Barcelona and half day trip to Montserrat

Our Spain and Morocco trip got off at a rocky start when our flight to Paris was delayed for 45 mins and we narrowly missed our flight into Barcelona. The next flight wouldn’t take off until three hours later and it meant that by the time we arrived at our studio, it would pass sunset time. I had only planned two nights in eclectic Barcelona so we won’t be able to see everything I had planned. In my mind I unwillingly postponed Park Guell to the next day and scratched off Montjuic. Here is my revised itinerary:

Day 1: Prac Guell -> Plaça de Catalunya -> Les Rambles -> Gothic Quarter -> Montserrat -> Casa Batllo

Day 2: Sagrada Familia ->Girona Aiport for flight to Marrakech

It was a crazy itinerary and in retrospect I should have replaced Monserrat with Montjuic. However, I comfort myself into thinking that the rest of the trip would be at a much slower pace.

The next day, we woke up early to make up some of the lost time. Our first stop was Park Guell. First, we took two freights of elevators to go to the higher level of the park where we could get a good view of Barcelona. We could see the unformidable Sagrada Familia in the distance.

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Then we make our way to the main area with the iconic view of mosaic walls and twin houses.  It looks like the park management had recently set up barriers to sell tickets to the “monument zone”. I had always thought the park was free so after walking around for a while to search for alternative ways to get the iconic view, we resigned and pay the 8 euro per person entrance fee.

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The monumental zone was small and just like what you see in postcards. There were lots of tourists. We saw people crowding around the lizard trying to get a picture with it.

After Park Guell we made our way to Barcelona’s Gothic area and old town. We got off the bus at Plaça de Catalunya and walk along the famous Les Rambles. Les Rambles is a very lively (and touristy) street with lots of vendors and restaurants. It was nice to walk along but not somewhere that I would like to wander for hours.

Eventually, we reached Plaza Reial, then made our way to Barri Gotic. There was a tourist information office nearby so we went in to get a map.  Then we meandered around the Gothic quarter. It was fun exploring the old quarter; every time we turn a corner we would see an interesting historic building or plaza, and most of the sights were free.

We went inside a Cathedral, and outside there was a choir performing.

For lunch we find a tapas bar to enjoy the cheap Pintxos. They even have more filling plates like chicken skewers!

After lunch we hit the city hall since we learned from the tourist information center that it is open to the public (for free!) on Sundays.

After city call, we board the train to Montserrat. We took the cable car up to reach the main area and see the monastery.

There was a farmers’ market in the town center, and we also walked around to see the cliffs from different angles. There were a few hikes we could do if we had an extra day, so with our limited time we obviously did not do Montserrat justice.

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I had plan to head back to Barcelona beach by sunset  but unfortunately due to the lines at the cable car we narrowly missed our train and had to wait for another hour.

By the time we are back to Barcelona it’s already dark, so instead we headed straight to Casa Batllo – and  it turned out to be a great time for visit, since the apartment was almost empty! The ticket line was empty, although we had pre-purchased tickets. I love the audio guide as it puts the Guadi’s genius design in context (both functional and aesthetics) and makes the whole place come alive.  We spent a little over an hour at the house. About 30 mins before close the house was almost empty and we were able to get some good pictures.

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After Casa Batllo we found a Vegan Mediterranean place and had the only non-Spanish meal of our entire trip. Mugmug found the food  there too blend for his taste. That concludes a very long and fulfilling day!

The next day I only planned to see the one and only Sagrada Familia, as we have a flight to Marrakech out of Girona Airport in the late afternoon. We were 30 mins earlier than our ticket time so the security guard told us to come back at schedule time. Across the street from Sagrada Familia there are two parks where you can get a good view of the church, both front and back.

We took some pictures and Mugmug found the church unsightly. I would not go on to describe what he think Sagrada Familia resembles but let’s just say he doesn’t have appreciation for unconventional arts. For me, the exterior was a sensory overload, a whole lot of imagery and symbols pile upon each other. You can look at one section of it and spend the whole day pondering upon the meaning behind each sculpture. It is no doubt that it is a work of genius and a more spectacular sight than Guadi’s apartments due to its sheer size and details, but I prefer Casa Batllo simply because it is easier for me to digest and appreciate the details.

Inside the church, however, the design feels much calmer, with columns and ceilings built to resemble a rain forest. I had learned earlier that Guadi gets his inspiration from nature, as he thinks that people feel closest to god in such environment.

We also spent some time visiting the Sagrada museum just below the church. There were models and description about how the church is created.

It is amazing how long it takes to complete the church, which is still under construction long after the designer himself has passed. I leave Barcelona in awe hoping to come back someday. It ended up being only place in Spain that I feel we didn’t spend enough time.

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