Honeymoon part 1: Barcelona

Though my camera broke pretty early in our honeymoon, we still managed to take more than 1400 photos while we were in Spain (!!). Mike took most of them, and his camera is much better than mine anyway, so I have to give him a lot of credit for the documentation.

I’m dividing up our trip into several posts, so it’s not too overwhelming. We spent the first three nights in Barcelona, adding one more day than we planned so we could be there for a local festival. So I’ll start with that part.

Sunrise out the airplane window as we flew in.

The best decision we made in Barcelona was to stay at the Hotel Constanza. It was very cool and modern, and had a great breakfast every morning that went until 10:30, sometimes 11:30 a.m. Also, the shower alone was worth the price (which wasn’t bad).

Just in case you are going to Europe at some point, I can highly recommend the site we used to book all of our rooms, booking.com. Mike used it when he went to Denmark, so we tried it again, and it proved a lifesaver throughout our trip.

The other lifesaver? My Chaco sandals. I’ve had a pair for probably 6 years, that is the only pair of shoes I can walk in all day and not have sore feet. But enough recommendations – back to the trip!

We took the obligatory walk down La Rambla, which is this bustling, touristy ped mall so we could check out the Mercat de la Boqueria, a huge market.

It was just about to close down, but we got a peek at some of the goods.

Everywhere you go you see these shops with cured hams hanging up.

From what we could tell, Spaniards eat ham pretty much all the time. It was on menus for breakfast, lunch, dinner, tapas, everything. I know its a beloved part of the culture, and I did try some, but by the end of the trip I was seriously over all the jamon. Maybe I was just squeamish over the fact that all those ham legs still have a hoof on them.

For our first sampling of tapas, we tried a place recommended by our Lonely Planet book (pretty much our Bible for the whole trip), and it definitely seemed like the real deal.

Mike tried the pulpo (octopus), and then we ordered some pimientos, little green peppers from the Galicia region that they deep fry and sprinkle with salt.

That was probably our favorite tapa anywhere. We also accidentally ordered a whole bottle of white wine. That was fun!

The next morning we did our unofficial Gaudi tour. We walked by the apartments he designed, before heading to Park Guell.

(And by the way, the metro subway in Barcelona is amazing. We never waited more than 5 minutes for a train the whole time we were there).

The park is huge, much bigger than we were expecting. It’s like something out of a dream, very surreal.

From the top of the hill there we could see the Sagrada Familia in the distance.

It’s a constant work in progress. The tour guide said it’s still only 60 percent finished. But a lot of work has been done in the last couple of months because the pope is coming to consecrate the church in November. We were lucky to go when we did, I suspect.

Since Gaudi died in 1926, he only got to see part of it finished. That side is a little more traditional in terms of the statues on the outside.

But we loved the other side, which was designed by another artist. The figures reminded me of a Picasso painting.

And the blocky text on the doors reminded me of Des Moines’ Nomade sculpture downtown.

Photos could never capture what it’s like inside, and I couldn’t even really describe it.

The scale of the church (and all the cathedrals we saw) is just overwhelming. And I love how Gaudi designed the interior with the intent to bring nature inside. The columns branch out like trees. The stained glass circles on the ceiling reflect light onto the floor, just like the dappled light in the woods. It was truly extraordinary.

We paid the extra money to go up into one of the towers and see a view of the city from the top.

But to get back down you have to descend this windy windy dark staircase. At one point I was the only one in there and it was kind of creepy!

The next day we visited Barcelona’s Cathedral, which is also massive and beautiful.

I loved the little courtyard, complete with goldfish and birds.

I was also smitten with the grand entrances you see all over Spain. It’s incredible how much effort they put into just the doors.

The second day we tried paella at a place we just stumbled on, and it was really good. I tried the traditional seafood variety and Mike had the black rice, made with squid ink.

It took a long time to get used to the way they eat there. Small breakfast, huge lunch at around 2-4 p.m., then dinner at around 9:30 or 10.

I don’t have any pictures of these, but we had cafe con leche in tiny cups just about everywhere we went. It’s funny — portion sizes seemed pretty huge compared to what I was expecting, but when it came to drinks they were all like miniature versions of what I’m used to. In Barcelona, I especially loved the way they serve toasted bread slices with a swipe of crushed tomatoes and olive oil. I am definitely stealing that trick!

Randomly, we also found this place that was kind of like Spain’s version of Starbucks and every afternoon we’d buy coconut bars they called “flapjacks”. They were like our energy bars for all the walking we did.

Our last night we went to a parade that kicks off the Festes de la Merce. The first part of the parade featured giant paper mache monsters with sparklers coming out of their mouths and drummers playing a different beat for each statue.

The second part featured people figures, including the king and queen. It was probably the most energetic parade I’ve ever been to, so I’m glad we stayed for it.

I loved the festival posters, and if I could have torn one off and taken it home, I probably would have.

Notice the headlining band, Belle and Sebastian. Not exactly who I would expect for such a party crowd!

The last morning there, we went to the beach. Strangely it was the only time we spent on the actual Mediterranean, so I’m glad we squeezed it in.

Mike tried baby octopus at a restaurant there.

Unfortunately we underestimated the time it would take to get back to our hotel to pick up our luggage and we ended up racing through the subway with our super heavy suitcases only to miss our train by 5 minutes.

Luckily though, there was another train in 3 hours, and the customer service agent took pity on us and gave us new tickets for just a few euros more.

Would you believe that this is the extremely condensed version of the very beginning of our trip? We are incapable of relaxed travel, I think. But I did tell Mike I want honeymoon 2.0 when we get to California, involving wine tastings, massages, and sleep.

More to come soon…