Being a Tourist

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It’s Friday afternoon and I’m in the mood to be a tourist. I’ve yet to visit Barcelona’s top tourist attraction and Amanda is eager to act as my tour guide, since this will be her second trip. La Sagrada Família is the master-work of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí and it must surely be among the top 5 most amazing churches in the world. The massive, intricately designed building has been under construction since 1882 and is not expected to be complete until at least 2026, a date set because it marks the 100th anniversary of Gaudí's death. Actually, I’d heard it would be another century before it's completed, but Wikipedia says its much sooner. I’m sticking with this date because a) I’m finished with grad school and revel in being a lazy researcher and b) I want to believe its true that I’ll be alive to witness the church's opening, first hand or otherwise. Designed in Gaudi’s unique and organic architectural style, "The Temple of the Holy Family" is a truly awesome sight. It seems to represent extremes of engineering genius and artistic indulgence: heavy slate doors engraved in hieroglyphic-inspired scripts, interior columns designed to look like massive trees to provide shelter over the congregation, elaborate exterior facades featuring intricate depictions of key events in Christianity (nativity, crucifixion, etc.) and eighteen spindle-shaped towers representing important Christian figures (12 Apostles + 4 Evangelists + Virgin Mary + Jesus = 18). Despite the cranes and the dust and sounds of construction, it is easily one of the most stunning things I’ve ever seen. We wander through the church and then the model gallery taking pictures and marveling at Gaudi’s grasp of complex mathematics and his artist eye for the geometric beauty of the natural world. Of course, pictures don’t do it justice, but please check them out anyway in my Barcelona album on Flickr.

So, La Sagrada Familia is a highlight. The search for lunch afterwards, unfortunately, is a lowlight. I’ve resigned myself to the sad realization that Catalan food is just not going to be my favorite. Although I’m loving the abundance and variety of seafood, the search for great tapas and paella has yielded a handful of over-priced, bland, fried, mushy, oily, mayonnaise-covered disappointments. Unfortunately, this is exactly the meal we find at the "authentic" bodega on La Rambla de Cataluyna -- a terrible miscalculation by the editors of our guide book. 30€ and some mild crankiness later, we trek home anticipating the only food left in my kitchen: Vino tinto and Pepperidge Farms Chesapeake Dark Chocolate Chunk cookies, gratefully purchased from the specialty American foods section of the hip home furnishings store around the corner, which also carries hard-to-find American delicacies like peanut butter, cake mix and pancake syrup. Effective tonight, we are done with tapas.