get any decent photos. I guess we'll have to go back in 15 years to check it out!
The left photo shows the lower half of the Passion Façade from the above photo. The right photo shows the Nativity Façade, which was the first to be completed and was constructed under Gaudí's supervision before his death in 1926.
The interior is meant to conjure an image of a forest. It was amazing, and it pays to have a nice camera. The museum in the basement is well worth the time. It went into detail about how Gaudí created a number of his designs and was inspired by nature.
Here are just some amazing shots from the nave.
Believe me, I've never taken this many photos inside of a church before.
We all liked the turtle used as the column base on the Nativity Façade. A couple of the best hours we've ever spent. Go check out the rest of the photos here.
After a couple hours in La Sagrada Família we decided to walk back to our apartment and then onto the airport. It was a glorious day and we enjoyed the last bit of Barcelona architecture including the Parròquia de Sant Francesc de Sales (left) and the Arc de Triomf (right).
It was a really fun long weekend!
© 2012 Doug Rathburn