Europe Trip 2024: Day 1 in Barcelona

May 7, 2024

I took a 10-day trip to Europe with my son between April 26 and May 5. We spent time in both Barcelona and Budapest. This post covers Friday, April 26.

I arrived in Barcelona around 9:00 am local time on April 26. I did not get as much sleep on the plane as I would have liked. I had determined that at best I might get 6 hours of sleep. I knew I wanted to stay awake until after dinner had been served on the flight.

I was sitting in an aisle seat. I got bumped a lot by people moving around on the plane while I was trying to sleep. And I had trouble getting comfortable. I finally gave up trying to sleep and watched Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It just finished it as we landed in Barcelona.

I was excited to see my son after almost five months. He left in early January to study at Elisava Barcelona School of Design and Engineering for the spring. After going through passport control and waiting for my luggage, I finally exited and had the much-anticipated reunion with my son. I enjoyed giving him a big hug and being together again.

He bought me a day ticket and we were soon on the Metro headed into the city. Once on the Metro, he gave me a chocolate croissant that he had bought at a neighborhood bakery.

Exploring Clot

My wife had found us a hotel in the Clot neighborhood just down the street from where my son lived for his homestay. We arrived at our stop, walked to the hotel, dropped off the bags at the front desk, and were off to see the city.

I enjoyed walking down the street just taking in the fact that I was back in Europe. I enjoyed seeing the architecture around me. Each apartment building had balconies with a variety of different ironwork designs. I also liked the different textures on the buildings. Several of them had what looked like wallpaper. My son told me that was a very Catalan style.

I loved the wallpaper feel of the decoration on this building.
An ornate window of a building in Barcelona
I loved the simple ornamentation, stonework, and color of this building.

Walking the streets was such a visual treat for me. There was so much to see and enjoy that I stopped taking pictures and just feasted with my eyes.

Sagrada Família

We walked about 15 minutes to the Sagrada Família. It was great to finally see this church. I was in awe of how tall it was. It also looked a lot different from how I pictured it in my mind.

I posed in front of the Nativity Facade of the Sagrada Familia

I remember studying Antonio Gaudi and the church in Professor Lou Michel‘s architecture history class at KU. I believe they have added a lot to the structure since those days. Most of what I remembered about the church was the Nativity Facade and its towers which were built first. It was quite a sight to finally behold this famous landmark that is still not yet complete. I had not looked at pictures or watched any videos about the church before I left. I wanted to experience it in person.

We walked around it and I continued to enjoy and take it all in. I was not familiar with the Passion Facade, which is newer. The Passion Facade is more simplistic than the Nativity facade and I enjoyed looking at all the statues which are done in the Cubist style. I did not reflect very much on the style and the symbolism until when we visited the church later in the trip and got to see it up close.

Wide shot of the Passion Facade of the Sagrada Familia with the glare of the sun in the top right corner.

We walked back through the Clot neighborhood. We stopped at the Mercat del Clot and enjoyed walking through and seeing all the fruits, vegetables, ham, candy, fruit drinks, and fish they were selling in the different stalls. It was much less crowded than the Mercat de la Boqueria, which we visited later in the day. I enjoyed getting to walk through and take it all in.

Lunch with my son and his girlfriend

After we finished at Clot, we walked through the Glòries neighborhood and saw the iconic Torre Glòries, the Design Museum, and the big flea market. We boarded the Metro and met his girlfriend at Placa de Catalunya. My son and his girlfriend are students Murray State. She was also studying in Barcelona this spring.

As we walked from Placa de Catalunya to the restaurant, we stopped to admire the Palau de la Música Catalana. It has a beautiful facade and interior (we just stepped inside the lobby). It was very ornate with a lot of tile work and lots of color. The little bit of the interior that we saw from the lobby was equally impressive. I wish I had taken a picture of that. Unfortunately, the glare from the sun in my photo hides the beauty of the mosaics at the top of the facade.

Facade of the Palau de la Música Catalana with lots of color and mosaic tiles typical of Catalan architecture.

We ate lunch at Rosa Negra, which is a Mexican restaurant. It seemed only fitting that my first meal with my son in Barcelona would be at a Mexican place. One of his favorite spots in Murray is Don Sol’s which I have frequented with him on visits there. I had a delicious chicken quesadilla and a lemonade to drink. I enjoyed getting to spend some time with both of them. I have only seen her briefly twice before so it was nice to be able to hang out with both of them. She flew back to the United States the next day. I am bummed that I did not get a picture of the three of us. I had intended to but it did not materialize.

