One of the must-see sites when you travel to Barcelona is the Sagrada Familia Cathedral. The construction of this huge looming cathedral began in 1882 and is still not quite completed today. Most of the design and the plans for the cathedral were developed by the famous catalan architect Antoni Guadí. Quentin and I were encouraged to visit around two or three in the afternoon so that the light would be at it’s best through the stain glass windows, and we were definitely not misguided by this advise. The church itself is an overwhelming beauty from the outside with different facades that look like dripping wax and have great significance in the bible, but the inside was my favorite part.
There are tall pillars that shoot up and arch out into the ceiling as if they were trees. Entering the church felt like entering a huge secret forbidden clearing in a dense forest. Colored light reflected from the stained glass and filled the air. Each stained glass window had a different vibrant color and represented different parts of nature. I loved the way Gaudí designed the cathedral to mix spiritual aspects with nature. Quentin and I took a small crowded elevator to one of the church towers and looked out over Barcelona before climbing down tiny spiral stairs which spun round and round for what felt like forever. It was an amazing experience… out of all the church’s I have seen traveling through Europe I might venture to say this one was my favorite.
After exploring the church, my sweet tooth kicked in again. Quentin and I met up with Will who took us into old town where we found a cute little shop called Chöck. The boys said we had to go in because they like to call me by my nickname “Chuck” and thought it was a sign the shop name was so close to my nickname. The shop had so many sweets to choose from but we decided on an oreo cronut and a chocolate nut donut type-pastry. They were both so delicious that Will and I had to stop in the middle of the street to let the chocolate overwhelm our taste-buds. I think one thing I have learned while traveling is to slow down and take everything in—even if it is the flavor of a cronut, let it overwhelm your senses and completely envelope your thoughts even for just a second. I want to try and live more in the moment when I return home and appreciate the big things like amazing cathedrals and the little things, like a chocolate donut.
Our last stop in Switzerland, Geneva, was just as beautiful as the rest of the places we visited. Once again, the combination of the mountains against the water was enough to make you want to walk out on a bridge to stop and stare all day. I grew up in the mountains and can appreciate their grand appearance, but never had I seen them next to such a large body of water. Geneva definitely confirmed why Switzerland is one of the most touristy countries.
Mom and I decided to tour the city starting with the Old Town and the looming St. Peter’s Cathedral, and finished at the Revolution Wall. While wandering around Old Town, we heard yelling and chanting from around a corner and backed to the side just in time for a huge crowd of protesters to come marching up the street. We couldn’t understand what they were saying, but one of them gave me a flyer and a Branch Chocolate bar as they passed. We watched as parents with kids on their shoulders, teens, college students and business women and men walked past us with signs or with nothing at all. Towards the end of the line, I asked a girl what was happening and in broken English she explained it was a protest for the rights of teachers and public figures who were getting a pay cut. They had sacks and sacks of Branche Chocolate, a bar unique to Switzerland, but sold all over in grocery stores instead of just specialty stores. This one had cornflakes in it and tasted like thick fudge sprinkled with crunchy texture. Handing out chocolate means business—this chocolate was urgently requesting change.
The next day, Mom and I took these cute little yellow boats across the river and saw the Red Cross Museum. It was a moving experience that makes you want to find a way to give back to the world, or at the very least treat everyone better in daily life. After museum, we got back on the tiny, heated yellow boats and drove by the iconic water spout of Geneva, the Jet d’Eau. On our way home, we stopped in a chocolatier that had been around since 1818, Martel, and tried the traditional “Pavé de Genéve”, or Geneva’s Pavement. It is a small dark square truffle that melts in your mouth. The recipe was originally crafted by a man named Mr. Stankovitch who kept the recipe a secret. Now, all chocolate stores in Switzerland try and mimic the recipe, but only the little shop, Chocolats Rohr, has the original recipe.
Geneva: a place with chocolate making history and a place with chocolate lasting through history. And that’s an un-wrap.