We are in Barcelona, Spain for a brief visit to fulfill a "bucket list" wish of seeing La Sagrada Familia, the church designed by architect Antoni Gaudi.
Our hotel is located in an old side street just off Las Ramblas, a long pedestrian promenade running from Catalonia Square to the waterfront. For centuries Las Ramblas has been a central point of city life and locals and tourists wander - or ramble might be the best word? - day and night up and down its length.
On each side of Las Ramblas are old theatres, shops and eateries. On the other side from our hotel is the entrance to La Boqueria, an open air public market considered one of the best in the world for its food.
The market stands sell a variety of fresh seafood - raw and cooked - and cured pork products such as chorizo sausage. Most prized (and expensive) of all things pork-related is "JamÛn IbÈrico de Bellota", called by many the finest ham in the world. It is made from free-range black Iberian pigs fed on a diet of acorns, which connoisseurs say gives the meat a special flavour.
And there are all kinds of fruit and vegetables, herbs and spices too. If what you seek is edible, you can probably find it here at La Boqueria!
Before tackling the Sagrada, first a restorative stop for "Churros con Chocolate". These are deep-fried coils of dough (very similar to the dough used for eclairs and profiteroles) that are snipped into pieces and dunked into cups of the toothpaste-thick Spanish hot chocolate. They are most popular at breakfast time. Take that, cornflakes!
La Sagrada Familia (The Holy Family) church is the most visited monument in Spain. Construction began in 1882 - and is still not finished! The main architect, Antoni Gaudi, died in 1926 when he was hit by a tram. At that time the project was still only a quarter done after 40 years, and work has continued ever since. A succession of architects over the years have been realising Gaudi's vision and adding their own ideas.
The details on the outside are incredible. One could spend days (and some people probably do) just looking at a particular section to notice everything that is contained there.
Inside is a great sense of space and light as visitors look up at the massive pillars rising to the ceiling.
The stained glass windows, a real highlight, have mostly only been installed within the last 20 years.
In late afternoon the setting sun coming through illuminates the windows and lights up the interior.
The plan is for La Sagrada to finally be finished in 2026 - the anniversary of Gaudi's death. Apparently the church is supposed to have eighteen towers. Since only eight are completed so far from the efforts of the last 135 years, looks like there is a lot of work ahead for someone...
It will be a reason (and not the only one) to come back to Barcelona once again!