I drink local based on the country I’m visiting but I over-index on my Italian food consumption regardless of the country. I walked around the charming neighborhood of my hotel in Barcelona looking for tapas or paella or something Spanish. However, I found lots of Iberian ham.
Definitely Spanish but not vegetarian Spanish. So, I found myself in a cozy Italian restaurant called Bocca di Bonifacio. The waiter had a delightful air that said, “I don’t care about you, but also, would fall all over myself to get you anything you request.” The music was terrific. Ray Charles. “How my heart is going sad, so sad and lonely. Because I’m so far, so far from my folks back home.” The menu explained its name: the restaurant is at the corner of Sardenya and Corsega streets. The name is taken from the straights between Sardinia and Corsica where sailors allegedly fear its powerful currents and winds. I immediately loved the restaurant even more because one my favorite friends, Gaby (and her husband Rudi (who is also pretty high on the ‘awesome friends list’)) and I visited Corsica together in 2014. (I am not sure you are supposed to do a parenthetical reference within a parenthetical reference but I just did.)
Now, some people would say, “Josie, why did you fly to Spain? You could be listening to Ray Charles at any quaint Italian restaurant in almost any American city.” To that, I say, “You’re right. But I AM in Spain. And I’m having a delightful time. If you would like to eat Spanish food in Spain, do it! And blog about it so I can read about YOUR delightful trip to Spain. Now, excuse me while I order lasagna.” Okay, I didn’t order lasagna. I ordered the bufala di mozzarella, smoked tomato, buttered focaccia, and charred artichoke. Holy cheese. I couldn’t allow myself to finish it but I enjoyed every last bite my stomach could hold.
It’s amazing to me how my ambition and motivation skyrocket when I step into another country. “I’m going to be a writer!” “A teacher!” “An actress!” I’m always a dreamer but, when abroad, I am also a believer. I’ve decided I’m going to take advantage of this trait and invest in making my dreams (or at least some of them) a reality. To that end, please follow me on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter with the @wanderwithjosie handle. (“Look ma, I’m a social media influencer! Huh? What? It’s not that easy? Oh, okay.”)
I manage to stay awake until 9pm and then allow the jetlag to take over. In the morning, I head for the Sagrada Familia. This is actually why I’m staying in Barcelona. Originally, I had planned to do two nights in Montserrat and bypass Barcelona entirely. It is a polarizing city — people often have a strong preference for Barcelona or Madrid. I am a Madrid gal, myself. Barcelona is coastal, it’s artsy, it’s frivolous and flamboyant. Essentially, Barcelona is San Francisco while Madrid is Chicago. (I imagine if I WERE a social media influencer with thousands of followers, this post would incite all sorts of outrage from Barcelonans, Madridians, San Franciscans, and Chicagoans alike. It’s obviously a generalization but it serves my point.) I thought Barcelona was nice but not a city I was called to re-visit. However, I never went inside the Sagrada Familia. It’s the church of the sacred family that Gaudi designed around 1882 and has been under construction since that time. Its completion is planned for 2026 and folks are acting as if that’s tomorrow. To be fair, 7 years is brief considering the overall 144-year construction timeline.
I booked my ticket online to visit the Sagrada Familia at 10am. I reasoned, several days ago, that even with jet lag, I’d be up early enough to make that work. Cut to me waking up at 6:45am. Like, fully, wide awake. I head to the Sagrada Familia and ask the entrance guard if I can enter early — at 9am. He says (in Catalan, Castillian Spanish, Spanish-Spanish, maybe Polish, but mostly English), “Yes. But only ten minutes early.” There goes my plan to do the church early so I can catch the train to Montserrat early (intentional foreshadowing of the following post). I wander around the gift shop a bit and look at some of the Sagrada Familia books. I figure, maybe if I look at enough of the ‘stuff’ in books I won’t take so long inside. Cool, it’s 9:15.
Related to my earlier statement about ambition, I decided to break out my selfie stick and record some footage for my burgeoning vlog (video blog). 9:25
I notice a drove of tourists taking photos of the Sagrada Familia from across a pond. I check it out and find a peaceful (other than the hundreds of tourists) seating area to look at the church. At first, I am elbowing along with the others to get my greenscreen-esque shot. I’m pleased. 9:30
I sit on a bench because I am still 20 minutes away from being allowed entry. Thankfully, I am six hours ahead of my friends and family so checking Facebook or emails is fairly unfruitful. Especially since I already checked them at 6:45, when I was awake. So, I sit there. And I look at what’s in front of me — an incredible building with immense detail. I notice grapes. Yep, literally. I find out later that the grapes are a sign of fruitful harvest. I notice the “IHS” above the carving of the holy family. I notice various words carved in the stones. I think to myself, “Wow. This is really a spectacular church!”
However, all around me, there are hordes of selfies being snapped. Again, I cast no judgment. I was one of them only five minutes prior. But it reminded me of my experiences at Iguazu Falls and Pompei. I was annoyed by all the teeny-boppers waltzing up to snap a duck-lipped photo, then pivoting and walking away, whereas I stood and ‘felt’ the experience. (Yes, I have a superiority complex. No need to diagnose me, I know.) So, there I was, ‘feeling’ the Sagrada Familia. I couldn’t wait to share my epiphany so I took out the selfie stick and recorded more vlog footage. (Uh-huh, I get the irony.) 9:50
After all this preamble, I’m going to trust in the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words and let you glimpse inside the church through my photos. (And eventually through my vlog!) I will use just a few words to say that it was absolutely incredible. It was the brightest, most stained-glass-kissed church I’d ever seen. It was ancient and modern, all at once. Sacred yet superficial. Awe-inspiring in its excessive extravagance with a ‘don’t take me too seriously’ wink.
Suffice it to say, I’m glad I returned to Barcelona so that I could peek inside such a marvelous structure and be reminded that, to see what you came for, you have to actually sit down and look.