Monday the 27th and we decide to go up to Tibidabo which is Barcelona’s highest peak. Took a funicular to get to the top. There, one finds a beautiful church and the city’s oldest amusement park. Quite a few families around as today is the last day of the Merce festival. The church – Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor de Jesús – (The Church of the Sacred Heart) sits upon this hill and from here one can see the vistas of the city below. This church is quite interesting as has two very distinctive architectural, decorative styles and the two types of stone that were used. Its almost like a church built on top of another church. Two separate entries which further enforce the fact that this is a very unique structure. The lower Byzantine church was built between 1902 and 1911 using stone from Montjuïc. The neo-gothic main church was built between 1915 and 1961 using a lighter coloured stone from Girona.
Robin reminded me that we visited this area nine years ago with our sister in law Brenda; which I had forgotten. Lots of cyclists who must use the road up here for a challenge….not us; unless we had our ebikes with us! Also at the top one finds an amusement park which is one hundred years old and many families enjoying it on this holiday.
We then found our way to Playa Catalunya as we wanted to walk along the Passeig de Gracia; known as the Champs Élysées of Barcelona. As mentioned earlier, lots of people out and about. The one thing that was very noticeable, were the lineups of people waiting to get into the high end shops like Dior, Burberry, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, etc. The majority of them were Asians….hope no one takes offence, but it’s true. I keep saying to myself, who cares….I would rather have memories than a Gucci purse!
One of the reasons I also wanted to come along the Passeig de Gracia was to once again look at the Block of Discord. The three main buildings for one to view are Casa Batlo which was designed by Gaudi, Casa Amatiler designed by Cadafalch which has Moorish, Gothic and a step gable roof design taken from the Low countries and finally Casa Lleo Morera designed by architect Montaner who also designed the Palau de Catalan Musica. Very long lines of people waiting to get in.
Not sure where the days go, but we both usually have naps when we get back to our apartment….lots of walking. I know I mentioned that the Metro was efficient, but also very cost efficient. We have been buying cards that allow up to 10 rides for one individual. Today we bought new cards and the cost for the two of us was the equivalent of $21 Canadian which means that each time we take the metro it costs us approximately $1 each. What a bargain! So easy to get around this way and one is not at the mercy of the traffic, which I have mentioned before is crazy!
As mentioned earlier, today was the last day of the Merce festival and tonight around 10 pm, the fireworks went on for one half hour. Tried to see from our deck, but just saw the reflection of lights. Couldn’t believe they went on that long.
Tuesday we decided to go to the small town of Sitges (pronounced SEE – juhz) which is a popular coastal town about 39 kilometres from Barcelona. We decided to take the train which took some thirty five minutes and cost $24 for the two of us for a return trip. Once again, amazed by the low cost of mass transit here. Walked through the narrow streets of the old town, eventually making our way down to the ocean front. The streets are crammed with cafe, boutique shops and everything one could want to spend some time on the beach. The main site on the waterfront is a 17th century Baroque style church, Sant Bartomeu i Santa Tecla Church.
Sitges has nine separate beaches connected by a promenade. One can rent lounge chairs/umbrellas for the day. Reminded us of the times we did that when we spent time in Nice. It was nice to get out of Barcelona for the day and enjoyed our time in Sitges. Robin and I commented on the beautiful weather we have enjoyed while we have been in the Barcelona area. Just one day of rain, but had stopped by the time we headed out for the day. By the way…..my new shoes are very comfortable.
I mentioned that young people get up for us in the metro so we can have a seat….not only young people but middle aged people as well……I feel old when this happens; but sometimes thankful at the end of a long day of walking.
Wednesday and a day of discovering sites we have not yet seen and some that we had previously discovered. I mentioned to Robin that I would like to see the outside of the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s famous unfinished church. We had visited here nine years ago and did enter at that time. It is quite amazing. Took the metro and will say, that this is the place where we have seen the most tourists….hang on to your wallets, also a favourite of pick pockets. People are too busy looking up at the church and forget to keep a hold of their valuables.
