Spain

Sagrada Familia

We’ve visited Spain twice on the same trip. Both were from France, which limited our range, so we visited Barcelona, which is located on the Mediterranean and San Sebastian. Our first trip was to Barcelona, where we wanted to firstly visit the Sagrada Familia, and secondly, visit the Barcelona Stadium. We embarked on our trip, knowing it would be a long time until we’d be back at Nice. We started extremely early in the morning. It was a very long drive. 

Seven hours. It was the price to pay for visiting Barcelona. The drive there was extremely boring and tiring, as seven hour journeys tend to be, but we eventually crossed the border to Spain, and therefore Catalonia. We were close to our destination.  

We had a few hours to explore for the day before the day ended. We would first visit the Camp Nou, where F.C. Barcelona plays. Not exactly for my love of F.C. Barcelona, and more due to my liking of soccer. It was very clear when we were near the stadium, because there was a ring of shops selling cheap (and perhaps illegal) knockoff versions of the F.C. Barcelona apparel. We arrived at the stadium parking lot, and I took a look at the stadium. From the outside, it was rather impressive. It wasn’t a single building, more of a campus (it was a camp after all), with different buildings for shopping. Around the camp were many hotels for fans and staff. The centerpiece of the facility was the stadium, a building so large that even its curvature was minimal, just like how the curvature of the Earth is barely noticeable, just on a smaller scale. We went to the shop, a sort of mall with ads for cleats, soccer balls, and any piece of equipment imaginable. We bought a cap and a shirt, as well as a soccer ball. They were both overpriced, but at least they lasted a while. There was one man you couldn’t escape throughout the camp, and that man was Lionel Messi. Arguably the most famous soccer player wasn’t short on attention, and we took photos. 

After that, we got a look at the outside of the stadium, but we couldn’t visit the inside. We then drove back home, and decided to go to the beach, but not before driving through Barcelona. Barcelona is a city with many sights. For example, the Waves sculpture. Near the harbor of Barcelona, we drove past it. When I saw it, I thought, weird, and then turned away. It was weird, a bunch of parabolas on top of each other. Another more meaningful sight is the Christopher Columbus Monument, which is near Waves. It shows him pointing on top of a decorated pole. It celebrates Columbus’s achievements, and his return to Barcelona. In fact, most of the roundabouts near the tourist center showcased at least one monument. Downtown Barcelona is an action-filled place with lots to see. Another busy place is Park Guell, a hill from which you can get great views of Barcelona. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find parking, and so we decided to come back the next day.

We got away from the action of Barcelona at the beach. It wasn’t our first destination: that was the Airbnb, but when we realized that it didn’t have wifi access, we decided to go to the beach instead. We didn’t stay long, because it was dark, and it was almost about to rain, but the port there was very fancy: filled with ships and motorboats. 

We needed wifi access to find parking, and to plan the next day. The finer details of the trip weren’t sorted out, so internet access was crucial. We drove around, eventually finding a Pakistani restaurant. The owner was a very nice man, and turned on the wifi just for us. 

Afterwards, we slept. The mattress was quite scratchy, and my allergies acted up for the morning. We went for breakfast, and then began traveling. 

The first place we went to was the most famous sight in the whole of Barcelona, the Sagrada Familia. It can be used as a metaphor for a project that goes on forever, because it’s been in construction for nearly 150 years. When it’s finished, it’s going to look insane. Hopefully. 

We drove to a parking lot near the Sagrada Familia, and after a small walk we found ourselves in front of one of the busiest streets in the whole of Barcelona, with cars shooting past tourists. It was a haphazard scene, especially with the ruckus of construction. The real focus, though, was on the Sagrada Familia. 

The Sagrada Familia has perhaps the most unique architecture of a church in the world. Four spires towering over the landscape, with a sort of stair structure attached to the side. The architecture is so alien that it’s otherworldly. At one side of the building, there is a sort of teepee, a light tower smaller than the rest that perfectly contrasts the style of the building. The architect was truly a genius. 

We then went walking around the city. Our first finding was the Chapel of Santa Agata, which is a rather large medieval church. It had a big black tower, which looked more like a story prison, and less like a church. The best part was that there wasn’t even a crowd. The next stop was the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar (quite a mouthful). We were drawn to its age and size, and there was even a wedding happening there. It had two big towers that had tops that looked like miniature Towers of Pisa, and it had a central window to let light in. The best part of the basilica was the inside, which was an extremely spacious looking hall made completely out of stone, and lit by candles. It almost looked eerie, like a dungeon, if it weren’t for the festivities and carpet. 

