Packing up and leaving our beautiful apartment in San Sebastián was hard, but were looking forward to heading east to Barcelona!  The Mediterranean, cool Gaudi architecture and delicious paella were the main things I remember from my trip to Barcelona twelve years ago.  We hopped on a train from San Sebastián and upon arrival we headed straight for the famous Sagrada Familia Basilica that architect Antoni Gaudí left in construction in 1926.  Nearly one hundred years later, it is still far from completion.  We stood in awe of the cathedral’s unique architecture, sculptures, stained glass windows and cross hanging in the central nave.  This is definitely one of the most impressive pieces of architecture we have seen first hand.  We took an elevator up one of the towers to get a better view of the city and take photos of the beautiful landscapes.  The basilica is due for completion somewhere between 2020-2030, although because the project has already experienced so many delays in its construction, we expect it may be closer to 2050 before it’s actually finished.


Sagrada Familia


Passion Facade


Cross with canopy



While researching Barcelona information online through TripAdvisor, we found Travel Bound, a company that provides free walking and biking tours around the city.  We loved the sound of FREE.  On our second day in the city, we went on their walking tour to get our bearings.  We strolled through some of the central Barcelona neighborhoods learning the city’s history and fun facts – seeing the sights in Gothic Barrio, El Raval and La Rambla.  We visited the Plaza del Rey where Christopher Columbus met with the Reyes Catolicos (Catholic Monarchs) Isabelle and Ferdinand who ended up funding his voyage to “discover” America.  We also learned that Barcelona has a fascination with a caganer (a pooping man), which they add to their nativity scenes at Christmas time.  Yes, it’s true – check out the Wikipedia article on caganer.  Because we were visiting during the holiday season, the city was preparing all of its festive décor.  Lastly, we visited a famous city square that has remembreants of Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).  Although there is a “gag order” in Spain preventing them from building monuments to honor those lost during this war, this particular city square has a small plaque above the site where a bomb had exploded, and the damage from the bomb was left intact as a type of memorial.


Plaza del Rey


Evidence of the Spanish Civil War


Barcelona’s bike lanes


Gaudi’s Casa Milá

Since we enjoyed the free walking tour so much, the following day we decided to go on the free biking tour focusing on Antoni Gaudí’s buildings around the city.  I was a little reluctant to bike around Barcelona, but I was put at ease when I started noticing the city’s incredible bike lane infrastructure.  In the middle of most huge multi-lane streets, they have built a dual walk & bike lane.  With that in mind, I agreed to going on a 4-hour bike ride of the city.  The sun was shining bright and had a blast with a group of about 30 other tourists.   Our tour guide Hannah was from Finland and did a great job keeping us all together.  We visited the Gaudí’s Casa Batlló & Casa Milá (also known as La Pedrera), Parc de la Ciutadella, Arc de Triomf, Sagrada Familia, La Monumental bullring and La Barceloneta beach.  After a long day of riding a bike, we decided to head to the fisherman’s wharf for some authentic seafood paella.  It was just like I remembered…tasty and fresh.  I’ll have to continue working on perfecting my own paella.

On our last day, we enjoyed a lovely stroll and breakfast through the Mercado Boqueria, which is famous for it’s fresh produce, meats and small cafes.  We certainly had a phenomenal time and look forward to our next trip to the area.  Barcelona still remains one of my favorite cities in Europe!