Barcelona, Spain. Spain has always been on my travel list of places to see. Perhaps it still is. After all, Barcelona is, but also is not Spain. I found that out after booking a vacation.
It was springtime 2021 and I had just received my first Covid 19 vaccination. I had been longing for a new adventure for some time and finally feeling hopeful that it would become a reality. So I messaged an old friend on a whim to see if she would like to join me on a trip to Barcelona. Many texts and a few hours later, we had booked airfare and hotel to the colorful city in Spain. We get things done.
A few days later, I realized that Spain was still closed to U.S. travelers. My friend and I decided to roll the dice and our gamble paid off since we were able to travel during our intended dates in August.
I spent much of my time before our departure researching transportation, things to do, and closely monitoring the CDC guidelines and the embassy websites of both the U.S. and Spain. I expected a colorful city with a touch of social unrest due to the Spain/Catalonia conflict. The city did not disappoint and we even witnessed a protest. What I didn’t expect was my love of the art.
I am more of a traditionalist at heart. I love classical sculptures and life like landscapes. I am not a fan of contemporary art and only like abstract when needing an adjective for my failed paint-n-sip projects. So I was surprised at how quickly I fell for the vibrant work of Antoni Gaudí that distinguishes Barcelona from Europe’s other grand cities.
I didn’t know much about Gaudí before our departure. Just that Barcelona would have some funky buildings we should see along with the grand cathedral, the Sagrada Família. I had no idea that nature in a creative cloak would be waiting for me to uncover.
While we only viewed the dragon exterior of the famous Casa Batlló from the opposing sidewalk along the Paseo de Gracia, we were fortunate enough to spend some time in three of Gaudí’s other creations. Each one either embraced the nature around or borrowed from it for inspiration.
Park Güell was our first excursion after learning to navigate the subway. An urban hike from the subway stop rivaled the hills of downtown Seattle. It left us sweaty from the morning Mediterranean heat at the park’s entrance. Only, we were at the top of the park and not the main entrance. I’m glad for our mishap. I doubt we would have explored as much of the nature reserve as we did while looking for the famous, mosaic tiled promenade.
One of the first trails we took within the lush park lead us up to 3 stone crosses perched atop a mound of stones. Turó de les Tres Creus. A bench at the base of it afforded us a quick rest. I took the time to scribble in my journal thanking the clouds for shielding us from the sun for a bit. It was hot and humid and my sun dress was sticking to me.
We set off again after admiring the view of the city below. I was in my happy place with the sky above me, fresh air in my lungs, and surrounded by fresh greenery. I wonder what this plant is? Look how that tree grew? How weird! I wonder if I could grow this at home in Zone 8? I love it! Can you smell that? Heaven.
Every where I looked there was something wonderful to see. Bright flowers exploding from glossy, green leaves. Palm trees stretching their fronds into the sky like bursts of fireworks. Sprawling ground cover and ivy that seemed to obey its’ masters. Pods that looked like vanilla beans on the ground. Bird music playing throughout the park.
I could easily have spent a week roaming the grounds and snapping photos. I selfishly and unabashedly enjoyed every single plant, flower, tree, and stone step of the garden.
However, my travel companion is a horse person and not a gardener. And if it were not for the cute, green Monk Parakeets we encountered along the way, I’m pretty sure she would have lost patience with me sooner. We were lost. In a 50-acre garden. My bliss, but we did have other things to see. And we were in Park Güell to see the famous promenade.
It was time to ask for directions. After some broken French and hand gestures at our map to another group of travelers, we were able to find our way to the promenade. It was spectacular. Palms and carved caverns. A formal garden to the side. Red hibiscus flowers.
Oh yea.…and mosaics!! So many mosaics! So much color patched together in a crazy, wonderful way!
There was a slight breeze that felt heavenly atop the promenade. The sun would peek through the clouds ever so often making the green tiles of a nearby roof sparkle. I feel like I could have spent all day at that park and not seen all the little details in the mosaics that covered the benches and topped the roofs of the surrounding buildings.
The promenade itself was a bit dusty with perhaps some sand fleas, but the view of the city below was well worth the bites. At least I think so…I guess I wasn’t as tasty to the little beasts as my friend was. The people were fun to watch as well. Everyone trying to get the best selfie with the sparkling rooftops of the Park’s Gaudí buildings below and Barcelona in the distance. In true tourist form, we were no different. And the stone gargoyles watched us all.
Now, sitting next to my gas fireplace as winter looms, I long for the heat. For my sun dress sticking to me amidst the natural and architectural beauty of Barcelona. And now I know that Park Güell was not Gaudí’s only garden in the city.