The Land that Gaudí Built

Park Güell: Have you ever seen a park more whimsical?

Barcelona! Or, as I like to think of it, the land that Gaudí built.

Barcelona was a good place to start my trip, because, if you ask me, going to Europe is like going for a swim in the ocean. You want to ease in slowly and acclimate yourself to the temperature before jumping all the way in.

And, what better place to do that, than in a locale where you actually speak and understand the language? I’m not talking about Catalan, which was fascinating to hear. I’m talking Spanish, of course.

I can’t tell you how helpful it’s been all my life, to know more than one language.  Considering I live in San Diego, and along the US-Mexico border, it’s downright fortuitous that my Venezuelan parents had the foresight to speak to me in their native language. That, plus the fact that I spent some of my youth living in Caracas, sealed the deal, making me, more or less, fluent.

Antoni Gaudí incorporates his love of nature into the design of Park Güell.

Barcelona proved to be an exciting, cosmopolitan city, one that has the most amazing architecture, thanks to the work of Antoni Gaudí, whose name is probably synonymous with the city. We visited some of Gaudí’s most significant works, La Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, and Casa Batlló. I loved them all, but, of the three, my favorite was the park.

Gaudí has a distinct style that is whimsical, colorful and embraces curves all at once. He works with tile in such a bold way that it takes your breath away. His work is a joy to behold. Plus, admission to the park is free and boasts stunning views of the city.

This dragon at the entrance of Park Güell is a popular spot for a photo opp.

Every city I’ve ever visited in Europe has its charm and beauty in terms of its rich art and architecture. But, the structure that nearly made me have a case of the vapors, and brought me to a new height of euphoria, was the Palau de la Música Catalana.

Built in the early 1900’s by architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, I have never seen a more exquisite and dazzling building, both inside and out. Every corner, every column, every speck of space your eye can rest upon–from floor to ceiling–had something unique and

Casa Batlló, commissioned as a private residence.

mesmerizing to take in. This was a building that captured my heart and soul, as no other building ever has. A celebration of Art Nouveau, it is the only concert facility listed as a World Heritage site.

If you have never seen it firsthand, do not wait a second more. Add it to your bucket list. Better yet, pack your bags and go at once!

Luckily, I brought along my trusty camera,  taking well over 2,000 photos throughout my trip. I wanted to document every nook and cranny of each place we visited. I was on a mission to see it all and capture it all for posterity.  Uploading all these photos was almost the end of my computer.  Choosing which to post here, was almost the end of me.  So, I hope you enjoy my photos, and, if you want to see them all, I’ll be hosting a slideshow at my place every night between now and New Year’s Eve. By then, surely, we will have seen all my photos! And, now, without further adieu, Barcelona!

Gaudí’s La Sagrada Familia, under construction for over a century.

Detail of La Sagrada Familia.

Exterior of Palau de la Música Catalana, a building that is an homage to music and that bursts forth with magnificent splendor.

Check out the stage inside the Palau de la Música Catalana.

A cafe inside the Palau.

The Palau’s skylight.

The staircase in the Palau reminds me of the staircase in the film, “Titanic.” I”m just saying.

Europe’s population is estimated at 731 million, but if you included all the statues you’d probably have to double that figure. Oh, and I just love statues!

And One More…

I was struck by the charm of this statue, and the way it expresses the innocence and serenity of childhood.

Four Cities, Three Gals, Two Weeks

Four cities, 14 days. Three gals on a journey of a lifetime.

Did I have what it takes to make the most of it all? Was I ready for the time of my life? And, when all was said and done, did any of the cities we visited become my favorite?

If you ask me, Henry was on to me and my imminent departure. I think he had an allergy flareup as a way to get me to stay. The fiend!

Yes, yes. and heck, yes!

Being an honorary Girl Scout, I was ready. My ducks were all in a row. Indeed, having started planning this trip months in advance, I prepared and trained for this European vacation with the utmost precision, one befitting well, um, Captain Von Trapp, whistle and all. I kept countless lists of all I would need to do prior to departure. Passport? Copy of passport? Check and check!

I was determined that nothing would go wrong. I paid all my bills in advance. I arranged for a friend to water the plants in my patio. I even made a trip to my local Target store to purchase the necessary toiletries, making sure all were under three ounces.

Not wanting to leave any stone unturned, I asked a number of friends for advice on traveling abroad. (Thanks, Ashley, Trisha, Christine, Bella, Susan and Clare!)

I left a copy of my itinerary with my son (who never even looked at it!), along with thorough instructions on the care and keeping of Henry. I also contacted Henry’s vet to let his office know, that in the event of any unforeseen mishap, my son would have the authority to make all decisions on Henry’s behalf. I then gave them my credit card number, in case of emergency expenses.

My daughter (seen here at Park Güell) was climbing the walls, having already spent six weeks in Barcelona by the time I arrived. Just kidding. She loved it there!

I also made sure my trust was in order, and then proceeded to get all weepy as I told my son where I keep all the important documents, in the event of, well, anything. Of course, I reminded him of my desire to be cremated, in the event that my plane didn’t make it across the pond. After all, I found it unfathomable that a plane could make a ten-hour journey without stopping for gasoline! My son, the compassionate soul that he is, just stared blankly at me and shrugged.

Then, I did what every traveler does prior to departure. I packed, keeping in mind what my daughter, who was already in a Barcelona study abroad program, advised. Pack lightly! A daunting task, if you ask me, given I am fond of having all the comforts of home wherever I go.

To save space in my suitcase, my friend, Susan, said she’d heard that some people pack just two pairs of underwear and alternate. At first, I wondered, exactly how much space does underwear take, that I should only pack two? I assumed what she’d heard, but didn’t mention, was to pack two pairs and wear the other 12 on the plane. Not the most comfortable way to travel, mind you, but I was up for the challenge.

When the day came to board the plane, I was ready. Which is when Henry had an unexpected bout with allergies (clearly, he was allergic to my impending departure), and I had to make the decision whether to take him to the vet and hope they’d see him without an appointment (he’s Henry, after all!), which could have the potential of leaving me with barely enough time to go through security and board the plane. Or, I could leave it to my son to handle once he dropped me off at the airport. I chose the latter.

Six days later (well, actually, 24 hours later but it sure felt like six days!), I arrived at my first destination: the London Heathrow Airport, which was all abuzz with Olympic fever, and where I spent every minute of a two-hour layover maneuvering my way through the maze, the crowds, the security, etc, in order to get from one gate to the next.

The view from atop Park Güell, one of Gaudi’s finest achievements.

And, before you could say, “Bob’s your uncle,” I was headed to Barcelona–exhausted and damp with perspiration–to meet my daughter and a friend she had met through her study abroad program, who would be traveling with us.

Together, the three of us would leave Barcelona and traipse across Europe. And, by Europe, I mean Vienna, Salzburg and Prague, all cities rich with history and chocolate. Yes, the world was our oyster–and we had lots of ground to cover!

But first, there was the matter of ice.

Turns out, I love ice. Have a thing for it, really. But, ice could be the very thing that separates Americans from the Europeans. The line in the sand, if you will. And, the lack of it had the potential to cause an international incident.

For, like Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz, it suddenly dawned on me that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. And, by Kansas I mean, the USA. But, I’ll tell you about it in my next post.

Did all my planning guarantee nothing would go wrong? And, what was my favorite city?

Well, all will soon be revealed.
In the meantime, tell me. How do you prepare for a long trip?