Stop 1: Barcelona

Around 2 years ago, my family went to Spain and Portugal for the holidays. And for our first stop we headed to Barcelona.

We stayed in the heart of town, so we could get around pretty easily. It is mostly a city-landscape, with tons of buildings and the crowd is huge on weekends. 

Barcelona has some remnants of history in between the metropolitan landscape. The olden day churches were mostly Catholic, so they had many beautiful churches erected so that people could worship there.  Even after hundreds of years, the structures are all still strong and sound. When I saw the buildings I came to appreciate the details and time the people of yore invested on building the infrastructure.

Cathedrals 

The first one that we went to was Cathedral De Barcelona. It was a significant sight to see since it was located near the Annual Christmas Bazaar, and many tourists had flocked there to see this sight. 

Going to church was often seen as a mandatory practice in those times. These walls were build to actually convince people to pray and worship.

When you stepped inside, the whole place was quite dimly lit, with an eerie echoey effect when you stepped in. The grim atmosphere supposed to convey a mood of solemnity and reflection of your past sins. There were huge towering pillars and small stained glass windows, shadowed with a lot of statues of the saints. These statues were locked up and maintained by nuns, and they had an offering box outside these statues. If you prayed to one statue, you had to donate a little sum to the box, and an electric candle would light up.

Outside the walls stood these concrete beasts known as Gargoyles. These were ‘Guardians’ of the church and they were meant to look frightening to the people to coerce them into entering the church to pray. It was an old superstition for the Spanish that should they forget to pray, they would become hardened into hideous stone gargoyles.

These grounds also used to be run with horses. In the past, these horses would walk along the grounds on cobbled stone, and the cobbled path still exists there till this present day. 

Though the churches of Barcelona are magnificent, the most majestic piece would be none other that the 150-ish year church called the Segrada Familia

This church is huge, and it was structured by Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926). This is the outside of the Segrada Familia. It is simply striking and tall. These tall pillars were meant to be bell towers, and when they rung they would probably be heard for miles around.

Notice the way the pillars are structured. It is to depict nature, and tree branches. The pillars were so tall that you feel so tiny next to them. The wall personified the nature, and the ceiling is high to help spread sound.

With the church’s high wall, the choir and music could spread up and spread around the whole church. When I was there, I felt that I had stepped into a mini portal where time, stress and the cares of the world did not matter. A place of reflection and reverence for the saints. 

Observe the stained glass windows as well. The windows were to give certain moods and what they were trying to portray. I forgot some of them, but I remember the glass windows were to depict certain eras of life, and sins.

If you really want to find out more, you should buy the audio guide. It would really help since the church is mostly empty space (with awesome infrastructure), and it would be better for you to walk around and appreciate every piece with the audio explaining the meaning of the architecture. 

An interesting fact is that the structure of the church was made through a model of bean bags. To prevent using mathematics in his calculations of the inner pillars, Gaudi wove strings together with bean bags so that when they were put together, the weight of the bean bags would pull the strings down into a mini structure of the building, and the mirror would reflect it and Gaudi would be able to visualise the real thing from this mini model.

Culture

In Spain, one thing they love is Flamenco dancing. My family managed to catch a show of Flamenco dancing in this beautiful hall, and it isn’t easy to do. The dancers (all female) use mostly tap shoes, and they have to move at lightning speed to keep up with rhythm. The way they move their hands is taught by a phrase: ‘Pick an apple from a tree, eat it and then throw it away.’ As such, their hands move like a lopsided figure 8. The only instruments used would be the drums, guitar and the rest of the music goes to the Flamenco Dancers who create a beat.

Food 

We were rather adventurous in that way that we just walked along the streets, and entered into any random food shop that we thought was good. So we either hit really bad restaurants or fantastic discoveries. Some restaurants had English translations, but most of the time, we were left guessing what we ordered.
Besides that, their eating times are really different from the ones back at home. In Singapore, the average dinner time is at like 6.30 for my family, till around 8 for the late eaters.

Their eating schedule is as follows:

Breakfast: 8-9am

Lunch: 2pm

Tea: 7pm

Dinner: 12am 

We found out about this elusive schedule when we had visited a cafe for dinner one day, and we realised that no one was eating a full meal. Everyone was drinking hot chocolate and eating fried Churros at 6.30pm. (Churros are like donuts that are pieces of dough fried in batter. Their hot chocolate is so thick it just looks like melted chocolate chips)

The staples are usually tapas (small bites) and paella. This image below is the Squid Ink Paella that I tried. It’s usually cooked with an array of peas and different types of seafood/meat. 

There was another night where we visited this good restaurant that was near the Port De Barcelona!! 

There are tons of seafood there, so if you go look out for this shop ‘Al Fonda De Port Olimpie’. The menu has English on it, and the seafood is amazing. There is a pic of the fish we tried there. It was good. 

Streets & Sights 

Barcelona has many bazaars, with the streets selling items like huge blocks of cheese, chocolates and the like. 

There is a famous street called La Ramba there, but one word of Advice: It is a pickpocket’s heaven there. There are many souvenir stalls selling pretty much of the same thing, so try to visit like one stall and then leave that area. It’s famous but honestly there was nothing much to see there!!! To be safe, hug your bag in front. Avoid the masses.

Besides that, we also visited the area in a hilly area of Barcelona, that had the royal prison and the canons that used to defend the city. We had an eye-catching panoramic view there, and the old fort was open for us to view. There were cable cars that took us to the top, so it’s nice to stop by and visit if you wish. It’s near the Port of Barcelona!

Barcelona Stadium

Last of all, we visited the Barcelona Stadium. Unfortunately, it was closed for training in that day, so I kinda wasted the 8 stops or so I took on the Metro to get there. If you wanna visit the museum & stadium it is about 23 Euros per person. 

Besides that, there’s the Official FC Barcelona Stall there. They sell all kinds of Merchandise, and it is a football fan’s paradise. They are advert fans here, so there are shirts, balls, souvenirs and trinkets if you wanna take one home.

That’s about it for Barcelona!! Next up: Madrid. 

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