Updated: Here are Part 2 and Part 3 of the series. In 3,513 words I share with you why Barcelona is such a special city. Now your turn: what about Barcelona that you adore? What is your favorite place to eat? Next time I visit Barcelona, what do I absolutely have to see? Fire away in the comment section below 🙂
Hello/Bonjour/Hola/Óla bomdia you guys.
I’m back. Really, really back. Actually, I was back last Tuesday evening, but haven’t got around to blogging until now because: #1. I always need at least a week to regroup after I come back from somewhere amazing and especially this time to make peace with the cold reality that my savings have been reset to zero and thus Europe won’t happen again until…I-have-no-fucking-idea when, and #2. I had to go back to my dead-end job the following morning. Being chained to the desk for 9 hours has proved to be exceptionally helpful in impeding the readjustment process.
All excuses aside, I have to say that I couldn’t be any happier about being broke because I really had one unforgettable trip. In fact, it’s quite likely the most memorable traveling experience I have had to date. Neither because I got to stay in luxurious hotels (reality: I stayed in hostels, 10-person dorms, guesthouses and yes, 2-star hotel for a night) nor because I got to try Michelin-starred restaurants in any of the city I visited (reality: my eating was all over the place, but no meal cost me more than 15 euros. In fact, most meals cost around 10 euros or less.) Nevertheless, meeting people who mustered up all their courage to leave established careers and material possessions behind and are leading unconventional lives and seeing all the sights that I saw truly created great memories and lingering food for thoughts. I was incredibly lucky to not get sick at all throughout the trip. Getting sick was my (and the family’s) top concern because I have a very unreliable digestive system. Eating the wrong food (wrong in my dictionary is normal in yours. Two prime examples are eggs and cheese) could make my stomach violently sick.
Admittedly, I had no idea what I was talking about when I said I would do my best to blog on the road. For me, that truly is mission impossible as I usually passed out when I returned to my hostels. But I was smart enough to note down things I experienced and stories fellow travelers shared with me, so rest assured that there will be stories to be told, personal thoughts to be shared and obviously many photos to be uploaded in the coming weeks. It’s funny how now I’ll deem a trip incomplete if I don’t write anything about it.
Now, back to the main stuff. I have another confession to make: I wasn’t always curious about Spain. My passing knowledge of the country consisted of: #1. Spanish is their language & #2. David Beckham supposedly penetrated his assistant a few times while he was playing for Real Madrid in Spain. (LOL. Though I really wish it had been all fabrication. I love Victoria too much). Anyway, what else? Nothing. I wasn’t even sure of their capital. Madrid or Barcelona? There was just no limit on my ignorance 🙁
Towards the end of last summer, I met up with a friend over coffee on a rainy day who was living in Barcelona at that point and we chit-chatted about traveling and Europe. I remember very vividly him telling me with excitement and pride that “Barcelona is the best in Europe. Affordability, weather, food, lifestyle, architecture…the city has it all.”
Now, when someone makes such a bold statement, I’ll just nod until my neck hurts and forget about it the instance the meeting is over. But given that he had traveled around Europe a fair bit and was actually living there then, I did give him the benefit of the doubt. So my curiosity was piqued. And the idea of Spain being the next destination in Europe after Italy and France began auspiciously.
Fast forward 5 months later, I was in Barcelona and having a major Vicky Christina Barcelona moment. Kidding 🙂 But the magical architecture of Barcelona he mentioned? Check!What I used to do was telling you all the nitty-gritty details of each day on the road like the time I woke up, the weather when I woke up, what I ate for breakfast, yadda, yadda, yadda. I mean, c’mon, seriously, did I really do that? It has since dawned on me that the format could be helpful to some but not friendly to most and extremely time-consuming for me. So, that kind of writing won’t ever happen again. Instead, the new format will be determined by my experience in each place.
Here, I will let you in on 10 highlights of my time in Barcelona, which is one of the very few cities that makes me feel a burning desire to return. Up to this point, Paris and Barcelona are the only two in Europe in the list. (Italy, I love your beautiful and charming cities and would be over the moon excited if I get to come back. But if not, I’m totally cool with that.) I didn’t stay in Barcelona long enough to start seeing its less flattering qualities, so there won’t be things-I-really-hate-in-Barcelona post to counteract this one. In addition, this love letter to Barcelona will be divided into 3 parts simply because it’s impossible to condense the entire content and around 90 photos into one. Without further ado, let’s delve into all the awesomeness that is Barcelona.1. The mind-blowing genius of Gaudí
Photography, especially architectural photography, figures prominently in my travels, so the second-to-none masterpieces of Antoni Gaudí remain the number one highlight for me. Gaudí’s work alone has made Barcelona unique, plain and simple. I visited some out-of-this-world churches and museums in Italy and France, and while their grandeur completely blew me away, their heavy religious themes more often than not fall outside my realm of knowledge. Coming from South East Asia with the upbringing that I had, I know too little about God or Christianity as a religion to fully apprehend and appreciate many things I saw.
But with most of Gaudí’s work in which nature was the origin, things begin to make a bit more sense and become more relatable though how he managed to incorporate flowers, plants, ocean, dragons among other things into his mesmerizing architecture is still beyond me. His work also challenged my photography, for which I’m very grateful. I tend to look for lines, shapes, textures and patterns to photograph but when lines are curvaceous rather than straight or objects are not shaped the way they usually are, you are forced to see with new eyes and alter your approach.Gaudí left his marks all over the city, but due to time and mostly budget constraints, I only hit the big three- La Sagrada Família, Casa Batlló and La Pedrera. Before the influx of photos, if there is one thing I don’t necessarily like about Barcelona and Spain in general, it’s the exorbitant entrance fees. Those three places alone already set me and you back 57 euros. I later learned that for La Sagrada Familia, the money from visitors go to where it should go- the church’s maintenance and construction fund. But for Casa Batlló and La Pedrera, your money goes to the bank(s) who owns the buildings. Oh and you definitely should book the ticket to La Sagrada Família in advance online because the line is crazy long. You certainly don’t want to stand outside yawning while you can be inside marveling at this electrifying ceiling: The church is undoubtedly an architectural dream. I have never seen one that is more original. And earthly and magical at the same time. I visited the church in the middle of the afternoon when shafts of sunlight poured in from all directions. Combined with the electric lights inside, they made for an astounding visual feast. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I stepped outside to be stupefied by this unbelievably intricate facade. Here is his another intriguing masterpiece, Casa Batlló which was originally designed for the residency of the relatively well-off Batlló family. Atrium that gives off a palpable, dreamy ocean vibe. Part of the roof that looks like fish scales.Beautiful Barcelona at dusk viewed from the building’s roof top.The building’s facade is beautifully lit at night.Lastly, the equally quirky but fantastic La Pedrera. The building’s rooftop with surrealistic chimneys offers inspirational views of Barcelona especially on days with limpid blue sky. I don’t know how people interpret those chimneys, but I saw full human faces in them.
But my favorite floor had to be the catenary arches with hundreds of parabolic terracotta arches.And the main floor which is a study in layout and natural light. It so is going to be my reference when it comes to my future apartment’s interior design 😛Up next: Reason #2 to #10 🙂