Thank you everyone for your lovely comments on the last post, I really enjoy sharing photographs and travel tips and hope that someone, somewhere will find something here helpful.
So, today we finish with Barcelona. Our second morning saw us once again attempt to see the Sagrada Familia Church. This time we arrived after 10am - it opens at 9am - to find the line around almost three sides of the church block (about 600m). It was incredible, and not a fun prospect with three kids. So it was mission abort for the second time and back to the apartment for lunch and to regroup.
That afternoon we caught a cable car up to the top of Montjuic Mountain, where you can find Montjuic Castle. I would call it more of a fortress, although you can visit a military museum inside (which we didn't).
The fortress dates from 1640, but was destroyed and rebuilt in 1751. It has played host to Napoleon and been used by Madrid to bombard Barcelona to quell an uprising in 1841. General Franco kept his political prisoners here and it's also the site of many an execution including Lluis Companys, the President of the Generalitat of Catalonia.
This was a great one for the kids, who really enjoyed watching the port's comings and goings.
And they loved climbing over all the fortifications and cannons and whatnot.
The views from the fortress over Barcelona were spectacular, and worth the trip alone.
Now this is going to sound weird (because it is) but everywhere we went on this fortress we could smell bacon. It was as if there was a hidden ventilation system in the walls pumping out bacon air all over the castle. I have googled a bit since getting home but can't find an explanation (I was worried I would read the Barcelona crematorium was located next door). I guess it will remain one of life's mysteries.
The last cable car down the mountain was at 7pm, so we caught that and headed back into town for tapas, a must-have meal when in Barcelona. Again, avoid the crowded and over-priced Las Ramblas if you can. We googled 'best tapas' and the name of our preferred Metro station to find recommendations that were easy to walk to.
Nice balconies seen on the way to dinner.
That was our last day in Barcelona, the next day we had a ferry to catch from Barcelona to Genoa, Italy at 2pm. We decided to spend the morning on one more try at getting into that darned Sagrada Familia.
This time we turned up just before 9am, and realised we probably should have arrived at 8.30 to get a better place in line. We only waited about 40 mins as the line moved quite quickly once the church opened.
A quick bit of history - Sagrada Familia (the Holy Family) was designed by renown Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, who also designed a great many other infrastructural delights around Barcelona.
I had incorrectly called it a cathedral (seat of a bishop) in the last post, but despite 'only' being a church, this building is enormous and dominates the Barcelona skyline:
It's the one on the left with all the spires. Duh.
Construction started in 1882 and is still going. Gaudi died in 1926 and they are hoping to have it finished in 2026 for the centenary of his death. Apparently when quizzed on the project taking so long, Gaudi replied, 'My client is not in a hurry'. Nice come back.
Waiting in line for 40 mins gave me plenty of time to check out the exterior, which I have to say is a bit of a train smash. There is the traditional Gothic type of architecture:
Then there is the Nativity Facade, the first constructed, whose style I can only describe as...crunchy.
Then there is the Passion Facade at the entrance, whose foundations were constructed in 1954 but wasn't finally finished until 2002 (from info I can find). Built to Gaudi's designs, the facade is meant to strike fear into the viewer's heart as it depicts the suffering and death of Christ with austere, bone-like sculptures.
The overlap of the new and old is probably what I have trouble with:
And I'm not sure about these coloured mosaic balls on top of some of the spires, which are supposed to represent the grapes of the Eucharist:
What's with the snail sculptures on the building? I hold grave fears for those grapes.
It's all a bit crazy but you have to admire the man - he had a vision, and here it is still being put into action more than one hundred years after he designed it.
The interior was altogether another thing - I loved it. Very recently completed, it is stunning - 45m tall at it's highest point and like nothing I've seen before. It's hard to take a photo that does it justice.
Looking towards the altar
The highest point above the altar
Jesus suspended above the altar (sorry my photo makes Him look like He's parasailing)
The organ (installed 2010) bathed in green stained glass window light
It really takes your breath away, I can't say strongly enough do not miss seeing this. It's superb. Even the mister, who generally finds churches a bit of a snooze-fest, was suitably impressed.
So that was Barcelona for us. Some more travel info for those planning a trip:
- Arrive early at Sagrada Familia to secure a place in line. Even better, pre-book your tickets on their website. You can pick them up at the church and then go to a special, much shorter line for entry. We really wished we'd done this.
-More info on the cable car (or teleferic as it's called) up to Montjuic Mountain is here
-The Barcelona public transport website is here (in English).
-Admission times for the Montjuic Castle here.
-The ferry system in Europe is very handy. You can take your car and travel overnight, which saves a heap of driving. This site will give you an idea of the lines available, but make sure you search your particular sea route on Google to find the best deal.