As there’s less than a month until my next big trip, I thought that I’d take the time to reminisce on the place where I caught my travel bug: Spain.
I went to Spain for the first time way back in 2015, so I’m really digging into my brain to bring back these memories. I was there for a week to visit an old roommate in Barcelona, and there began my quest to explore more of the world.
Discovering Gaudi’s Barcelona
My favourite thing about Barcelona was exploring the cool architecture. Antoni Gaudí was a Spanish architect who became known as the father of Catalan modernism, and most of his distinctive works are found in Barcelona, making this city a top destination for architecture and art connoisseurs alike.
One of Gaudi’s best known creations is Park Güell, a public park system located on Carmel Hill, which is part of the mountain range of Collserola. It originated as a planned housing development, but this failed due to lack of buyer interest. It has since been converted into a municipal garden and designated UNESCO World Heritage site. Tickets are required for entry into the small monumental zone, but the remainder of the park is free entry.
We visited in the early evening, and spent about an hour there before the sun set.
La Sagrada Familia
There is nothing else in the world quite like this famous unfinished Roman Catholic Church. This intricately designed structure began its construction in 1882 under the leadership of architect Francisco de Paula del Villar. He later resigned, and the project was taken over by Gaudi, who devoted the remainder of his life to transforming the project with his unique engineering and architectural style.
Construction was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War, causing considerable destruction to Gaudi’s original plans and molds. Work is still in progress until today, with an anticipated completion date of 2026, marking the centenary of Gaudi’s death.
The exterior alone is incredibly impressive. There are three grand facades, each depicting the Nativity, Passion, and Glory (under construction). Gaudi’s original design also called for 18 spires, of which 8 have so far been constructed.
Inside, there are several vaulted sections extending up to 75 metres, held up by uniquely designed columns in the Gaudi style.
We also went up one of the towers and captured some views overlooking Barcelona.
Surrealism in Figueres
We organized a two day short break to Cadaqués, and on the way there we stopped in Figueres. This town is famous for being Salvador Dali’s birthplace. It houses the Teatre-Museu Gala Salvador Dalí (Dali Theatre-Museum), which was designed by Dali himself and where he was buried. There’s some weird art here, the most memorable of which for me was the Mae West Lips Sofa.
Following our morning at the museum, we had lunch at Les Cols, a two Michelin star restaurant set in a farmhouse. You can spot their chickens roaming around outside as you eat. Otherwise, I mostly remember this being a very long meal, almost 4 hours from start to finish!
Beaches and lighthouses in Cadaqués
Onward to Cadaques. This is a popular summer resort town that was about a two hour drive from Barcelona. Sticking to the theme of surrealist art, I learned that this town was frequently visited by Dali during his childhood and it was an important place in his artistic development.
We stayed overnight at a really nice Airbnb, which I unfortunately don’t have the details for since I fell asleep on the ride there (again, my problem with napping). The next day, we spent some time beaching around. Clothing optional, but we kept ours on.
After we were sunned out, we passed by Cap de Creus, a peninsula at the easternmost point of the Spanish mainland. Some of this landscape served as inspiration for Dali’s artwork. There are some rocky trails that take you up to various viewpoints, and there’s a little lighthouse to check out too.
A short stop in Girona
On our way back to Barcelona, we stopped in the city of Girona. It sits at the confluence of the rivers Ter, Onyar, Galligants, and Guell. We didn’t have time to see much of the city but did have a quick ice cream break at Rocambolesc, which is owned by Jordi Roca of El Celler de Can Roca, the famed three Michelin star restaurant that has been voted best in the world.
Zooming toward the Pyrenees
A couple of my travel mates were motorcycle enthusiasts, so the four of us planned a ride to the Pyrenees, with the other two of us as passengers.
It was a winding ride up to the small town of Castellar de n’Hug, which sits right along the southern slopes of the pyrenean range at the border of Spain and France.
The way back to Barcelona was an experience, to say the least. It started thunderstorming as we headed onto the highway and I was pelted by raindrops for half the trip. Another harrowing experience to add to my repertoire of travel memories!