On August 27th, we finally entered Spain on our trip from Paris to Barcelona. I must admit it was a different feeling for all of as to cross a European border knowing we would be there for a year rather than a week. Karen and I gazed out the window of the lounge car with a feeling that, while our travels were coming to a close, life was just beginning. In a week and half, we’d be in Granada, and soon the focus would shift to day to day life with the boys starting school, activities, and family routines.
Barcelona is interesting–different from the rest of cities we have visited in so many ways. The Catalan culture isn’t one of Spanish pride but rather pride in their uniqueness and desired independence. One taxi driver said he didn’t even root for the Spanish futbol team and likened it to the US rooting for England because they colonized America!
But we had a lot of fun in Barcelona. We were astounded by Antonio Gaudi’s masterpiece, the Sagrada Famlia, and felt it was unlike any holy building we had ever seen. It is much more about life than death, nature than structure, and light than dark. It is a place where giant sculptures of fruit hang effortlessly off the side and co-exist with doves and religious figures. Whether you like the style or not, it is hard not to be awed by this ongoing achievement. Remarkable.
Beyond the Sagrada Familia, we walked down the madness of Las Ramblas, stood in the center of Catalunya Square, visited Camp Nou, and Jackson played street Futbol in a pretty intense environment not far from our flat.
Over the past month, we’ve become pretty adept travelers who are capable of adapting to any environment. But there was simply no possible way to prepare our sons for the lack of clothing on the Barcelona beaches that line the glorious Mediterranean. We just told the boys this was normal in Europe and tiptoed through the masses of people until we found a spot to place our towels. But, more than anything, the beach was an incredible homage to humanity with more people (and people of all ages) than we had ever seen at a beach in California. It was also wonderful to swim in a body of open water that was so warm and full of visible fish. It seemed every experience we had in Barcelona delivered its own sense of awe.
Lastly, one of the highlights was that Karen and I celebrated our 16th anniversary in Barcelona at a little restaurant outside a converted hospital. It was a magnificent setting to enjoy this special occasion, and so we left the boys at the flat for a romantic dinner in the neighborhood.
At the end of 5 days, it was hard to put a finger on the pulse of Barcelona. It certainly felt more disjointed than any city we had visited on this trip. It was vibrant and fun and messy and crowded and exciting and bold. It was chaotic in some places and tranquil in others. Barcelona had it all, and it seemed to combine an ancient, Catalan pride with a young, modern, celebratory spirit. The streets teemed with people between the ages of 18-30, and it was fun to witness their spirit and playfulness that mirrors the attitude of this great city.