Wednesday, June 17, 2009

spain: day four (gaudi and the beach)

we attempted to get up early on day four of our trip in order to avoid the crazy lines at gaudi's casa mila.
we got some strong coffee to go and drank it as fast as we could while we stood in the short line. the atrium of casa mila was an exciting taste of what was to come on our tour of the building, which was gaudi's last major work before he began working on la sagrada familia. it's nicknamed la pedrera (the quarry) because, well, it looks like a quarry. it's a little hard to describe gaudi's style - it's like he took art nouveau and ran with it all the way to crazy town (in a good way). he was inspired by nature in everything he did. the inside of the building was interesting, with its parabolic archways and its complete lack of pointed corners, but the rooftop was the best part - it felt like a disney world ride, with undulating walkways, fairytale windows, and 30 chimneys that looked like menacing knights and/or white mosaic ice cream sundaes. we sat on the roof for a little while and recorded our adventures in our travel journal, all the while soaking up the incredible city views and the strange fantasy atmosphere.

it was time for lunch. we were both craving something light and green after four days of cheese, pastries, ham, pasta, fish, salt, butter, and rice. the only place we knew for sure that would have salad was macdonald's... we were pretty ashamed of ourselves, but i will say that that was the best salad i ever had in my whole life! i'm pretty sure my body threw a party at the introduction of leafy greens filled with fiber and nutrients. we sat on a bench in the shade and did a little people watching while we thoroughly enjoyed our macdonald's salads (btw, barcelonian pedestrians have some interesting habits).

after lunch, we began the hike to parc guell. we ended up getting there the back way, which required a scary climb through an area where the walls were covered with anti-tourist graffiti... we were slightly terrified, but we made it safely to our destination. and what a destination it was! it was ten times the fantasy wonderland that la pedrera was - perhaps because it was an entire park, and gaudi's creative expressions had not been limited to the space of just one building. parc guell had been designed as a sort of high end housing development, which was an idea a hundred years or so ahead of its time. apparently, people weren't ready for that particular idea, so it became a public park for the people of barcelona to enjoy. the front gates of the park are spectacular - two gingerbread houses mark the entryway, and walking through them brings you to the most magnificent stairway and the famous multicolored mosaic dragon fountain. as you go up the stairs you come to a hall of columns with a mosaic ceiling. the columns serve to support the main terrace above, an open space surrounded by a long winding bench that resembles a serpent. the bench is ergonomically designed to fit the natural curves of your back, and like nearly everything else in the park, its entire surface is covered in beautiful mosaic tile. the wall behind the terrace has lots of little "bird's nest" alcoves - we picked one to hide out in while we ate some ice cream and listened to a band play some happy music. the entire place was just... magical.
when we were exhausted from the park, we made our way to the closest metro station and went back to our hotel room. for whatever reason, we just couldn't fall asleep for siesta-time, so we finally gave up and got ready for the evening. we took the metro again, this time out towards the water, and walked the rest of the way to the beach. we drank our grocery store cava and cerveza as the sun was setting. we took our shoes off, drew a heart in the sand, and put our feet into the mediterranean sea. then we ate tapas at an open-air restaurant on the beach - classic catalonian paella and pa amb tomaquet. it was dark as we walked back to the metro station, past the gypsies building their intricate sand castle creations. having had no siesta, we passed out almost immediately when we got back to the hotel room. i think it was the first before-midnight bedtime we'd had for the whole trip (if you know me, you know i usually go to bed before 10pm at home)!

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