This week has just flown by. As my roommate said, our trip this week feels like a dream. I have a feeling that is what this whole study abroad is going to feel like when I get home, but we don’t have to think about that yet.
We went to Barcelona this week!!! It is truly incredible. Definitely a favorite. The history is inspiring, the art/architecture is impressive, and the views are incredible. Plus, there is a beach and some very good food. It’s just an all-around win. We never got lost on the Metro, and we got to see some pretty incredible things, like…
- The National Museum of Art of Catalunya: We only saw the outside of it, but it has these steps to get up to it which were just perfect for photo opportunities (see above). It is this really grand building and once you get to the top of it, you have a great view of the city. We also saw it from the old bullfighting arena which has been converted into a commercial center, and provides an awesome 360 degree view of the city.
- Park Guell: This was designed by Antoni Gaudí in the early 1900´s. It was supposed to be a residential area for the rich as well as a park, but because of its altitude it wasn´t super successful. Now it is just a park for people to visit and enjoy the incredible ceramic designs and the five houses which were built. Gaudí received his inspiration from nature so everything is really flowing and plant-like which is really cool. The ceramic pieces are all different colors and shapes and designs, because it was cheaper to buy ceramics that were already broken. It is a really fun place to visit.
- La Sagrada Familia: This is the third most visited monument in Europe (after the Eiffel Tower and the Coliseum) and it’s not even totally completed yet! Gaudí started it in 1882 and they are planning on having it done by 2026, but they’re not really in any rush. They still have the whole front to do. But the parts that you can see are really awesome. So, the entrance is on the east side and the facade consists of sculptures representing the birth of Jesus Christ. It is really beautiful and fairly realistic. Gaudí was trying to stay with the Biblical accounts as much as possible, so that people would not get carried away with their own interpretations. The inside is fairly simple. There are a lot of stained glass windows which illuminate and give color to the interior. The glass on the west side represents the Resurrection in an abstract way as it uses dark colors on the bottom to represent death and yellows and white on top to represent the triumph over death. It is absolutely stunning. There are statues of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as well as certain representations of God the Father and the Holy Ghost. La Sagrada Familia means “sacred family” referring to the family of Jesus, but also to all of our families (and may I say all of us as members of the family of God). Basically, La Sagrada Familia is a church meant not only for worshiping God, but also for instilling family values into the visitors. You exit on the west side where the facade represents the Crucifixion. It is a little more unnatural and not as pretty, but still very rich in symbolism. This was probably my favorite part of the whole trip.
- La Rambla: It’s a famous street that has a lot of shopping and a lot of people. We visited the market which was really cool. They had everything from great big pigs’ legs to fancy chocolates. We all got fruit juices, I got maracuya, YUM! It was incredible.
- Arc de Triomf and Park de la Ciutadella: Yes, Spain has its very own Arc de Triomf. This is the Catalan (language spoken in Barcelona) spelling of it. It’s pretty spectacular even if we couldn’t go up on it. There was also this very beautiful park where we saw street performers, bubbles, and angry geese. Hooray!
- Beach: So, we went to the beach twice, once in Barcelona and once in Valencia. I touched the Mediterranean…again! It was really beautiful despite the couple brief encounters with those bathing in their birthday suits. The water was pretty cold (I’m shivering just thinking about it), but the sand was so fine in Valencia. Beach+college kids= a whole lot of fun in the sun!
- Cathedral of Valencia: It is fairly plain on the outside, but on the inside, far from it. There was this beautiful stained glass window and lots of little chapels. We also found the Holy Grail (goodness, Valencia could have saved Indiana Jones a whole lot of trouble). And I am not kidding, it is really the chalice (or at least the bowl of the chalice) which the Catholic Church believes was used at the Last Supper. It has been adorned a little bit with gold and is now kept in its own special chapel in a special case illuminated by this really inconvenient light that non-flash pictures do not like at all (sorry about the picture). We also saw the arm of a saint, Saint Vincent to be exact. So many adventures!
- Ciudad de las artes y las ciencias (aka City of the Arts and the Sciences): After a huge storm and flood, Valencia redirected one of its main rivers and put a park where the river used to run. The park includes all kinds of cool stuff to do, but the most interesting is this “city”. It consists of a few HUGE buildings that are used for exhibits and activities (kind of like OMSI for my Oregon people, except bigger). We unfortunately weren’t able to go inside any of them, but they were pretty cool to look at.
So, it was a week of Gaudí, tapas, ice cream, and sunshine. It was kind of nice to have a break outside of Alcalá and Madrid (I mean, you can´t really do any better than having a break in Barcelona), but it was also pretty exhausting. Here´s to a whole new week of adventures!