After a mostly sleepless night, we attempted the Sagrada Familia, one of Gaudi’s most famous pieces of work. The cathedral is the longest current construction zone, work having been started in 1882. It is interesting to say the least, very detailed yet very strange at the same time. Grand nativity scenes seem to be outdone by weird tree shapes and mushrooms on the tops of the spires. Much work is still needed and its completion is loosely expected by 2026. Needless to say, the place was packed and there was no chance we were getting in. Nearby, there was a nice museum and store dedicated to FC Barcelona. We visited this before heading up to a nice outdoors area called Park Guell. It was fairly crowded, but we managed to find a trail that led us to the top of a small mountain and gave a great panorama view of the city. In Barcelona the rough sea is mirrored by the sharp mountains on land.
The train ride from Madrid to Barcelona was pretty fun. We had a picnic of meats and played a dice game I have called Blisters. When we stepped off the train, the first thing we noticed was the humidity. It must have been close to 100%! Sweat clung to our shirts and ran down our backs as we made the two-mile trudge to our hostel. Happy to get our packs off, we turned the corner from our hostel onto Las Ramblas, one of the main corridors. Dinner was at Europe’s favorite fast food: kebab stands! We continued down the street to the ocean, bypassing the Africans who fill the big cities, selling black-market Nikes, jerseys, and coach purses. It’s always amusing watching them scatter when the cops show up. Down on the pier, we lay on our backs and enjoyed a nice ocean breeze. That night, the muggy air in the packed dorm room was too much to handle. After waking up in literal puddles of sweat several times, we moved down to the couch in the lobby, the only place in the joint where they cranked the AC. We fell asleep listening to speakers blaring Akon’s Konvict album. Sometimes Europe can be a little behind the times!
From the breezy mountain top, we headed back into the muggy city, choosing to visit a modern shopping mall that was converted from a bull arena. Since the sport is banned in Catalonia, they no longer used it for those purposes. It was a unique set-up. Some steep steps and switchbacks brought us on top of Montjuic. Home to the stadium used in the 1992 Olympics. It was also home to a castle which we got into right before closing. The castle also provided some amazing viewpoints of the expansive city. On the way down, we rode a series of scenic chair lifts and a funicular. That night, we took a bottle of wine, a bottle of sangria, and some chocolate out to a local park for a jazz concert. It was a fun time with some good music. Back in the hostel, we met a group of British kids whom we talked and drank with some more. The alcohol seemed to make the muggy room more bearable and we had a decent night of sleep.
It was a bit of a rough morning. My hangover kept lingering as we gobbled down a fairly large breakfast from a nearby restaurant. My tummy full, I set out for Camp Nou while Glenna decided to hang back and relax. The stadium was swarming with people. Lines were out the doors for the tour and the museum. Not feeling any urge to wait, I instead headed into the tri-level gift shop and navigated through an insane amount of trinkets and clothes. On the second level, a mini amphitheater played highlights from the club’s recent victories. I putzed around for a bit before taking the metro back and meeting up with Glenna for a walking tour of the city. Our guide, a fellow American from New Mexico, was great. He had a perfect blend of history and comedy that really captivated our attention. Along the tour, he explained to us how this city was completely transformed for the 1992 Olympics. From an unremarkable city mostly in disrepair, Barcelona had revitalized into Europe’s 4th most visited and the largest metropolis on the Mediterranean Sea. The guide also described to us the intense patriotism of the Catalans. While it is a state within Spain, Catalonia is completely different. It has a very distinct language and the people are deeply proud of their heritage and identity. The unique yellow and red flag could be seen flying everywhere. For decades, the people have tried to separate and become their own nation. Annual unofficial polls confirm this; over 90% vote for annexation! After the tour, we walked down to the extensive beach and played in the water. Remarkably, the sand that covered the shore for miles was all boated in from Egypt. From the beach, we headed back to Las Ramblas and feasted on a tapas buffet. They had every kind of tapas imaginable! Bellies full, we waddled over to a small hall where we watched a short flamenco dancing performance. A live band with two vocalists set the tone while an older lady twirled and stomped in impressive fashion. The show wasn’t the greatest, but it did give us a feel for this famous form of dancing. We called it a night, our last in Spain.