Friday, May 22, 2015

Barcelona, Spain: La Sagrada Familia & Park Guell

Actual date of this event: 18 September

Our first full day in Barcelona was a big one - we scheduled two main attractions to get those out of the way and not have to worry about them for the rest of our trip. We also hope that because it was a Thursday, it wouldn't be as busy. That wasn't really the case, but it was probably as best as it could be.

La Sagrada Familia
Before visiting La Sagrada Familia, I was worried it would be a let down. Luke was also so worried about it beforehand that he refused to look at any pictures of the cathedral. I am talking he had no clue what it looked like until he saw it in person. I had seen pictures of the outside and thought it looked soooooo neat! I had seen pictures of the inside and thought it looked heavenly! I had heard and read, and heard and read how amazing it is! So naturally, I was worried I would be disappointed. Nope. Not a one bit disappointed! In fact, it was even more amazing than I expect it to be. Sigh. It is one of my most favorite things we have done in all of our travels. It might actually be THE favorite thing, but that's a tough decision to make. Please, don't ask me to choose.
First things first, two weeks before we went to Barcelona, I booked our time slot to visit the church. This was not an easy task because we had to decide whether we wanted to join a tour group or have an audio guide or neither (we chose tour group), whether or not we wanted to climb a tower (that's a no brainer), which tower we wanted to go up (we chose Passion), what time we wanted do it all (the best time slots were booked by the time I looked into this), and lastly try to determine how long it would take to do it all (the website made it look as if our time would be limited, but it wasn't). We started early on Thursday at 9am and took the metro to Verdaguer. It was strange to know that a massive structure was just a few blocks from us but we could not see it. Eventually, it popped out and towered over us.
As we approached the cathedral, we looped around the boundary fence passing by a huge line of people that had not pre-booked their visit. This was one of those moments when I felt pretty proud of myself for doing my job correctly :-) Luke and I showed our tickets at the entrance gate, then waited for our tour to begin. In the meantime, Luke snapped away at the camera. The sculpting was incredible, so much detail. I could have used a pair of binoculars to look at everything, partly because my eye-sight is starting to fade, but mostly there was just so much to look at.

It was tough to hear our tour guide as there was so much noise around us. I did my best to listen, but unfortunately, I didn't do a very good job. Each side of the cathedral was a different theme, with sculpting taller than the men working on them.

The interior of the church was even more amazing than the exterior. Within a second of stepping foot inside, I gasped in awe of the colorful light streaming through the stained glass windows. And again, each side of the church was a different color scheme. Massive pillars that branched out toward the top held up the mile high ceiling which was decorated with jewels and more sculpting. The interior was designed to make the visitor feel as if he/she was in a forest.

We took a walk underneath the church where a museum explained more about the construction which began in 1882. Gaudi planned for 18 towers, all of which to be different heights to represent the hierarchy that each symbolizes. At the time of our visit, only 8 towers had been built. The central and tallest tower is scheduled to be 170m (or 560ft) which happens to be one meter less than Barcelona's Montjuic -- Gaudi believed that a man-made creation should not be greater than God's. Construction of La Sagrada Familia is scheduled for completion in 2026 (the goal is the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death) which will make it the tallest church in the world.
Luke and I climbed the tower after our tour. Since we chose the Passion Tower, we were able to take an elevator up before climbing a few stairs. The tower was pretty small inside, but thankfully the number of people was regulated. We were unable to get 360 degree views of the city because the church was in the way. To be honest, the best view of the city would include La Sagrada Familia which this obviously did not. The way down the tower was windy, and moved through different areas of the Passion Facade.

It was very interesting after returning back to the bottom and walking through the church again. Since the sun had changed positions in the sky from when we walked through the first time, the colors seemed to reflect differently. We ended up taking more pictures, but as a picture, the light looks the same as before. haha

Before we visited Park Guell, we did A LOT of walking. Read about it here.

Park Guell
I proved a job well done again! Not even a year before our visit did Barcelona decide to start charging for entrance to Park Guell. I had read about it on another blog and made a mental note. Our Barcelona book didn't even have this noted. The park is actually surrounded by a foresty area that is free to wander, but that isn't the part everyone must see. Even though time slots are strict, there is a grace period for entry. I booked our time for the late afternoon which ended up working out perfectly.
We also got very lucky when we stumbled upon the outdoor elevator that goes up to Park Guell (Note: The one we took is located at Avinguda del Santuari de Sant Josep de la Muntanya, there  may be others?). We had already been walking uphill for an hour while walking from Diagonal, so our legs were excited for a break.
The park was like a Dr. Seuss playground for adults. Colorful mosaic tiles, swirling lines, and tilted pillars made me feel like I was trippin' out a bit. The views from the terrace were wonderful, but crowded as everyone wanted a selfie. Everywhere else, except the main entrance, was fairly quiet and relaxing.

I can imagine this place was a little crazy before they started charging admission - it would be a fun place to hang out if I lived in the area, but I'm sure certain people disrespected it. After Park Guell, we continued on with our day... which you can read about here.

Other posts from Barcelona: TeaserArchitectureLa Sagrada Familia & Park GuellBarceloneta & the WaterfrontChurches & MontjuicCamp Nou, Torre Agbar & La Merce

The Gaudi Museum (which is was Gaudi's home from 1906-1926) is located in Park Guell. In 1984, Park Guell became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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