Thanks to a cousin who held her wedding in Spain, we landed in the place where ‘Despacito’ originated. The heat wasn’t emitting only from the sun but from the good looking guys all around the place, too. Of course, the women were hotter but those glances were a few just to notice them enough. Anyway, due to the heat all around us, we did not need an excuse to gobble up a number of raspberry flavoured ice-creams and gelatos to refresh us adequately, so that we could muster the strength to walk.
Barcelona was our first stop in Spain after Riga and Estonia. It was a pretty place but overflowed with immigrants. As compared to Moscow or Helsinki, Barcelona was quite messy with different types of beggars perched in almost every corner of the town, who looked surprisingly clean and well dressed.
We 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. 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. Yet another beggar had a dog cuddling beside him. Not sure if they were genuinely poor or he just used the dog for money but while this beggar had one dog, his neighbour had four.
The Gothic architecture looked like it was from another world. The man behind this early 20th century creation was Antoni Gaudi. His work was splattered all over souvenirs, museums and buildings named after him.
The best of them was the breathtaking La Sagrada Familia (Church of the Holy Family) for which tickets were available at the ticket counter there. The construction had commenced in 1882 and after Antoni Gaudi died in 1926, he was buried in there. 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 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.
This is the most visited touristic place in Barcelona. In all my years of living, I have never seen something so grand, Gothic and enormous. I was at a loss for words. I was in overwhelming awe of it. If I had five days in Barcelona, I would have surely come and visited it every day just to look at it and applaud Gaudi’s imaginative mind.
This structure is said to be completed by the centenary of Gaudi’s death (2026). I’m hoping I get to see the finished model someday. I couldn’t miss the completion of this majestic grandeur though the real architecture was done years ago.
But, I wish they had cleared the areas around it so it stood tall in the middle of bare land. The surrounding areas are filled with people, vehicles, buildings, etc which do not in any way contribute to the beauty of this monument. The wires running across the streets are the worst of all.
The castle ‘Castell de Montjuic‘ was not a castle I had expected. Maybe I was still in awe of the Sagrada Familia and did not find the four walled fort 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, giving us a good view of the port all along the way. The only thing that impressed me here was the gate that goes up to close, like in the movies. We were also curious about the dungeons so had a look at them and tried the echo effects there.
After the fort visit, 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 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.
In Barcelona, we stayed at Novotel, next to the Torre Glories, a 38 storied building which we could see from anywhere in Barcelona, so, anywhere we went, 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. Barcelona had some pretty beaches, too.
Granada was the next stop and it was a lovely little town that was 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 rebuilt to satisfy the 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).
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. To my bad luck, our group was the second last one so the doors closed behind us. None of the security guards had the authority or code to reopen them until the morning. It was great security but right then I despised it.
To my good luck, the guard told us that if the last group did not take my bag away, there was a high possibility that I would find it. I only had to come back at 8 in the morning, before the doors opened to the public.
So, on the day of the wedding, while everyone was running about ironing their outfits, getting their hair and faces done and deciding what time to leave for the party, I was tensed about my camera bag.
God sent an angel in disguise (cousin’s cousin) who knew Spanish. She agreed to come along with me 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 expensive camera lens was intact. Due to this escapade, I got to see the Alhambra in the morning.
After the wedding, we caught a bus to Malaga, another beautiful city in the Andalusian territory of Spain. The delightful 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 on the hill due to the heat but went to visit one of the richest Cathedrals in Spain. The Malaga Cathedral was a Roman Catholic Church filled with 17th century architecture. It is located in the center of the busy city, making photography a bit difficult. 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 glory to the esteemed chorale. I was awestruck and wondered if anyone could replicate such a wonderful creation in the current times.
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 was on the list, too. 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 the last twenty five days but it was good to just chill and relax on the beach before we flew back home.
Two things that I loved about Spain, besides the awesome architectures, were:
The Square in each city which was a superb hangout place for all ages.
The smooth accessibility to prams and wheelchairs. Every footpath had a slope to help wheelchairs and prams get up and down easily, thereby making it very convenient to roam with a baby in a pram.
Of all the countries we visited this time, we stayed the maximum in Spain. Perhaps that’s why I loved it the most. The Sagrada in Barcelona blew me away. I fell in love with life in Granada. And, the meats in Malaga were 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. 28 days away from home was getting us quite homesick. We missed our bed. My kids longed to play in their room. We were also done packing and re-packing a hundred times. The only thing I wasn’t ready for was the laundry bit that piles up at the end of a holiday.
Have you been to Spain? How was your experience there? Which places did you visit? Did you check out the Sagrada? I’m still in awe of it.
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Feature Photo by Enrico Perini