I always thought that this was totally Gaudi’s project, but on the official web site and my guide book tell me that “the project itself was dreamt of by Josep Maria Bocabella, a bookseller who found inspiration during his time in the Vatican. The design itself was created by Francisco de Paula del Villar, whose plans were for a piece of Gothic architecture. More than a decade after Josep Maria Bocabella visited the Vatican, Anton Gaudí took control of the project. Naturally, he had very different plans in mind. Taking years to perfect this architectural masterpiece, Gaudí passed away in 1926. Current estimates place Sagrada Família being complete in 2026, a century after Gaudi’s passing.”
Most locals we have spoken to about the Sagrada feel that the project will not be completed in this time frame. As with a lot of other things in the world, the project was affected by Covid 19 when work was stopped altogether. The pandemic also meant no revenue coming in to continue with the construction, so things got stalled.
It was interesting to see the progress on the exterior of the building. One thing we noted were the whimsical “stone fruit” attached to the various spires of the church. Did I mention that the Sagrada Familia and the other Gaudi sites are a World Heritage site…one more for our list. All of the World Heritage Sites that we have visited over the years is on my blog. We have seen some 124 sites around the World, but that only represents some 10% of the total. Lots more to see, not sure we will finish the list in our lifetime, but fun seeing what we can do!
During our visit here in Barcelona and earlier this year in Lyon, we have found it almost necessary to book tickets ahead of time if one wants to ensure that you get to see what you want. Most tickets are also timed; so you have a time slot in which to enter and usually just a fifteen or thirty minute window otherwise you won’t be let in. Certainly saw very long line ups at the Sagrada of people trying to buy tickets, would not want to venture how long they would have to wait.
Stopped for coffee at a small cafe near the Sagrada and certainly interesting people watching. Robin and I always get a laugh at how tourists pose for pictures. I thought one was just supposed to stand there and get your picture….oh no folks…..one must cross your legs the right way, slant your feet, put a pout on your lips, look away or hold your hand up pretending that you are holding up whatever building you might be visiting. Actually quite funny to watch.
We then venture on to see the Arc de Triomf. Funny enough, not even a mention of this monument in our guide book, but I had come across mention of it in my research and saw it on a map in the guide book. It was built by architect Casanovas for the 1888 World’s Fair. It is located at the northern end of Passeig de Sant Joan. A wide central boulevard winds it way to Ciutadella Park (Citadel Park). Barcelona also hosted a second World’s fair in 1929 and I made reference to this in my first posting. The 1929 fair was held in the Montjuic area and we saw many of the buildings when we visited that area on our first day here in Barcelona. Getting back to the 1888 exposition, beautiful buildings were erected all around the park and today still stand, some under repair. One building in particular is called the Castle of the Three Dragons and was a cafe at the time; today it is a museum of zoology. This is a wonderful area as not too many tourists here and a wonderful place to relax and take time strolling through the park.
We then make our way down to Barceloneta area, which is mainly made up of restaurants and small shops. The area was under water in the 1600’s and in the 18th century the area was dredged and fisherman began to come here to be near their fishing grounds. Also, this is the area where the beaches of Barcelona begin. We stop for lunch at a seafood restaurant and funny enough the gentleman trying to drum up business at the front of the restaurant starts speaking french to me. I can’t tell you how many times over the years that this has happened when travelling in Europe. Think it’s my roman nose and small stature that makes them think I am from France….I guess my ancestors from Brittany would be proud. Makes me feel good! Wonderful paella, think it is our last while here.
Stop at a market to pick something up for our dinner. Tomorrow is our last day in Barcelona as we fly to Amsterdam tomorrow evening, overnight there and fly back to Calgary on Friday. Have certainly enjoyed our time here and so thankful that we have been healthy and able to travel again. I enjoy writing my blog and hope that it gives people reading it some idea of the places we visit. Till next time……adios!