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Visiting Barcelona, Spain

Travels in Europe

By Armando F Sanchez, Contributing Writer
Published on LatinoLA: February 3, 2014

Visiting Barcelona, Spain

We docked in the port next to the city of Barcelona. This was the first time we visited Spain and we were excited to be here and begin exploring a new country.

Barcelona is the second-largest city (1.7 million) in the country and is on the coast of the Mediterranean side. The weather is warm here, in relationship to the rest of Europe, which reaches freezing temperatures. While the countries to the north of the city are in ice and snow, this city enjoys a mid-40 degree weather in February. Thus, the city is a major coastal tourist site all year round. It's located only 50 miles to the French border.

We had only this day to see the city. Our plan, for the day, was to visit the city on our own. We took a short shuttle bus from the ship into the city. We got off right in front of La Rambla. This is the main street of the city and it ends on the port where we were. It's a beautiful tourist area street that goes directly into the center of the city.

The shuttle bus stop was also a beginning point for the city's Hop-On, Hop-Off bus. Our plan was to see the city and, of course, visit the famous La Sagrada Fam?¡lia (Basilica of Barcelona). This private bus tour is great for first-comers like us trying to get an overall introduction and orientation.

As the bus traveled along the coastline street, we began to see many new building that were constructed specifically for the summer Olympics games that they hosted in 1992. We learned that the city invested heavily to modernized many areas of its city's infrastructure to prepare for the games. Large coastal land areas that had old warehouses were removed and set an upscale oceanfront area for public enjoyment.

The bus turned around and head toward the downtown area, it was pointed out that in preparation for the games and for tourists, the city also overhauled its metro system and became part of the European speed rail system. Now there are "bullet" trains connecting the city to Madrid to cities in France, its neighbor, and elsewhere. Madrid, the county's capital is 385 miles in the interior of the country and the bullet train can take you there in 2 hours 30 minutes.

In a matter of minutes, we were on the main street and began to see buildings that were very well maintained. It seemed that the street and bottom floor levels were businesses and the upper ones were residences. I saw many flags of Catalan hang out from apartments windows. Traveling only a few more blocks you could see that this was a vibrant city. Many people walking about but did not seem to be rushing. You see groups of people, of all ages, talking and laughing together. There seems to be many banks, from different parts of the world, in the vicinity.

The city has a multitude of large public and private universities that hosts a high number of international students. In the middle of the downtown streets we saw four buildings that were atypical. They looked more like a huge modernistic cube than a building complex. One building had about fifty pairs of large glass bubbles, that looked like eyes, placed and spaced throughout the exterior of the structure. It reminded me of the art of Salvador Dal?¡. I soon remembered that Dal?¡ was from this region of Catalonia. The tour bus we were on made another quick turn and no were headed toward the world famous Basilica.

As we were approaching I kept wondering why it would be so famous. The pictures I had seen of La Sagrada Familia made it seem like it was a very tall pile of mud that had the dirt running down the sides of it. The Catholic church construction was started in 1882 and is still not finished. The architect was Antoni Gard?¡. He was an architect from this area.

As we were still on the bus and getting closer to it, I was thinking that we were simply going to be just another old misty looking church that was being reconstructed. Once we were actually standing in front of the church, I quickly realized that I was wrong. Before we arrived to the church we had agreed to be here no more than 30-minutes. It turned out that we visited it for almost three hours and we could have spent even more time there.

This church did not fit anything I had ever seen before. The architect was designed 130 years ago but the design is as ultramodern and futuristic as I could have imagined. It was in fact the most modern building I had ever seen. A great deal of the structure, and the plans, were destroyed during the bombing of the city during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).

It's next to impossible to take picture of every elaborate piece of sculpture that is designed into the structure. Every space, of the outside of the church, are carvings large and small that depicts stories from the bible. The carvings are not your average religious statues. They are strongly influenced by a futuristic art mindset. The inside is almost the opposite design. It was designed with a column using sleek designs using geometry and trigonometry angles. What a beautiful contrast from the outside.

We are glad we obtained a self-guided tour headset in order to make sense of what we were viewing. The information provided helped us to understand how elaborate and complex this project actually was. After observing and learning about its rich historical background, we went on to visit the floor under the cathedral. Once again, we were in a large museum that displays the working area of the reconstruction. We could see into the working areas where it looked more like highly modern laboratories with the newest laboratory equipment available. Many base designs are first made using 3-D printers. Replicas are made two stories high using sophisticated technological equipment of architectural design.

We keep walking from one exhibit room to the next and it seemed that we could have spent the whole day just visiting this lovely site. It was amazing and overwhelming to try to see it all in just a few hours. We were visiting a church and we were, in fact, also visiting and experiencing a beautiful work of art. It's a building that will always be worked on and it will just get more elaborate and beautiful as the years progress. The original overall design is in place but the plans allowed and accommodated for future architects to modernization and add to it as the years progressed. Clearly Gaud?¡ knew, from the start, that he would never see the Basilica completed in his lifetime. Symbolically speaking, he started an elaborate painting and then invited others to work and finish it. He gave it form and invited others to also put their vision and inspiration into it. It was amazing to see it.

We wanted to stay longer but soon realized that we have very short amount of time left to see the rest of the city so thus we left. We jumped back on the city tour bus in front of the Basilica. Looking at our watch we realized we could not afford to get off the bus to visit anything else. We had planned to visit Park G??ell which also designed by Gaud?¡ but that would have to be for another trip. The rest of the interest points we saw briefly from the open upper level of the bus. The major points we saw just by passed was the University of Barcelona, Futbol Club Barcelona stadium (soccer, of course), three of the eight world renowned art museums, and the Olympic Stadium. By the time we reach the tour bus stop where we started in the morning, we only had an hour left before we had to board our ship. We took a very short walk on Las Ramblas boulevard. I understand that cities in Europe begin to light up and get busy in the evenings and into the night. We really missed doing many things in Barcelona. We wanted to try the sangria, eat tapas, see some flamenco, visit the museums and enjoy the ambiance of the city but it was not to be.

Trini and I agreed that we must return to Barcelona and spend a week, or longer, in this gorgeous and vibrant city. There is so much to see and experience here. Everything one comes to see is in proximity and the public transportation is wonderful. It seems that it is a great city to walk and stroll through.

I am certain that we will return to visit the Mediterranean area and when we do, we plan to return to Barcelona, on our own, and enjoy its charm and beauty.

When we boarded our ship we realized that Barcelona had made a wonderful and lasting impression on us. Now we would begin heading toward the Straits of Gibraltar and begin our transatlantic journey.

About Armando F Sanchez, Contributing Writer:
Armando F Sanchez is an author and CEO of Armando F Sanchez Production. His organization produces global digital media programming.
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