This is our last day in Barcelona. Our cruise departs this evening. Too much to see, too little time. After once again storing our cumbersome luggage, we meet Sonia in the glass-walled lobby. Like the three musketeers, we advance on the parting automatic doors. The humidity and vibrant colors assault us. Cars honk and scooters buzz. This is what we came for. We dive into the fray.
Throughout Barcelona you see evidence of the Catalan people’s desire to become independent. At the moment, the Spanish authorities have jailed six outspoken advocates for independence. Bright yellow striped Catalan flags fly from balconies and yellow ribbons are worn by supporters and are tied to trees, fences, and light posts. The people are not hopeful they will get independence, yet they will not give up their fight.
Antonio Gaudi, (1852-1926) an architect and beloved Catalan son, has buildings that display technical rationality far beyond his time. His work is rich in symbolic content that speak of his devotion to God and nature. If your time is limited, DO NOT miss his Sagrada Familia, the Holy Family Church. It is a fantastical dream realized in stone and glass that has been under construction for almost 100 years. The original plan for a simple chapel was begun by another architect. Shortly after construction began, Gaudi was chosen to finish the work. A wealthy patron died leaving her fortune to the church. Church gave Gaudi the financial means and latitude to expand his vision to what it is today.
In the soon to be completed front entrance of the church, you will find towering bronze doors. The are written in Catalan and carved into the doors is the Lord’s Prayer. Built and funded entirely by private donations, the church will hopefully be completed in 2026 in honor of the date of his death. It will most certainly become a new “Wonder of the World”.
Eusebi Guell and Gaudi aspired to built a master planned community for 60 wealthy families elevated above Barcelona with views to the sea. Three home sites were constructed. Only one remains private today. Construction stopped with the advent of WWI and the death of Guell. His heirs decided to sell the site to the city to be used as a public park. Each day, hundreds of visitors enjoy the magical environment reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland. It was declared a UNESCO site in 1984.
To see the city through Sonia’s eyes and hear its history and dreams for the future through her beautifully accented voice has been a gift. We return from our tour late for the ship. We muscle the black beasts on rollers to the sidewalk, find a taxis and make a race for the ship.
Most everyone else has boarded Oceania’s Riviera. Our “Western Europe Wonders” tour of the Mediterranean begins in the morning. Our dinner arrives via room service. Pop goes the bottle of champagne. We slide open the glass door to the balcony and watch the sun set. The engines vibrate softly through the cabin and the ship glides out of the harbour. We have set sail to our first port, Toulon, France.
What a way to travel!