Sunday, November 1, 2015

#1532 2 weeks in Barcelona day 11: Sagrada Familia, a home cooked meal and Park Guell

I am ready for November to be a much healthier month for me. I have been ill for most of October and my goal for the weekend was to stay home, rest and get well. I guess I do feel a little better, but the stuffy head, cough and headache remain. I don't feel quite as tired, though. Here's hoping for a good night's sleep.

You know that November is the official month of NaBloPoMo - National Blog Posting Month, so my goal is to post every day this month. So let's get started with another day in Barcelona. I said that day 10 was one of my favorites, and day 11 was pretty dang spectacular, too. Let's go!

Thursday 24 September 2015

September 24 is a public holiday in Barcelona. It is el Dia de la Merce, the patron saint of Barcelona. Many businesses are closed, kids stay home from school and there is a festive atmosphere in the city. Mercedes is a pretty common name for ladies in Spain, and September 24 is their "saint day" which is a big deal there.

We started our day by walking about 15-20 minutes from the apartment on Carrer Arago to La Sagrada Familia. The incomplete church is one of the most popular sites in the city.

La Sagrada Familia
The church was designed by Antoni Gaudi and his work is prevalent throughout the city. He definitely dominated the sites we saw on this day.

Before we went to the church, though, we had some churros for breakfast. There's a little xureria very close to the church, so we got a couple of packets and went to the park to enjoy the scenery and the tasty churros.

It looks like Lizzie and I are singing about the churros
churros get their close-up
After the perfectly delightful breakfast, we followed the crowds across the street to the church. There are two distinct sides of the church: the Nativity is the older side and the Passion is newer. All of it is the design of Gaudi and they couldn't be more different.

The thing is that you have to buy tickets to get into the church and to see the facades at their best. We thought we could buy tickets on-site, but we were unable to do so. Limited numbers are let in to see the church and all the viewing times were sold out that day. We wanted to buy tickets for another day, but they were only available online. When we got back to the apartment, we bought tickets for Saturday, so I'll have a lot more words and photos of the church on day 13.

We did see a little area that we were allowed to go into, though. It is the crypt area and we were able to walk right in. My mom was excited because it was the part of the church she most wanted to see. It's pretty awesome in there. There's a chapel and various smaller areas along the wall for various saints. I'm not good at explaining it, but here's a photo of the St. Joseph altar.

St Joseph
The crypt is also where Antoni Gaudi himself is buried. He was tragically hit and killed by a streetcar in 1926. By then he was living onsite at the church while it was being constructed and I think it's perfectly fitting that it is his final resting place.

the grave of Antoni Gaudi
Here are several photos I took of the church that day:

construction began on La Sagrada Familia in 1882

the Nativity side
the Passion side

We walked around the outside of the gates for awhile and spent some quality time in the gift shop where we all bought several souvenirs. I was sad not to be able to go inside the church that day, but spoiler alert - it was worth the wait! Check back in a couple of days to see what I mean.

We walked back home along gorgeous tree-lined streets. The Eixample neighborhood is really, really nice.

the Eixample
Mom's cousin Ferran had invited us to his home for lunch on this day. His wife's name is Mercedes and she was cooking paella de carne for us. I felt bad that she was cooking for us on her saint day, but she seemed fine with it. And my gosh - it was incredibly delicious!

paella de carne
Typically paella is made with seafood, but my mom is allergic to shellfish, so this paella was made with meat. Paella is a rice dish, flavored with saffron and tomato. The meat included sausage, pork and beef. Looking at this photo makes my mouth water as I remember sitting in the small dining room with Ferran, Mercedes, their daughter Gloria, my mom and my sister. What a lovely meal! For dessert we had a fruit tart that was exceptional also. To finish, a bit of cava. That's the meal I want for my birthday lunch! ;)

After the nice meal and the wonderful conversation - we talked about Catalan independence and Gloria's children: a son who goes to school at Fordham University and a precocious adorable three year old named Patricia - Ferran gave us a ride home. We dropped Mom off at the apartment, then Ferran kindly took Lizzie and I up to Park Guell, or as close as he could get to it. He is such a nice man and his family is awesome, too.

Park Guell is another creation of Antoni Gaudi. He was commissioned by Senor Guell to create a park that would have houses (mansions) in it. The housing development didn't really work out because the park is on a hill and it was difficult at the time (early 1900s) to get material there. The area turned out to be an amazing park with really cool structures and beautiful views of the city. You can wander through much of the park free of charge, but to get to Gaudi's Monumental Zone, you have to pay and wait for your time. Again, limited numbers are allowed in the Monumental Zone at any given time, but once you're there, you can stay as long as you like.

Lizzie and I had to wait about 90 minutes to get into the Monumental Zone, so we chilled out on a bench and enjoyed the scene. Here are a few views of the park:

view of the city from Park Guell

Gaudi's house at Park Guell

Park Guell
Gaudi lived at the Park for many years before he moved to La Sagrada Familia. Lizzie and I walked through the house. You could see the Sagrada Familia from the house. Pretty neat.

Finally it was our turn to go into the Monumental Zone. There are several entries. We chose to enter from the top where the famous winding benches are. There is a large space up there and the benches wind all around it.

the benches
 The benches are made of thousands of mosaic tiles in colorful patterns and there is a lot of it. Here's a view of the entry buildings from the bench area:

the entry buildings at Park Guell
Both of the buildings had original purposes, but now the one on the left is a gift shop and the one of the left is, well I don't know exactly. You can walk through it, but there was a very long line and we decided not to wait. Maybe next time.

The entire bench area is supported by columns in the Hypostyle room.

the columns, the gargoyles and the benches from behind

the columns in the Hypostyle
The entire ceiling of the Hypostyle is the ceramic mosaic. So much detail! It's incredible.

You go down some stairs and see the dragon and the serpent.

the dragon

the serpent with the Catalan banner
At the bottom of the stairs, turn around to see the whole thing:

the grand entryway of Park Guell
Along the walls is more mosaic. You can see on the dragon and the serpent all the mosaic tiles also. The whole place is just stunning.

building at Park Guell
Again, I didn't want to leave. The place is so remarkable and beautiful. We didn't wander too much around the park because we were full of paella and feeling a little tired. Plus, by the time we got into the Monumental Zone and took a jillion photos and admired it all, it was starting to get dark and we had decided to walk back to Carrer Arago.

Lizzie used her amazing sense of knowing where she was and got us down the hill and onto a main road to get us home. We loved walking through the streets. Like I said, it was a holiday and people were walking around and having drinks and it was very pleasant. It took us about 40 minutes or so to walk home.

For dinner that night, we stopped at a nearby restaurant, Enrique Tomas, for sandwiches that we took home. We watched the fireworks on TV and were thankful we weren't out among the crowds at Placa d'Espanya.

Do I need to say it? Yep. It was a fantastic day!

Next time...a day trip to Sitges.

Talk to you tomorrow!

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