This was our first trip to Spain and Barcelona was a great starting point. In our 1 week stay, we visited most of the sights and even took in a few surrounding areas. I was surprised to learn that many in Barcelona speak Catalan instead of Spanish, but most understand Spanish and some English as well. The northeast area of Spain (Barcelona and the Costa Brava area) has a rich Catalonian history and they have a referendum coming up to allow them to declare independence.
Barcelona is a really clean city (more so than Paris) with a good Catalonian culture, plenty of sights to visit, and a welcoming vibe. Admittedly, we liked the architecture of Paris better but the Barcelona architecture is whimsical and fun — inspired by Antoni Gaudi and the modernista era.
You can just imagine Hansel and Gretel living in this house:
Many wondered if Antoni Gaudi was a genius or a flake. It was not until we visited the inside of the Sagrada Familia until we really saw his brilliance — this was the most beautifully architected church interior I’ve ever seen. Living from 1852 to 1926, Gaudi grew up with a big appreciation of nature. You will see from the interior of the Sagrada Familia that the columns look like tree trunks and nature inspired art is everywhere. The pictures can’t come close to doing it justice — you have to see it in person!
They say that Gaudi was a really nice dresser as a young man but as he got older he became more frugal and rarely bought new suits. Many people that did not know him personally would have mistaken him for a beggar. When he was 73 years old, he was on his way to a church when he was hit by a tram. They took him to the hospital for treatment but because of how he was dressed, they assumed he was a beggar and did not give him very good care. Once they realized who he was, they tried to give him better care but it was too late. He died a day later.
Not all of the architecture is Modernista, there is a thriving financial district that looks more like Paris or other European cities. A cool thing about Barcelona is that it is a beach-front city with easy access to the Mediterranean Sea. You could see lots of young people riding the metro to the beach with their towels, sunglasses and beach bags in hand — you don’t see that in a big city every day!
We took a sunset sail around the outer banks of Barcelona, a very cool way to end the day.
Montserrat (which means “serrated mountain”) is an hour trip from Barcelona. It is perched upon an almost 4,000 foot mountain. It is the site of a Basilica and is home to about 40 to 50 young boys (aged 12-15) that study music. They become part of the boys choir, watched by many that visit. It has trains that take you to the top of the mountain, hiking trails, and restaurants. It also serves as the home of the “Black Mary (or Madonna)” where people wait in line for an hour or more just to touch the statue inside the Basilica.
Costa Brava is a northeastern Catalonian town where Salvador Dali once lived. It sports some of the most beautiful Mediterranean beaches in Europe. We spent a few hours here in the town of Calella de Plafregell and ate the best Lobster paella I’ve ever had (OK it is the only one I’ve had but it was still great!). The pictures below don’t do this place justice, it is incredibly scenic:
At some point in our life, we’ve all read about Salvador Dali. He is the wacky Catalonian that has confused and inspired painters for the past century. Born in 1904, Dali died in 1989 with an incredible portfolio of paintings, sculptures, and drawings.
We first visited the castle he purchased for his wife, situated in a small village of about 300-400 people in Costa Brava.
Afterwards, we visited his museum about 40 minutes from here and he had some very awe inspiring technical paintings and other comical ones that just make you go “hmmmm”. His museum is a statement of his life — expansive, funny, and very well done. If you are in this area, it is a must see.