Just Emkaying: The one with more of Barcelona - Spanish Escape Part 2

Sep 25, 2016

The one with more of Barcelona - Spanish Escape Part 2

This is part of a series on my travels to Spain. Read the previous post here

When RT first kept telling me to visit the Sagrada Familia, I had no clue what it was. I thought it was some kind of former Mafia place converted to a Pizza museum or something. And even though there is Google, my love of last-moment-procrastination meant that RT needed to spell it out for me to actually note it down (a day odd before flying) and then see that it was considered the 8th Wonder of the world, and will be completed by 2026, A Hundred and Fifty years after construction began.

Yup, I'm going to Barcelona in 2026. That's how un-missable it is.

It's probably the most magnificent structure I have seen in my life (I've not seen the Taj Mahal yet). In fact I would go as far as to say I do not think that there ever will be any structure that can top this. Each facade of the structure has a story to tell and is an architectural wonder. When it is completed, it is expected to be taller than every other structure in Barcelona - natural or man made. The reason that it is so brilliant is the structure is made of innovations in design, structure, material to achieve effects that go with the idea and ethos of the structure - essentially, Christian Philosophy. Every part of the structure is present by design - no matter how small, no matter what it is - a statue, a scripture or even a piece glass. 

The Nativity Facade

Seen above are 4 of the main spires, out of a planned 18 - 12 for the apostles, 4 for the Evangelists, 1 for Virgin Mary, and the tallest for Christ, which is yet to get started on. It has 3 facades, each one telling a story. The Nativity Facade which is dedicated to the bright of Jesus is completed and now the entry point, though it won't be the main entry once completed. The Passion Facade (below) is dedicated to the suffering of Christ. A really powerful design in the sense that the pillars almost look like human muscles being stretched. The Last of the facades, The Glory Facade is still in construction.

The Passion Facade
I highly recommend that you take the complete tour with audio guide, because this will be the most interesting guide ever! The inside of the Basilica is just as beautiful, the entire place being lit up by natural light, and the pillars are all made of different rock. The spires outside are directly supported by the pillars. And depending on the height of the spire outside, the material of the pillars inside visibly change.

An attempted panorama from the intended entry (Glory Facade) - an iphone camera cannot do justice to the view!
Look up at the center- Natural light everywhere!
I won't go on and on here - but do remember that there is a crypt (which has Gaudi's tomb), and a museum at level zero which is a must visit. Don't skip it because it has all the architectural brilliance and the real science of the structure in it. Use Google Street View on Mobile to see a 360 view of the Crypt using this link https://goo.gl/r60qpN

Some snippets of architectural magic at the museum!
Now. What you must remember is this is the star attraction in Barcelona, and probably in most of Spain. And like they say in most websites - it is wiser to book tickets for this attraction in advance. The venue is often booked off for days - and a very small number of tickets are available for daily sale. Once you exit the building, you cannot go back inside. So go early, spend some time, around every spot, and then leave when you have nothing more!  I was very lucky to get one ticket even though I went early in the morning -  that too for the afternoon slot.

I had a lot of time on my hand, so I decided to visit the Park Guell and the Gaudi Museum. I took the Metro since it was quiet some distance off. This is where the vanishing metro station happened. The spot that I was getting into had 3 platforms at the same point. However, when I went underground there was only one platform named, and it wasn't the one I had to go to. When I looked at the map - it said It was right there. For a second - it felt like I was Harry Potter trying to find the platform to Hogwarts. I looked up at the wall and it said that the direction I was going to was on the left, so I just got on to the next metro and went on. But when I got off at the next station, I realised I was in the wrong place. I look up to the wall, and it says the direction I should be going was right. Argh!

So I took the next metro going back in the direction I came in. Once on the platform, I was getting really irritated. I saw a couple who seemed to be equally confused, so I had a quick chat. They were stuck on the same problem!!!

Frustrated, I walked towards the exit of the platform (on the left) and found stairs that went up, but then not all the way to the top. It actually stopped mid way and went left, down, and I couldn't believe it - to another platform!!! Total #Facepalm moment of the day.

