13.06.2016 - 18.06.2016
(Freddy Mercury voice) Barcelona!!!! Barcelona!!! Ok world you win- this city is beautiful! Bright colors, unique architecture, and delicious tapas on every block. You can't really talk about Barcelona without talking about its amazing food. For me- this city had the best variety and flavors of food, I could eat it every day. We had plenty of the classics- paella, sangria, calamari, even had pizza one night just to keep things interesting. Tapas galore! My mom and I were particularly fond of this goat cheese and red pepper dish that was unreal. Just like France, the wine was cheap and really good! There is a wine region in northern Spain called La Rioja which has great reds and we quickly became big fans.
Our first day we did a walking tour downtown Barcelona, soaking in all the ancient history (that actually goes back to Roman times!) and also orienting ourselves with the city. The history of this city is crazy. We learned a lot about the Catalan culture and its troubles throughout the years. The Catalans have been oppressed for centuries and more recently, for over 300 years you could get arrested or murdered of you spoke the Catalan language or celebrated any of its holidays. They essentially were under a dictatorship until the 70s! Pretty damn impressive of the Catalan people that they were able to overcome and keep their culture and language alive. So much respect for these people. We also learned a lot about the Catalan independence movement (they want to break away from Spain) which is currently a pretty hot current topic as its possibly going to referendum soon. The movement is gaining a lot of momentum and I'll be interested to see what happens over the next few years.
Again, my mom and I were pretty nonstop here. We went to the Sagrada Familia which is a huge basilica designed by Antoni Gaudi that was started in 1882 and still isn't complete. They estimate 2026 but based on the models displayed they still have a ton of work to do. The central spire is supposed to be over 550 ft tall, just short of Montjuic, Barcelonas tallest point. The Sagrada is a gorgeous church that towers over the city and each facade is a different depiction of a story in the bible. You could spend hours just looking at the outside of the building.
We also visited Park Guell which is a beautiful park in the northern part of town that has a lot of sculptures and mosaic designs also by Gaudi. His mosaics and use of color are absolutely gorgeous. We went to the Picasso museum which mostly focused on his early works when he was just a teenager. They have some pieces he created while in art school and some when he was just 14 years old which are stunning and very impressive considering how young he was. Each section of the museum was from a different period in his life and it was interesting to see his evolution and also the influence of the region of Spain he was in at the time as well as historical context. We also took a trip up to the top of Montjuic to visit a castle and see the beautiful view at the top. The castle was originally built to defend Barcelona but during Franco's dictatorship it was actually used to maintain power of Barcelona so locals do not revere this part of town. We then took a gondola type ride down the mountain and saw more beautiful views.
We also squeezed in some beach time while we were there! The beach is absolutely beautiful. We rented chairs and umbrellas, bought $2 beers some guys were selling out of plastic bags, and soaked in the sun while resting our feet. It was perfect.
On my last evening here, in preparation for my bike trip, I went on an evening bike tour of Barcelona. I was the only one who signed up so it was more or less a date with this Catalan dude Jordi who was my guide. We rode around lots of neighborhoods, along the water, and he shared some local insight about Barcelona. He also is a passionate proponent of the Catalan independence movement so it was really interesting hearing his perspective.
Here was where I split ways with my mom, she flew back to the states and I am taking a bus up to Basque Country Northern Spain for a weeklong bike ride 😁😁. My mom and I had an amazing time together and I was so happy to share this experience with her!