Europe 2014: Barcelona

 

A view of the city from Park Guell

A view of the city from Park Guell (c/o Mar Corazo)

The second stop of our multi-city European adventure was Barcelona. Barcelona is definitely my favorite European city so far. It’s unassuming and charming. My male companions likened it to the “girl next door” versus the  sophisticated, more high maintenance girl that is Paris. We arrived the morning of Easter Sunday so our first stop was Barcelona Cathedral for Easter Mass. It was quite the challenge indeed to concentrate during the Mass having attended the Castellano service and being surrounded by the resplendence of the Barcelona Cathedral.

You can't blame me for straying once in a while during the Mass if this is what surrounded me.

You can’t blame me for straying once in a while during the Mass if this is what surrounded me.

It was a good thing we arrived on a Sunday: free entrance to the Picasso Museum! We lined up as early as 1 pm and ended up entering by 3:30 pm. One thing I learned – find travel companions who can find entertainment in the smallest of things. I’m not known to be  a very patient person and had I fallen in line by myself, I would not have lasted the 2 and a half hours! Time passed by really quickly as we talked and even played taboo while waiting in line and before we knew it, we were inside the museum. The rest of the day was spent exploring the streets looking for the best place to have tapas and churros – which is almost every corner of the city!

Barcelona's very own Arc de Triomf

Barcelona’s very own Arc de Triomf

The next day, we traversed to the home of FC Barcelona, Camp Nuo, where we were able to learn more about the roots of the popular football team that prides itself as being “more than a club”. Though we were not as big a fan as Mar is, we appreciated why the team based in the quaint city of Barcelona was able to capture the hearts of more than a million fans worldwide.

Mes Que Un Club (More Than A Club)

Mes Que Un Club (More Than A Club)

It was also more than a stadium, Camp Nuo featured a Museum where the entire history of the club – both in and out of the sports world, was detailed and all the awards they received were displayed. They even had corners dedicated to their most famous players such as Ronaldinho and Messi.

Pretending to watch a game (c/o Mar Corazo)

Pretending to watch a game (c/o Mar Corazo)

One of the things I loved about Barcelona is how it strikes the balance between it’s old-world charm and the eccentric architectural style of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. We were only able to explore three of his major works, but his designs could be seen scattered all around the city. We ventured up to Park Guell, which was literally an uphill battle. The park is located atop El Carmel which required us to take several escalators and walk up a curved path. I’m not a fan of upward climbs but I must say that it was worth it. Park Guell is filled with architectural marvels and a breathtaking view of the city (as shown on the first picture of this post).

Park Guell

Park Guell

We were also able to explore Casa Mila, also known as the La Pedrera. Perhaps it was the construction being done on its facade at that time but it felt well camouflaged for a building with such distinctive features. It did not feel out of place in the middle of the city. As you enter, you are welcomed by the atrium that provides the view of the clouds above.

Clouds~

Clouds~

The best feature of the building is most definitely the roof which is just full of indescribable designs – differing depths and unusual figures that are simply a feast to the eyes especially when viewed together with the beautiful blue sky.

The Roof of La Pedrera

The Roof of La Pedrera

Seated outside the La Pedrera, behind us the roads look ordinary while the extraordinary Casa Mila sits in front of us.

Seated outside the La Pedrera, behind us the roads look ordinary while the extraordinary Casa Mila sits in front of us.

The following day, we decided to delve deeper into Catalan history by visiting the Mercat del Born. A seemingly regular (by regular, I mean it by Barcelona standards – still an aesthetic marvel) building from the outside, the Mercat del Born actually houses the ruins of the destroyed Market in the el Born district during the capture of Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War. Despite now being considered as part of modern day Spain, Barcelona still shows some deep attachment to their Catalan roots. In fact, in the surrounding area of el Born, there are still banners that call for the independence of the Catalan people.

Ruins of Mercat el Born

Ruins of Mercat del Born

After having lunch in the popular food market, Las Ramblas, we finally went to our third Gaudi for the trip – his magnum opus – La Sagrada Familia. From afar one can already see the majesty of this unfinished Church. Up close, it is truly an overwhelming sight – the size of the Church together with the intricate, yet meaningful designs both on the facade and of the interiors can be too much to take in at first glance.

Photo with La Sagrada Familia. It was so high, Justin had to kneel down just to get this shot. (c/o Cheston)

Photo with La Sagrada Familia. It was so high, Justin had to kneel down just to get this shot. (c/o Cheston Cornelio)

La Sagrada Familia (The Holy Family) is a complex Church. Every detail was there for a reason – there was no randomness in its design. One of the outer spires have the word Sanctus in plated lettering, while the names Mary Joseph and Jesus, the Sagrada Familia, can be found above the main entrance of the Church.

