Friday, July 6, 2012

Barcelona part 1

(Sorry for the late post!!!!)

Barcelona was one of the cities in Spain I really wanted to visit while I was studying abroad.  But for different reasons, I never had a chance to go to Barcelona with my friends, and I started to think Barcelona would never happen.

Soon or later, the friends I used to travel with went back to the States, and I found myself itching to go to one more place before I had to return to the States.  After pondering this issue a little bit, I thought it would be really awesome to have the experience of traveling alone, and Barcelona would be easy enough of a place to be traveling by myself for the first time.

So I booked myself a flight on Vueling (probably the smallest amount of leg room EVER) and hopped on over to Barcelona. And boy, was I glad I did.
As with ever, here is a little map:

Madrid and Barcelona doesn't have the best of relations.  There is the tricky and sensitive topic of the nationalism movement in Barcelona that makes people wince at the mention of it. But more importantly, their futbol (soccer) teams are arch enemies: Real Madrid and Barca. (It's dangerous to be a Barca fan in Madrid and vice versa!)  However, despite their shaky relationship, one thing (or person, should I say) both sides are really proud of is Gaudi.

Gaudi this, Gaudi that. I didn't really understand why everyone gushed over this particular architect.  Perhaps you're in that same boat. (If you've seen pictures of some of his buildings, especially La Sagrada Familia, they sometimes seem just plain weird.) But let me tell you, this guy is AMAZING. BRILLIANT. I have most definitely have become a Gaudi fan after this trip.

So I'll dedicate this post to Gaudi.

1) La Sagrada Familia --- the first Gaudi building I saw during this trip.

This building is seriously so beautiful. I have walked through dozens of churches and cathedrals during my semester abroad, but I have never seen anything like La Sagrada Familia. Everything to the initial concept to the execution is pure brilliance.

The inside of the cathedral is supposed to reflect
a forest. Can you see it? 

What it's meant to look like once it's completed.

The cathedral is actually still in construction. I honestly don't think the pictures do this structure justice, but it truly is worth the visit. 

2) La Pedrera --- the next (and the last) Gaudi building I paid to go inside of.

I walked from La Sagrada Familia to La Pedrera because the two places looked really close on a map. FALSE.  Anyways, I finally got to La Pedrera, and at first, I was underwhelmed by the outside appearance of the building. 

Nevertheless, I waited in line because many people told me I had to go see it. 

The walk through La Pedrera is much more set and guided than La Sagrada Familia.  From the first floor, you go straight up to the rooftop and then make your way down the building.

When you step out onto the rooftop this is what I was greeted with: 

BAM! Isn't it beautiful? The funky ice cream-looking things are actually just fun covers for the air vents. Creative and practical! 

I wish I could tell you all more details about this building, but the details are fleeting my memory. My apologizes. 

One of the woes, however, of traveling alone is getting pictures taken of yourself.  I was generally content with just taking pictures of the scenery, but this time, I really wanted a picture of me on the rooftop of La Pedrera.  But how to execute a solo-pic of myself by myself?? I confess, I asked some other tourists to take a picture of me.  Yup.  I sucked up by pride, and asked. 

The floor right below the roof. This is how the structure
was actually built. Gaudi was heavily influenced by 
the things he saw in nature. I.e. worms, forests, 
armadillos, etc. 

From the ground, looking up. 

3) Casa Batlló

After visiting La Pedrera, I walked down back towards Barri Gótic. And guess what I came across: another Gaudi building! 

I easily could have paid another 16€ or so to enter, but by this time I was really pooped from all the walking and my wallet had taken a heavy toll from all the entrance fees. (Negative thing about the Gaudi buildings: the admission prices are REALLY high. Close to $20 per site. Maybe you're thinking, "Hey, that's not bad at all!" But when you're a student in Europe used to either free or low entrance fees in addition to student discounts, $20 is super expensive!) 

So I am sad to say I did not enter Casa Batlló, but I'm sure it is beautiful inside.  (I heard it is very colorfully and beautifully decorated with tiles.) 

4) Park Güell 

Later that day, after eating dinner, I spontaneously thought, I might as well go up to Park Güell just to make sure that I get to see it before I have to leave Barcelona. So I hopped on the Metro and headed up to what now is an iconic symbol of Barcelona. 

But as I was on the Metro, I had this heart-dropping thought: what if the park is CLOSED? I got off at the stop around 7:45PM, and not realizing how far the actual park was from the stop, I speed-walked all the way there, including up the hill to where the park was.  As a inched closer to the park, I became more and more convinced that the park was closing for the day. 

I finally got to the park gates, and to my delight, the park was still open. :) Hoorah!

I've got to say, the park is truly beautiful.  If I lived in Barcelona, I would come here all the time. 

With a lighter heart, I casually strolled around the park, happy to see that there were other people jogging, taking pictures, hanging out, etc. 

Eventually I reached the famous mosaic benches.  

Isn't it stunning?! (I awkwardly asked this couple to take a picture of me here as well.  I mean, let's be real, I couldn't leave without having a picture taken here!) 

There were tons of places to go explore, but I decided not to venture off to the remote areas of the park because I figured it wouldn't be very wise for a little asian tourist to be all alone in an unfamiliar park while the sun was going down.  Call me paranoid, but I stuck to the mantra, "Better safe than sorry" for this trip. 

5) The fountain at Plaça Catalyuna 

The visit to this fountain was a quick walk through.

Talk about explosion of the mind. 

On the next post, I'll talk more about the other details of this trip. :)

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