I often wish I am as brazen as most of my girl friends when it comes to love. I wish I grew up with the kind of spontaneity that makes for titillating and embarrassing stories to pass on when I’m old. A femme fatale, a seductress who lives on her own terms and doesn’t lose sleep over consequences. If only I possessed these qualities I would have kissed the painter from Catalonia whom I met in Penang years ago. I remembered him when I went to Spain and had this silly hope we would have a serendipity meeting and fall in love. Unfortunately, my fantasy didn’t play out, but I did fall in love with the city of his origin, Barcelona.
Barcelona is a city on the northeastern coast of Spain and the home to the Catalonians. It is among the greatly populated cities and most-visited regions in Europe. Aside from Spanish, it has its own language called, Catalan. Some of the world-renowned artists came from Barcelona such as Salvador Dali, Joan Miro, and Pablo Picasso.
It is probably the most aesthetically pleasing city I have ever seen. The architectural sights in Barcelona are out of this world, notable and distinctive. For this, the Royal Institute of British Architects awarded the city with a Royal Gold Medal.
Getting around the city is easy. There’s the metro, tram, train, buses, taxis, and Cabify. Many people also ride bicycles or scooters.
As much as enjoyed my time in Madrid, it was time for me to leave. My friend, Krizh took me to the terminal where I hopped on the bus to get to my next destination. I booked my ticket at Flixbus for €32.17 (₱1,811.70). In Spain, they have their own ride-sharing app called Cabify, their version of Uber. I downloaded the app on my phone and used it to get to my hostel. From the bus terminal, my Cabify fare is €3.43 (₱193.17).
Casa Barcelo is a hostel in an old beautiful building at Carrer de Còrsega. I paid for a two-night stay €39.70 (₱2,278.32) plus a city tax of €0.72 per night.
Check-in time is at 2:00 p.m. The hostel’s reception is open 24/7, usually manned by hostel volunteers. It has WiFi, lockers, and a kitchen where guests can eat free breakfast every morning. You can rent a towel for €2.00 for the whole stay. I stayed in a small room with a double bunk bed, which reeked of urine coming from the toilet next to the room.
From there it was just a few minute’s walk to the nearest train station.
Brunch & Cake
On my first night, I went out to have dinner in a cafe recommended by an Instagram acquaintance. Google Map in hand, I searched for this cafe called Brunch & Cake and walked my way there for about 11 or so minutes. I took an empty table facing the street. The interiors are cute, I could imagine it looks better under the morning light.
I didn’t know what to order so I took my time finding something to my liking. I finally settled with a cup of coffee and a bowl of salad served on what looked like a wooden chop board. For this meal, I spent €11.80, which at that time didn’t seem a lot until the trip was over and I found out that this cost me over 600 pesos.
La Sagrada de Familia
The next day, I set out to see the only reason I went to Barcelona; La Sagrada de Familia. I pre-booked my ticket online and paid €32.20 (₱1,811.62). I have a friend who holds fascination over churches not so much for their religious relevance but more for their history and structural design. She always includes them in most if not all of her trips. I, on the other, wouldn’t even think of going to Sagrada de Familia if it weren’t for how well it had been recommended by my friends and people of the world wide web. Apparently, a trip to Barcelona is not complete without going to this unfinished church. I went there to satisfy a curiosity and satisfaction is what I got.
La Sagrada de Familia (holy family) is a basilica whose construction works continue up to this day. It has a total land area of 12,800 m², so large a day is not enough to fully inspect every nook and cranny of the church. The building began in 1882 under Architect Francisco de Paula del Villar. Following Francisco’s resignation, a 30-something Catalan artist named, Antoni Gaudi took over the project whose creative genius and unique structural system shaped the basilica into the architectural marvel that it is today.
The church was designed in Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau. It took so long to build, Gaudi has outlived its completion. After his passing, Domènec Sugrañes i Gras continued the work. As of this writing, construction is still ongoing.
Every piece of it tells a story and no matter where you turn your head, there is something interesting to see. No words or camera could give justice to how magnificent this church is. Even in its unfinished state, it is quite stunning.
I was particularly taken by the stained glass windows, the right side is of warmer colors reminiscent of a sunset while the other side’s reminiscent of a cool morning, casting hues of blues and greens over the nave and the columns. It was such a sight to behold. I stood there enthralled at the spectacle, silently admiring Gaudi for how well he thought out of each piece and section of this church.
