Eleven years ago I was studying abroad in Dijon, France, thanks to a big juicy student loan I’d taken out to pay for it, coupled with the knowledge that if I was going to move abroad, doing it via a university program was definitely the best way to go. I was in quaint little Dijon, home of the mustard, for 8 weeks and spent the weekends traveling around Europe – Switzerland, Italy, Amsterdam, and, you know, Paris – and that is how I first found myself in Barcelona. That summer, the long weekend in Spain was full of embracing topless sunbathing on the beach, paying for a cheap scarf and truly horrible sunglasses from a street vendor off of La Rambla, and dancing in nightclubs that my friends and I didn’t even get in to until well past midnight. It was also the first time that someone shouted at me in the street in very accented English “there goes ze baaarbie!” in a super condescending way, but that was a small part of the whole thing.
Our trip to Barcelona in April was different in almost every single way that a trip could be different. But there was one place that I wanted to have another go round with, from the first time. The one thing I did want to do while we were in the city was something I’d missed the last time around, when my meager funds were better spent heading towards the cheapest tapas available and my portion of the gallons of sangria that were being consumed. What was the thing? A trip inside the Sagrada Familia. Paying 25 Euro was definitely not a thing I was willing to do 11 years ago.
However, 2016 Ashley is very very willing to throw 25 Euro at a weird, uncompleted, surrealist old church in Spain, believe you me. So Jon and I booked our tickets online and headed to the amazing church on an early Sunday afternoon while Pete and Tilly headed to the football ground.
This is the only façade that was completed while Gaudi was alive. His death is so ironic and interesting – he was leaving the church in 1926, and wasn’t paying attention to where he was going (which was apparently normal for him) and he was hit by a tram! The trams in Barcelona are completely silent, it’s creepy. Anyway, since he was a notoriously dishevelled man, he wasn’t recognized as THE Gaudi at the hospital, and his rich friends didn’t find out what had happened to him for a few days. By the time they tracked him down and asked the hospital to treat him basically as the rich guy he was, he said that “his place was there with the people” and then he died. Tragic. But also – pay attention when you’re walking, everyone. It’s not that hard to not get hit by a train.
We even paid to go up the completed towers of the church. It was amazing. And terrifying because it’s QUITE high up, you have to walk all the way back down (down narrow spiral stairs) and other people are also trying to walk down.
The light inside is stunning.
The church build is still in progress – it was started in 1882, Gaudi passed away in 1926, and it’s still going. No surprise, it looks very very different from how it looked 11 years ago when I was last there. But apparently it’s supposed to be finished by 2026, so I will definitely plan another trip to Barcelona for that fabled future day. How amazing to see it finished – I hope I can finagle it.