Antoni Gaudí’s work is everywhere in Barcelona. We were lucky to have a great view of Casa Milà (La Pedrera) from our balcony and just two blocks south of us stood Casa Batlló. On my family’s first full day in Barcelona we decided we’d fill it with all things Gaudí. After all, the reason we came to Spain, per my Mom’s request, was to see the works of Gaudí and to go to Alhambra. Our first stop of the day was Park Güell, which my aunt later told me was her favorite place in Barcelona. She like it even better than La Sagrada Familia.
Even though my uncle is in his 80s he is in great shape, and had no trouble climbing up the hill to the park and then walking around the entire place. There were lines of taxis dropping tourists off at the entrance and I felt quite proud of my four seniors for being such troopers (we took the metro there and then walked from the station). I was once again shocked by the crowd, for my previous visits I practically had the park to myself. It was my third time at Park Güell, but I still enjoyed the grounds and all the weird crazy paths, shadows, colors, columns, mosaics, and vistas. I remember seeing local people walking their dogs in the park the last time, but this morning there were odd performance artists and singers at various passage ways instead. I suppose with so many tourists around (we were also there later in the morning) even a guy dressed as a headless businessman sitting on a bench had a chance of making some money.
For some inexplicable reason I’d never bought a guidebook for Spain for my previous trips to the country. But with my whole family depending on me to take them around I felt enough pressure to purchase Rick Steves’ guide to Spain (a digital version) and I followed his tip on “where to lunch” and went to La Rita this day. We got there just before they opened and were treated to a three course lunch for less than 10 EUR per person, including drinks (water or wine). The food wasn’t mind-blowing and the place definitely catered to the business lunch crowd needing to get through a quick meal, but for a nice sit-down place with linen table cloths and proper stemware, it was a great deal. Just a block or two from Passeig de Gràcia (basically next to where you catch the airport train), the location was also fantastic. Thank you Rick.
Having seen the big crowds of people everywhere I decided to buy our tickets to Sagrada Familia online before we got there so we could avoid any lines (we did the same for the Picasso museum). When I first went to Sagrada Familia a decade earlier there was no “interior” of the church to speak of. I vaguely remember being impressed by the sheer scale of the place, intricate Gothic details mixed with weird and colorful modern touches (berries on top of cones?), and climbing the spiral staircases inside the towers. That was then.
To say I was awestruck two years ago on my return visit would be an understatement. The Pope had just been there and Sagrada Familia was officially named a basilica the month before. As soon as I walked into the church and saw the forest of columns and the lights streaming down from the stained glass windows, I froze in amazement. It was simply spectacular, beyond words.
I couldn’t really tell if anything had changed much inside since my last visit (there are chairs in the middle now where you can sit and I understand that regular services are held), but I was looking forward to seeing the reactions from my family when they finally set their eyes on this wonder.
They loved it. I wandered around while my family did the tower climb (elevators do the climbing up but you have to buy a separate ticket for your time slot) and they gawked, stared, and took in everything they could. It was unfortunate that some of the areas in the back were closed as well as the fantastic exhibition on how Gaudí was influenced by nature; I came to understand so much more about Gaudí’s vision and his work from that exhibition. Nonetheless, Sagrada Familia was and is a wondrous place. It’s taken well over 100 years of construction for this church to get to where it is today (construction started in 1882) and they say it’ll take another 10-15 years still to finish. I really look forward to going back when the main entrance is built.
I was pretty sure that the seniors were exhausted by all the walking (plus jet lag) so I thought we’d stay in for dinner. I had read about a Basque taberna called MAiTEA and really wanted to try it, but it was a bit far (~1 mile). But knowing that if I didn’t eat there I’d regret it (or wouldn’t let it go), Kevin said we could do it. And of course by that he meant we would walk there and bring the food back- we have an unspoken rule about walking everywhere if it’s less than an hour (or more).
It was a total pain in the butt but oh, am I glad we made the journey! It was a very local montadito/pintxos bar where you see a long counter when you walk in. Two equally long glass display cases with various plates of pintxos are waiting for customers to enjoy. You just pick what you want out of about two dozen cold pintxos on display or you can order hot pintxos, which are made to order. Since we were doing take-away, we only took the cold ones but I’m sure that the hot dishes are really good… Kevin and I piled enough pintxos to fill up 3 plates, and the waitress looked at me incredulously and asked whether it was just for the two of us.
She then took our plates and handed them to a guy through a little window to the kitchen, and our food disappeared for at least about 10 minutes. I had no idea what was going on back there. Seriously, what was taking so long? It turned out that they were gingerly transferring each of the pintxos into a large cardboard box, all evenly spaced so that they didn’t crumble or damage. Ohhhhhh. The waitress told me to come back with my family next time to dine in and try the hot pintxos. Yes, and with some txakoli please!
Do you see that each piece has a toothpick through it? I learned that if you eat there, you keep the toothpicks because you pay by the number of toothpicks you have at the end of your meal. Since there were no prices listed anywhere Kevin and I were guessing how much our 24 pintxos would cost. I guessed 60 EUR. Believe it or not, each pintxo was 1.65 EUR regardless of size or ingredient, so we came in under 40 EUR. It’s like having dim sum or kaiten sushi, and paying by the plate. So. Fun.
My ambitious agenda had my family going to either Casa Batlló or Casa Milà in the evening to round out the Gaudí day, but it got late and everyone was too tired to go out again. I visited Casa Milà with Paula when we were here last, so below are some of those photos. By the way PW, the entrance fees have gone up significantly in less than two years! It was shocking…
There are many other places where one can see Gaudí’s work in Barcelona and I still have a long list remaining. But the places I keep going back to have been with different people each time, and thanks to them my experience has been unique and special every time. In fact, I think I’ve come to appreciate Gaudí’s vision more because of my repeat visits. How cool for the people of Barcelona to have everyday as Gaudí day?
Park Güell: Carrer d’Olot, Barcelona, Spain
La Rita: Carrer d’Aragó, 279, Barcelona, Spain
Basílica de La Sagrada Familia: Carrer de Mallorca, 401, Barcelona, Spain
MAiTEA: Carrer de Casanova, 157, Barcelona, Spain