For some reason the way Italians say Barcelona (with a ch) really stuck in my head. I felt like Buddy the elf saying “Fransisco”over and over again just because he liked the sound. My main purpose for going to Barcelona was for an Intervarsity conference, but it also gave me the opportunity to see Weley, a friend and staff member from California. Having a familiar face for a few days made a huge difference to my mood. I’ve made friends here too, but it was refreshing to have someone around used to my odd self and fast moving mind.
Weley arrived in Rome, so naturally I left my healthy eating habits, and showed him all the food of Rome. I probably gained 20 pounds in two days but…worth all the yummy carbs. We walked around the city saw the classics and the more off the map destinations. But what I found from one of my first posts is, everyone coming to visit doesn’t care about the Colosseum or Spanish Steps compared to the lion dog sitting outside of a local shop. So after eating gelato for the 50th time we stopped by the precious creature so Weley could meet him.
Then off to Barcelona early Friday morning. I’m not sure what I expected. I knew it would be beautiful, and I was excited, but it exceeded whatever expectations I had. Within an hour of being there, I knew Barcelona was far and beyond the best city I’d ever seen. I will live there one day, and learn Catalan in order to do it. Add that strange language to my bucket list along with learning the cello and eating every Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavor ever created.
It felt like me in city form. The style was a cross between sleek and hippie, there were colors everywhere and people were kind. The food was some of the best I’ve had all semester. There was nature and commerce woven in a effortless rhythm. And Gaudi, a renowned Spanish architect, left strange buildings straight out of Dr. Seuss books as hidden gems around the city.
I unfortunately was sick during most of the experience, but the fact that I still loved it so much should solidify Barcelona’s perfection. The first day I checked in to the nicest, most hipster hostel ever, with organic tea and Pinterest-inspired plants painting the background. Then I walked down la Rambla, and under Barcelona’s Arc of Triumph, after eating churros dipped in chocolate, got tapas by the beach and finished lunch off with a pastry filled with Catalan cream.
If you don’t know what Catalan cream is…go find it. Somewhere. Anywhere. Near you. It obviously won’t be Barcelona good, but it’s life changing. It’s essentially creme brûlée custard with cinnamon and other magical Spanish spicing tricks. I had it in creme brûlée form (as opposed to in a pastry) at every meal after.
Then walking back for the start of the conference, I had to resist my itching urge to run into every store we passed. I would love the shops of Spain to be my closet; there wasn’t anything I disliked. But my wallet only lends me so much freedom.
The conference gave me a chance to lead some worship, which my soul was craving, and be among others seeking Christ abroad. Though tired from my various sicknesses, I felt rejuvenated.
I was stuffed from lunch, Saturday while in Park Guell, designed by the seussical Gaudi, but sun bathing and some light hiking was lovely. At the top of the mountain there was a crazy man in leopard leggings playing one song on guitar over and over while singing different lyrics and blowing kisses to people walking by; some light entertainment never hurts.
Then off to la Sagrada Família. Ok, so I’ve gotten quite sick of church visits. I’ve seen a fare share of Basilicas and cathedrals all over Rome and other places too. And, honestly, after a while they all bland together. They’re fitted with gold and and frescos, there’s a dome somewhere, bla bla, roman architecture.
No. La Sagrada Familia is the most beautiful church/building I have ever stepped foot in. It’s an unexplainable feeling to walk into Gaudi’s passion project. This church was designed by him 135 year ago and is still being built because his architectural style was so complex, contemporary tools couldn’t complete it. They say the church is set to be finished in about ten years, and I. Will. Be. Back.
I think the reason I got so bored with roman churches, aside from the fact that I saw so many, is there consistency and aesthetic. They all look relatively the same. And the aesthetic, of huge buildings with domes and gold everywhere, is supposed to show the glory of God. But, for me, seeing riches and gold, fancy outfits, and huge latin letters, is not where I see God.
La Sagrada Familia was designed to look and feel like nature. It was Gaudi’s marvelous attempt at capturing God’s natural creation and using it as a place for sanctuary and community. The pillars inside are carved like trees, the stain glass windows let in sunlight in different colors depending on the time of day, and the outer sculptures are Jesus’ story rather than a Pope’s coat of arms. This church isn’t using human possession, riches and gold, to show God’s glory, but something He created before us.
I ate tomato bread all weekend, which is like Catalonian bruschetta: they take toast and rub a tomato on it instead of chopping it up, and calcotes. Calcotes are a weird cross between a green onion and leek that is only harvested this one month a year in Catalonia (which includes Barcelona). The veggie is charred on a grill and to eat it you slide the charred leaves off dip it in romesco sauce and eat it whole. The were delightful; I ate an entire plate by myself Sunday at a barbecue joint in the mountains.
Then Weley and I took an ice cream break before flying home Sunday to this place called “Eyescream and Friends.” It started in Barcelona and is basically a make your own sundae bar with shaved gelato and they put candy eyes on your food. Fun with food, so good.
It was hard to say goodbye. I’m sure the company over the weekend helped, but Barcelona, I love you. Great food, Great style (no one judged my sandals), Big blue skies, Mountains, Beaches, City: Perfection.
Go to Bar-chay-lona,
Bri, the barefoot traveler