Spanish Sunshine :)

September 22, 2014 at 7:23 pm (Travel)

IMG_1363The summer has been practically non-existent in Germany so I was very thankful that I spent the last ten days of my summer holidays in Spain.  😀  The trip had everything, sunshine, beach, sights and even a trip to the local police station.  Barcelona has been top of my European places to visit list since arriving in Europe so it was a fitting last travel destination before adventures take me elsewhere.

The first part of my holiday I spent with Gwen in Barcelona.  We stayed in a place within walking distance from the beach and made sure we tanked up on sunshine every day.  Barcelona in peak tourist season is pretty busy and we were totally amazed at how many places had ridiculously expensive entrance prices and lines a mile long.  We were lucky at Parc Güell to get tickets quickly near the end of the day but had to race the fading sunlight.

IMG_1354Parc Güell was the brainchild of Eusebi Güell and Antoni Gaudí.  It was supposed to be a housing site that incorporated nature, new technologies and Gaudí’s architectural style.  Building started in 1900 but the venture was commercially unsuccessful and was abandoned in 1914.  The monumental zone is now a World Heritage Site but the rest of the park located on Carmelo Hill can be visited for free.

The mosaic salamander was a highlight, as was sitting on the gorgeous terrace.  Quite sad however, that since October 2013 people are required to pay an entrance fee.  We felt 8€ was a tad too much, especially for Barcelona residents who must have been used to enjoying the area for free.  We were later told that people who live directly close by can still enter for free by showing their address.  Even so, I think the place will have lost its charm as a recreational area to many.

Luckily I had been given the tip to pre-book tickets to La Sagrada Familia.  We walked straight in after being worried we were too late and spent a good for hours exploring with an audio guide and taking a trip up the towers on the nativity façade.  Building began in 1882 and still isn’t finished!  One year after building began Gaudí became involved in the project and devoted his last years to the project before his death in 1926.  When he died less than a quarter of the project was complete.

IMG_1369Since then the building has continued using his ideas and images as a base.  Interestingly, Gaudí saw this project as an ongoing architectural piece that would develop and be influenced by other artists and the times in which they lived.  When finished it will have eighteen towers; twelve dedicated to the apostles, four to the evangelists and one to Jesus and Mary respectively.  The whole project is entirely funded through donations as we were constantly reminded of and thanked for in the audio guide.  This World Heritage Site is estimated to be completed by 2026 – 2028 to celebrate the centenary of Gaudí’s death.

The building is quite spectacular and a defining landmark on the Barcelona landscape, but it was hard for me to imagine it as a place as worship.  Our audio guide kept telling us to take some time out for reflection, to reassess our lives and enjoy some quiet time.  This is particularly difficult to do when the place is swarming with tourists!  It also kept mentioning the concept of what Gaudí was working towards, what he wanted to achieve.  If you ask me, Gaudí must be turning over in his grave at the moment.  He wanted to build a beautiful church and instead he has built a beautiful tourist attraction.

IMG_1412Other attractions we saw included the Font Màgica de Montjuïc alongside what felt like ALL the tourists in Barcelona, the Miró Museum, La Pedrera/Casa Milà and La Casa Batlló.  After Gwen left I also visited MACBA, the modern contemporary art museum in Barcelona.  We also spent a lot of time roaming the streets and little alleyways that crisscross and run from La Rambla, the main shopping haunt.  I particularly enjoyed finding tucked away spaces, shops and colourful graffiti.  The city certainly has its own unique style! The mixture of culture, modernity and the beach makes a wonderful palette of places to explore and enjoy. Finding a good tapas place wasn’t always easy though.  😉

I had a true Barcelona experience because my wallet was stolen on the Metro.  Pretty annoying and it still feels weird without it.  I lost quite a bit of money, some personal items and of course I had stupidly put my postcards in the pocket on the outside.  More than anything I felt violated and it left a horrible feeling about the city.  Definitely a damper on my holidays… but these things happen.  It did lead to a late night police station adventure, which I am sure Gwen and I will chuckle about for years to come.  Plus it’s amazing how many people have a similar story to tell when they hear mine.  Barcelona has one hell of a reputation for pickpockets!

Next I took an overnight bus to Aranda de Duero to visit my work colleague Laín in his home town.  After a few hiccups (put my bag on the wrong bus, correct bus was thirty minutes late and the other passengers had to translate for me) I arrived and was picked up at 6am by Laín, his girlfriend Valeria and three of his mates.  On the way back to his place we were treated to an open churros stand.  Apparently the lady who runs the stand only does it for fun and you never know if she will be open or not.  They were absolutely delicious and an amazing welcome present to the town.

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The next day my Spanish drinking adventure began.  Aranda is the wine capital of the Riberia del Duero wine region.  It is also after Dublin, the second most pub populated city in Europe.  In fact, the town is famous for its Bodegas, wine cellars that are all interconnected below the town center.  These were dug between the 12th and 17th centuries and in many cases are still be used to store wine today.  I went on two Laín led tours of them… very cool.

IMG_1452At night the city was absolutely pumping!  There was a DJ who set up in the middle of the city and early in the night there was ballroom dancing, later teenage rage.  At 3am we went past and it was absolutely packed.  I couldn’t get over how late the children were up.  Some families were still out and about into the early hours of the morning.  Laín ensured me that this was normal during the summer due to the hot weather and being on holidays.  His argument was that they can’t sleep anyway!

Another highlight was the Laín special tour of the surrounding area.  We visited two beautiful medieval towns, a canyon and a Ducal city.  It was great having insider information and I particularly enjoyed the walk through the canyon.  Having an inside guide in Spain also led to some absolutely amazing food.  Top of the list was the baby lamb which Laín cooked on the barbeque.  We had a lunch of random leftovers including river crayfish rice and a mincemeat potato dish and another night we had homemade Spanish omelet.  All washed down with wine from the region of course.  Thank you Laín for such a wonderful weekend!

After returning to Barcelona I used my last day of summer holidays wisely – relaxing at the beach.  My last evening was spent out at a bar with basically the whole of my hostel room.  But alas, all things must come to an end and before I knew it I was back in Darmstadt spending my last weekend playing hockey.  Some things never change.

xoxo

 

P.S  More photos?  Check out https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152637195530589.1073741838.509745588&type=1&l=beee95074b

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