It’s been a long time since my only other visit to Spain. Aboard the nonsmoking section of the transatlantic flight, I was psyched up with a Walkman loaded with a tediously composed mixed tape (featuring then-new Jewel’s “You Were Meant for Me” and Matchbox 20’s “Push”) and at least a dozen rolls of film in my backpack.
Spain and I have changed a lot since my days as a high school freshman. It joined the EU, changing its currency from the peseta to the euro; and along the way I turned out to be an experienced but still enthusiastic traveler. On my first visit Barcelona had captivated me, defined as it was (and is) by the colorful architecture of Gaudí melting throughout the city.
And as many of Barcelona’s citizens – and apparently now outside political groups – fight to get a say on whether Catalan should separate from Spain (strangely reminiscent of the timing of our trip to Scotland two years ago not long before their vote), I was once again enchanted by the color spectrum of this unique place.
Most overwhelming of all remains La Sagrada Familia, the church designed by Gaudí (relatively new by European standards), whose construction has continued to progress over the nineteen years between my visits but is still ongoing. The goal is to have it completed in 2026 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Gaudí’s death.
Every element of La Sagrada Familia is deliberate, from the contrasting styles of its birth and death facades to the styles and shapes of its many turrets. But nothing is more arresting than its channeling of light and color inside. The pale interior is completely transformed through the stained glass windows in a way I’ve never experienced before – the colored light visits the space like a welcome guest itself and makes the human visitor feel somehow both astounded and at home. Conversely, the more decorative altar areas are bathed in unfiltered natural light. And sight is really the only sense to use here, as there are none of the typical church incense smells to distract from the visual effect.
Farther away, the city never seems to tire of surrounding its residents and visitors with color. The Boqueria market was my second favorite place to soak in Barcelona’s cultural riches. A rainbow of fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, nuts, spices, and sweets literally encircle the center of fish (except after the fisherman’s Sunday off when those stands are closed).
As you might imagine, the rest of the trip was filled once again with late night tapas and sangria, gritty subway rides, and sunny afternoons in the park. Each night it rained but cleared up by morning, and it’s refreshing to know that after all this time Barcelona still flourishes somewhere over the rainbow.