Day 3A: Barcelona
We landed in Barcelona around 8:30am and were able to catch the most beautiful sunset on our way in. The flight was an absolute breeze. The 8 hour flight felt more like 2. I feel like I’ve been on flights to Chicago that felt longer. I honestly wished the flight was a little longer because I wanted to sleep more. There were about 50 movies to choose from, TV shows, games, and music which helped to keep us occupied. We both had pillows, blankets, headphones, and a movie and we were out. The plan was completely dark almost all of the flight and very cozy. They served pasta and chicken for dinner (actually pretty decent) and a “complimentary” glass of vino. The flight attendants turned the cabin lights on with about 1.5 hours left of the flight to wake us all up and served a small muffin and coffee. Poor Matt only slept about 30 minutes and I only slept probably 2-3 hours (darn you Great Gatsby, The Internship and Moulin Rouge for keeping me up!) so we were really exhausted, but knew we had a big day ahead of us. We got off the plane, got our luggage (yes, it miraculously managed to get to Barcelona!!!) and got on the train to head for the city center.
The train stations has lockers you can rent for 24 hours for around €5. This was perfect and our shoulders thanked us for not dragging around all of our luggage all day. Since we only had about five hours until our train left Barcelona, we set out on a whirlwind tour of the city.
Our first stop was La Sagrada Familia. I first heard about La Sagrada Familia on a 60 Minutes episode last year. It was so amazing that I texted my dad (who I knew would also be watching 60 Minutes) telling him that I had to get to Barcelona to see the basilica in person one day. Little did I know, that dream would be a reality long before I ever expected it to. Construction on the church started over 130 years ago by an architectural genius, Antoni Gaudi. Gaudi knew the church would never be finished in his lifetime, so he made intricate models depicting his vision. In an unfortunate turn of events, the models would later be destroyed during the Spanish Civil War. Building slowed down after this because no one knew how to complete Gaudi’s vision without the models. A new team of engineers were brought in to reverse engineer the models. Taking fragments and pieces of clay and trying to piece them back together as Gaudi had planned. Using advanced design software typically used in auto and airplane design, they were able to figure out how to model the advanced shapes and surfaces that Gaudi’s avant garde plans demanded and building continued. The design of the church is so detailed and sets out to depict the story of the bible through carvings in the facade. Gaudi’s design was truly revolutionary and so ahead of his time that it’s hard to fathom the way he designed it without using modern technology. I cannot do the design justice with words, I highly recommend watching the short 60 Minutes piece.
We had tickets to tour the inside and towers for Sunday, but missed the tour because of the flight hooplah in Philly. I was super bummed, but I knew I had to see this place regardless. The massiveness and attention to detail are jaw dropping. It is incredible the vision that Gaudi had and its almost difficult to take it all in. I was disappointed we couldn’t go inside, but was thankful that we did get it up close.
TRAVEL TIP: You can buy your tickets to La Sagrada Familia ahead of time online. DO THIS! The lines to purchase tickets wraps all the way around the church and you will be glad you purchased ahead of time when your’re skipping the 3 hour line to get inside.
From there we walked to a little restaurant called Xamfra Gaudi. It was right outside of La Sagrada Familia and probably a little touristy but we were starving and exhausted at this point. MRH and I both ordered pizzas…a safe decision. I was so tired that I accidently fell asleep at lunch, oops! It’s been since high school calculus class that I’ve felt that uncontroable nodding off feeling. Luckily lunch was was just what we needed to catch our second win. Our kind waiter gave us a map and we set out on a foot to explore.
First up was the Arc de Triomf. Encripted in the arch is “Barcelona rep les nacions” or “Barcelona welcomes the nations” – and we surely felt welcomed. There happened to be a wine festival at the park of the citadella – right up my alley. From there we cut through the Gothic District to get to Las Ramblas, a famous street in central Barcelona. It was full of pedestrians, tourists, street performers, and vendors selling all types of things. Its about a mile long and has one of the best markets: La Boqueria. It had flowers, fish, fruit, and candy. Of course MRH had to tak ea picture of me and all of the meat – my favortite booth at the market! After a quick walk through the market we countined down Las Ramblas to the Christopher Columbus monument. This monument was constructed in honor of Columbus’ first voyage to the Americas where he reported to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand in Barcelona after his trip to the Americas. I tried to get MRH to pose like Chris, but he wasnt having it, hah. We only had a short period of time left before our train left Barcelona, but I pursuaded the guys to get a quick taxi to Park Guell. It sits up on a hil and was designed by Gaudi (same guy as La Sagrada Familia). The park was originally intended to be a site for 60 luxary homes. Ultimately, only 2 homes were ever built. One was supposed to be a show home and Gaudi bought the other (now a museum( it has since been converted into a park and garden. The site is covered in beautiful mosaic tiles. There was one particular blue and white cross that I loved. The cieling tiles wer quite impressive. You can climb to the top and there was a breathtaking, panaramic view of Barcelona and the bay of the Mediterranean Sea. You can also see La Sagrada Familia and the huge construction cranes to the left. I am so glad we made the time to see Park Guell. It was my favorite site we saw in Barcelona.
Day 3B: Cambrils
We quickly caught a cab to the train station (where I fell asleep again) where we caught a train to Tarragona. It was a beautiful 30-minute ride through the most wonderful scenery you could imagine on a train. The train tracks were literally right on the sea line of the Medditerranan the whole ride down. I was so impressed by how clean and easy to use the public transportation was. Way cleaner than New York or Chicago. From the train station in Tarragona, we hopped in another taxi for a 30 minute ride to our hot in Cambrils. Cambrils is a small coastal town where MRH would spend the next two days working, and where CMH would spend the next two days loving. The town is quaint and beautiful. Most tourists are Spainards who have their summer homes in the fishing village with high quality beaches. There are many beach bars “chiringuitos” where you can enjoy a drink while listening to waves crash around you. The strip of bars/restaurants is located near the marina along the promenade area “passeig de miramar”. Our hotel (Tryp Port Cambrils) is about two blocks from the ocean and the promanade, so we walked to dinner. There were probably about 20-30 resturants all in a row.The hosts stand out in the middle of the walkway, trying to lure you to their restaurant. there is a lot of competition afterall, so it makes sense that they have to stand out somehow. One side of the walkway is the actual restaurant, but its more of just a storefront. Its where the cook the food, but they only have 1-2 tables and a bar. On the other side of the walkway is the restaurants patio, which is their main dining room. It’s a covered area with tables and a great view of the water. We settled on a pizzaria and I ordered a proscuitto pizza (again) and MRH got pasta carbonara. I ordered the cava (Spains champagne) sangria and it came in the cutest pitcher with a wooden spoon. It was amazing! MRH ordered a small bottle of red wine (about 3 glasses) for only €4! What a steal! We were all so exhausted that we called it a night around midnight.