Much of what gives Barcelona its unique and individual flare is the remaining work of a man whose architecture and art truly has become the symbol of the city: Antonio Gaudí. Gaudí was modernism is Barcelona, and was responsible for much of the growth the city we now know to be the capitol of Catalunya.
Our introduction to Gaudí was brief as we made our way through the boulevard-like streets of Barcelona to perhaps his most famous (failed) project: Park Güell. Situated atop one of the two hills which bookend downtown Barcelona, Park Güell was the vision of Gaudí to become a “housing development” of sorts for the famous and rising bourgeois of Barcelona during the 19th century. For a variety of reasons, the wealthy class of Barcelona had little interest in this eccentric project of Gaudí, but what is now left is a tranquil memorial to a brilliant Spanish artistic mind.
For our students this was the perfect introduction to the very different ideas of Gaudí, who so beautifully captures the Spanish spirit through his designs. Our exploration of Spain through the eyes of Gaudí continued as we then went to see the masterpiece of Gaudí’s lifework still currently under construction: the Sagrada Familia.
Being a Spanish teacher, I had long dreamt of seeing the Sagrada Familia, to really experience its vastness in person. But more so, I had waited for the moment for my students to see this marvel with me and watch their reactions. It was in one word…incredible.
In our time it is somewhat impossible to imagine a work of architecture taking hundreds of years to construct. Like the works we will see in Italy: the Duomo, the Bascilica of St. Peter and others, it was not uncommon to take hundreds of years to build a church considering the limited technological and construction resources of the past. But with our modern machinery, technology, and access to building materials of great strength and flexibility, it seems strange to think that this church, began in 1882, will not be finished until 2026. Incredible. A vision of Gaudí with collaboration of other Spanish artists after his death, the Sagrada Familia is the symbol of inspiration and working together to carry out a vision-a purpose.
This alone would be enough for an excellent day. Yet, it was only the beginning. We then decided to have lunch together and experience real, authentic Spanish paella which was delicious! Our restaurant was on the cost looking over the blue waters of the Mediterranean, and it was here we could really feel Barcelona from the seashore. The brave (like Erika) went swimming, while others (like Ms. Hughes, Mrs. Gobar, and I) decided our feet in was beach enough. Others took this free time to visit the Barcelona Soccer team’s stadium (Kian with Trilby and friends) while others enjoyed just soaking up the life of the Barcelona streets shopping from markets to high-end. A group of about 15 decided in the early evening to conclude their free time of the day with an excellent and very relaxing bike tour of Barcelona (ibikedbarcelona.com), which provided us with the chance to see more of the city including the Park de Ciutadella while riding along the cost of Barcelona for one last time to say our goodbyes to Spain.
Things we learned from Spain:
1. There is more to see than two days will allow.
2. Beds are tough….who would have known?
3. Eccentricity is not always a bad thing.
4. The things in life that take the longest are usually worth it.
5. Live in the moment. You never know when your circumstance will change and there is so much beauty in this world to behold, so don’t be scared to go out there and see it.