Cathedral of Barcelona

View of the Cathedral of Barcelona looking down a street with 4 or 5 story buildings on each side

After lunch, we walked to the Cathedral of Barcelona in the Gothic District. I enjoyed the partial view of the tower as we approached it going southeast. One of the things I enjoy about Europe is getting these partial views of beautiful landmarks as you walk down the street.

The area around the cathedral was very crowded. My son warned me not to talk to any of the clowns that approached me. He also briefed me on some of the other scammers to watch out for.

I love Gothic architecture. I enjoyed looking at the facade of the church and seeing all the statues, gargoyles, and ornamentation. I thought about my visit to the Biltmore because that house incorporated a lot of Gothic ornamentation in its facade. We spent about 10-15 minutes at the church. I admired the stonework and all the craft that it took to create this piece of art and devotion.

The gothic facade of the Cathedral of Barcelona
My son and I pose in front of the main door to the Cathedral of Barcelona
Zoomed in detail of two statues on the facade of the Cathedral of Barcelona
I love all the stonework on the facade of the Cathedral of Barcelona

Placa de Catalunya

After visiting the Cathedral, we walked around that area of town for a little bit and then headed back to Placa de Catalunya. My son’s girlfriend left us there so she could pack for her trip home on Saturday. My son showed me around the Placa.

The Placa was a gathering spot for a lot of pigeons. I have a bit of an issue with birds. My mom speculates that it started when a bunch of pigeons flocked around me in a square in Greece and then flew off. I have always felt a bit uncomfortable with birds flying around me. I have shared a story in the past about an encounter with sandhill cranes.

I am okay with a few pigeons but not a whole flock of them. However, I tested the limits of my fears while visiting the square. I shared a picture with my sister who also has a similar bird phobia. Fortunately, I didn’t have a bunch of them fly at me.

Facing my bird fear with the pigeons in Placa de Catalunya

La Rambla

From the Placa de Catalunya, we walked to the busiest and most touristy street in Barcelona, La Rambla. There was a huge crowd of people on this street. I was very careful to keep my hands on my wallet and phone to avoid getting pickpocketed. There were more buildings to enjoy and I loved people-watching.

My son showed me a flower shop that uses Chatype, which was a typeface developed for the city of Chattanooga. I compared my picture to a specimen and it looks like a match. If not, it is very close. It was fun for him to see that from time to time and think about home.

We believe that Chatype was used in the signage for the name of this flower shop (moyashop) on La Rambla

We visited the Mercat de la Boqueria, which was much more crowded than the Mercat del Clot. It was a visual feast of all the different produce, fish, meat, and sweet treats that the vendors were selling. We only walked around a portion of the market but got a good feel of the place.

We continued down La Rambla till we got to Elisava, the school where my son studied this spring. We went into the lobby and my son went to check to see if he could pick up some of his work.

The very colorful stairs at Elisava Barcelona School of Design and Engineering

After Elisava, we walked down to the Columbus Monument and then walked by a waterfront where several boats were docked. Along the walkway, we saw a couple of pieces of sculpture that we enjoyed. The first was a lobster on a curved wooden structure. The second was a more abstract piece.

Checking into the hotel and some rest

We had talked about going to the beach but by this time I was beat. We headed to the hotel. I checked in and my son left to spend some time with his girlfriend and tell her goodbye. I took a nap for about 45 minutes. I could have slept longer but I had set an alarm so that I didn’t sleep too long and not be able to get to sleep overnight.

After the nap, I took some time to journal about the day. I also spent some time reading the Bible and praying. I was feeling a bit lonely because my son was still out. I decided to get out for a little bit and walk around. I enjoyed people-watching as people were starting to make their way to dinner.

My son bought us some things from the store on the way back and we had a light dinner. My son also had moved his bags over from his homestay. He repacked some things for our trip to Budapest and I watched BBC News and a bit of The Avengers in Spanish (which I do not understand). We turned in early as we needed to get to the airport early for our flight to Budapest.

When I had originally planned the trip, I didn’t have a lot of expectations for the day and I was not sure how available my son was going to be. It ended up being a very full day and I saw a great deal of Barcelona. It whets my appetite to see more of the city after we visited Budapest.

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