Posted by: vlibrizzi | March 30, 2009

The rain in Spain falls mainly…in Barcelona

On Friday afternoon, C. and I boarded a plane to have some fun in the sun in Barcelona. Well, we certainly had a lot of fun….but there wasn’t much sun…until we were about to leave, that is. 

When we arrived on Friday night, on a plane filled with other INSEAD students (there were about 200 of us that flew south for the weekend Business school tournament), we first took a walk along the Ramblas, a wide street in the center of the old city that is lined with shops and cafes. img_2213We then checked into our apartment (instead of a getting a hotel, C. and I rented an apartment for the weekend with some friends through an amazing apartment rental website called Cocoon Barcelona, if you’re ever interested in visiting, which we highly recommend). The apartment was literally in the Plaza Reial (a large palm tree filled square ringed with cafes, and in the middle of which, is a beautiful fountain). While we waited for our friends to arrive, C. and I sat in the square and had some tapas, as you can see C. doing in the photo to the left.  

Then, later that night, we met up with some friends for a tapas dinner in the chic Born neighborhood of Barcelona before we headed to a great nightclub in the downtown area for some salsa dancing. When, I say, “later that night,” however, I mean VERY late that night. You see, in Barcelona (and all of Spain, for that matter), the people stay up very late. Most bars don’t even get busy until well after midnight, and stay open for the sunrise. For example, when we were leaving the bar on Friday night at around 3 am so that C. could be ready for his baskeball tournament the next morning, most people were just arriving and the line to drop off coats at the coat check was significantly longer than the line to pick up coats. 

img_2217On Saturday, I slept in a bit late, but poor C., his first basketball game (of the 3 he played on Saturday) was at 9 am! While C. played basketball at the Montjuic area of town (where the 1992 Barcelona olympics took place), I toured the city with some friends. First, we visited the lively St. Josep market (you can see a photo of a fruit stall at the market to the left). Besides being able to have a fresh fruit smoothie from the market for breakfast, the best thing about visiting the market, however, was seeing my first ever Dunkin Donuts (or Dunkin Coffee as they call it) in all of Europe. All you readers from Boston can now rest assured that there actually is at least one Dunkin Donuts here on this continent. 

img_2234After  we left the covered market, it started to rain…and it continued to rain for the rest of the day. To make matters worse, I had no umbrella. But, I only had one weekend in Barcelona so I was determined to see all the major sites. We started by visiting the famous Gaudi cathedral, La Sagrada Familia. It is the most famous tourist destination in all of Spain, and after one visit, you could easily see why. It is a true masterpiece of architecture! 

The ornate facades, the detailed sculptures, and the numerous Biblical stories are breathtaking…and they’re only on the outside of the building! Once you get inside, you feel as if you are actually outside in the middle of the forest. And that was Gaudi’s intent. img_2221He, a deeply religious man, felt that he felt closest to God when he was in nature, so he tried to build his church so that you feel like you are in nature. The columns branch out at the top in a way that appears to be like palm trees, and the ceiling is ringed with circles that together make it seem like you are under a deep tree canopy in the woods. Breathtaking!


img_2233In the photo to the left, you can see the ceiling of the cathedral. Doesn’t it look like you are in the forest?

But, I think the most interesting thing of all about this cathedral is that it is not finished yet. When you go inside, you are confronted with huge layers of scaffolding and can see the architects at work. Gaudi began to build this cathedral more than 100 years ago, and after his death, another architect took over the monumental task of completing it. The architects hope to have it completed by 2020, but I think most people are a bit skeptical of that. 


On Saturday night, I met up with C. (who was elated because his basketball team had won all three of their games and they were going to play in the finals on Sunday) and some of our friends for another tapas dinner and off to another part of town (along the ocean) to go to another nightclub. We didn’t get home again until about 4 am (I don’t know how the Spanish do it! Well, what they do is take a siesta every afternoon…no wonder they can stay up so late!) and had to be awake at 9 am for the basketball finals. 

img_2256I went with C. to the finals and unfortunately, his team did not win. But they clearly had a lot of  fun and clinched the 3rd place position in the tournament. You can see a photo of C. and his team after their last game to the left. 

Although it was sad to see them lose, their loss actually gave C. and I more time to spend touring Barcelona on Sunday. If they had won the game, they’d have to play another game later that day. 

img_2265So after C. showered, we jumped in a cab and started visiting the city together. First, we went to Gaudi’s Park Guell. Now a beautiful Barcelona park, the land was first intended to be a large planned community designed by Gaudi. Unfortunately, the financiers ran out of money and couldn’t complete the planned community. What remains, though, is a beautiful park filled with gorgeous tile mosaics and uniquely created pathways. I have posted some of our favorite photos of the park to the left and below.




















































Then, after visiting the park where it (luckily) didn’t rain, we visited another of Gaudi’s great works of architecture…Casa Battio. In addition to building cathedrals and parks, Gaudi was also commissioned by wealthy Barcelona residents to construct their houses in his style. The most famous, and flamboyant, of these houses is called the Casa Battio. C. and I loved listening to the audioguide tell us about how Gaudi constructed each room. We took a ton of photos, but I have chosen a few to show you below. The only unfortunate thing is that the photos cannot do the house justice. It is a whimsical building without one straigt line. Gaudi built the house in this manner on purpose to make the person inside feel as if they are under water.



The front of the house from the outside.













The stained glass in the dining room. Notice how all the walls are curved, no straight lines.











The roof of the house. Gaudi paid attention to every detail of the house. For example, instead of just having chimneys come from the top of the house (a major eyesore), he built around the chimneys and made this beautiful tiled structure. 





We ended our weekend in Barcelona by going out to a great paella restaurant by the water. The paella, octopus, and spanish ham we ate were wonderful, and the meal was a great end to an awesome weekend in Spain…despite the rain.



  1. Barcelona looks fabulous. I know Caitlinloved it, and ever since the Olympics were there, I have been curious about it. The Gaudi Park is terrific. Love those mosaics, and the stained glass in the house was so differnet than the stained glass i am used to seeing…..think church windows.
    The woman I co-train with from Alabama is a stainglass artist in her non-social work life, I am going to check with her to see if she knows about his style.
    Seemed like a great weekend………in a great year.
    Enjoy your Mom’s visit.

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