I included the name of the province in the title because of the recent discussions concerning Catalunya separating from Spain and the independentists.
I don’t want to turn my blog post into a political piece on another country, but from an outside point of view and with some background with the separation discussion with Canada and Quebec, it was interesting to be in Spain during this time.
Actually, I had a friend in university who did a presentation about this subject so it was cool to finally see what he researched in person.
It appears that most of Spain is quite disgruntled by the fact that they want to leave. I’ve also been privileged to have friends on both sides of the spectrum and; therefore, was able to get an understanding of each viewpoint.
Apparently it goes back to the medieval ages and it was reignited after the dictatorship as Franco suppressed many aspects of Spanish life, but for those who speak another language besides standard Spanish (Castellano), this other language was suppressed.
There are 4 official languages in Spain- Castellano, Catalan, Basque, and Galician.
Walking around Barcelona, there were yellow ribbons everywhere- either painted on the floor or on walls or hung as pictures. People were also wearing it on their clothes. This yellow is worn by the independentists and those wanting the independent leaders to be freed (they are considered traitors for acting against the Spanish Constitution) and most, if not all, are in Belgium to escape prison time in Spain.
I met with a friend that I met in the Balkans for tapas one night. Her family is from Catalunya, but she is against separation and she talked with us about the discussions from inside Catalunya.
She also told me that she, and many non-independentists, didn’t vote because under the Spanish constitution having that vote was illegal. In her mind, why am I voting in an illegal election when I am not for separation? From my understanding, this is why the vote passed towards being independent as only those in favor voted.
One of the biggest topics for the separation that non-independentists talk about, is that Catalunya is the wealthiest province and; therefore, they don’t want to keep supporting the rest of the country.
Along this topic, I found Barcelona quite expensive. The grocery store food is fine enough, but all the tourist options are pricey.
We took a bus from Madrid and got into Barcelona around 15 or 3 pm. We had enough daylight to drop our stuff at the Airbnb, see La Sagrada Familia from the outside, see the outside of this rarely seen hospital, and walk about Park Güell.
Actually, it was a bit funny- so we walk up to the building in the photo above and the sign said it was closed to visits, but people were walking in and out. We went up to the “security” guard, he wasn’t really guarding- maybe he was more of an informational guide (?). Anyways, we asked in Spanish if we could enter. He told us that they were holding fashion week in this building and that visits will resume the next day at 9.30 starting at the building (the real hospital) behind.
“Ok thank you.” We responded in Spanish. The guy smiled.
“Great, was I talking to fast?” We paused and said no.
“Ok cool. I thought I was.”
After saying goodbye and walking away, we turned to each other. My companion was a native Spanish speaker- in fact, born and raised in Granada area, but the guy must have just saw me or wasn’t really looking at him and assumed we were both tourists and, apparently, that BOTH of us were not native speakers…..which is only 50% correct.
No harm, no foul, but we found it funny.
Park Güell is one of the famous spots in Barcelona as it was designed by Gaudi (he designed basically all of the famous spots). It is beautiful and there is a lovely viewpoint of the city that we caught right at sunset.
By the time we got to the famous section (giant colorful lizard), it was a bit dark, as you can see by my photo below. We decided to come back in the daylight.
And that we did. However, when we got there, we were surprised to find that there is a fee to enter! 8.50 on the spot, 7.50 online. Basically, there is a fee from about 8am till dusk. That is why we didn’t have to pay the first time because it was dusk. In the summer, since the sun sets later, the hours of the fee are also till later.
It was very strange and annoying to us because it is a park and I am sure Gaudi meant for it to be enjoyed by everyone.
I have developed this belief after entering La Sagrada Familia: The ticket includes a museum on the basilica/cathedral and Gaudi. Gaudi wanted to die in a poor man’s hospital and in fact, the last few years of his life, he was living as a poor man- on the street and got hit by a tram. The authorities didn’t recognize him and sent him to the poor man’s hospital where we died.
Now, if this talented artist wanted this, why would he want to charge people to see his artwork?
La Sagrada Familia at the lowest entrance fee is 15 euros (no audio guide or tour guide etc). For January and Febuary of 2018, they were offering 50% off to those under 30 and students. We somehow paid 7 euros each. The cathedral is still under construction. Actually, the first stone was laid in 1882, Gaudi started on the project in 1883, and the latest end date is 2026 (it was 2011, I believe). When I was there, there was still a big section of the inside under construction. Also, we thought being inside a museum/building would be a good rain activity; however, due to the rain, the towers were closed for visits and so we couldn’t take full advantage of our ticket. My suggestion would be to go when it isn’t raining haha.
