Park Guell

Monday, June 30, 2014

Oh, this park. 
It was on my bucket list to one day visit Park Guell.
It's the first thing I think of when I think of Barcelona. 
With Gaudi being the architect, you know it is going to be extraordinary!
I love how he uses mosaics to make his pieces look so colorful and unique.
I'll let the pictures do the talking!

A little bit of history about this park:
It was was commissioned by Count Eusebi Guell (whom the park is named after) and built in the early 1900s.
It was originally intended as a commercial housing site for the wealthy in Barcelona but was unsuccessful so, fortunately for us, it became a park!
Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and gets over nine million visitors a year!!

There are two parts to the park, one that requires an entrance fee and one that is open to the general public.
The $8/person to access the paid area is totally worth it as you get the best views from that area!
You can also walk through what was once Gaudi's home (now a museum) which provides such interesting insight on the life of both the Guell family and Gaudi.

(side note: make sure you book tickets in advance to guarantee you can get in on the day/time you want)

Here are some views you get from the paid area:

Amazing, right?!
I just love how colorful everything is.
I think it's amazing how Gaudi put such different and seemingly random tile pieces together yet they go together so perfectly!
Another unique feature of this park is the way Gaudi created rock pillars to look like part of nature.
The real wonder is how they are still standing!
They give the appearance of being brittle and weak but they must be pretty sturdy to remain after so many years and so many visitors. 

This was a huge highlight of our time in Barcelona and we HIGHLY recommend it!


Friday, June 27, 2014

So much to see in such a short amount of time!
We were only in Barcelona for three days and it was not enough. 
Barcelona is interesting because it is part of Catalonia.
As in, the official language is actually Catalan, not Spanish.
It was interesting to see words translated from Catalan to Spanish then to English.
Fortunately for us, most people still spoke Spanish so it was easy to communicate--but you could definitely feel the sense of Catalonian pride from the people there.

The architecture in this city is amazing.
I especially loved the modernist style of many of the buildings. 
For example, check out Hospital de Sant Pau:

Can you believe that's a hospital?? 
Not like any hospital I've ever seen.
It was in operation until 2009 but is now being renovated as a museum.

Much of the architectural style of Barcelona comes from the influence of Antoni Gaudi, who is undoubtedly Barcelona's most famous artist/architect.
One of his most prominent works is the well-known Sagrada Familia.
I had seen pictures of this beautiful church, but it was incredible to see it live!
It is also mind blowing to think that it is still under construction, even almost 100 years after Gaudi's death.

Another famous work of Gaudi's is Park Guell. 
We loved loved loved this park!
There are so many whimsical pieces that make you feel like you are in a fairy tale land.
It was so great that it deserves its own post. So, more on Park Guell tomorrow!

A few other favorites from Barcelona include:

The Beach!

It was a little breezy on the beach, so we sat there wrapped in towels.
 But we're used to cold beaches in Northern California.
And the view was still worth it!

The Food!

More tapas and I was not complaining!
Also, not complaining about the treats in Barcelona that were not only yummy but pretty to look at too.

Again, three days in Barcelona was not enough.
It just means we'll HAVE TO go back asap!

Madrid Favorites

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Madrid was the first stop on our 2 month travel journey, and it seems like a lifetime ago! 
Looking over our pictures reminds me of some of our favorite things we did there:

1. Tapas

Of course, the food in a new place is always a highlight.
I know I've said it before, but tapas is definitely my kind of eating.
Small portions of lots of different foods lets you try so many more dishes than simply ordering one big dish.
We lucked out and found the most delicious tapas restaurant our first night in Madrid.
It was outdoors which I loved since it was a beautiful night
and everything we ordered was sooo yummy.

2. Parque del Retiro

The weather was perfect while we were in Spain, so we couldn't stand the thought of being indoors.
We spent almost a full day at this huge beautiful park and enjoyed the sunshine. 
We weren't the only ones with the idea.
Many people were out having picnics on the lawn or riding cute row boats on the water.

3. Hot Chocolate and Churros

Mmm, I had been looking forward to chocolate and churros since the moment we landed in Madrid. 
This is a typical Spanish breakfast dish, but it also makes a great afternoon snack or dessert.
And this is no ordinary hot chocolate. 
The chocolate they use is more like a thick, rich, delicious pudding that pairs perfectly with the warm, crispy churro.
Mmm, I'm getting hungry just thinking about it!
Also, the churro is not as sweet as the Costco churros I'm used to that are covered in cinnamon and sugar.
Instead, they are more subtle-tasting as to not overpower the delicious chocolate.

4. Madrid LDS Temple

My church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; or Mormon church) has temples all over the world and I LOVE when we get to visit one abroad. 
Lucky for us, there was one not too far from where we were staying in Madrid.
It is a beautiful temple and we were so happy to be able to do service inside.
It was also a great way to feel spiritually rejuvenated, even while traveling!

5. Plaza Mayor

This is the central plaza in Madrid and is a big tourist attraction.
There are lots of restaurants and bakeries nearby (we got our hot chocolate and churros not too far from here) and street performers entertaining the crowds.
Be careful though, many tourists get pick-pocketed here while they're distracted by the performers.
Most of the street performers were mildly entertaining, but there was one terrible one that just gave me the creeps!
It was an old man dressed as a baby in a carriage.
He paints his face like a clown and makes baby sounds.
Disturbing, right?!
I truly don't understand why people are entertained by him.
I think I was extra disturbed because I caught him on a smoke break...the vision of a clown baby smoking has been forever seared into my memory.

6. Mercado de San Miguel

I love a good market and this one did not disappoint!
The Mercado de San Miguel is an indoor market but has a very outdoor feel since there are floor-to-ceiling windows.
This is a great place to grab a snack or eat a meal.
I loved the variety of foods inside--everything from fresh fish, to nuts, to fruit/vegetables, to pastries. 
My favorite were the fresh squeezed fruit juices!

We loved starting our trip off in Madrid!!
The perfect weather, delicious food, and the fact that we could both speak the language made it a great way to get started off on the right foot!