Well, Hello Gaudi

At the end of February (yes, this post is much overdue…) we left Abby with her Tio Cesar and Tia Karina and hopped on a bus destined for Barcelona – or “Barthelona” if you prefer.  Kyle signed up to attend a “Doing Good and Doing Well” conference on socially responsible business practices at a business school in Barcelona (IESE) with a bunch of other IE students and I decided to tag along.

After a grueling, smelly, 7 hour bus trip we finally arrived and found our hotel, The Urban Suites.  We were lucky enough to travel with our good friend Lalit who is an expert travel planner (almost as good as his wife Nadia!) and got us a great deal on this place.  It wasn’t exactly central, but it was right by the metro and about a 25 minute walk from the port and other main attractions – and it was close to IESE where Kyle and Lalit went for the conference.  Our mini-suite was super modern and would be perfect for a longer stay since it had a fully equiped kitchen!  We also wished we had been able to take advantage of the lovely rooftop deck!

A few highlights of our weekend in Barcelona include…

Federal Cafe – this fantastic little corner restaurant with amazing design elements and tasty food.  Lalit struck up a conversation with the Australian owner and we all left wanting to open a place just like it someday!

Mercat Santa Carina – I walked through this impressive market during the day to peruse the stalls of fresh fruits, veggies and cheeses, but was most impressed when we came back later that night for dinner at the attached restaurant.  It’s definitely at the top of my list for ‘best meals in Spain’ and I was amazed to see more than bread and cheese as vegetarian options!  Lalit, Kyle and I (awe, so sweet) shared a tofu curry and pumkin ravioli – both of which were amazing.  And I’ve now decided that my future home should most definitely have a wall potted herb garden – gorgeous and practical!

Sagrada Familia – Wow.  That’s all I can really say.  Beautiful cathedrals and churches aren’t exactly a novelty in Europe, but the Sagrada Familia truly stands alone.  It’s construction began in 1882 and was the focus of Gaudi’s work until he died.  The cathedral has been a slow work-in-progress for nearly 130 years and isn’t expected to be completed until 2026.  I can’t even explain how awe inspiring this place is, so I hope the pictures can do at least a bit of justice.  I was particularly struck by the emphasis on structures replicating items found in nature (trees, beehives, etc.) – it somehow made a ‘spiritual’ place seem more accessible to people of all faiths and I was all about it.

My only disappointment was not having time to go visit Parque Guell – the Gaudi designed and decorated park just outside the center of Barcelona.  I suppose we’ll just have to go back another time and soak up the culture of Cataluna!

Now the end of our trip was where things got really interesting…we had planned to take the bus back to Madrid on Sunday afternoon (ugh) and arrive home around midnight.  We checked our itinerary, packed our bags and made it to the bus station right on time.  Little did we know that there were two bus stations in Barcelona and we just happened to be at the wrong one.  By the time we raced in a taxi to the other station our bus had already left and the next one wasn’t leaving for another 6 hours.  Lalit and I were exhausted and Kyle was absolutely miserable with horrendous allergies (or what I think was a cold he wouldn’t admit to!) so the thought of a 6 hour wait and another 7 hour, smelly bus ride was not exactly appealing.  Especially since it meant we wouldn’t get back to Madrid until 7am the next morning and we all had either class or work that couldn’t be postponed.  So, what did we do?  We paid an official “stupid tax.”  That’s right, we hopped on our iphones, booked one-way plane tickets back to Madrid, headed to the airport and enjoyed beers and an airport picnic before arriving home to pick up Abby and snuggle up in our cozy bed by 11pm.  It was worth every penny (or euro I suppose)!

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