September 27, 2012

I have determined that it’s much better for me to get an early start. When I head out later (as I did yesterday and today), I always feel guilty and unhappy, like I have missed out on one of the best parts of the day. When it comes to taking it easy while traveling, I would much rather do so in the afternoon or evening. More Type-A stuff, I know… I can relax sometimes, I swear.

So I didn’t leave the hostel until noon today, which was frustrating. Then, I arrived at La Sagrada Familia (Gaudí’s famous church) to find a two-hour line at the entrance. Then, I tried to book a skip-the-line tour on my phone, but the internet wasn’t working. Then, I called the company and booked a tour, but I booked the wrong one, and couldn’t get a refund. So I had to wait for two hours anyway and blah blah blah blah blah. It’s interesting that I can find ways to be unhappy, even when it is totally unnecessary. Bleargh.

Things started to look up when I finally got into the cathedral. Wow. I have definitely never seen anything like it. Gaudí started work on La Segrada Familia in 1882 and, though he died in 1926, it is still under construction (with completion slated for 2030).

The cathedral is classic Gaudí — instead of the somber feel evoked by most European churches, this one is bright and modern, with thousands of panes of brightly colored stained glass illuminating the clean white walls. The nave is enormous, and is supported by multi-branched pillars inspired by trees. The whole thing made me smile and stare around and wonder. But what made me grin ever more was the frequent and exuberant use of power tools echoing from every direction. Unique beauty, punctuated by jackhammers.

Later in the afternoon, I visited another Gaudí creation: Park Guëll, a large and fanciful park on the northern hills overlooking the city. It was spitting rain, but I walked around with ice cream anyway, wandering this way and that around the sculpted pillars and mosaic trencadis. I stopped to take my picture with Gaudí’s famous lizard statue and then walked down the hill back to the Metro.

After retrieving my bag from the hostel and picking up some avocadoes, tomatoes, and wine to contribute to tonight’s dinner, I hopped on the train and took it north into the mountains. (I’m Couch Surfing with wonderful people named Aaron and Monica for the next three nights, and they live in a little studio that clings to the side of one of the mountains ringing the city.) Aaron met me at the train station and we trekked uphill to their place (along the way passing an ENORMOUS WILD BOAR).

Aaron and Monica are fantastic. They both studied at Berkeley, but Monica is from Barcelona, so they moved here soon after graduation. Monica is now getting her Masters in Gender Studies while Aaron is teaching English.

The generosity of Couch Surfing hosts is remarkable — though Aaron and Monica have little, they happily open their doors to others. AND THEY HAVE A DOG!!! His name is Bowie, and he’s a Cocker Spaniel.

Over tacos, and then as Aaron and Monica sat on their bed and I sat on my couch, we talked a mile a minute about all sorts of things — traveling, Portland, veganism, living on a shoestring, communal living, Catalunya, language, the Spanish Civil War, Franco, and more. Monica is talkative, and so she and I got along especially well.

When it was time for bed, Bowie curled into the crook of my arm and huffed and puffed his way to sleep. He’s not my dog, but he’ll do for now.