05 November 2009

Spanish Holiday

After two full weeks of teaching, I was nevertheless fully in need of a break by the time Toussaint (All Saints) vacation arrived.  Without hesitation, I opted for a solo trip to Barcelona, mostly to realize my longtime dream of visiting the work of Antoni Gaudi, my favorite architect.  I also decided to take a few day trips to Girona, a picturesque town, Figueres, the birthplace of surrealist painter Salvador Dali, and also to the mountaintop monastery of Montserrat, a holy site known for an apparition of the Virgin, reachable only by cable car.  

Although solo travel can be lonely, it also affords the ability to see whatever your heart desires without having to satisfy a group.  No one to annoy or be annoyed by, no one to set a schedule.  I basically woke each morning and went wherever my whim took me, which worked very well.  I was fortunate enough to meet a number of lovely people at various points in my journey, with whom I explored, chatted, and dined.  Also, my French came in quite handy since quite a few French were vacationing for Toussaint.  Whenever I was lost (often!), it was only a matter of time before I heard French or English being spoken and could ask for directions.

Barcelona was... chaotic, overwhelming, confusing, and crowded... and is by far one of the most delightful places I've ever seen! 

I fell completely in love with the voluptuous curves of Gaudi's architecture that give the city its unparalleled character, the Spanish guitar music, the tapas, paella, and of course, the Xocolate con churros, the blend of Roman, Gothic, and Catalan art nouveau architecture, the salty Mediterranean breeze, the lingering presence of my heroes: Picasso and Miro, and the blurred line between religion, sensuality, and legend that colors the city like no other. 

I was haunted by the lore of one of Barcelona's patron saints, Eulalia, a virgin saint interred in crypt of the cathedral who was said to survive a series of 13 torturous acts (which included having her breasts lopped off, being rolled down a hill in a barrel lined with knifes, crucifixion on an X-shaped cross, and being burned alive.) After still refusing to recant her faith, she was finally decapitated, a white dove flying from her neck. While she clearly existed (her house still stands, and her body remains) one has to wonder where her true story, religion and myth begin or end. To me, this evokes the entire essence of Barcelona.  Too fantastical to be true, but nevertheless, there it is, in front of your eyes, able to be tasted, touched, and carried away in your heart forever.  

La Sagrada Familia, the crowning masterpiece of Gaudi, still under construction for at least 20 more years! 

Interior of La Sagrada Familia

A Gaudi paradise, the whimsical Park Güell.

View of La Sagrada Familia from Montjuïc

Barcelona's version of the Bridge of Sighs

Interior of Catedral Basílica de Barcelona

Cloisters of  Catedral Basílica de Barcelona

Bob, a guy I met at a flamenco performance who became a travel buddy for the next day

I'm in love with these light posts

La Pedrera, one of Antoni Gaudi's many masterpieces

The roof and curious chimneys of La Pedrera

Casa Batlló, my personal favorite of Gaudi's architecture 

Casa Batlló

Casa Batlló, on the roof

Spanish guitar concert at Santa Maria Del Pi

Placa Reial



Roman baths in Girona

Salvador Dali museum in Figueres, his hometown.

Raechel, an Australian travel buddy I met in Girona.

Cathedral of Girona

Mountaintop monastery of Montserrat


Montserrat Basilica

The Black Madonna of Montserrat


Churros con Xocolate, a sinfully delectable way to end my journey. (Actually almost every day of my trip ended this way) Yes, that IS liquified dark chocolate topped with a cloud of heavy cream.


  1. I'm so jealous!! Here it's going down to 28 degrees, and you get to sit in outdoor restautants with delightful company and food.


  2. Too bad it's not that warm in Metz right now... It's been cold and rainy... Although we can STILL dine outdoors, thanks to the space heaters in the outdoor sections of the cafés!

  3. MatthewAlexander12 November, 2009

    those pictures are soo awesome :D

  4. The hillside monastery at Montserrat reminds me of Mt. Rushmore. What beautiful sites! Mom


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