Monday, November 21, 2016

Dames at Sea, Day Thirteen: Last Day in Barcelona, Sagrada Familia

After almost two weeks underway, we reached the end of our trip of a lifetime. We had been to four countries, experienced Rome and Barcelona and had eaten a lot of amazing food.  My photographs will help me to remember every moment. The world is an amazing place and one thing I have found is that people are the same regardless of which part of the planet they are from.  Everyone responds to a smile and desires appreciation. It is amazing that we had no negative experiences.  No one tried to pickpocket us, despite dire warnings from friends.  Everyone we came in contact with were friendly, kind and helpful and our memories are warm.

Our last day in Barcelona was devoted to Gaudi's Sagrada Familia.  We had purchased timed tickets in advance.  They usually sell out, so it was necessary to get them beforehand. Construction began in 1882 and was only one quarter complete by the time of Gaudi's death in 1926.  The goal is to complete construction by 2026, one hundred years after his death. It has been described as the most extraordinary personal interpretation of Gothic architecture since the Middle Ages.

The church design has eighteen spires, representing the twelve apostles, the Virgin Mary, four Evangelists and, the tallest spire, Jesus Christ.  There are three facades: the Nativity facade faces the east; the Passion to the west and Glory to the south. On the interior, Gaudi designed the columns to mirror trees and branches. Opinions about the church are polarizing.  Some experts have called it "hideous", others "a marvel of technical perfection" and "spirit symbolized in stone".  I personally found it emotionally moving, jubilant and whimsical all at the same time.  It gives glory to God and I have the sense it was built for that purpose, not for the glorification of the architect.

 Inside, soft, heavenly music wafted through as we sat and took it all in.  Special sitting areas were designated for prayer and quiet, no photos allowed.  We were brought to tears.

Saying goodbye to Barcelona was difficult.  Our three days there have only whetted my appetite to return and really get to know the city.  A girl can dream!

Dames at Sea, Day Twelve: Barcelona

Our second to last day we tried to squeeze in as many sights as possible.  Using the hop-on/hop-off bus gave us the ability to get an overview of the city.  It would take months of living in Barcelona to even begin to appreciate all the city has to offer.

Fish Sculpture, by Frank Gehry, for the 1992 Olympics

The "bullet building", a 38 story skyscraper designed by French architect Jean Nouvel.  It has 4500 LED devices which allow the generation of luminous images on its facade.  The outside has temperature sensors which regulate opening and closing of blinds, reducing the need for air conditioning.

Sagrada Familia, the front of which in white letters reads "Jesus, the Nazarene King of the Jews."

Dames at Sea, Day Eleven continued: Foodie Experience BCN

Earlier in the year I was told about a website called "Eat With".  It is a novel concept where you are invited to the home of a local chef in various cities around the world for a meal and/or cooking lesson.  Intrigued, I researched Barcelona and found a number of possibilities.  I had always wanted to learn how to make paella and, lo and behold, here was an opportunity to learn how to do just that. Having signed up and paid in advance online ($70 per person), we were given an address and on the designated day found our way there via taxi from our hotel.

Our chef, Angels was incredibly warm and friendly, as though welcoming old friends into her kitchen.  We were a group of eleven, ten women and one man.  Three were German, two Russian and six of us were American, not including Angels who was Spanish.  Lucky for us, all spoke English.We are always humbled by others knowing our language when we do not know theirs.  The young German women each spoke four languages.

To begin our evening we walked together on the incredibly crowded Las Rambas (the primarily pedestrianized central boulevard which cuts through the heart of the city), filled with people, street performers, restaurants and shops.  Angels watched over us like a mother hen, leading us in a group to La Bouqueria, the most amazing market I have ever seen in my life.  She explained that it was better to go in the evening, because it was much more crowded in the morning, although I can't imagine it being more crowded. I was astonished at the sheer number of colorful stands with their artfully arranged displays, which would have had to have been recreated each and every day.  She stopped periodically to describe the wares and in particular explained the difference between Serrano ham and the more dear Iberico hams, some of which are aged for five years, hence their astronomical price tag of upwards of $80 a pound.

Back at the kitchen, Angels put each of us to work slicing and dicing.  The lone man was given the task of filling our sangria glasses.  One of the German women was taught how to make the potato tortilla cakes, as Angels showed us her technique of rubbing toast with a garlic clove and a half tomato, sprinkling with olive oil and coarse sea salt.  As we enjoyed partaking of these goodies, she started the paella.  She used an enormous paella pan and a special burner of the same size, with a propane tank for fuel, first sauteing the enormous prawns, then chicken thighs, then rice, the vegetables we had prepared and broth. It didn't take more than 20 minutes for the rice to cook through.  When it was almost finished she added the mussels.  When the mussels opened we were ready to eat.

Our conversation was lively around the dinner table over wine as we ooohed and aaahed over the paella.  There was one more treat to be had.  We had prepared flan and each of us got to brulee our own with a torch.  By the end of the evening we felt we had just made eleven new friends.  We regretfully parted from Angels and I had the feeling I wished I lived nearby to continue our new friendship. In fact, I have actually found a vacation rental nearby and am dreaming about returning.

Back home now, I ordered a paella pan and I have made that dinner twice for guests. They loved participating in what was one of my fondest memories of our trip.