Peter and I arrived in Barcelona 11 days ago on August 24. This was also the day Lance Armstrong announced he was no longer going to fight the doping charges against him. The news was incredible timing since more than half of our trip to Spain was spent biking through the Pyrenees and Costa Brava with an adventure company called Backroads. The Pyrenees is a range of mountains that forms a natural border between France and Spain. Many professional cyclists train in these mountains.
During our trip, we rode bikes in Spain and France, in a portion of the Tour de France route and in the area where several professional cycling teams train.
Fun Fact: The official language of Catalonia – a region in Spain which includes Barcelona – is Catalan, not Spanish.
Our flight landed at 9pm and we began our one-and-a-half-hour journey to our hotel. We chose to take the train from the airport to Barcelona city centre and this was the second slowest method of transportation we could have taken. This is the outcome of doing very little research on a destination.
My initial thoughts after arriving in the city centre were as follows:
- Wow! It’s really hot and humid here. It’s like an inferno. I’m absolutely miserable.
- Wow! There are a lot of people here. A lot of people. Too many people.
- Wow! Why am I wearing jeans? I’m a moron.
- Wow! I hope it is cooler in the mountains.
We came to find out that we arrived in Barcelona at the end of a heatwave and Friday was the first day where the temperature was below 107 degrees Fahrenheit but only slightly. Due to our late arrival and the long commute to our hotel, Friday night was a complete bust.
We did not have any set plans for Saturday but accomplished everything we wanted to do based on the little research we had done, including:
- Meandered around La Boqueria market
- Visited the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia
- Drank sangria and ate tapas on a pedal pub
- Toured Parc de la Ciutadella
- Attended a Flamenco show
Unfortunately, I must report that all of our photos from our first three days of our trip became corrupt when I transferred them from the camera to my laptop. I am only left with a handful of photos taken on my phone. I am so bummed because the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia is, without question, the most impressive man-made structure I’ve ever seen and construction of the church is still ongoing!
Basilica de la Sagrada Familia
As we emerged from the Metro station, I saw the church immediately as it takes up an entire city block and dominates the air space. I was not a huge fan of the church exterior because it was a bit too gothic for me.
Sagrada Familia fast facts:
- Antonio Gaudi assumed responsibility for the design of the church on March 18, 1882
- Construction of the church began over 120 years ago on March 19, 1882
- When Gaudi died in 1926, the church was 15-25% complete
- There are two projected completion dates of the church: 2026 and 2028
The interior of the church is very modern and completely different from the exterior. Words cannot explain how large the church is – it even has stadium seating built into the stone walls!
This is the view looking toward the back of the church. Shown on the right-hand side is one of two spiral staircases and to the right of the staircase is a glass elevator.
The construction of the arches was incredible. The stone was so smooth and detailed. This photo is a close-up of the detailed ceiling, arches and stadium seating (in the lower third of the photo with the glass railing).
We wandered around the church for an hour taking photos which would later become corrupt. After the church, we toured the museum and plaster workshop below the church. Touring the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia was one of my favorite parts of our trip. It’s a must-see for anyone visiting Barcelona.
La Boqueria market
La Boqueria market is a large open-air market with a combination of traditional market food stalls and restaurants and bars. The bars serve Cava which is similar to Champagne but is produced in Spain, therefore it cannot be called Champagne. We ate a delicious breakfast at one of the bars and then walked down the pedestrian street and tourist area known as Las Ramblas.
Parc de la Ciutadella
The temperature in the afternoon was at its highest so we thought that was the best time to go on a pedal pub tour of Parc de la Ciutadella. The pedal pub tour company in Barcelona is owned by an American who modeled it after the pedal pub tour company in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I took two photos during the tour on my phone and played with them on Instagram.
Fun fact: Since the pedal pub can seat more than 12 passengers, the driver of the pedal pub is required to have a bus driver’s license even though the pedal pub moves solely on human power.
Speaking of human power, pedal pubs are heavy and really difficult to move when there are only four people pedaling. Peter and I were the only people signed up for the tour during our time slow which meant we would have a private tour but it also meant that we would be the only two people pedaling. Luckily, the owner and a random pedal pub employee joined in on our pedaling efforts, doubling our human power to four which was eight too little.
Saturday night came to a close with a bizarre 30-minute Flamenco show. At times I felt like I was watching a Michael Jackson impersonator dancing in Flamenco style. It was held in a tiny tapas bar off of a square. Again, no photos!
By the time we turned out the lights on Saturday night, we’d been in Barcelona for about 24 hours and although we’d been all around the city, I didn’t have a good vibe of it. I didn’t like it but I didn’t dislike it and I was extremely excited about our bike tour to begin.