Our first stop on our road trip through Spain was Barcelona! But this would be a short visit so we hoped to maximize our sightseeing. We stayed at a hostel, Mambo Tango, in the Poble Sec section of the city. I have only positive feedback about Mambo Tango; the staff were tremendously friendly, the hostel was in an excellent location, the hostel offered a variety of group activities, and the unique atmosphere was very clean and oftentimes quiet. After check-in and settling our belongings, darkness had already fallen on Barcelona. But the night does not stop the action. In fact in Barcelona and throughout Spain the evening action is just beginning around 9:00pm and lasts long into the early morning hours. So at 7:00pm we set out exploring.
From Mambo Tango it was a short walk into Las Rambles, the heart of the city. The streets were brightly lit with Christmas lights. Overhead chandeliers, white lighted signs wishing passersby “Bon Nadal!”, glistening strands of garland lit our way among bustling shoppers. Las Rambles is a huge shopping district. The streets are lined with high-end stores, street vendors, street performers, bars, and restaurants. We meandered and window shopped, with a short pause for pizza slices along the way. At a cross street we had suddenly come upon a large, open plaza. We were directly in front of the Barcelona Cathedral. This Gothic style cathedral loomed overhead in the darkness while at its doorstep vendors were assembling a Chritsmas village. Small sheds were being built and decorated, and some vendors were displaying figurines, jewelry, and handcrafted knick-nacks which would soon be for sale for the holiday season. We continued meandering, around the cathedral, back toward the shopping streets. We passed a tap-room and could not resist stopping to savor our favorites; Brian a Spanish brewed IPA and me a Danish brewed Imperial Stout. Yummy! We finished our evening tour on that first night with a stop at a tapas bar, just ’round the corner from the hostel, where we chowed down on a hearty sampling of €1 each tapas.
The next morning would start our only full day in Barcelona. We hopped aboard the metro, very near the hostel, and headed for the stop marked ‘Sagrada Familia’. This would be the highlight of our visit! The Sagrada Familia Cathedral, designed by Antoni Gaudi, and still a work in progress. The cathedral was begun in 1882 by Francisco de Paula del Villar, then commissioned to Gaudi in late 1883. The architect continued work on Sagrada Familia until his death in 1926; work has been ongoing since, funded by donations, with hope to complete Gaudi’s vision through the will and skills of the people. I do not have actual words to describe this architectural masterpiece; it is the most visited cathedral in the world. There was a sense of awe, a peacefulness, and a beauty inspired by natural light that must be experienced to be understood.