Monday, June 10, 2013

More Barcelona - Magic Fountains & Sagrada Familia

When we got back to Barcelona we dropped our stuff and walked over to Bar Tomas for patatas bravas for lunch. It was soooo good. Basically chicken, potatoes and a fried egg. The potatoes had really yummy sauce with a kick to it. Yum!
 Then dad headed straight back to the mission office to do some work while Chris and my mom and I took the scenic route home through some cute streets in Barcelona.
We walked past my mom's favorite bakery in Barcelona. Their breads come in amazing shapes & sizes.
Then we walked past another small working church (eight sided tower!) that was closed, but lovely from the outside.

It was built in 987. Here's the plaque celebrating their millenial (1000 year) anniversary in 1987. Crazy!
Later that night we headed down town to see the magic fountains and the heart of Barcelona. This is Placa d'Espanya, a huge roundabout at the intersection of some major streets, with a huge sculpture & fountain in the center. Barcelonians love their fountains. This picture was taken from the top of their nearby bullring which has been turned into a shopping mall (since bullfighting is illegal in Catalunya).
We walked down the street from Placa d'Espanya towards the magic fountains seen here in the distance. This whole plaza and street with fountains were the site of the 1929 World Expo Fairgrounds, so most things here date back to 1929 (except for the bullring, of course).
A fascinating apartment/condo building right next to the bullring mall that had a pool on their roof. That would be such a cool place to live!
Here is the bullring that's been remodeled and revitalized. See the shape of the windows? Original neo-moorish architecture. So lovely!

The cool fountain in the center of the plaza.
Walking down the street toward the magic fountains. Both sides of the street were lined with these smaller (but huge) fountains. Chris got a huge kick out of their fountains. They make such an impression! As tree-hugger as he is, I think he wishes we had more fountains in SLC.
A cool shot of the magic fountains. They run every 20 or 30 minutes and play music & change colors. It's a really neat show, with thousands of people mulling around to watch.
The building lit up with lights shooting into the sky is the Catalan Art Museum. You can see its lights from almost everywhere in the city.
During the show. Right after this we saw someone propose in front of the fountains. Awwww.

The Catalan Art Museum. So cool looking!
We walked around and watched the fountains until we were tired and then headed back home for the night.

The next morning we ditched my dad again and Chris, my mom and I headed to down town to the Sagrada Familia for a tour. I couldn't get enough of the cute little streets we walked past. My mom has now been here so many times that she has a favorite parking garage to park at and a favorite bakery nearby to eat at after the tour (more on that later). It was so nice to be touring with a local. I'm sure it would have taken us much longer to take public transit and find it all on our own. 

And when we got to the church we walked straight to the front of the (huge) line, handed them our reserved ticket printout and walked right in. Amazing! Two thumbs way up for my mamacita who has this whole darn city all figured out. (Someone the other day told me I was turning out to be like her and it made me cry. I should be so lucky.)
When we parked our car and headed towards the church, this is what we first saw. Holy Moly.
This thing is GIANT. And it's still under construction. It was begun in 1883 with Antoni Gaudi as the architect. You know when someone see something that's just way over the top and they say, "oh that's so gaudy?" This is where that phrase comes from. Pretty cool!

As a small note here, you can see a little orange-ish buildling near the street with a curved roof in front. It was the schoolhouse for the children of the construction workers who were building the church back in the day. We got to tour the inside of it and it was the cutest thing! It felt like something out of a Dr. Seuss book! Very whimsical.
The church is still under construction due to lack of funds and also just the sheer magnitude of the place. Plus, building advancements have come a long way in recent years. The tallest spires of the church have yet to be built, and I think modern cranes will help speed that up.
You can see the back end of part of the church here, and it looks very traditional. The church was actually commissioned to a different architect first but construction was halted and the reins were turned over to Gaudi when they didn't like how traditional the church was looking. (And they were right, it looks just like every other church on this side.) Gaudi's style is inspired by nature and religion. Nothing in nature occurs in straight lines, and that's how he designed his buildings too.
Here is a front view of the church. They call this the Passion Facade, and it is full of symbolism. The sculptures here were inspired by Gaudi's designs but left to interpretation by sculptor Josep Maria Subirachs after Gaudi died. They tell the story of Christ's torture and execution, with a very unique style, as you'll see later.

The other side of the church at the end of the tour is called the Nativity Facade (depicts his birth) and the Glory Facade (depicting his resurrection) is yet to come. It's planned to spill out over the street into a neighboring block, so funds have to be raised to purchase that block first.