 

A wall in Sagrada Familia containing the Catalan version of The Lord's Prayer, "Parenostre"

A wall in Sagrada Familia containing the Catalan version of The Lord’s Prayer, “Parenostre”

At the basement of the Church, there is a museum that contains several information on Gaudi’s life as well as blueprints and prototypes of the Sagrada Familia and other Gaudi works. The burial place of Gaudi can also be viewed from a small glass window.

The boys resting outside the Sagrada Familia

Resting outside the Sagrada Familia

We were fortunate enough to witness the Sant Jordi Day in Barcelona on our last day. The entire city was filled with stalls selling roses and books. As part of the tradition, ladies would give men books and men would give the ladies roses – like the Catalan equivalent of Valentine’s Day except even the boys get to receive gifts as well. We had our Barcelona City Walking Gothic Tour on that day as well, where we were able to walk around the city and learn about the history of the different buildings, Churches, and locations that were on our path. This entire trip has really helped me appreciate structured guided tours. Initially, I wasn’t fond of going in tour groups, but the lessons and stories that only locals can teach you are definitely part of the experience of visiting the city.

BARCINO located in Placa Nova to represent that origin of the city's current name

BARCINO located in Placa Nova to represent that origin of the city’s name

Despite having stayed in Barcelona the longest, it still feels like we were not there for long enough. As we all ranked our favorite cities at the end of our trip, this charming, picturesque city found its way on the top of most of our lists. I’m surely going to go back. The question now is when – perhaps when the La Sagrada Familia is finally completed. As it stands today, it already is quite grand. I can’t wait to see how it looks when it’s done!

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On Blogging

I was having a discussion over Facebook Chat with my good friend and favorite food buddy Jared about how deep and thought provoking discussions with friends could play a big role in shaping what we decide to blog about. That’s when I realized the great impact that blogging has had in my life. Sure, I’m not a popular blogger with a hoard of followers who eagerly await my every update, it would be so cool if I were. I’m just a regular 23 year old girl with a lot of things going on in her head in need of a medium to verbalize it. I’m in a specific situation wherein I don’t get that opportunity often in my everyday interactions with people, so blogging has definitely been a life saving experience for me. It has saved my sanity more than once. I mean, even if nobody reads what I have to say, it’s just very therapeutic to have an avenue wherein I can express my thoughts. It’s also doubly rewarding when you find out there are actually people who read what you want to say and are actually inspired by it.

Of course nothing beats the long, passionate, or even random, conversations about life and the universe but I will take what I can get. Blogging has definitely kept my mind on a continuous cycle of thought and no matter how many days, weeks, or months life keeps me busy, I find myself always running back to a blog.

It’s kinda funny- in the same conversation, I had mentioned to Jared how I found it difficult to find an inspiration to write because I rarely get to talk to people about my deepest thoughts and therefore I’m unable to process them properly to form a coherent idea on what to write about. Apparently, talking to him about my lack of ideas on what to blog about has given me the idea to blog about what we blog about.

On getting older

A few days ago, I saw a Facebook post by a 15 year old girl complaining about how old she is now. I’m 23 and I’m turning 24 this July. At first, it really hit me. Here’s a girl almost a decade younger than I am complaining that she is old. How dare she? But after some thought, I realized: what is the big deal about getting older? Why do we keep letting an inevitable part of life bring us down?

Someone told me that she understood why Peter Pan wanted to be a kid forever. I used to agree with that sentiment as well but now I don’t. Sure, being an adult involves a lot of responsibilities but being an adult also opens us up to more experiences. I guess sometimes we’re just scared because we feel that time is running out. But hiding behind the denial of our inescapable increase in age would just result in a greater waste of the already limited time we have in this world. So, instead of complaining that we are getting older and wishing that we could be kids forever, we should embrace our aging selves.

I want to live every day with the full acceptance of the knowledge that I am indeed getting older. I want to constantly remind myself that right now, while I am getting older, I am not old. One day, I will be old; but when that day comes, I want to remember that I spent my days doing what I had dreamed to do instead of just dreaming of what I could have done.

On having kids one day

I think the biggest proof that I really do want to have kids some day is the fact that I work with (and watch over) almost 50 five year olds everyday and that is the part of my job that I love the most. I have always wanted to have kids and honestly my greatest fear is to go through life without having experienced the joy of having my own child. I know I’m being dramatic about this. I was just talking to Vida about how legitimately scared I was of the thought of growing old without the chance of having a child of my own.

She called me praning for this, but I’m known to be a television addict who lives in TV Land. Two of my favorite television characters, who both wanted desperately to have kids, had issues with having kids. Granted, these are all fictional stories, their stories really got to me and it really hit me hard that there’s a possibility that someone like me who was really set in a life with kids may not actually be blessed with one.