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Barcelona
June 16th, 2010 by Jeff

After our restful break in Benalmadena, we decided to venture on to Marrakesh, Morocco via Barcelona, Spain (cheap tickets sometimes make you fly in strange directions – but we wanted to see Barcelona anyway).  Barcelona was probably my favorite city in Spain.  We ate great food, saw many interesting sites and met some very nice people.

We started our time in Barcelona in a hotel/apartment style rental just a few blocks from Barcelona’s famed La Sagrada Familia.  We stayed at the Hispana Suiza 7 (in case you’re wondering), booking in advance via the internet gave a great rate on the apartment which had two large rooms, a kitchen and ……a washer/dryer combo unit.  (By this time on our trip a washer was great, and a dryer was like we had died and gone to heaven)!  This really was a great place to start exploring the town and the first afternoon there we decided to just walk the streets and take it all in.  We made our way toward the main shopping district in L’ Eixample on Passeig de Gracia (I’ll let you decide who came up with this itinerary), since that is where there are also some unique and architecturally significant houses by Gaudi and Puig i Cadafalch , the Casa Batllo

Phoebe and Tessa outside Casa Batllo

Phoebe and Tessa outside Casa Batllo

and Casa Amatller, respectively.  While we just enjoyed Casa Batllo from the street on this day, we were able to go into the first floor of Casa Amatller.  Here we were able to see some detailed photographs of the house and see a short video (in English) about the restoration effort and family that lived there.  The Amatller’s were a well to do family that made there fortune in chocolate and were pioneers in mass marketing and product branding.  It was quite interesting to see some of the details of this, the first house in the area, to be redone in the new modern architectural style.

Since the next day was expected to be reasonably nice (rain was starting to come into the forecast) we decided to take the big red bus around town (a great way to see stuff and get an overview of the place).  Our first step off was to explore the Guell Park.  This is where the home of Antonio Gaudi was during his later years and it has now been turned into a museum.  The park itself was an unsuccessful housing development that was supposed to be modeled after the English garden city movement.

walkway support

Sitting under the walkway

Girls at park entrance

Girls at park entrance

Being caught in the first sprinkles of rain, we went into Gaudi’s house/museum, which was interesting – with examples of his furniture and some photos of his time there.  It also provided a nice view of the city.  More spectacular to me were the grounds themselves with the space he created with his unique style of construction, with overpasses incorporated into the hillside.  The entrance to the park itself is quite spectacular and moves up some stairs into an area that was intended for a market.  This is covered by a large deck that has many of Gaudi’s signature elements incorporated into its construction, curvy walls with benches designed to fit your bottom nicely (actually modeled from a women sitting in clay) supported by columns mimicking trees.  We were happy to spend our late morning and early afternoon here wandering around the area and looking at all the interesting things he incorporated into the gardens.

On top of walkway overlooking the city

On top of walkway overlooking the city

Along the walkway - some funky angles

Along the walkway - some funky angles

Tess and Phoebs on market deck

Tess and Phoebs on market deck

Mosaic in ceiling of covered market

Mosaic in ceiling of covered market

We hopped back on the bus to explore a little more of the city getting off in the city center to walk around see some of the cities churches and buildings (and to squeeze in a little more shopping – if we found anything really cool).  We ran into some great shops – Tessa was the big winner, scoring a really cute dress to go with her boots (she looks a little to grown up in this one).  We also got some great advice from a local shop owner on places to eat.  We ended up at a pizzeria he recommended and loved it, and the next night we went to a restaurant called Blanc de tofona – which ended up being one of the culinary highlights of our trip.

The next day, Thursday, was supposed to begin our next couchsurfing adventure in a small town just outside of Barcelona called Sitges.  Unfortunately, this became our first (and only) couchsurfing disappointment in all of our travels.  The best we could figure (there was a small language barrier) was our host had an emergency and had to leave the house for a couple of days.  However, she failed to inform us of this and if it was not for the fact that we where double checking with a quick call before we hopped on a train to her home, it might have really been ugly.  As it was, we ended up spending the rest of the day trying to secure accommodations for the next two days during a busy holiday weekend.  We managed to get another night at our nice hotel (at a much higher rate) and Kate booked us into a hostel for Friday night (more on that later).  Since we had wasted our afternoon and early evening away, we decided to splurge on dinner by going to dinner at upscale restaurant that was recommended by our new shop owner friend.  It was quite the dinning experience.  One the girls and I will always remember.  See Phoebe and Kate’s post for the details.