It's hard to see here, but there is a 2-ton figure suspended between two towers, which is the soul of Christ ascending to heaven.
This is a model showing what has been completed on the church (brown) and what is yet to be built (ivory). You can see there are numerous spires that are still to come, and they're going to be HUGE. When it's finished it will be the tallest church steeple in the world, but notably a few feet shorter than the highest point in the city as the summit of Montjuic. Gaudi didn't believe a creation of man should attempt to trump a creation of God.
Some of Subirach's sculptures on the Passion Facade. I guess this facade has been controversial in the past, but I quite liked its uniqueness. I felt it was fitting to tell the story of Chris's suffering in this way -- it's very sobering.
The crucifixion. The skull at Christ's feet represents his death. The man kneeling below him and to the left has Gaudi's face.
The doors leading into the church from the Passion Facade are full of all the names used to refer to Christ in the bible -- in Catalan of course. Next to the doors (I didn't get a picture of it) was a square thing that looked sudoku-ish. This grid of numbers is found in various places throughout the church and adds up to 33 in all directions -- the age Christ was when he was crucified.
Once we entered the doors, this is what we saw. The floorplan is in the shape of a typical Latin cross, with columns that look like tree trunks. As they get closer to the ceiling they spread out into branches and then into leaves which are the actual ceiling.
The columns are made from different stone materials, which make them different colors, like you might see in a forest (brown clay, grey granite, dark grey basalt). Nothing is perfectly straight or perfectly circular.

The ceiling is amazing. It's hard to get an idea of just how BIG everything is, but it's breathtakingly huge and TALL. By far the tallest ceiling in any cathedral we visited in Europe.
The stained-glass windows were absolutely stunning. Gaudi believed in the power of light. He used different colors based on the location of the windows and the time of day they would be hit by the sun. They are supposed to mimic the canopy of a rainforest. There are a few sections of windows like this with clear glass, where money has not yet allowed them to put in stained glass yet.

Me listening to the audio guide with my sweet headphones on. "Chris, take a picture of me hugging this column so you can see how big they are!" --Annalisa
Gaudi is now buried here in the crypt. I love this quote from him: "The idea of death can never be separated from the idea of God."
I wish I'd had a wide angle lens with me just for this church. It was hard to capture all the elements in one shot, but this one lets you see the columns and the stained glass and a little of the ceiling. It was just absolutely beautiful and serene and breathtaking inside.

There was just SO much natural light! It was incredible! Much different than any other cathedral we visited.  Outside this end of the church will someday be the Glory Facade, spilling over into the next block (once they raise the funds to purchase it.)

View towards the knave and altar.
We headed out the opposite doors to the Nativity facade, which has a "cake in the rain" feel. Chris calls it a wet sand look. This is the only part of the church that was essentially finished in Gaudi's lifetime, so it's very close to his vision for the facade.
There was so much to look at on this facade that I had to let the audioguide direct my attention and explain things.
This facade is all about birth and new life. There are giant sea turtles underneath the base of two of the exterior columns, and a tree of life up at the top center (in between the two center columns in this picture). At the bottom of the tree of life is a white pelican, noteworthy because it was believed this bird would kill itself to feed it's young. For this reason it was used symbolically in the middle ages as a symbol of the self-sacrifice of Jesus. Some people say this facade is as playful as the passion facade is grim.

"Chris, take a picture of me in front of the church!" -Annalisa (He tries, people, he tries.)
There are three doorways on the side, representing faith, hope and charity. (This is just one shown here.)
The four spires are dedicated to the apostles. (There will eventually be 12, one for each.) Each of these spires bears the word "sanctus," or holy. It will eventually spell out the Latin prayer, "Holy, holy, holy, glory to God in the highest." (Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus, Hosanna in excelsis.) When someone told Gaudi that no one would be able to see those words way up there on the spires, he stated, "the angels can."

When it's finished it will have 18 spires total. Twelve spires for the apostles (330 ft tall), four spires for the four Evangelists that are slightly taller, one spire for Mary (400 ft tall), and a spire in the center for Christ (560 ft tall).
At the top of this archway is Christ triumphantly crowning Mary.
Shepherds and angels. (I tried to adjust the settings on my camera to get a better detail picture of the sculptures...but apparently my camera skills still need some work.)
Fun fact: There are 36 species of birds and 30 species of plants depicted within this facade.
This is the Holy Family, or the "Sagrada Familia" that the church is named after. Note the cows peeking into the scene to get a glimpse of the holy child.
The Sagrada Familia is on target to be finished in 2040, if all goes according to plan. I'd love to go back and visit someday when it's finished! It was one of the neatest buildings I've ever set foot in.

After the tour we headed towards my mom's favorite churro bakery. We always passed lots of motorcycle parking when we walked around the city, because it's many people's transportation of choice. They call them "moto's." It reminded me of the ringtone of my motorola razr phone I had years ago. Anyone else remember that? HELLO, MOTO. Everytime we passed moto parking that song popped into my head, ha ha.

These were not just any churros. These were huge thick ones, stuffed with chocolate, cream or dulce de leche (caramel). I think they were called Porras. We decided to buy one of each to take home so we could try them all.
After a little souvenir shopping near the Sagrada Familia (yes, my mom stuffed my suitcase full of Christmas presents for the grandkids before we left), we headed to Makro once again. There was a little mixup with the menu for a lunch my mom was throwing that afternoon for all of the stake president's in the mission, so we needed to buy some more chicken.

