"It's all in the details."
You hear this quote tossed around pretty often and I think it's true. Details, I've discovered, are one of the main reasons I travel - the leaves on palm trees perfectly spaced out in succession on a road you're driving; the fine-tuned blue of the geysers that erupted in Iceland; and in Barcelona, the intricate party of colors in the tiles and mosaic of Parc Güell .
I went to Barcelona solely for one reason: to see the Casa Batlló. I learned about it during an art history class I took in high school and fell in love with how much it reminded me of "The Rainbow Fish," a book I read in my childhood. I loved the blues and greens of the exterior, how the roof looked like the metallic scale of a fish, and the balconies that reminded me of skulls.
Days 1 & 2: Casa Batlló / La Sagrada Familia / Parc Güell / Badalona Marina & Badalona Beach / Mercado de la Boqueria / Boat stay / Sunrise on the beach
To my dismay, my visit to the actually city of Barcelona didn't spark me as much as I thought it would. The city's two heartthrobs - the Casa Batllo and La Sagrada Familia - were swarming with so many tourists it reminded me of a foreign body getting engulfed and swallowed by a macrophage in the body (there's some nerdy nurse for ya). I couldn't appreciate the Casa Batlló for what it was partially because there were too people around to allow me to get into my own zone, and because it felt so artificial. It was, in fact, man-made. But it didn't have the feel of authenticity that I imagined it would when Antonio Gaudi envisioned it, probably because of all the headsets with headphones, signs, and ticket stand outside that occupied every orifice. Because of this experience, I didn't even want to step foot into Sagrada Familia. Not to mention admission tickets were so darn expensive! I know people say you really have to go in, but I couldn't. Instead, I opted to check out the local vendors across the street. Mike and I enjoyed a coffee at a local café. That gave me the vibes more than either place did.
What did give me goosebumps, though, was Parc Güell. This was the least anticipated attraction on my list, but it made me feel like a little kid again. Unlike the last two places, the park felt like a place where there should be lots of people, and so that really added to the environment filled with local musicians playing in courtyards and on the walking trails. I loved all the greenery and spottings of flowers. What drew me to Barcelona in the first place was the wackiness of Casa Batlló, but I was surprised to find the same feature in Parc Güell. Some parts of the park have oddly shaped walls, misshapen ceilings, and organic, asymmetrical columns. The highlight of Barcelona city itself for me, personally, was the detailing on the benches.
Designed by Gaudi in collaboration with other artists, the bench's layout is in the shape of a sea serpent. The mosaic technique used to decorate the bench itself is call trencadis, which uses broken tile shards to create a pattern. Walking along the bench reminded me of a similar experience I had when I got to see Claude Monet's "Water Lilies" series in a museum in Paris - the objective of the painting is to walk along the wall in a oblong room observing a medley of water lilies as the background grew darker and darker. Eventually, the painting would go from light to dark, and the viewer would feel as if he or she just had the real-life experience of walking down a river by some water lilies, lost in thought until it the sun set and it was dark out. At Parc Guell, you could feel the colors jump out at you as you went from one end to the other. The details created bursts of joy as you went along. It was magical.
Luckily, my stay in Barcelona didn't last long and the second third of our trip took place in the mountainside near the monastery of Montserrat. Mike and I stayed at an AirBnb with a gorgeous, expansive view of a mountain, relaxing lawn and hammock, and sweet swimming pool for a post-hike swim. We hiked up and down the mountain to get to the monastery, which was, pretty figuratively, like climbing up to heaven. The monastery is quiet and isolated with beautiful chambers embedded in gold for prayer. Candles can be purchased and lit and placed in a hallway for people who travel from all over the world to visit such a sacred space. The idea that people traveled so much just to pray was pretty special. I am by no means a religious person, but the fact that people can feel so close to God and be passionate to go that far was something I could respect and appreciate.
The last leg of our trip was camping (glamping?) in Besalu, Spain. We explored the medieval towns of Girona and Santa Pau and took pictures of the stars at night. It's crazy feeling lost in the middle of no where with someone you love, fighting to get the best shots of the starry night sky. Our campground had a bar close by with the most intense red-orange leaves. Perfect way to break into fall snuggled up in an oversized sweater, sitting under a blanket of foliage, and sipping on homemade brew and coffee.
Overall, a quick, short trip to a quirky, eccentric city. Can't wait until the next one.