So instead of seeing the La Sagrada Familia on Thursday before leaving for Sitges, we ended up there on Friday, waiting in the rain to get in with the rest of the tourist.

Tessa and Phoebel by Jesus statue outside Temple

Tessa and Phoebel by Jesus statue outside Temple

It was all worth it in the end, because the temple is fantastic.  We opted for the audio tour, and between it and the museum (below the structure) we were able to learn about many of the innovations Gaudi incorporated in the building’s construction.  It was really very fascinating.  We were all impressed with his genius, and Tessa was especially enthralled with his modeling of the structure with string and weights.  This is a not to be missed stop on anyone’s tour agenda of Barcelona (and the world for that matter).  The construction of the building goes on to this day and it is not expected to be completed until some time around 2026.

Inside the Temple

Inside the Temple

After leaving the temple we went back to our hotel to collect our bags and find our way to the hostel.  This all went smooth until we went to check in and discovered we had inadvertently made reservations for Saturday instead of Friday – and they were full for the night.  We quickly got back online and found a room just outside of town, close to the airport.  We would have to go back through the city to get to the hotel, so after seeing the church (and discovering Gaudi’s brilliance) we all decided that we really should tour his house in town, the Casa Batllo – noted above.  So we went there fully encumbered with our backpacks, dropped them off in the lobby and took the home tour.  Again Gaudi did not disappoint.  The house was awesome.  It had great views of the street from the main dinning room with windows that completely opened to the street.  Gaudi also opened up the inner courtyard space to flood the building with natural light.

Looking up to courtyard roof covering

Looking up to courtyard roof covering

He made unique use of all the space, all the way up to forming halls the attic space (used by the servants) into a beautiful rib like structure.  My words cannot begin to do the building justice.  Go see it, if you get the chance!

Me and my beatiful wife on the roof of Casa Batllo

Me and my beatiful wife on the roof of Casa Batllo

We eventually made our way to our hotel and crashed for the night.  We got up bright and early the next day to get to the airport and head to Marrakesh, Morocco.  Everything was going smoothly, until I realized – 20 minutes before boarding the plane- that I couldn’t recall packing the all important (containing makeup, medicine, and expensive dental apparatus) makeup kit!  I made a quick call to the hotel to confirm my heart sinking realization… yep they had it.  I will be forever grateful to Kate for keeping her cool in this situation; she was the model of an understanding spouse! Kate and I made the quick decision to move on without it, and to have it sent onward to our couchsurfing hosts in Paris.  The kind hotel staff said they could ship it to us.  So, in the end, it all worked out fine as the bag was waiting for us when we got to France, and we were able to get by in Morocco with a few small toiletry purchases.

So even with rainy weather and the slight disruptions in the travel plans, Barcelona was a wonderful end to our time in Spain.  I will definitely put this on my places to see more of in the future.


5 Responses  
Anne O'Sullivan writes:
July 5th, 2010 at 7:33 pm

Hey! How is France … I can only see posts to June 16th.

Anne O'Sullivan writes:
July 13th, 2010 at 9:00 pm

Hey Wells Family! Where are you? We so enjoy your regular updates and living vicariously by your travels. When might the next update come? Sure hope everything is ok …

Living large on the surprisingly sunny island!

Anne Kellea Spike and Koda

Jennifer writes:
July 14th, 2010 at 11:52 am

We’ve been wondering too! We’re thinking you might be heading home soon … ?

Anne O'Sullivan writes:
July 19th, 2010 at 9:45 pm

Just so you know … I see on their couchsurfing page that they are safely home.

Renee writes:
March 28th, 2011 at 1:11 pm

I am so inspired by your journey! I dream of being able to take my girls (currently 1 1/2 and 3 1/2) on a similar world tour someday. Thank you for sharing your experiences!

-Renee (cousin to Staci, Dubai)

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