I´m alive! I´m sure some of you have been thinking that I must have fallen in a well over here, given my lack of posts in the past couple of weeks, but I am indeed alive!
Tuesday through Thursday of this week was our group trip to the beautiful city of Barcelona. We headed out Tuesday morning on a high-speed train, which got us there in just over 3 hours instead of the usual 7. Upon arrival we went to our really nice hotel and had some free time, which my friend Cassie and I took to get some lunch at a tapas bar (I made the mistake of sitting down in front of some tapas that looked like they had come straight from the ocean...), ice cream and do some window shopping. Our hotel was situated in one of the really great shopping areas of town...quite dangerous, but incredibly fun. I ended up having to buy myself a blue leather jacket; I just couldn´t resist.
That afternoon we visited La Sagrada Familia, an enormous church (not cathedral) designed by Gaudí. He spent pretty much his entire life working on it, and got so obsessed with it at the end of his life that he ended up living in the basement and stopped taking care of himself. Because of this, he looked so much like a vagabond that when he was hit by a car and taken to a hospital (I think this is what actually killed him), no one knew it was him for several days. At any rate, they stopped working on the church soon after Gaudí´s death, I believe due to lack of funds, and then a new architect picked up the project in 1988. He spent several years researching what Gaudí wanted for the building, though there is a definite difference between what Gaudí did and what has been done recently. The church is scheduled to be finished in 2025. I went up in one of the towers and about had a heart attack - the view was great but it was incredibly high up. I might have been ok except that we were supposed to take the spiral staircase back down. Unfortunately, I have issues making my feet work on small, tightly wound spiral staircases that are several stories in the air. Luckily, I was able to sneak back onto the elevator that took us up in the first place. Boy was I glad to have my feet on the ground again...
After the Sagrada Familia, we drove over to the Parque Guell, a park also designed by Gaudí. The only downer is that by this time it was almost 7 pm, so it was getting dark and kind of chilly, making the park much less interesting to all of us. It would be a really great place to visit during the spring when it is warm and sunny, however. That night we had dinner at a fairly nice restaurant, where I got the lamb and was severely disappointed to discover that they have no idea how to make lamb like Julie Swope. The dessert, however, was good - Crema Catalana, a cross between pudding and creme brulee and, obviously, a very Catalonian dish.
Wednesday dawned bright and early with a fantastic buffet breakfast provided by our hotel (can anyone tell that I was excited by the food on this trip?). I had a small plate of real breakfast food (eggs, etc) and then had about 2 plates filled with just a variety of pastries. Yum. We then set out for Casa Batlló, a house in Barcelona designed by, you guessed it, Gaudí! Gaudí had this thing for designing everything in his houses, so everything from the ceilings to the doorknobs were very interesting. They gave us these audio guide things to listen to while we toured the house, only I certainly did not have the attention span to listen to it that day and instead took a bunch of pictures. I told Cassie to alert me of anything interesting.
From Casa Batlló, we strolled through the Gothic District, which makes up a large portion of town. Barcelona, unlike Madrid, was an extremely important city in the Middle Ages, so it actually has a large, very important Gothic District. We also strolled down Las Ramblas, one of the biggest, most important streets in the city. There is a very famous market just off of Las Ramblas called the Mercado de la Boquería where I could have lived forever. About half of this market is just rows and rows of various fresh fruit vendors. I had the best fresh pineapple-coconut juice there. I seriously think that is what Heaven may be like. They also had candy, chocolate, dried fruits and nuts...it was amazing.
Our last stop before lunch was the Picasso Museum. Though Picasso was born in the south of Spain, he lived the majority of his life in Barcelona and this museum is dedicated to his life and early works. Though his most famous works are his cubist stuff, he actually was an extremely talented impressionist and spent most of his career trying to find his niche. Though I have never been a big Picasso fan (outside of the bizarre fascination I have for ¨Guernica¨), I now have a much bigger appreciation for him after having seen his early works.
For lunch we went to a café called 4gats, the café where Picasso used to eat all of the time. Unfortunately I was not only sick but we also had a limited selection of the menu to order from, so I cannot give a full description of the restaurant, but it was pretty cool nonetheless. Our afternoon and evening were free for us to do as we wished, so Cassie and I ended up doing a bit of shopping (what else) and getting some fruit for dinner at the amazing Mercado.
Thursday we drove to a small town about an hour outside of Barcelona to visit Las Cavas Freixenet, a winery that specializes in making Cava, a specific type of sparkling wine. We got to see the old wine cellars and the new part of the winery where everything is now done by machine. We were also given a glass of Cava to try after the tour. Though it was better than any other wine I´ve had, it was at that point that I decided that I just do not like wine. Oh well. At least I tried it so no one can say that I´m an ignorant fool.
Next weekend: Paris!