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.
I think it is impossible not to laugh when you meet up with someone familiar in a strange new place. The comfort of being with a friend mixes with the adventure and excitement of being somewhere you have never been before resulting in a big smile, a giggle, and, as cheesy as it sounds, the realization of how incredible life is in that moment.
When I first got to Barcelona, I wandered down Las Ramblas, a touristy main street, past the big stone cathedral and into a neighborhood called El Born with narrow streets and lots of people. For once, I was able to find the Air B & B where we were staying without getting lost. It was a tall building with a gated door and I rang the bell and spoke in Spanish (!!) to the owner who buzzed me in. I pushed open the big metal gate-door and walked up four flights of musty stairs (because in Spain the first level is usually level zero) into an apartment where my new travel buddy, Quentin, was waiting for me. This is where the laugh/giggle/chuckle comes in. I was so nervous that I was going to get lost on the way to the apartment or that we wouldn’t find each other because cell phones don’t work without wi-fi, that when I saw him I couldn’t help but smile and laugh with relief and amazement that we finally made it to Barcelona, the number one place on my list of cities I wanted to visit.
I felt a surge of this same strange mixture of feelings when we met up with our friend Will, who is teaching English in Barcelona, for dinner. We were sitting outside at a Café eating and watching skateboarders stick and fail to stick their tricks, when a familiar smile made it’s way into my line of site. The small giggle/laugh inserted itself again here with the combination of the the old friend and the new place.
Luckily, Will shares my obsession for chocolate and sweets, and knows all of the good places to go in Barcelona. To start, the next day he took us on a tour of the city on bikes. We rode up to montjuïc and had a beautiful view of the city. Our bike tour ended at one of the best food places I have been to so far. Although, Quentin pointed out to me that I think every place we go is the best place we have been. I realized that everytime I eat while traveling I usually think it is the best meal I have ever eaten… each new treat is the best one. However, this new best meal was at a place called “Brunch and Cake”. I had a sweet waffle covered in cheese and bacon with lettuce on top. It was something I would never think to make on my own and was the ideal combination of sweet, savory flavors with crunchy, thick textures. After devouring the waffle, Will and I split a huge slice of Oreo Cake. While cake is usually the last thing on my dessert list, behind ice cream, cookies and regular chocolate bars, this cake definitely “took the cake” for the day and satisfied my sweet tooth after our bike ride with the dense sweet flavor of what seemed like a million oreos crushed into one bite.
Old faces, new places. Brunch and Cake took the cake. And that’s an un-wrap.