Here's a good spot to talk about Carolina, since I never did get a picture of her. I would say she is my mom's best friend in Spain. She comes twice a week and does ironing, cleaning, cooking, etc. Whatever my mom needs to get ready for transfers or meals or conferences or traveling - she does it. But the best part about Carolina is her demeanor. Do you want to know why my mom's Spanish is so good? (Other than the fact that she's just plain smart.) Carolina is why. She has the sweetest, bubbliest, kindest demeanor. When she speaks with my mom, I can see my mom relax and be comfortable in her Spanish and if she gets to a word she's unsure of or a verb she's not sure if she's conjugating correctly, Carolina gently offers her the correct word and they carry on with their conversation. It was the sweetest thing to watch. My mom is comfortable enough with Carolina and they have a good enough relationship that she can show all of her Spanish vulnerabilities when they talk and know that she won't be judged or criticized. On the contrary - she will be praised and encouraged, and that is why her Spanish is growing and will continue to improve. Thank the heavens above for Carolina. I know tears will be shed when my mom has to leave her in two years!

At any rate. We found an even BIGGER tub of mayonnaise at Makro this time than we did last time. Who knew a person could need that much mayo at one time?

After a quick trip to Makro we headed home to eat our Porras. It was decided that the dulce de leche was the winner (far left).
When we got home we found El Presidente passed out, snoring on the couch like this. (Some things never change. And that's good.)
My mom has a lemon tree on her balcony patio! So jealous.
That afternoon my dad hosted a luncheon for the area president, Elder Reina and all of the Stake President's within the mission. They meet for a few hours and then my mom serves lunch. They asked us to join them so we did, and it was delightful. We got to hear all of their conversion stories, which was really neat. They were all converts, most of them in their teenage years or later.

Elder Reina, who is from the Canary Islands, was sitting in a park playing his guitar when he was 19-ish or so. He had long hair and a long beard, and was doing what hippie's do. He saw the missionaries walk by and he said something in his heart leapt, and he had the urge to chase after the missionaries...but he didn't. A few minutes later he spied them again leaving the park and when his heart leapt again, this time he jumped up, threw down his guitar and literally ran after them, calling for them to stop. He didn't know who they were or what they were doing, but something inside him told him that whatever message they had for him was so important he needed to run to get it. Two weeks later he was baptized.

It was a humbling experience to listen to their stories, and story after story that my parents are filled with. Just miracle after miracle, and the spirit guiding individuals to the truth when they were looking for it.

Later that night we found out there were going to be baptisms at two different Barcelona wards, so we hit a baptism at my parents' home ward at 6pm and then hopped over to a second baptism at 8pm. The services were beautiful, and my favorite part was hearing each of the new converts bear their testimonies afterwards. It was so powerful, even in another language!

The 8pm baptism was in a bonafide chapel that the church built and owns, and it was lovely. I wanted to take pictures of it to remember it. It was a 3-story place with lovely skylights and open space. I noticed the hymn books had huge labels on the front that covered half off the cover saying what ward they belonged to, etc, and I asked my mom why they did that. So my dad told me a story. He said one day the missionaries were walking down the street and saw a man with like a framed picture of Abinadi/King Noah walking past them, and they were like, what the...? So they stopped him and asked him where he got it and they realized he'd stolen it from the ward, ha ha! Like taken it off the wall. The man lied of course and told them he found it but they physically took it out of his hands and walked it back to the church and hung it back on the wall where it went. Then they went into a meeting for an hour or so and when they came back out, the picture was gone from the wall again, ha ha! So now all the pictures on the walls are bolted/mounted permanently, and all of the hymn books and other books are labeled on the front with huge labels. I thought it was pretty humorous.
The chapel also had a pretty fantastic gym, considering it was a ward house in the center of a huge city and space comes at a premium price.
Look at this guy, he still has ups!
...oh wait, it's an adjustable-height rim. :) It's okay dad, maybe you'll have ups again in the next life!
 After the two amazing baptisms we headed downtown for a tapas dinner at a really cool basque tapas restaurant called Txapela. (The Basque people mostly live in the Northern part of Spain -- the one area we didn't visit.) Basque tapas are almost all served on like a slice of baguette bread, it's sort of cool.
This is what the menu looks like -- you just look at the pictures and then tell them what number you want. Each one is like $1.85 euros, so you order like 4 or 5 tapas and that's your meal. It was a really cool and so yummy! I wish I'd taken a picture of the food when it came.
After dinner we walked down the 5th Avenue of Barcelona, where they have fancy shops by appointment only, etc. As we walked we passed a Gaudi house, seen here.
We saw it again later in the day time, but it was much more incredible at night!
The whole city was just lit up beautifully at night. I loved all the architecture, including Gaudi's.
We rounded out the evening with a rousing game of Gin with a Tail. I think it was Chris's first time playing, but it felt a little bit like home for me.
To be continued in More Barcelona - Montjuic, Park Guell & Tibidabo.


mpace said...

Did you bring me a Christmas gift home?!?

Nurse Heidi said...

Holy wow - these photos are incredible! Alan has always wanted to go to Spain and I can see why. What a neat trip!

V said...

You went to Barcelona? This is so cool!! I totally want one of those dulce de leche churros. They look amazing!