We had two more days in Barcelona (during our January 2022 trip, here are links to Day 1 and Day 2), and our second scheduled tour, to La Sagrada Familia, was today. We had read that the afternoon, near sunset, was the best time to see the church as the sun would shine through the stained glass best, so we had our appointment booked, and we looked for what to do during the day. Jesse had added Ciutadella Park, the large city park near the harbor, as a place to see, so we headed that way. We first took in the harbor and all the enormous boats, including the largest sailboat either of us had ever seen, as well as walking by an old-timey circus, that, unfortunately was closed.
The sun was warm overhead as we found the nearest entrance to the massive city park. Our first stop was the atrium, which allowed light in through many thin wooden slats, and found it empty. We walked through the old building with a very tall ceiling, observing the lush green ferns, palm trees, and the largest elephant ear plants leaves ever.
We continued our walk through the park, and heard the familiar sound of parrots, nested high above us. In Long Beach there are a flock of parrots that will travel around the city, and we used to see them outside our balcony at least once a year, so we knew the sound. We squinted our eyes to see them, and then found a few eating tangerines in a tree nearby.
We continued our stroll through the park, passing dog walkers, joggers, kids at play, fellow tourists, immigrants selling blankets, older people sitting on benches smoking cigarettes, and people walking to work; it was a relaxing, sunny day in the city and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves in their own ways in the park. We continued walking around the park for awhile, passing grand statues, a fenced-off large fountain, a lagoon with many waterfowl, a zoo, and the faded-pink Catalunya Parliamentary Building. As we neared the end of our walk, in the distance, we saw the Arc de Triomf, which was built for the 1888 World’s Fair.
We walked underneath, our next spot some much needed lunch, before our tour of La Sagrada Familia. We arrived a bit after 4pm, with our tour to follow at 4:45pm. This gave us time to wander in the church, and, after passing through airport-like security, we stood in awe, looking up at it.
On our last visit to Barcelona we were unable to see the interior of the church, but this time we made it a point to. Absolutely worth it; spectacular is an understatement. The light shining in through the stained glass of all colors of the rainbow was stunning; as is the ceiling and the light that comes from there as well. The altar and pews are actually more subdued, which serves to make the church seems larger than it is. We stood looking up, mouths agape, while taking in all the beauty (and taking photos as well).
We did arrive at the right time to see the sunlight illuminate the stained glass, and create an underwater feeling reflected on the interior of the church.
We joined the tour, led by an English-speaking native, as she described and told us the history and future of the church. As many may know, the church is still under construction, as it has been for almost 100 years, and will not be finished soon. Construction began in 1882. Gaudi died in 1926. Completion had been scheduled for the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death but covid has delayed completion for a date yet unknown. She pointed out the Virgin Mary tower, which was recently completed in December 2021.
We saw TV cameras and a gentleman being interviewed, and our tour guide told us that was the current architect, and we could ask him when it would be finished (and then she said, “no, don’t really go ask him”). She took us inside, pointed above, how the columns extended out to support the roof, with branches like trees, and Gaudi was famous for incorporating nature in his buildings. Eventually once the outside scaffolding was removed, there will be large windows that will let in natural light, and allow visitors to see the stars at night.
We ended at the other entrance, where we could see more of the sculptures carved into the church. There is also a museum, but we were unable, to make it as the church was closing soon. Before closing, we were able to sit in one of the pews, and quietly reflect on our time in the church, Barcelona, and Spain, thus far.
We ate some dinner at an excellent Bilbao-inspired Pintxo place, which Jesse talks more about here. A good night’s sleep followed, and our last full day in Barcelona awaited us.
We began the day taking the subway for the first time, to the neighborhoods of Horta and La Vall D’Hebron. Our destination this brisk, early morning was Laberint d’Horta, or The Labyrinth of Horta. For a reasonable 2.33 Euro per person, we could explore the centuries old garden as well as the full size labyrinth at its center. As we entered each path we were on split, and split again, taking us past old statues and busts, eventually arriving at the main structure, a closed off building built in 1802, with two wide staircases leading up to it, with a large statue on top flanked by grand urns. Behind the building was a square pond, behind that, was a smaller pond encircled by rocks with a statue of a reclining nymph that lazily watched all (the image at the beginning of this post is from the nymph’s perceptive).
We left the ponds and took another path, that split again, and again, until we took enough paths that we arrived above the labyrinth. It was a for real labyrinth, with 8-10 feet high forest green walls, well-manicured, and we, along with a handful of other guests, made our way through the maze. They even had installed thin wire fencing in the trees so people could not cheat their way through it (though some had been pulled apart enough that I am sure a kid or two had in the past).
We escaped the maze, walked some more through the park, passing a well-kept garden we could not access, but must be really nice for the office workers on the other side to enjoy on a day-to-day basis.
The last cultural stop on our Barcelona tour was to the CosmoCaixa Museum, another recommendation from a local friend. It is an interactive science museum, anthropology museum, planetarium and mini-zoo, all in one, along with a cafe and restaurant. Five floors along with outdoor science statues, we started on the lowest floor, which housed most of the things to see (as unfortunately some things, including the planetarium theater) were closed due to Covid. We started with the interactive Nikola Tesla exhibit, Very interesting and informative, we could also test out some of his inventions and we learned a lot about one of the most important inventors and the reason we have a lot of the technology we have today.
After this we walked past many interactive science experiments, along with DNA models, and then dinosaur bones, bug collections with terrifying (dead) insects, as we headed toward the large habitat at the far end opposite the Tesla exhibit. There was a clear “fish tank” or rather three separated ponds where different schools of fish and huge catfish swam, along with turtles; above was a rainforest-like habitat with flying and non-flying birds and even a rodent of unusual size (it looked like a gerbil but the size of 50-pound dog), and even an Anaconda.
As our feet were getting tired we made our way to the cafe for a cafe-solo, or espresso, before walking past some of the outdoor science structures, past the kinder-gardeners running around, big smiles on their faces as they chased each other and enjoyed the sunshine. We took a bus back to Las Ramblas, in search of a tapas place called El Jardi, located within the courtyard of an old academy library. We sipped Moscow Mules and enjoyed tasty tapas as the day turned to night, and capped off our final night in Barcelona.