Wednesday, June 17, 2009

spain: day five (last day in barcelona)

day five of our trip was our last full day in barcelona, and there was lots to do! we grabbed some coffee and breakfast pastries to go and hopped on the metro to go to la sagrada familia.

gaudi's famous church was breathtaking, to say the very least. nothing could have prepared me for it - not my high school spanish class, not my college art appreciation class or art history class - seeing it in person, right before my very eyes, was absolutely indescribable. we entered at the passion facade, a stunning portrayal of the last days of christ's life made to look stark and white and pointy, like bones and pain and sadness. we got the audio guide and learned about the symbolism and meaning that had been carefully built in to every single part of gaudi's church. the nave, a nonstop construction zone, was created to look like a forest. the supporting columns twist subtly and then branch out as they make their way up to the cieling, which looks like the forest canopy, and spaces between the leaves let the perfect amount of natural light in.
we took the elevator up to the top of the passion facade, which was an accomplishment for me, as i have an irrational and sometimes paralyzing fear of elevators, but how many times are you at the sagrada familia, right? so i took my chances, and it was more than worth it. incredible views of the city and of the rooftop details of the church were my rewards when we got to the top... and so as was a crazy winding staircase adventure to get back down. the first crazy winding staircase involved a narrow passageway and walls on either side of me, but the second one had only an outside wall and nothing to hold on to in the center; in fact you could see all the way down to the ground floor if you looked through the center (which alan told me not to do but i did anyway and immediately regretted afterward). i didn't have the guts to take a picture of that situation until i had my feet planted firmly on the bottom.

we continued our tour of the church, which took us around the nave and out to the nativity facade - if you've ever seen a picture of the sagrada familia, this is probably what you saw. it was the first and only part of the church that was finished before gaudi's death, in hopes of inspiring funding for its completion. the facade was designed to appear swollen and alive with the joy and love of christ's birth - again it was rife with religious symbolism and images from nature, and just absolutely awe-inspiring beyond words.

from the sagrada familia, we hopped on a tourist bus and headed towards montjuic (literally, "mountain of the jews"), a mountain that overlooks the port of barcelona. it is home to a joan miro museum, the '92 olympic stadium and an olympic sports museum, the catalan art museum, and an 18th-century castle. our destination was the castle at the top of montjuic. we accidentally got off at the wrong stop, so we to hike a bit to get to it. our mistake took us through a lovely botanical garden area, up an ivy-covered staircase and through secret garden pathways.

when we got to the castle, there was some sort of commotion, and we realized that a parks officer and a small group of people were trying to help a scared baby seagull who must have gotten separated from his mother. the officer finally caught the terrified little guy, and we all got to pet him! he was awkward and squawky, still in the fuzzy-baby stages, and so cute!

after that little adventure, we ate lunch in the cobble stoned inner courtyard of the castle, and then headed up to the roof to admire the view of the port below. it was a beautiful sunny day, a little windy up at the top of the mountain, but it was clear and perfect for looking out at theboats on the blue mediterranean. we were looking down at a garden on one side of the castle when we noticed a man with a few plastic shopping bags walking towards a big bush next to the garden wall. he banged something against the wall and then probably a dozen cats appeared from inside a few different bushes and ran over to him! he reached into his plastic bags and retrieved dry and wet cat food, which he then set out for the cats. i, of course, was really jealous (and missing my own cats) and decided that i wanted to go down and be loved by the kitties. when we got down there, we watched as another lady came bearing cat food and did the same thing. we got quite a show, although we learned that these were not the kind of cats that like to be petted so much.
on our way back down the mountain, we went through more garden areas and past a pretty fountain. since we didn't really know where we were going anyway, we took our chances and went exploring. we ended up finding a zip-line type swing in the garden and spent a few minutes swinging between platforms and acting like kids (who can resist a zip-line swing??).

we took the funicular from the middle of the mountain back to the metro station, and when we got back to the hotel we gathered up our dirty smelly clothes for a trip to the laundromat. the wash'n'dry was located off of the rambla, down the street from palau guell. of course, we had no clue what we were doing once we got there - you would have thought we'd never done a load of laundry in our entire lives (we have, i promise!). the man who worked there was very friendly and helpful, though, and fourteen euros later we had clean clothes!

on the way back to the hotel, we stopped at barcelona's h&m flagship store... it was incredible - ginormous and beautiful and full of fantastic clothes that i was really too tired to shop for.

in the end we were too tired for most anything. we grabbed salads to go and ate them in the hotel room while packing our bags for our next adventure: madrid!

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