When I booked my ticket I had to choose between the Nativity Facade and the Passion Facade. The Nativity facade depicts the birth of Christ while the Passion facade portrays his crucifixion. Each side has a tower that tourists could climb. I could visit both, but not only did I not have enough time, but it would also require me to pay double. Not sure which one to choose, I Googled and ended up on this website. It has detailed information about the church.
Going up to the towers is not required but it’s not like I can just go to Spain as I please so I figured I shouldn’t pass up the chance to see what is up there. I chose the Nativity Tower as Gaudi himself built it. I took the lift to reach the top of the tower, all the while dealing with that funny feeling in the stomach that one gets when nervous.
When the elevator opened, I followed the other tourists to the bridge. This bridge connects to the spiral staircase that leads to the ground floor and it also serves as a viewing deck for visitors. There, you can have a bird’s eye view of Barcelona.
There is no other way to descend but to take the spiral stairs. It was a long way down and a bit dizzying too.
More than anything else, I will remember Barcelona because of La Sagrada de Familia. It is beautiful beyond words and I’d love to go back to explore it some more.
Gothic Quarter is a charming neighborhood that looks like it has been trapped in time. It is known for its dark and narrow alleyways, and trendy bars and restaurants. There are numerous beautiful residential buildings with balconies, like those we see in movies. I spent some time staring up at them, imagining myself living in one of those.
I was ready for lunch and a quick Google search led me to La Fonda. It’s located at Carrer dels Escudellers and it offers contemporary Mediterranean cuisine. I saw people waiting in line outside and I took it to mean the food there must be good.
I ordered a set meal of salad, main course, and dessert. The serving was generous and the food was delectable, especially the paella.
My friend, Patit, insisted that I go meet her German friend who is living in Barcelona. She even created a group chat so we could talk. I told him that I was going to the Gothic Quarter for lunch and that’s where we met.
A tall lanky man came in and asked if I was Marge. He took the chair across from mine, he has sandy hair, kind eyes, and all in all, a cute guy. Then I remembered that he and my friend sort of had a history together so I immediately put him under the category of “men I should never touch“. You see, I abide by this girl code of never dating people that your friends used to date.
He didn’t eat and just went there to basically tell me his story. What I mostly got from our conversation is that he loves studying and that he was in fact, taking up some courses in Barcelona. I don’t remember much of what we talked about now that it’s been a year since we met but I do recall him sharing that if he has a choice, he wouldn’t want to grow old and settle down in his country. He said that his people are too reserved and traditional, he’s already used to living away from home, in his own terms. I guess in that sense Filipinos are not so different from Europeans. While we dream of working abroad, they too dream about living somewhere else.
I was planning on seeing more of the Gothic Quarter after my lunch but he recommended I visit Parc Güell instead. I took his suggestion as he’s been living in Barcelona and obviously knows the best spots to check out.
It was a long walk to Parc Güell that I almost gave up. It was cold and I raced against the dark. But when I reached my destination, I was happy that I didn’t turn back. The place looks quite impressive, it would be a shame if I missed it.
Parc Güell is a huge park with two areas; the monumental area, which is a world heritage site, and the woodland area. There is a restricted area that you have to pay to gain access to. They do this to prevent overcrowding of tourists in the park. I decided against checking the restricted area anymore as it was nearing nighttime when I got there.
Construction of the park went on from 1900 to 1914. It was opened to the public in 1926. And the genius responsible for its architecture? It’s no other than the great Antoni Gaudi.
As I was taking photos I saw a family struggling to take their own. They were speaking in a mix of English and Tagalog. I approached them and in our language, offered to take their picture.
“Sabi ko na nga ba pinay eh,” (I knew it, she’s Filipino) the father said, referring to me.
I walked down the street and passed by a souvenir store that sells little replicas of Gaudi’s work. I thought I should get something then changed my mind. The photos and all the memories that I have of Barcelona are all the souvenirs that I need for this trip.
I matched with a guy on Tinder and we agreed to meet that day. However, I didn’t hear from him and I was not about to ask him. I went back to the hostel, took a hot shower, packed my luggage for my early flight the next day, then went to sleep.
So that’s how my Barcelona trip went; I met a guy albeit platonic-ly, ate authentic paella, marveled at the beauty of La Sagrada Familia and Parc Güell, and almost met a guy whom I didn’t hear back from the day we were supposed to meet.
Nope, I didn’t have a serendipity meeting with the Catalonia painter, but I did fall in love with Barcelona.