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wednesday, june 3, 2015 the architect
Wow. I'm really here. That was my first thought when the plane touched down in Barcelona. All the antipication and weeks of planning was finally coming to fruition, and it was time to get this started. To back track a little bit, the flight was great. Long, but great. I didn't sleep much, and I finally got to watch Frozen for the first time. Once I landed, my first priority was to find my hotel. Instead, I found Starbucks. It was a good excuse for me to get on the wifi and find where the hotel was, which ended up being two blocks away. So I checked in, dropped my bag off, and set out to spend the day with Antoni Gaudí, a famous Spanish architect known for his Catalán modernism. And my first stop was to be Casa Battló.

Casa Battló is just around the corner from my hotel, and I actually stumbled upon it earlier when I was aimlessly walking around the city looking for the hotel. I saw that the line was really short to get into the house, so I thought I'd drop my stuff off at the hotel and then come back and get right in. Nope. There were a lot more people when I returned later, but it wasn't a bad wait at all. Needless to say, Casa Battló is amazing. Gaudí put in so much effort and time into his work and the intricacies of his details were inspiring. The guided tour lead me to believe that he was going for an underwater feel with the house, and I think he accomplished that feeling rather well. The walls were painted to look like fish scales or those of some sea creature. And it's not like he did this in one room—it was everywhere. You can see an example of this detail on the picture of the pillar I took.

There were so many amazing features in Casa Battló: the swirling ceiling, the mushroom-shaped fireplace, the center cavity which felt like the lungs of the house, the 13 bumps in the ceiling, the use of tiles outside to make his famous mosaics—the list goes on and on. I loved the long hallway that gave the illusion that we were walking through fish bones. That actually made me say wow.

After finishing up with Casa Battló, I realized that I had plenty of time until my hotel room would be ready (I needed a nap), so I figured I'd start walking northeast until I stumbled upon his most prized work in Barcelona, la Sagrada Familia. Easier said than done, cause I couldn't find it. I asked an old woman where it is, and she graciously told me how to arrive at la Sagrada Familia by foot. I asked her if it was close, to which she responded that it would be close for me, but very far for her. We chuckled. As I continued down Carrer Mallorca, I saw Gaudí's structure peeking through some trees in the distance (see pictures below), and once I was in the vicinity, I turned a corner and saw these purple-bloomed flower trees sitting in front of la Sagrada Familia, and I'm pretty sure I said something blasphemous. You just don't see something like that in Indianapolis, so I was kind of taken aback. I was also taken aback by the amount of tourists that were surrounding la Sagrada Familia. I don't do too well in crowds, so it was a little uncomfortable to trudge my way through everyone to get to the ticket booth. Once my ticket was purchased, I realized I had an hour until it was my time to enter, so I found a nice restaurant across the street where I ordered a bacon, tomato, and goat cheese focaccia. It was tasty.

In a few words, la Sagrada Familia is awesome. I was very much impressed with the outside details, especially the backside which was completely different than the front, but it was the inside that made my jaw drop. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Let's recap what I've learned today:

  • Wifi in Starbucks is NOT free.
  • There are mopeds. EVERYWHERE.
  • Pedestrians more or less obey crosswalk signals. I was surprised.
  • Gaudí is the man!!
Enjoy some pictures from today!

a year later...
I remember seeing land for the first time while on the plane, and I remember thinking Whoa, that's freaking Spain!! I was definitely acting like a kid in a candy shop, but I was trying my best to act normal. The plane arrived early—around 8:30am—and I remember that my first priority was to exchange American dollars for some Euros, then I could purchase a bus ticket into the city. I wish someone had told me to NOT EXCHANGE MONEY AT THE AIRPORT, because they had a considerable inflation of the exchange rate, like almost double what it should have been. But I was naive and anxious, so I did the exchange and lost a little bit of money on the transaction. My biggest concern at that moment was having Euros in my pocket, and I felt a lot better once I had the cash.

The bus ride in was great. I got to check out the city starting from the outskirts working my way in, and I know I had to keep pinching myself because This is Spain! I still couldn't believe it. The bus passed Plaza de España, and I remember making a note to come back and check it out, but I never did. Next time, I suppose! The bus dropped me and the other passengers off in Plaza de Cataluña, at which point I was sad to see everyone go their separate ways. It was then that it hit me that I truly was on my own.

Casa Battló was still one of the highlights of being in Barcelona. It was the first place I officially visited as a tourist, and it was one of the more interesting places I had been to. It was like each room had a unique quirk to it, and it was necessary to look in every inch of the building to see these quirks. I didn't mention it last year, but there was a room that had a replica of Casa Battló with a video being projected onto it. I took a video of it, which you can see below. It was very impressive to watch (I think I watched the whole thing twice).

As for la Sagrada Familia, I'm surprised I didn't say more about it. The outside was very cool to check out with the front side looking completely different than the backside. I remember hearing that Gaudí was going for two different styles/façades with the design, and I think that was evident as I got to look at it. The real breath-taking moment was when I first walked in. As with a lot of the cathedrals in Europe, the outside looks much smaller than the inside, and it isn't until you actually enter that you see the grandeur of it all. La Sagrada Familia is absolutely enormous on the inside! The giant pillars add a unique elegance to the design, and the ceiling is absolutely mesmerizing to me, as you can see from the picture posted here (and this is one of my favorite pictures from the whole trip). The sun shining through the stained-glass windows produced some of the most incredible views I had ever seen. Pictures can't and won't do it justice, but it really was incredible to be in there. It was very crowded, so I didn't stay too long, but long enough to make a few laps around the inside and take it all in. This is one place I hope to visit again sometime.

I remember walking through the streets that day thinking that every block looked the same, and that disappointed me to some degree. I was hoping for something a little more like the pictures I've seen where the streets are made of stone and they're hilly and it's easy to get lost in them—that came the next day. I had been in the northern part of Barcelona the whole day that I hadn't seen the southern portion yet, which was completely different. Just something I remembered from that day.

Also, I really, really lucked out with the hotel rooms that I had for the first leg of the trip. I knew my first room would be the size of a closet, but it was actually incredibly nice with some modern fixtures. I loved the green tile, the tall windows, and the nice stand up shower. That night was one of two amazing nights of sleep I had while in Europe, and rightfully so after the long two days I had had traveling to Barcelona.

various scenes in Barcelona
Casa Battló
la Sagrada Familia
my hotel room

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