Day 1 in Barcelona was actually day 3 since I got here on the Saturday 19th, but didn’t actually do anything. Day 2 I went to Girona and Figueres, so it’s day 3 of the third part of the trip and day 42 since I left Canada.
After spending the day before in a 12 hours trip that was AMAZING but pretty exhausting, I had not one but TWO walking tours booked for this day. I had booked both with Free Tours, which is essentially this, free walking tours and you tip your guide whatever you think it’s fair at the end. The first one was The Original Free Tour of Barcelona and it was amazing. I-CAN’T- SAY- ENOUGH how amazing it was. We were lucky enough to get a guide, Patrick who graduated in history and then moved from the US to Barcelona to study more history, so you can imagine how RICH this tour was.
The Original Free Tour of Barcelona
We started the tour at Plaça de Sant Jaume which is is a square at the center of the Old City of Barcelona and the administrative heart of both the city and surrounding Catalonia. This is because the Palace of the Generalitat of Catalonia and the City Hall are located here across from one another.
Where’s the wind when you need it? If there was any wind you would be able to see in the picture above the three flags on the top of the Government building: The Spanish flag, the Catalan flag and the Barcelona flag.
Talking about flags, there was a lot of protests going one during the time I was there. I didn’t have any issues, but it was right there, anywhere you look you could see the signs.
First thing to notice is the Catalan flag with the blue triangle and the white star. They have three flags:
You can also see everywhere in the city the yellow ribbon which represents the support for the Catalan politics that were sentenced to jail a few weeks ago because of a referendum they organized regarding the independence of Catalonia that was deemed illegal.
OK, back to the tour, we strolled through the streets of the Gothic Quarter, basically. We started by visiting 4 roman columns in the temple of Augustus, which remained intact and are over 2000 years-old.
From there we headed to the Barcelona Cathedral, AKA La Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia. This cathedral has an interesting history behind it. The first church was built in the 4th century and replaced by a Romanesque construction after the Moorish left Barcelona in the 11th century. the currently gothic cathedral begun to be built in the end of the 13th century and the construction took over 150 years. In the 19th century Richard Ford in A book for Travellers in Spain wrote of Barcelona Cathedral: ‘The principal facade is unfinished, with a bold front poorly painted in stucco, although the rich chapter have for three centuries received a fee on every marriage for this very purpose of completing it.’
That generated some criticism and the city council decided to finally finish the facade. Then, the neo-gothic style was added.
From there we headed to the Plaça del Rei where you can see the remains of the wall (Barcelona was a walled city), the the Watchtower of King Martí and the 14th-century royal chapel of Santa Àgata.
We then quickly passed the the pont del bisbe, which, like everything else in Barcelona has an interesting story.
PAUSE TO FREAK OUT
OMG this post will be gigantic.
OK, I'M BACK
So, the bridge was designed by architect Joan Rubió I Bellver. He built the bridge in the neo-gothic style and then suggested that all non-Gothic buildings in the immediate vicinity of Barcelona Cathedral should be demolished and replaced by new Gothic style buildings. 🙄 Fortunately, Rubió’s
absurd plan to beautify the area was rejected and only the bridge, which links the Palau de la Generalitat to La Casa dels Canonges, was built. And believe me, it was not one or two buildings. There were a whole lot of things he wanted to bring down .
Santa Maria del Mar
We also headed to the Santa Maria del Mar church, which was built in the 14th century.
And we ended this tour at the Fossar de Les Moreres. It is a memorial square in Barcelona, close to the basilica of Santa Maria del Mar. The plaza was built over a cemetery where defenders of the city were buried following the Siege of Barcelona at the end of the War of the Spanish Succession in 1714. At the top of the arch there’s a torch that is always lit (sorry, can’t see in the pic).
This was a three and a half hours tour on foot. This was a pretty exhausting tour after spending the day before walking. But there was more to come. I do not encourage you to do the same unless you absolutely have to. In my case, even though I stayed 10 days in Barcelona it was actually half days, so the dates/times were a bit funny and I ended up with the super relaxing schedule hahahahah
After the first tour I had about 90 minutes for lunch before the next one and I went (walking) close to the meeting point for the second tour and looked for a place to eat close by, so I went to a place called Tapeo and, as the name suggests, they serve the famous Tapas. This is a very traditional thing in the Catalonia which basically consists of having small portions of everything as opposed to one big dish. Of course, there are some that are more common, like the burratina, which is a dreamy fresh cheese that consists of a Mozzarella pouch, rather than a ball, filled with a delicate milky-mousse, and it can come with tomatoes and lots of olive oil, so it is something to die for IMHO. Also, Gluten free AND lowcarb. They also have their famous batatas bravas, which translates to brave potatoes. This dish is made of diced potatoes served usually with a spicy sauce. I had the Burratina and some spicy fillet. Needless to say it was delicious.
With a full stomach I headed back to the Cathedral of Barcelona where I should meet the group for the second tour.
Gaudí and Modernisme
The second tour was the Gaudí and Modernisme, which is also 100% worth it! The first thing we saw, however, is the building of the Col.legi d’Arquitectes de Catalunya (Catalonia college of Architecture.
This building has an interesting thing about it. When you look at it, it’s a black gigantic rectangle. It’s pretty boring to be the place where several famous architects came from. The building in front is also part of it, and it has a reproduction of a Picasso drawing, and I’m not a big fan of this phase. But yeah, this is the only interesting part about this building.
So after that we started the modernism route. Everytime you see on of these flowers one the floor it means you are in front of or close to a modernist building, not necessarily designed by Gaudí.
So, look up if you see this ➡️
There are three main elements that are always present in the modernisme (Catalan modernism). The first one is the use of several different materials. So you will see wood work, mixed with stones, iron, glass, mosaic, and so on. It might sound a bit bizarre but the result is usually quite impressive, at least from my point of view. The second thing is elements from nature. You can always see animals, plants, etc. And the third one is dragons.
Ther picture are really not fair to the buildings. It was raining, the light was terrible, I really don’t like cloudy days for pictures. But, it happens. At this point I was almost not feeling my feet anymore and considering sitting down and staying there until the next day. BUT, we still has one place left to go.
La Sagrada Familia
So, La sagrada familia! It is the most massive urban building I have ever seen. It’s hard to describe and impossible to get the idea from a picture. Not until you are there, right in front of it. The experience with the tour was very interesting, because from Casa Mila we take the Subway to La Sagrada Familia. You can walk, but I Think it’s part of the show. And it makes sense. You get out of the subway and the Basilica is behind you. You have no idea. So the guide tells the group to turn and you hear everyone saying: WOW! And this is exactly the feeling. It’s so magnificent, so impressive that is simply not possible to capture in a picture.
I have to say that all the cranes, and noise and construction kills the vibe a little bit.
The Basilica is been built since 1882 and they want it to be finished by 2026 for the 100 years anniversary of Gaudí’s death. It’s being built for so long that while the build one side they are renovating the other. The amount of details, the elements, all the symbology behind it are mesmerizing. And again, sorry for the picture, because it sux.
After this I went home, took a shower and went to bed because I could not stand for another minute. But It was an amazing day.
Also, I was considering doing one big post about Barcelona, but since this one is already too long and took me so much to write I’m publishing day 1 only. Hopefully I will be able to condense the next days into one post.