Our plane trip from Akron, Ohio to Barcelona Spain began at noon on Saturday and ended at nine a.m. on Sunday morning. We had layovers in Atlanta and New York City along the way. The last segment, which lasted just over seven hours, depositing us in Barcelona, a beautiful city on the northeast coast of the Iberian Peninsula, facing the Mediterranean Sea. The ease with which we passed through immigration reminded me of how simple things are when you don’t arrive on your own vessel.
Just before ten, our friendly taxi driver dropped us off at the Hotel Ciutat Vella, ideally located about two blocks from the famous La Rambla and the Barri Gótic. We dropped off our luggage and immediately kicked our sightseeing into high gear. As if we needed an excuse, we had no other choice since it was too early to check into the hotel. Upon arriving at the tree-lined pedestrian mall/street known as La Rambla, we turned right, affording the girls the immediate opportunity to buy souvenirs. As quickly as feasible, I guided them away from the souvenir stands and into the old gothic neighborhood in which was found our first destination — the Cathedral of Barcelona, also known as the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia. She is the co-patron saint of Barcelona, a young virgin who, according to tradition, suffered martyrdom during Roman times in the city. She, according to some, was exposed naked in the public square. A miraculous snowfall in mid-spring covered her nudity. The angry Romans put her into a barrel with knives stuck into it and rolled it down a street. The body of Saint Eulalia, a 13 year-old who lived in the 3rd century, is entombed in the cathedral’s crypt. A mass was being held during our visit, so our access was limited, however the beautiful music gloriously filled the place.
Afterwards, we stopped at a sandwich shop for an excellent lunch on our way to the Picasso Museum. We lucked-out twice today. We didn’t have to pay the usual 7-euro/person fee to visit the Cathedral because mass was going on. And… the first Sunday of the month is free day at the Picasso Museum. Of course, this meant that the line to enter stretched a few hundred feet down the street, but it moved rather quickly and we were gazing at Picasso’s work before long. The museum contains over 4,000 of Picasso’s works, who lived in Barcelona as a youth. Among the most important works housed by the museum are two of his earliest major works, The First Communion and Science and Charity. Unfortunately, photos were not allowed inside the museum.
Needless to say, all three of us were pretty exhausted by this time. However, we would make one last stop prior to returning to the hotel for some rest: The Santa Maria del Mar, another massive Gothic church from the 14th century. These immense Gothic places of worship cast a spell over me immediately upon entering. It is like walking into a little corner of heaven. I’m transported into the world beyond by the inspiring heights of the interior columns, the vaulted ceilings, and the stained-glass windows. From there, we rambled back up La Rambla to our hotel to check in and finally relax for a few hours.
We would not rest long, however. Shortly after seven, we exited the hotel and made our way to Taller de Tapas for dinner. Oh my! They were delicious! We’ve enjoyed everything we’ve had here so far. After devouring our tapas, we walked the additional two blocks to the Palau de la Music Catalana, an amazing concert hall built in the early 20th century in the Catalan modernist style. The magnificent edifice is characterized by a multitude of curves, dynamic shapes, and rich decoration. The performance for the evening was, “Ópera y Flamenco, Historia de un amor,” an exciting fusion of those two passionate European art forms: opera and flamenco. Our first day in Spain was filled with wonderful activities. We were tired once back at the hotel, but looking forward to the next morning.