Thanks to a cousin who was adamant to marry in Spain, we reached the place from where the popular ‘Despacito’ originated. The hotness did not only refer to the heat from the sun but also to the good looking guys all around the place. Of course, the women were hotter but those glances were a few just to notice them enough. The heat was an excuse to gobble up a number of raspberry flavoured ice-creams and gelatos and refresh me adequately in order to walk everywhere.
Barcelona was our pre-tour and was a nice city. It was a pretty place but overflowed with immigrants. As compared to Moscow or Helsinki, Barcelona was quite messy with different types of beggars all over the town, who looked clean and well dressed. My cousin and I were quite amused with them. One was the ‘yoga beggar’ who balanced his body on his knees and elbows and bowed his head in, what looked like, prayer. Look at the picture carefully and do not miss the Nike shoes on this one. Another beggar had his categories sorted. You had to decide what you wanted to give him. There were cups for food, LSD, a better life, dog food and weed and you had to decide which cup you wanted to fill. Another beggar had a dog cuddling beside him. Not sure if they were genuinely poor or he just used the dog for money. While this guy had one dog, yet another one had four.
The gothic architecture looked like it was from another world. The man behind this early 20th century creation was Antoni Gaudi. Souvenirs, museums and buildings were named after him and his work was splattered all over them. The best of the breathtakingly overwhelming views of gothic culture was at La Sagrada Familia (tickets available at the ticket counter there). The most visited touristic place in Barcelona was the Church of the Holy Family. In all my years of living, I have never seen something so grand and enormous. I was at a loss for words. By the way, it is an incomplete structure which is said to finish by the centenary of Gaudi’s death (2026). I hope and pray that I see the final monument someday. It is too amazing to miss. The construction had commenced in 1882 and after Antoni Gaudi died in 1926, he was buried in La Sagrada Familia. After a few years, other visionaries began to continue building it. Envious people, during the world war, destroyed the blue prints and drawings by Gaudi but somehow some dreamers saw what he saw and recreated the same and once again continued its construction. Every part of the Sagrada Familia had a reason to be how it was. The basement chapel was a surprise because if we hadn’t walked around the corner, we would have never known about its existence. Antoni did not believe in straight lines, therefore, nothing was straight there. Have a glimpse of it here.
The castle ‘Castell de Montjuic’ was not that great. Maybe I was still in awe of the Sagrada Familia and did not find the four walled structure to be impressive. A square construction from where soldiers overlooked the port was too boring. It wasn’t worth the climb in the heat. Luckily, we found a cable car that took us down and then up to the palace, all the time giving us a good view of the port. We stayed at Novotel next to the Torre Glories, a 38 storied building which we could see from anywhere in Barcelona, so, my daughter kept nudging me every time she saw it and made sure I remembered that we stayed in the hotel right next to it. We were curious about the dungeons so had a look at them and tried the echo effects there too.
While we wasted time at the fortress, it was too late to travel all the way to the outlet village there. Instead, we decided to chill at an open air restaurant on the street which was in the news a week before. A selfish man drove his car on the footpath and randomly took quite a lot of innocent lives. The end of the street had an area dedicated to the deceased from that fatal day. Hanging the culprit by his penis was the only punishment I could think of for such a horrifying crime.
Granada was the next stop and it was a lovely little town that was clean and free from non-Spanish crowd. It was located at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. I missed out on quite a few touristic places due to the wedding functions but did not miss the Alhambra at night (you can get your tickets here).
The Alhambra was an Islamic palace for the last Amirs of Spain but it became a Royal Court and was partially altered to Renaissance taste after it was rediscovered by the Christians in the late 15th century. The palace was altered keeping the Muslim art intact. This is one of the rare sights where a holy water font is placed under embedded Islamic poems and praises. Ultimately, it had a mix of Muslim and Christian art and also included a bit of Indian art. The center of the huge hall, which was the courtyard of the Palace of Charles V, had a drain on which you could stand and sing echoes into the night. I did my bit. This Moorish hilltop fortress complex encompassed royal palaces, peaceful patios, reflecting pools from the Nasrid dynasty (the last Arab Muslim dynasty ruling the Emirate of Granada from 1230 until 1492) and the fountains and orchards of the Generalife gardens (a leisure place for the Kings of Granada). A glimpse of the Alhambra.
The end of the visit was quite an eventful one because silly me left my camera bag, with an expensive lens and power bank in it, behind in one of the passes, while posing for a photo with cousins. To my bad luck, ours was one of the last appointments so the doors closed behind us. None of the security guards had the authority or code to reopen them until the morning. To my good luck, ours was the second last group so there were high chances no one would have picked it up and I would get it back if I came here at eight in the morning, before the doors opened to the public thirty minutes after that.
On the day of the wedding, while everyone was running about ironing their outfits, getting their hair and face done and deciding what time to leave for the party, I was tensed about my camera lens. I took a friend who knew Spanish due to her Spanish background and went to the Alhambra to find my camera bag. We walked quite a bit until we had to prove it was our bag. After they put it in my hands, I stood there and thanked the heavens for being so kind. Though the power bank and mobile cable were missing, I was happy and relaxed that the camera lens was intact.
Malaga was another beautiful city. The squares were perfect for a hangout with friends, with people dancing on the streets and everyone minding their own business.
We skipped the long fortress due to the heat but went to visit the richest Cathedral in Spain. The Malaga Cathedral was a Roman Catholic Church filled with 17th century architecture. It is located in the center of the city and a little difficult to take a good photograph of the whole Cathedral but I managed. Inside the Cathedral, each chapel had a different saint, theme and look. The choir area was gorgeous with forty sculptures carved in the mahogany stalls. The pipe organs added the glory to the esteemed chorale. I was awestruck and wondered if anyone could replicate such a creation. You can view a video of it here.
We spent two days visiting the Malagueta beach where I, finally, got to wear my bikinis. Making sandcastles and writing names in the sand were the only agendas on these days. My son’s agenda of eating sand wasn’t on the list though he thought it was. It was only in Malaga where we were just the four of us. We did miss the family and friends who were with us during these twenty five days but it was a good change.
Two things that I liked about Spain was the Square in each city which was clean and not over-crowded, except in Barcelona. The other thing is the accessibility to prams and wheelchairs. Every footpath has a slope to help wheelchairs and prams get up and down easily. In India, it is an achievement if you get to walk on a footpath properly. Here, I only take the pram out to the malls. I have no energy or guts to take it out on the road. Hope this situation gets better soon.
Of all the countries we visited this time, Spain was the one we stayed a week in. It was a wonderful stay and perhaps that’s why I loved it the most. The Sagrada in Barcelona blew me out of my mind. I fell in love with life in Granada. The meat in Malaga was to die for. While I have a lot more cities to visit in Spain, we decided to stop right there and get back to reality. Twenty eight days away from home was getting us quite homesick. My kids longed to get into their room and mess it up. I was glad that was the last day I re-packed to travel but I was dreading the amount of clothes waiting to be piled up at the laundry. In a few hours, we were happy that we would be home.