Gaudí’s Barcelona

“Those who look for the laws of Nature as a support for their new works collaborate with the creator.”

-Antoni Gaudí

The stresses of a frantic morning at the airport melted away as I sipped tea in a sidewalk café in Barcelona.  We’d had an early flight from Mallorca, which David, Caleb, and Courtney had almost missed due to a long wait at baggage check.  Just as Vince and I were facing the possibility of having to board the plane without them, we saw them running up to the queue, waving triumphantly.  I breathed a deep sigh of relief and waved back, glad that everything was back on track.

The near mishap already seemed like a distant memory as we enjoyed a light breakfast of pastries right in between two famous buildings designed by Antoni Gaudí.  After paying for our food, we strolled down the street to Casa Batlló, a home that was re-designed by Gaudí in the early 1900’s.  With its organically shaped windows, and colorful mosaic face and tiled roof, Casa Batlló almost looked alive.

 

While certain parts of the unique building are open to tourists, we didn’t have time to go inside, but we admired the playful architecture of the outside before moving on to the nearby Casa Milà.  This was the last private residence that Gaudí designed, and it was unique in an entirely different way than Casa Batlló.  Casa Milà was much larger and almost monochromatic, in contrast to the cotton candy-like colors of  Casa Batlló.  It did still employ the curving organic shapes that Gaudí used throughout his work.

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Casa Milà

Again, we didn’t stop for long because we had to walk to La Sagrada Família for our timed entry we’d purchased in advance.  It was only about a twenty minute walk, and when the unfinished basilica came into view, towering above a copse of trees, I couldn’t help but drop my jaw.  I immediately realized that I had been underestimating the cathedral for years.  Barcelona is a city that I knew I would visit someday, although it wasn’t necessarily at the top of my list.  La Sagrada Família was the one thing I knew about before I started planning this trip, and I have to admit I didn’t think it would live up to all of the hype that surrounds it.  I think this disconnect came from how many photos I’d seen of the cathedral over the years.  I always thought, “Yeah looks like a funky building,” but what the photos never conveyed to me was its downright ridiculous size.  Even from a distance, the structure was incomprehensible.  It boggled my mind to think that it was only about halfway complete.

A canopy of cranes surrounded the basilica.  Before our visit, I thought this would detract from the experience, but standing there in person, the cranes barely made an impression.  There were far too many details to discover in the architecture to give the construction a second thought.

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We approached La Sagrada Família from its newer side, but had to walk around the building to enter.  One the way, we gaped upward at spires that were decorated with huge lizards and serpents.

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At the entrance, we found that the architecture was completely different yet again.  This face of the basilica reminded me of the sand castles my brothers and I used to make at kids.  We would grab handfuls of wet sand and let it drip through our fingers until it formed a tower that looked almost like melted wax.  From a distance, La Sagrada Família looked like a massive version of a sand drip castle, but up close we could see the staggering amount of detail in the stonework.

 

When we finally stepped inside the tall doors of the cathedral, it was like stepping into another world where our rules of physics don’t quite apply.  Every nook and cranny (and there were many) was illuminated by a different color as sunlight filtered inside through marvelous stained glass windows.  Columns ran from floor to ceiling, and when my eyes followed them upwards, I saw that the ceilings were just as bizarrely beautiful as everything else.

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The design inside of the cathedral had an almost liquid flow.  Much like Gaudí’s other creations, the building seemed like a living, breathing organism.  I later found out that Gaudí designed his works to echo nature, and in doing so felt that he was collaborating with God.  The wasn’t his only sentiment to give me goosebumps.  We also learned that Gaudí had a particularly beautiful perspective about the fact that he wouldn’t live to see his masterpiece completed.  He was at peace with this because he trusted that future generations of creatives would only expound on his designs and make them even more grand.

I am a nature lover at heart, and I don’t have an abundance of patience for being in cities.  Most of the time I’m not overly impressed by buildings.  I appreciate architecture, the older the better, but about two days in any city is quite enough for me.  As a person who would rather not be in a building, I have to say that La Sagrada Família is hands-down the most incredible one I’ve ever seen.  It gave me such a special feeling that I didn’t want to leave.

Even as we were exiting, there was still more to see.  We were now right underneath the more modern looking statues on the newer side of the cathedral, and they were beautiful in a completely different way.  They depicted biblical scenes in a style that felt slightly more cubist, but conveyed even more emotion.

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I’m usually not one to revisit a city, but if I live to see the day La Sagrada Família is complete (they’re projecting it will be done in 2026), I will go back and see it again.

It pained me to have to leave the basilica, but we still had another site to visit in Barcelona, and then a three-hour drive to Andorra that day.  We stopped for a quick lunch at Taco Bell (yes we are very cultured), which it turns out has an entire vegetarian menu in Spain.  Afterwards we walked a half hour uphill in the blazing heat to visit Park Güell.

Once again we had purchased timed entry tickets in advance.  There is a huge section of the park that doesn’t require a ticket, but we really only had time to explore the restricted area which contains one of the most famous views in Barcelona.

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The main terrace of the park has a mosaic balcony that overlooks two of its most playful structures with the city of Barcelona in the background.  It’s funny, I was expecting to be more impressed with view because it photographs so well, but it was a bit underwhelming compared to our visit to the basilica.  It didn’t help that there was a barrage of other tourists all scrambling to get pictures of the exact same thing.  It was definitely a cool sight, just not quite what I was expecting.

Once we’d had enough of the crowded terrace, we made our way downhill through an organic, arched pathway.

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The stone tunnel led down to the two mosaic-roofed building we had seen from the terrace.

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The area was lively and fun, but still crowded.  We examined the intricate mosaic work of the park, and even found the famous mosaic lizard (a symbol we had been seeing in gift shops throughout Barcelona.

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We eventually left Park Güell having made it to all of the sites I’d hoped to see that day.  My feet were understandably sore when we made it back to where we’d parked our rental cars near Casa Batlló.  It was time to move on to my 24th country, the small but incredibly beautiful Andorra.

 

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