Barcelona: Days 1 & 2

After 12 grueling hours in flight, we arrived in Barcelona on Sunday, October 23. We spent most of the day sleeping off jet lag. On Monday morning we began our sightseeing with a trip to Basilica de la Sagrada Familia (Church of the Holy Family), a massive church designed by the Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926). Gaudi was the foremost proponent of an architectural style called Modernisme, which features natural materials, organic shapes, bold, flowing lines, and bright colors, often expressed in mosaics of broken tile. Gaudi lived and worked Barcelona all of his life, and many examples of his work can be seen throughout the city.

Sagrada Familia is Gaudi’s masterwork. He began work on the project in 1883 and worked on it until his death in 1926. Construction has continued according to his designs, with completion scheduled for 2026. Words and pictures cannot do justice to this monumental creation. The massive vaulted ceilings and intricate stained glass provide an ambiance of air and light. The innovative, modern design stands in stark contrast to the many other churches in the city, such as the Barcelona Cathedral that we visited later. We rode an elevator to the top of one of the many towers for a expansive view of the city.

Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia: Carved stone sculptures on the Nativity Facade
Sagrada Familia: Carved stone sculptures on the Nativity Facade
Nativity Facade detail: Celestial bassoonist
Nativity Facade detail: Celestial bassoonist
Interior with stained glass
Interior with stained glass
View from the tower
View from the tower
Whimiscal forms atop towers
Whimiscal forms atop towers
Carved stone sculptures in a more modern style on the Passion Facade
Carved stone sculptures in a more modern style on the Passion Facade

After a short rest, we visited the Barcelona Cathedral, a great contrast to the Sagrada Familia. Built in the 15th century, it took only 60 years to complete. Like other cathedrals of the time, it consists of a central nave surrounded by intricately decorated chapels on three sides. Each chapel features elaborate carvings in stone and wood as well as paintings depicting the life of Christ and the saints, all decorated with gold leaf. Adjoining the nave is a courtyard, famous for the white geese that live there.

Barcelona Cathedral interior
Barcelona Cathedral interior
Cathedral courtyard
Cathedral courtyard
Carved marble in the courtyard
Carved marble in the courtyard
White geese in the courtyard
White geese in the courtyard
Street musicians outside of the Cathedral
Street musicians outside of the Cathedral

Leaving the Cathedral, we strolled down narrow streets to La Rambla, a broad boulevard with shops and restaurants and leading to La Boqueria, a famous market. We noticed that the shops close to the Cathedral featured stylish clothes and interesting wares, but as we got closer to the market, things got a lot tackier. The market was crowded with people and garish merchandise. We quickly tired of it and headed back to the hotel.

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