Yesterday morning I went to Sunday mass at Santa Maria del Mar, one of the finest Gothic churches in Spain. I really like this style - it's so medieval!
Afterwards I had planned on doing some sightseeing however it seems that on Sunday most of Barcelona shuts down! So I ended up finding a really nice bakery and getting some fig scones and then sat in a Starbucks (the only place open unfortunately) with a Chai Tea Latte listening to some cool jazz that was playing and reading. It was quite a nice way to relax for a while. Because most shops were shut, it was actually a perfect time to explore the old Gothic Quaters of Barcelona. These areas are all beautiful and as you walk through them, you can really feel the time difference between then and now. Until of course, there's a group of break dancers dancing up a storm in one of the placas and you know you're in the 21st century!
I remembered that Casa Batllo (the house designed by the famous Spanish architect Gaudi) was open every day so I walked up that way and checked it out. I honestly believe that if Gaudi had not existed, Barcelona would not be the internationally famous city it is today. That man is responsible for so much of the beauty in Barcelona, and Casa Batllo is just one part of it. The house is amazing - it was built in the early 1900s but the techniques used by him have stood the test of time and it actually appears very modern. Here are some pics of the house.
Looking out from the living area.
Up on the roof.
One of the nice things about Barcelona and coming out of the depths of winter is that the sun does not go down until 5.30pm. It's a fair cry from my days in London when the sky would start to go dark before 3pm! ANd there always seems to be music around the streets of Barcelona so it's very pleasant to walk around. It's also a really, really beautiful city. I'm surprised that it has managed to retain so much beauty given the amount of traffic and general busyness. For instance, it is as busy as Milan, but feels like it has far more of a quirky culture and less business like. I much prefer Barcelona!
Today I went to Parc Guell - monumental gardens on a high plane so it has wonderful views. This park also has a lot of architecture of Gaudi - he also lived in a house in the middle of the gardens. Today was simply a stunning day so wandering through the gardens was very pleasant. Everything feels so relaxed here so I tried to just slow things down and enjoy the atmosphere. In the kain section there were seats in the sun and a guy was playing the guitar and singing - he was very good so I basked in the sun for some time getting my doses of vitamin D and Spanish music.
At this point I have to say that after 8 weeks of being on the road I am starting to get really tired. I was feeling it a bit by the end of Italy, but Turkey really took it out of me - the days were long and jam packed so I am a little sleep deprived. I really want to have the energy to enjoy Spain - it has a wealth of history and amazing things to see and do, but I also have to take a break too. Thus the time in the sun was very lovely.
In the afternoon I walked to the main attraction of Barcelona - the Temple of the Sagrada Familia. This is the great Cathedral that was designed by Gaudi and is the only Cathedral that is being built today. Work has been going on for just over 100 years and it may take that long again for it to be finished. The Cathedral is financed solely by entrance fees and donations, so it is a constant struggle to find the funds to keep it going.
After travelling throughout Europe and seeing so many churches and buildings that are centuries old and wondering what they were like when they were built and how they were built, it was such a treat to see it happening before my eyes. For one thing, the architecture of Sagrada Familia is different to any other church in Europe - as is the style of Gaudi. He is inspired so much by nature and this comes through in all his work. But my goodness, when I walked inside and saw the design of the columns and windows, it was simply amazing. It's like you're walking into a cave of magical light and wonder. I've never experienced any thing like it in a church before - the use of light is phenomenal. So much natural light comes in - it's just beautiful. I wish the photos could capture the splendour of it.
The outside is also very detailed - 'Sagrada Familia' means Holy Family - ie, the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, so the Nativity Facade is dedicated to the stories of this family. It's really special to see.
The building of this Cathedral has been shrouded in controvery from its beginning. Even today, many people in Spain and all around the world really hate it because of either the design or because they are simply angry that a Catholic Cathedral is still being built in post-Enlightenment Europe. I'm going to go all out here and say that the importance of Sagrada Familia to Christendom in Spain and all of Europe simply cannot be underestimated. People say that Christianity is on its way out of Europe. Well, when you go to Sagrada Familia and see the work going on and how dedicated the workers are and see the wonder and appreciation on people's faces as they are inspired by the beauty of the Cathedral - hope is restored. I only wish that I were a millionaire so I could donate my money to building it. I may never see it completed in my lifetime - but I hope my grandchildren will.
Tomorrow is my last day in Barcelona - I have a flight to Santiago de Compostela on Wednesday morning but the flight was moved forward so it leaves at 7am. Because no public transport can get me to the airport by 5am to check in, I have to go there the night before and to an allnighter sleeping in the waiting areas. Ugh, to say the least. But when I get to Santiago, I think I might take a day off - feeling pretty tired!