Day 364 - Beauty in Barcelona

Trip Start Nov 07, 2010
Trip End Jan 01, 2012

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Flag of Spain  , Catalonia,
Saturday, November 5, 2011

I am completely in love with this city. From the minute I stepped foot down the narrow winding streets that snake their way through the historic quarter, I felt taken in by her charms.  This ancient seaside town, originally founded by the Romans, and subsequently risen to glory by Spain, has such a unique character, such a vibrant soul in every red stoned archway and dark gothic cathedral, every palm tree lined boulevard and flagrantly colorful Gaudi building, it seizes your senses from the moment you arrive and lingers long after you're gone.  Walking the thin cobblestoned passageways, echoes of footsteps resonating off tall granite walls, it’s easy to get lost for hours floating through the creeping veins of the city.  Boutique clothing shops, savory tapas bars, beer soaked cervecerias and obscure art studios greet you around every twisting turn.  Street performers set the soundtrack to the symphony of staccato voices that permeate the air.  All around you, sights, sounds, scents - the pulse of life.  We ramble down La Rambla, the main drag and draw for the tourist crowd, nibble our way through St. Josep’s Market eating fresh tropical fruits, thinly sliced Carpaccio ham and cured local Manchego cheeses, and tour the city at night when towering draconian steeples and solemn stone statues take on a haunted ethereal glow under amber and gold spotlights.  It rains for the first few days, setting a somber subdued tone to the grandeur all around, but as soon as the sun breaks the heavens above the clouds take on surreal shapes of an artist’s touch reflected perfectly in the pools of water on the ground.  Long flat avenues are transformed into living mirrors and seem to merge the infinitesimal space between earth and sky, creating murals in nature's pledge to the humble and divine.  On one such day, we walk for hours, just soaking it all in - the cloud kissed skies, the palm lined drives, the buildings and monuments from ancient times.  It all wove together in a seamless stream of images and emotions.  Taken in by all this city holds and captured frozen in time in a moment’s pose.  It’s like living a dream where nothing seems real.  Both sides of our souls on display, revealed in the ancient stones laid back thousands of years. Heavenly structures and crisp orderly lines of baroque buildings and bell towers give way to the warped nightmarish contours and sickly proportioned architecture of the world famous Gaudi.  His magnum opus, the Sagrada Familia, a towering cathedral unique in scale and design, is itself a dichotomy of the two eternal forces.  One side is clean - formal angular lines give the impression of light and order, a symbol for good.  The other is chaos - a hellscape of gnarled twisted facades, as if the infernal flames were reaching up from the bellows and melting the church into the abyss below. It’s still unfinished and may never find its completion, but the structure that stands today is enough of a tribute to the surreal character of his fair city and the lasting impression it leaves on all who stroll her shores.  Down by the water, where the land meets the sea, the smell of salt, surf and shellfish greet you on the wings of gulls on the breeze.  Rows of boats crowd the shipyard and the boardwalk is quiet for a fall evening.  Solitary and peaceful in its stillness, the perfect end to a perfect day.  I could spend a lifetime here and still not see everything there is to experience in this ancient city.  A few days in Barcelona will have to do, until the next time I return, which I have a feeling will be very soon.

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