My cell phone battery was running low and I was cursing myself for forgetting to charge my two small battery extenders last night, as I turned up first one winding street and then another, looking for the ancient synagogue hidden somewhere off La Rambla's main drag. I had my GPS on and was using Google Maps to find my way but while it is quite good, it also sucks the living life out of your battery. I felt like I was living on borrowed time.
And this wasn't the first time today that I found myself lost in this magnificent city. And not in a good way. Earlier in the morning I had left the ship, ridden the shuttle bus to the edge of town and had managed to successfully get myself onto the metro, change lines and arrive at the Sagrada Familia basilica not only on time for my appointment but early.
After that, however, my ability to steer myself in the right direction went straight to hell in the proverbial hand basket.
But let me back up. This was Day Two in Barcelona. Spain, just in case you don't know where that is.
Day One was a very full day of touring the city with a guide, a trip outside the city to a monastery high atop a mountain called Montserrat, and a dinner and flamenco show in the evening. Exhausting but very interesting and fun.
When people think of Barcelona, many associate it with the famous Sagrada Familia basilica that represents the brilliant and deeply religious architect that designed it, Antoni Gaudi. He was born in the mid 1800's and died in 1926, before his beloved cathedral he was devoting to God, could be finished. Work to complete it continues to this day, with the goal to have it finished in 2026, the 100th year anniversary of Gaudi's death.
Gaudi's work is evident in a number of buildings throughout Barcelona. Park Guell, for instance, was his home for close to 20 years. He designed two homes on that property that remind you instantly of the fairytale Hansel and Gretal.
I was smitten with Gaudi and his work and also began to fall into "deep like" with Barcelona.
I had really wanted to visit the inside of Sagrada Familia so I booked a ticket in advance a couple of months ago (thanks Sam, for facilitating that for me) and a wish became fulfilled. Wow oh wow. It takes a lot for me to lose my breath over seeing something for the first time. I can count on one hand the number of times in my life that this has happened. And so random at that. Giving birth to my daughter was the first time. Seeing Machu Picchu was probably the next. Walking into Gaudi's masterpiece the feeling came over me again. Wonderment. Awe. Satisfaction.
I'm not that great of a writer to be able to translate into words how cool and fascinating this place is. So I won't. I took pictures, even though they don't do it justice.
And the rest of the city is just as marvelous and impressive. Barcelona pulsates. There is life and movement and structure everywhere you turn.
Tree-lined streets. Big intersections with fountains in the center. Bicycles, cars, motorcycles, people walking, walking, everywhere people are out and walking. Especially on this lightly warm and sunny day.
By contrast, Montserrat, about 40 minutes outside the city, is a place of serenity and beauty. There's a very old monastery built into this incredible pillared rock mountain top where about 80 monks still live. They are very musically inclined and teach music to a group of young boys who come to live and study there. The boys choir there is well known and they sing once a day at the conclusion of noon mass.
Our tour guide timed our arrival there so that we could hear them sing inside the church. However, this was holy Easter week and the place was JAMMED. But some creative maneuvering and running up stairs and through the Square as the bells began to toll ensured us a cramped space just inside the church and just in time to hear the boys begin to sing. It was worth it.
So, back to Day Two. After spending a couple of hours inside Gaudi's Sagrada, I left on foot to find my way down (or over) to La Rambla, Barcelona's other famous landmark. It's a 2 mile or so pedestrian street lined with trees, sidewalk vendors, markets, cafes and people. Lots of people. It's path takes you all the way down to the water, at Columbus Square.
But I got lost. I wandered in circles for well over an hour before I finally got my bearings back and found the start (or end, depending on which direction you're going) of La Rambla.
There are very cool and interesting off shoot streets from La Rambla, too. Quieter, one can wander in there and literally become lost, both literally and metaphorically. I became lost literally. Again. I wanted to find the ancient synagogue. And that brings me back full circle to the whole low battery Google maps scenario.
It all worked out in the end. I even had enough battery to snap a few more pictures. My feet were tired, but my soul was inspired.