Because I was so confident of the local Maps, I winged the trip without asking anyone -which in hindsight was not a great idea. Because I landed at the last stop which was 4 floors underground. That meant that I was at the base of Park Guell on the wrong side - a long climb uphill. And quite a steep one - So steep that the streets has Escalators at some points!

Of course at this point I must state that on a daily basis I was average 10+ km on foot, given that most of the places where quite vast to cover, and it made no sense to catch a cab or a bus for distances under 2 km. Like I mentioned in the last post, taking a cab is very expensive - think 5 times more the price than it would be in India.

It's also difficult to download apps if you are signed into the Indian / US iTunes store so local app based taxi services are not going to be accessible if you don't plan it.

Park Guell is a nice woody park for a picnic and once you get into the range of the park, you'll enjoy the nice cool walking paths. You will find lots of vendors selling interesting knick knacks, earrings, musicians performing - do note, the vendors are illegal and you will see them pack their things and hide when cops come around on bikes. But it's something like Mumbai streets - so guess it's cool. There are a lot of people selling you pictures with exotic looking birds and animals. In the direction I came into the park there was only one guy posing with the birds, but as left I saw a lot of them with all kinds of birds. I couldn't resist.

A photo posted by Maddy (@2emkay) on

There are lots of spots to take a view of the whole city, but none as magnificent as the point at the top - where there's a lone cross of stone, atop a small rock. Everyone will be trying to clamber up the rock - which can hold about 15 people at max, so if you are going alone then you have an advantage.

View it in full screen - Can you spot the Sagrada Familia?
I was lucky that it wasn't very cloudy and the sun was in perfect spot for a beautiful view of Barcelona.

I left the place in time to catch my 3 pm slot at Sagrada Familia, so it was a good climb to whet the appetite!

Now the last part - Hostel is interesting for two reasons. First - it's a lot of facilities at the cheapest prices. And second, you meet a lot of people who share similar interests, and have lot of stories to tell! Often, on a tight travel schedule you leave early in the morning and come back very tired at night so you just shower and crash.

On this day, I came in a little bit early and had the chance to chat with two of my roommates - I'm not the very silent types, so it was a matter of time where we started to share stories - me fresh from the Sagrada Familia and the excitement of a 3 year old having seen Disneyland. They unfortunately could not get tickets on the day to Sagrada and they were off the next morning to their next destination. We discussed beaches, Indian weddings and the planned trip around Spain.

This was my first hostel stay, so every experience was new. It's amazing how many young people travel, experience the world before they get to working full time. Almost everyone I met had been on the road or planned to for 3 to 6 months at the least, and often the women outnumbered the men. I'd recommend travel and hostels any day to anyone.

Now, the next day I headed off to catch a bus to the airport , while my roommates headed to the next part of their trip - Nice, France, to reach on the day of the Bastille day celebrations - or as the world now knows it - the Nice Terror attack.

I was travelling to Bilbao that fateful morning, and I'll cover more on that in the next post. But I don't remember the exact moment that I saw the Nice attack details on the TV and for a moment experienced that blankness that victims often do. The first thing I did as I remember is to reach out to the Hostel I stayed in (Generator Hostels) asking if they new what was happening - at this point, I couldn't recall anything apart from both of them being Australians. But I hoped the hostel could connect the dots and figure out the status. I left my email address with the Hostel hoping that they would be able to reach out to them and ask them to write back.

Over the next 2 days, I kept looking at the news which said 3 Australians were injured in the attack. One of them was on an organised tour - so I knew it wasn't her. After a while, without any information, I resigned to the point that it even if it were my roommates, it was a minor injury and nothing major had happened,

Somewhere around the middle of the trip the hostel did get back to me that they were okay, and were trying to reply on email but weren't able to get through to me. I eventually connected over FB and figured they were only meters away from the attack and had to hide out in the beach for some time till things were brought under control.

Imagine having known someone for just a few hours and then something like this happens! - I'm grateful though that they are safe.

One of them just celebrated her 21st birthday recently - Happy Birthday I !!!

Across my trip in Spain, I've had so many moments where realisation of how small we really are, and how uncertain our lives and ambitions are in the face of the world - that we are doing ourselves a great injustice by not living deliberately, going behind things we believe in, loving unconditionally and being kind and humble.

In the words of Woody Allen - "If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans."

Next Week - Bilbao and Tapas!


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