Barcelona and La Sagrada Familia

I’m not even sure where to begin with Barcelona, it may very well be my favorite city on earth. So far. I didn’t have any particular expectations of it, but had I, they’d have been far surpassed. With its tree-lined streets, sleepy afternoon plazas, and the saturation of art and architecture; I spent three days just walking through the city, and could have easily spent three more.

On Sunday, when I arrived, several of the museums were open for free during the afternoon hours, so I headed to the Gothic Quarter to visit the Museu d’Història de la Cuitat and the Museu Frederic Marès. The first is built over an underground archeological dig site, the second is a collection of major Spanish sculpture, mostly collected from churches.

What struck me, though, were the top two floors of the Frederic Marès Museum. In addition to his sculpture collections, Marès’ amassed a menagerie of small and strange items which fills dozens of rooms. Postage stamps, tin soldiers, iron scissors, and tobacco pipes; dried floral arrangements, pocket watches, and a thousand other items are arranged neatly in glass cases throughout the rooms, by category. I can’t put the a finger on the reasons I found all of that so fascinating, but there is some idea that it sparked in my mind which is exactly the sort of inspiration I’ve needed to find.

In the evening, the line for the Picasso Museum snaked around the block for two hours, so instead, I walked up and down the streets full of small galleries and filled my head with imagery. I miss those sorts of evenings, more than I realized. These days in Uganda, I’m struggling to find time for paint and pencils, but I’m hoping the biggest takeaway from this trip will be my newfound resolve to carve out that time, no matter what.

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The next morning, I walked to La Sagrada Familia on sleepy streets, before cars and pedestrians filled the place with noise and energy. There’s a beautiful park in front of this Roman Catholic basilica, filled with jacoranda trees and wooden benches, a perfect place for a cup of coffee.

Mostly designed by art nouveau architect Antoní Gaudí, the basilica has been under construction for over one hundred years, and work is still ongoing. Despite the cranes and scaffolding outside and the astounding crowds, the finished interior is a serene and inspiring place, full of angles and colors and light. I could have spend the whole day inside, staring up at the ceiling.

This is the thing I found most interesting about Barcelona, that nearly everywhere in the heart of the city,  it you stop and let them, the green spaces and attention to the design of things can transport you away from the hard and fast feel of “urban” and into some other strange middle ground between the pages of reality.

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