Beginning where our last blog left off, we have just arrived in Barcelona, Spain and are making our way to our hotel. Our cab driver was a young man, most likely college age, who was outgoing and pointed out many landmarks and features of the city we would have never known otherwise. He wanted to practice his English and in return we got a great history lesson and tour of the city. Arriving at our hotel, Hotel Caledonia ( http://www.hotel-caledonian.com/en ) we paid our informative cabbie and went inside. Being only 9:00 in the morning, we obviously could not check into our room, but the hotel was kind and let us leave our luggage in a locked room in the lobby until we could check in that afternoon. The gentleman at the front desk then gave us a map and pointed out different places we could walk to. Exhausted but excited, we headed out to find a cafe for coffee and some relaxation. As we began walking, trying to follow the guides instructions, we stumbled upon this square with a cute corner cafe with outdoor seating. It was absolutely beautiful that day so we wanted to spend the day in the sun. Even with our limited Spanish, we ordered our drinks and enjoyed people watching and the architecture.
Not wanting to just sit all day, we began walking and happen to stumble upon La Rambla, a famous tree-lined pedestrian mall, famous in Barcelona to tourists and locals alike. Flower shops, souvenir stands, and gelato establishments are just a few of the different businesses that line this pedestrian walkway. In addition to the main road, there were what Denise called “alleys” which branch off of La Rambla which had more boutique shops and restaurants. We loved venturing into each of these which somehow always seemed to round back to La Rambla. We even made it to a famous marketplace which was FILLED with people and fresh produce, meats, cheeses, etc. Denise started to get a little claustrophobic so we left to continue exploring. Shopping is not the only thing that La Rambla is known for. Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona’s renown opera house, Teatre Principal, the oldest theater in Barcelona, and Palau de la Virreina, a Baroque palace that houses museum exhibits and cultural events all call La Rambla home. Unfortunately we did not have time to go inside and explore but it is definitely a reason to go back!
After eating a delicious lunch, Denise got fried eggs and Dan a burger, we leisurely made our way back to the hotel to check in. One thing Dan’s aunt and uncle insisted was that we do NOT go to sleep until the evening in order to combat jet lag. They lovingly scheduled a city tour for us in the late afternoon to keep us awake. After checking in, we went to our room to get ready for the tour. Let me tell you, after being up over 24 hours and long flights, a shower never felt SO GOOD! Cleaned up and refreshed we made our way to the bus terminal where our tour was headquartered.
Parc Guell, Sagrada Familia, and Santa Maria Church were the three sites we would be stopping and exploring along our bus city tour. Our tour guide, Maria, could speak seven different languages in addition to the two more she was currently learning. We were so impressed with how well she switched between English, Spanish, and French, the three languages aboard our bus that afternoon. Winding our way to our first site, Parc Guell, we began learning about the architect Antoni Gaudi, a prominent architect in the early 1900s who was responsible for many different buildings around the city. Pictures will do all these sites justice so we will let them speak for themselves. However a little history on all three.
Parc Guell originally started out as a failed commercial housing venture that in the end only two houses were ever built, neither one designed by Gaudi. Parc Guell was inspired by the English garden city movement which is why it made sense to turn it into a Municipal park. We were lucky to visit it when we did because starting in October they would begin charging admission due to the high level of traffic each year.
The Basilica of the Sagrada Familia is a large Roman Catholic church also designed by Antoni Gaudi. Construction on this massive cathedral began in 1882 and to this day it is still not completed. We were told the anticipated completion date is either 2026 or 2028. To go into the history and meaning of the cathedral would be an entire different blog but we hope our pictures inspire you to research on your own.
Santa Maria del Mar was our final stop on this amazing tour of Barcelona. An old Catalan Gothic church which was a major contrast from the Sagrada Familia. Again, pictures are worth a thousand words
Being completely exhausted, we walked back to the hotel, along the way grabbing some food and a little beer we finished this amazing day eating and drinking on our balcony overlooking the Gran Vie. What an wonderful and entertaining city! Next stop…the cruise ship! Stay tuned.
Thank you for reading,
Denise and Dan