With @cakeboss and Big Gavin meeting us in Barcelona, we made sure to have an action packed agenda full of early mornings and late nights (a given in Barcelona)!
We started off the trip with a Fat Tire bike tour. This was the perfect way to get to know the city and see all of the highlights. Our tour guide, Micha was from Georgia (the country) but lived in the US for a few years. He was so knowledgable and made the tour fun and interesting.
After our tour, we went to Montjuic, a hill that overlooks Barcelona. On top of the hill sits the Olympic Park from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. MK’s uncle Jamie Baisley played football in the Olympic stadium three times when he was playing European football for the Rhein Fire. We also checked out the swimming pool and found a picture from the '92 Olympics. We almost fell over when we saw the name Lee Loveless, a good family friend of the Baisley/Greens. We facetimed Lee from the pool and had a lot of fun hearing about her experience winning a gold medal during the Barcelona Olympic Games.
Also on the hill sits Montjuic Castle, a military fortress that dates back to the 1600s. As we learned, Barcelona was a perfect place for a fortress because of the sea to the East and mountains to the West. We, especially Gavin, really enjoyed checking out the castle and its views from the cable car!
Visiting Montserrat to see the Black Madonna was on @cakebosskatie’s bucket list. The Montserrat monastery, known as Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey, is a working monastery of 100 monks built on the side of a mountain. There is also an all boys school where fifty boys from ages 10-14 year old boys attend if they are musically talented. The choir is one of the oldest boys choirs in Europe, dating back to the 1300s. Montserrat is literally translated as “serrated mountain” and is truly breathtaking to see.
The Black Madonna was found by a group of young children who saw a light and heard beautiful music coming from the cave. No one believed the children when they told about image that appeared to them. The children brought more and more people to the caves to hear the music and see the image. In that cave they found the wooden statue of the Black Madonna. As they were carrying it across the mountain, it became extremely and uncharacteristically heavy, so heavy that not even a group of people could move the statue. They saw this as a sign that the Black Madonna wanted to stay where she was so they built a sanctuary around her. The Madonna is seated with her son, Jesus, on her lap and holding a sphere in her right hand, to symbolize the universe. Thousands of pilgrims visit the Black Madonna every year to worship and kiss the hand of the Black Madonna.
To see the Black Madonna, you walk through a long hallway and up a steep flight of stairs to where she sits, in an ornate golden room above the altar. We waited in line for 30 minutes (and practically had to box out our pushy Catholic friends). After we saw the Black Madonna, we listened to the all boys choir perform in the Basilica. Such a cool and special experience.
The Champions League playoff match of FC Barcelona vs Chelsea FC decided the final team to enter the quarterfinals. We were lucky that the match was taking place in Barcelona while we were there and even luckier to get tickets. Camp Nou, the FC Barcelona stadium, seats ~97,000 and sells out to season ticket holders for every big game. Since the FC Barcelona vs FC Chelsea was such a big game, procuring the tickets was a hilarious experience. We bought the tickets through the Spanish version of stub hub and assumed our tickets were coming via UPS. Instead our tickets were hand delivered by a character named "Juan Jo”. The whole thing was out of a movie. Juan Jo pulled out a briefcase containing 4 season tickets (complete with photographs of the ticket holders). Apparently you are allowed to “lend” season tickets to friends, but are not allowed to sell them to strangers. So we were given specific instructions to meet him at a bar outside of the stadium. There we would meet our game “escort” who would pretend to be our friend and help us find our seats.
We took the train (“tube”) to the game (along with one hundred other 'football' fans) and hoped for the best. Our escort’s name was Albert, the nicest 50 year old man whose family has had season tickets for 42 years. Gavin told Albert he was a “dentista” and Albert excitedly replied “I'm a veteranarian.” They were fast friends and it made for a lot of laughs.
Our first ‘football’ experience, was everything we had hoped - a big game atmosphere, beautiful night, 3 Barca goals (2 by Messi), and some swag from the stadium shop. We entered looking like Americans and saying “soccer,” and left chanting for Messi in our FC Barca scarves. An unforgettable night at Camp Nou!
We did our own small Gaudi tour of interior Sagrada Familia and Park Guell. As one travel blog said, “Sagrada Familia is watching a miracle in the making”. Hard to believe after 60 years, it is still in the making. We learned that tourism pays for double the annual construction cost, which blew us away. Two tips: buy tickets online and rent the audio-tour. After Park Guell, we visited a labyrinth. It was all fun and games until we literally were lost in the labyrinth for 20 minutes and had to climb through a fence to get out. Hilarious!
Our time in Barcelona was chock full of so many incredible experiences. With busy days, staying at Soho House was such a highlight. Every morning we would meet for coffee and breakfast on the ultra cool club level and finish the night listening to live music at the Soho House bar. We will be reminiscing our time with @cakeboss and Gavin in “Bartha” for many years to come!