This being said. The inside is really different as it looks like trees and the stained glass windows are beautiful, but for 15 euros….it seems a bit expensive for what you get. We are close enough to 2026, so maybe wait for it to be finished? They say the price is that high because it is a donation to help with the construction costs- so maybe it will be cheaper later when it is finished? Slightly doubt it, it will probably be more expensive…
Also, during down season there was no trouble getting tickets, but I think in high season it is better to get your tickets in advance.
Some other Gaudi sites are homes such as Casa Batlló and La Perdrera- Casa Milà. Both are about 25 euros on spot each and like 22 euros if you purchase online in advance. We didn’t go inside any of them due to the price. However, the outsides, are beautiful enough.
Another beautiful building is Palau de la Musica. Only guided tours.
The main cathedral and Saint Maria del Mar church are free during certain hours so definitely check schedules.
When we were exiting one church the bells were ringing that it was noon and a couple came up to the guard and asked if there was a fee to enter.
“Only after 12pm.”
“Oh, well it is 12:01…”
The guard gave a small smile and shrug as if to say, sorry you missed it. It was funny because apparently that conversation was in Catalan, which is similar to Spanish, but still different- and I understood the whole thing and didn’t even realize it was Catalan until my companion said so.
My companion and I looked at each other- this was before we knew about the schedule/fees.
“Wow, we got in at the right time!”
The next church, we looked at the schedule and saw we had 30 minutes before entrance fee, but that was plenty of time.
They are your standard churches and in comparison to the Gaudi architecture, they are not that special, but while you are walking around old town, they are worth to enter (when it is free).
There are several different sections of Barcelona and each are quite different. There are Old Town, Raval, Gothic, Born, and Eixample to name a few. Barcelona is also known for beaches; however, according to my local friends, the beach isn’t that great in the summer and definitely not in the winter. It was nice to visit in the winter as there were less people and it was nice to see the sea one last time before leaving Europe for Asia and the Pacific Ocean.
Another big point of interest in Barcelona is La Rambla. It got more renowned after the terrorist attack in 2017. It is a long street that pedestrians can walk in the middle and there are a lot of restaurants, cafes, and stores. We came across a huge market that was full of people and was very expensive, probably for the tourists. We were also asked if we wanted weed or if we were selling. Due to Amsterdam, they use “coffeeshop” here as well.
There is also another ¨La Rambla¨in Raval. Raval means shantytown- apparently back in time this part of the city was were the poor people lived so they got their own pedestrian walkway.
For some reason, I thought the Arc de Triomf was at the end of La Rambla, but it is not and it is connected to Ciutadella park, which is quite beautiful to walk around.
Our last full day, we ventured to Mt. Montjuic. It holds a fortress/castle, the remains of the Olympics, an art museum, and several beautiful gardens. The view from the museum and then further up to the castle is nice of the city and after seeing the view from Park Güell, it was like seeing the city from either side.
Coming from North America, we grew up hearing that Christopher Colombus, or Colon in Spanish, founded us. There is a movement to try to get rid of him from history due to our current level of human rights; however, he did sail the ocean blue in 1492…..cannot exactly hold him to our standards since it was 6 centuries ago…..but that is just my opinion.
Anyways, we were also taught that he was Italian who went to Spain to ask for sponsorship to go discover because Italian authorities did not give it to him. Barcelona was apparently the place he told the Spanish court about the New World. So, in honor of his memory, there is a lovely statue of him pointing towards the sea. It is not pointed towards the Americas as he would be pointing in-land and that is not as poetic as pointing towards the sea haha.
You can see the statue walking on a boardwalk type path next to the water, which is really nice.
We took the bus back to Madrid at 16.30 after spending 2 whole days, an afternoon, and a most of our last day there so basically 3 days. It was a good amount of time.
In the end, Barcelona was an interesting experience for me. I have wanted to take it off my bucket list for a while now and perhaps, like Pompeii, I made it more exciting than it was. It is a lovely city to go visit, but after doing most of my European traveling this past year in Eastern Europe, I found Barcelona expensive. However, from a historical and political view point, it was very interesting to see the yellow ribbons and hear the different sides from my friends and from just observing walking down the street.
I am very interested to see how things will go for Catalunya and perhaps I will go back some day and pay to enter into some of Gaudi’s houses. Perhaps it will be when La Sagrada is fully finished.
But that is traveling- you never know- until we meet again Barcelona- adios!