We have now made our way to the other side of Spain to the coastal city of Barcelona. This very large urban area is home to almost 5 million people. Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia and has been in the world news recently due to the populist ‘separatist’ movement that is seeking to declare independence for this region from Spain. Our Airbnb host (who is from this region) patiently explained the history of Catalonia and the uneasy ‘marriage’ of this region to Spain starting in the 1400’s thru the present day. The region of Catalonia has it’s own language (Catalan) which is similar to Spanish but no more so than French and Portuguese which are all ‘romance’ languages. In my brief conversations with two taxi drivers in Madrid and Barcelona respectively, who are on opposing sides of the issue; I have learned that this issue is a big deal, primarily because of the economic implications. In a nutshell, Spain (ie., Madrid) has borrowed a lot of money from Germany . Barcelona (representing Catalonia) objected to the financial bailout of Spain. Germany wants their money back with interest (of course) and is very concerned that the breakup of Spain and Catalonia will have a de-stabilizing impact on the country (and it certainly will!) and their ability to pay their debts. If the independence for Catalonia succeeds, it will also shake up the entire EU which has other member countries with similar internal problems.
Our Airbnb is located in a small hilltop village (Vallirana), which is located about 30km or so from Barcelona. We were advised to avoid Barcelona last Sunday due to the demonstrations that were expected in the city but we did manage to make our way into the city’s main commercial district on Tuesday (October 10, 2017) mostly for shopping. After my horrible driving experience in Madrid, there was no way that I was going to drive in Barcelona so we left the car parked and took a city bus instead. The next day was a homeschool day for the girls and we decided to return to Barcelona to do a bit of sightseeing. The famous basilica La Sagrada Familia (sacred family) and Park Güell were on our agenda. Unbeknownst to us, the day we picked to go back to Barcelona was a national holiday ‘Fiesta Nacional de España’ which has a historic connection to Columbus Day (now celebrated in the US as Discoverer’s Day).
We waited and waited at the bus stop for the ‘express bus’ that we had taken into the city a couple of days earlier but because of the ‘holiday’, there was no express bus and only a few other buses on routes that we were not familiar with. After an hour and half wait, we decided to take the next bus that stopped. We knew that all the buses were headed to Barcelona from our location. After all, how far could it be from the city centre? Well, this particular bus dropped us quite far from La Sagrada Familia. Tiffany managed to get directions and we soon found ourselves riding on a subway below the city which literally dropped us across the street from our destination, the very imposing basilica designed by the famous Spanish architect, Antoni Gaudi (God’s architect). Gaudí died in 1926 after having spent 43 years working on the basilica. The structure has several tower cranes amidst the churches very tall towers which are being used to hasten the completion now scheduled for 2026 on the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death. Short Video clip below:
From the basilica, we walked approximately 2 miles (uphill) to Park Güell. This park was originally a residential development also designed by Gaudí that failed as a business venture since the homes were located too far away from the much smaller Barcelona city center. The park offers stunning views of Barcelona and the Balearic Sea. We took a bus back to the commercial shopping district that we were already somewhat familiar with hoping that we could then catch a bus back to our Airbnb in Vallirana. Because of the national holiday, there were no buses heading in our direction. By now it was getting dark and not only where there no buses, there were very few taxis. The girls were tired from being on their feet literally all day. I estimate that we probably walked roughly 4 miles that day. We gave up trying to get back to Vallirana and spent the night in a Marriot Hotel in the area. They required us to book two rooms since there were five of us. The clerk insisted that it was hotel policy and we relented rather than argue. We got a good nights sleep and finally made our way back to our Airbnb on Friday (by bus of course).
With only a couple of days left in Vallirana, we spent Friday and Saturday exploring the village and the neighboring town of Cervelló. There is a castle in ruins (which appears to be undergoing a very slow restoration) Castello de Cervelló high in the hills above Cervelló that the girls & I had a lot of fun exploring.
Tomorrow (Sunday) we head back down the hill to the village of Vilanova I La Geltru which is located on the beaches of the Balearic south about 45km south of Barcelona. More fun in the sun!