But seriously, that we even have photos from our Christmas 2011 trip to Barcelona is a bloody miracle by itself, considering both of our cameras were stolen soon after that trip at the NAIA Terminal 1 airport.
We flew from London to Manila on Cathay Pacific. During our Hong Kong stopover, we were asked to place our carry-on luggage in the hold because of the overbooked HKG – MLA flight. We agreed and locked our luggage with a normal, non-TSA lock (it was the only one I had in my handbag at that moment). We stupidly (on hindsight, considering NAIA’s horrible reputation) left our bulky Olympus camera and a smaller Canon camera in the bag.
It took a while for our luggage to appear on the belt (red flag!). We didn’t think to check that our cameras were still in the bag before leaving the airport, but why would we? We only realized something was amiss when we were at dinner later that evening and wanted to show our family the video of Hubby’s (then Fiancé’s) marriage proposal some months prior. My stomach plummeted when I noticed something looked off with our bag’s zipper. The camera cases were still there — but both cameras were gone. (How…?!)
We debated going back to NAIA to report the loss but eventually decided to let it go. Thankfully, my little habit of emptying our SD cards after each trip came in handy. To think our photos were saved only because of my O.C.-ness! 😌 Hay.
ANYWAY, back to the trip.
I barely have any journal entries from this year, most likely due to crazy work stress. Traveling, for me, helped take my mind off that. Long walks helped too, and there’s no better place to take a leisurely stroll in Barcelona than La Rambla, a long, wide pedestrian street lined with flower stalls, newspaper kiosks, street performers, and a century-old building or two, that stretched all the way to the beach.
There are many attractions along La Rambla, including Mercat de La Boqueria, a foodie market that had everything…
… Spanish chocolate balls, truffles, mendiants with fruit and nuts…
… gummy candies in all shapes and flavors…
… fresh fruit and vege just like a Pinoy talipapa…
… and even suckling pig!
It was very crowded though so common sense applies (no flashy bling, keep your bags in sight and close to you at all times).
Also along La Rambla is Plaça Reial, with its lovely Gaudí lampposts topped with winged helmets, 19th century buildings and beautiful palm trees, lending the square an old-world feel. Antoni Gaudí is a famous Catalan architect with a distinctive free-flowing, expressive style.
At the end of our walk — a monument to Christopher Columbus and the sparkling Mediterranean Sea.
We weren’t dressed for the beach but we took off our shoes anyway. It was almost dusk and everyone on the beach was getting ready to leave. Even the circus!
I was delighted to find Circo Raluy (although they were already packing up). The two-tone tents looked like they came straight out of Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. Creepy cool.
The next day we paid a visit to the Barcelona Cathedral, with its tall stained glass windows, carved angels and gargoyles, century-old crypts, and imposing Gothic facade.
I liked the geese the best. They hung out at the cloister next to Font de Sant Jordi (Saint George’s Fountain). The fountain water is safe to drink.
We went to one of the Christmas markets (’twas the season after all) but ended up not buying anything. Most of the stuff on sale seemed overpriced to me. We walked — no, strolled — instead.
We made our way to the Palau de la Música Catalana, a concert hall tucked away in the Ribera district. It stages over 300 concerts and dance shows every year and is a UNESCO World Heritage site (the only concert hall on the list).
We took a guided tour through the hall which was well worth it. The foyer, where some smaller performances were sometimes held, featured brick and wood…
… while the concert hall featured a stained glass inverted dome ceiling surrounded by angels. I know the photo below is blurry and overexposed (actually photo-taking wasn’t allowed…), but I tell you, the hall looked stunning with the sunlight shining through the fiery glass.
Visiting Gaudí’s La Pedrera (The Stone Quarry), an apartment block circa 1910, was one of Barcelona’s highlights for me. While we also made a stop at his iconic (and still unfinished) work the Sagrada Familia, we were unable to enter because the church was closed that day. In contrast we were able to explore La Pedrera to our heart’s content.
La Pedrera’s rooftop sculptures have chimneys resembling medieval warriors and organic-looking shapes that looked like they grew from the floor. Most were tiled with trencadís, a mosaic using broken ceramic.
We booked a day trip at one of the kiosks along La Rambla to go to Montserrat, a place familiar to Hubby and me. Both of us went to Benedictine schools in the Philippines and we both vaguely recalled Montserrat in our own school’s hymns and prayers. We spent the bus drive to the monastery trying to see who remembered the most songs (“Light of Casino, hail to you, haAAAil to you…”).
Montserrat forms part of a mountain ridge (in Catalan, montserrat means jagged or serrated). You can ride a funicular to arrive at the mountain peaks.
There is a basilica which houses a statue of La Moreneta, Catalonia’s patron virgin.
The Basilica’s interior. Not shown: the crowds that gradually swelled so the mass was full house, the chill in the church foyer where we stood, and the boy who knew most of the words to the songs, like me.
I’m glad I still have these photos.