It was our dream to go to Spain, so weeks prior to our flight, my friends Allen and Tricia, and I exchanged ideas on the best place and dates for our visit. We considered Madrid, Barcelona, Seville and others, but finally chose Barcelona and the first three (3) days of November 2019 to visit, because it was a long weekend. We booked our hotels, both situated in the city center, near the metro stations, and not more than a 20-minute walk to the Sagrada Familia so that we could visit the church often and would have minimal need for transportation.
After a two-hour flight, we met at the Barcelona International Airport (also known as El Prat de Llobregat Aeropuerto or Aeroport de Barcelona) and rode the train to our hotels, arriving at around 2AM. We were thankful that the airport was conveniently connected to the train station. More so, we were glad that there was an option to choose a three-day ticket, priced only at over 20 euros, which covered all modes of transportation.
Our first visit was The Basílica de la Sagrada Família. We attended the 9AM mass, all the while awed at the magnificent beauty of the Basilica. Once outside, we took photos of the church’s façade and contemplated for several minutes the grandeur of the place. The Basilica, in my opinion, has a design like any other. Every little corner is touched by an artist’s hand and so full of intricate details. Some portions of the design even appear surprising. Who would have thought of putting designs of fruits or flowers at the top of the church? Who would have thought of putting designs of animals on the ceiling? But amazingly, they look harmonious when taken in as a whole. Also, Antoni Gaudi, the architect whose creative genius poured on the Sagrada Familia had reasons for his design.
From the Basilica, we walked around the city center to check out the shops and buy some souvenirs. Then, we proceeded to Parc Güell.
Parc Güell is a public park that is on the UNESCO World Heritage list. It is located on located on Carmen Hill in Barcelona, Catalonia. This park is owned by the entrepreneur Eusebi Güell and also designed by Gaudi. It’s not a usual park, but a perfect blend of nature and architecture. It was not boring like many big parks. Every corner has something different –a house, a side of a cliff, stone formations, etc. Every design with its intricate details and bright colors attract attention. The park is a famous and well-loved tourist spot in Barcelona. It is one of the largest green spaces in the city, covering more than 17 hectares.
When we got back to the city center, we walked around looking for a nice restaurant where we would have dinner. Along the way, we passed by Arc de Triomf during our walk. I didn’t know then that Barcelona also has its own Arc de Triomphe, although smaller than the one in France, and having a style of its own!
For dinner, we chose a famous restaurant serving really good paella. To really make the moment special, we decided to go back to our hotels first, rest and dress a bit more formally for the occasion. We were not mistaken with our choice—the paella negra and paella Valenciana tasted heavenly. My friends and I also chose that night as our special night—to exchange some small gifts we prepared for one another and to give special messages.
The next day, we went to the Barcelona Cathedral first, then checked some items from the shops selling a variety of items including antique objects. Afterwards, we went to the Castell de Montjuïc or Montjuïc Castle. The Castle is an old military fortress located on the Montjuic Hill with history dating back to 1640. It was quite far from the center and we had to wait for a bus going to the area and walked some distance to the palace. We discussed a bit about its history as we walked along. The Castle is a living history. First built as a fortress (because of its location that allowed the sighting of enemies both by land and by sea, it was demolished and rebuilt as a castle in 1751. Its role in the history of Spain varied—as a military enclave, as a detention center, as an execution place, and in the future, it is foreseen to “serve as the site of a Peace Center, a museum that explains its history by advocating not to repeat the mistakes of the past.”
We went to the courtyard, the terrace and looked at the exhibits. To cap off our visit, we went to a café towards closing time where we had a light snack and rested our feet for a while before we headed back to the city center. We visited the Sagrada Familia once again, had dinner near the area and went to a local grocery store for some goodies.
On our last day, Sunday, we visited Casa Mila, also called La Pedrera located in Passeig de Gracia, that was then the most important avenue in Barcelona in the 1900s. This house was owned by husband and wife Pere Milà and Roser Segimon, who got married in 1905. They commissioned Gaudi to design the property.
The entrance fee was almost 40EUR so we initially hesitated while lining up to the cashier, if only for a few seconds. We decided that since we’re already there, we’d push through. The house is also touched by Gaudi’s magic, as seen from its architectural design, colors, metal window frames and door knobs. More so, the rooftop features structures that represent the natural elements, earth, wind, water and fire. It was also out of this world. The house is also a museum containing objects and designs of interest and information about Gaudi’s life and works. Casa Mila has had a colorful history, was made fun of at certain periods in history because of its unusual structure, and underwent neglect. However, in 1984 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It underwent restoration before it was opened for public viewing and visitation in 1996.
From Casa Mila, we walked again to Casa Batllo or the Blue House, which is just in the vicinity. There was a long queue so we decided not to go inside. We just stayed for several minutes in front of the house, joining the throng who also decided to just appreciate the structure from the outside. We had lunch and agreed to go back to our hotel early in order to prepare to go to the airport by 4PM. On our way home, I passed by a clothing shop and wanting really to have a souvenir dress from the place, I requested my friend Tricia to please just spare 15 minutes. Luckily, the only dress that I liked in the shop fitted me perfectly. We then hurried back to the hotel, got our things, went to the metro station and to the airport, where we took our separate flights.
- Barcelona is a lovely place. The weather is warmer than that in Paris at that time.
- I really appreciate that the metro has options for the transportation ticket. That way, we only spent more than 20 euros for our three-day transportation without needing to ride a cab.
- Antoni Gaudi is really a talented architect. His designs stand out. What made me like him more is his explanation for his designs, that he is simply imitating the beauty of nature and God’s handiwork.
- We saw many Filipinos in Barcelona, at the church, at the park, at the grocery story, at the train station and around the city center.
- We also discovered a snack named Filipinos. I didn’t get angry about that. It’s just weird to see one’s nationality as the label of a sweet treat. It was delicious, though.
- I had a slightly scary experience in the clothing shop in Barcelona. The one I went to has this really small room which functions as a dressing room. I tried on the dress and then tried to open the door. To my surprise, I couldn’t open it from the inside. There was no door knob (because the lock is outside). I knocked on the door and waited for 15-30 seconds (believe me, it felt much longer, and during that time, I imagined that a portion of the floor would open up.) My friend Tricia was outside so I’m sure I’d come to no danger, but still, I felt scared.
- The presence of The Basílica de la Sagrada Família makes Barcelona really special. This structure is an extraordinary work of art and an artist’s special way of expressing appreciation to God for his talents.
- We wanted to go to Montserrat. But with the limited time, we couldn’t risk missing our flights. Next time, that’ll be our goal. 🙂