Next, we went to the Picasso Museum. Picasso was born in Barcelona, and so we weren’t going to pass up on a museum about one of the most influential artists of all time. We went to the gallery, a clean building, with greenery to lighten things up. We went through Picasso’s art. The first few drawings were respectable, controlled. They were drawings of people, mainly, and landscapes. Perhaps Picasso earned a little bit of fame from these paintings. But the meta of art changed towards one focused more on abstract ideas such as feeling and emotion, and Picasso’s art devolved into madness, from blue paintings of nothing, to white paintings of nothing, to violet paintings of… you guessed it! Nothing. It was very disappointing. My mom summed it up. 

“Piccaso’s art looks less like art, and more like a toddler’s drawing.”

Afterwards, we went to Park Guell. It has modern art and sculpture too, but we had seen enough modern art for a day. We began by parking our car at a nearby parking garage, and boarded a hop-on hop-off bus, in hopes we could find some parking. We did, and exited the bus. We walked up to the top of the peak, which was a peculiar experience because it wasn’t a hike. Rather it is an escalator ride. As I said, weird. 

There was a small walk to a cross on top of the highest point of the mountain, but what really mattered was the view, starting with the Sagrada Familia, which looked like a cross between an ancient church and a nuclear reactor. It towered over the concrete jungle of Barcelona, giving a temporary vantage point for my easily distracted eyes. The rest of the view wasn’t special, a few high-rise buildings dotted throughout the landscapes giving it some extra texture. We went down after a good hour to complete our day, since we needed to return to Nice. I bet my dad was already having a nightmare thinking about the drive back. 

The drive back was truly a nightmare. Catastrophe struck at the very beginning, when we hadn’t even got to the thought of exiting Barcelona, when our tire was punctured. We were driving on the road as usual, having stopped, when we noticed someone was signaling something to us (for about a mile). They were the ones who explained our tire was flat. They also told us that the area wasn’t that safe, so we should get out. We rushed to the nearest gas station, assisted by the same local. 

The petrol station was closed, so we decided to look around and check our surroundings. We were in a neighborhood, probably a ghetto, as we could see Ramadan festivals in the streets, and so we looked for auto repair stores. When none were in sight, we called the insurance company for the car. Unfortunately, the shop was closed on weekends, but while driving, we passed a Sikh gurudwara. The initial plan was for us to sleep in the facility, since the locals were extremely hospitable, and allowed us to stay, since we had a 9-month old baby (my sister), but in the end, it wasn’t necessary, since the people at the gurdwara knew a mechanic. Throughout this time, we were also limited by language, having no knowledge of Spanish. By the time they began attaching the wheels, it had been nearly three hours since we began our drive. The complications caused due to currency and insurance, and the installation of the wheels itself cost at least three more (most of this time, I slept), and we had a five hour drive back, even though there was barely any traffic, and my dad went nonstop. We finally arrived in Nice. We had a good visit in Barcelona, though we faced many hiccoughs on the way. 

We visited Spain once more, this time to San Sebastian, a sort of resort town in the Basque country of Spain. It has great beaches, and even better food. There are 11 Michelin-starred restaurants in the town, which is huge for such a small town. We arrived there for a day after a two hour long drive from Bordeaux, France. When we arrived, the first thing we did was eat. We got directions to the nearest Michelin-starred restaurant, and after parking our car, we ate. Half of it was the food’s preparation, which made it aesthetically pleasing. Somehow, if your food looks like a flower, it tastes better. We ate, though we didn’t get too much food because we wanted to be able to eat from a variety of restaurants, which we did. 

Afterwards, we went to the beach, which was rather crowded. It was a rainy day, so the boardwalk was more empty than usual, but it still felt like we were downtown. It began raining, so the beach cleared, which was a stroke of luck, because when the rain paused, we had the beach to ourselves and a small group of others. Then it rained again, and we had to go back inside. We didn’t even get to build a sandcastle or go in the water. Not the Carribean experience I hoped for, but at least it was a good bargain. We then returned home. 

Tips:

  • For another good place to visit in Spain (other than Madrid), visit Andalusia, which has a diverse Moorish history, and many castles. 
Camp Nou

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