Sometimes the best fun when you’re traveling is the random, unplanned fun.
On our first day, we saw from our apartment what looked like a castle on a hill. “That’s a church,” our host’s sister told us. “And an amusement park.”
Huh? At first I thought maybe her English was off, but of course she was right. Our apartment wasn’t far from the foot of Mount Tibidabo, home of Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor —
— and an amusement park. Of course we had to visit.
Part of the fun was taking a funicular up the mountain (although the whole ride one woman decided to stand and face us, and on my other side, another woman kept getting up and looking anxiously around, for what I don’t know). The church itself was, well, a church. We didn’t go to the top since that was another five euros on top of the park admission. The view from the park itself was amazing enough:
In my old age, I’ve become scared of heights, but I still rode this fucking thing. I kept my eyes closed and hung on for dear life most of the time, but I still rode it. We also visited the haunted house, what they call Hotel Krueger, although it was nothing like a hotel. The line was hella long, and people would sometimes burst out screaming and running.
So was it scary? Kind of. It was more about the anticipation of someone jumping out at you (there was no physical contact, thank goodness). One guy in our group was like the canary in the coal mine: he’d jump or scream, and then we’d see the scary thing.
The only thing that really startled me was the little person. There were two oversized dolls, but it turned out one wasn’t a doll, and he casually jumped down from the shelf and started following us. Eek!
We also rode the log flume (the first drop wasn’t bad but the second one, I ended up hanging onto my friend for dear life) and the “Russian mountain” roller coaster (see more about the language of roller coasters). That was scary but fun.
Not the biggest aquarium I’ve seen, but still a nice time. The highlight was definitely the penguin feeding and watching the penguins swim back and forth. At the same time I worried that they didn’t have a big enough pool to swim in.
We kept seeing this phallic-shaped building from a distance and finally one day went to see it up close and personal.
Formerly known as Torre Agbar (Agbar is the name of the company that once owned it), it’s 38 stories high and was purchased by another company just this year and renamed after the nearby square. Its nicknames include “the suppository” and “penis-building.”
I didn’t go to the beach during our first visit so I felt compelled to do so this time around. While I’m not a fan of the sun — I basically turn into one big freckle — I had a lovely time.
It helped that we went to a gay nude beach. While they were plenty of in-the-buff dudes and a few heterosexual couples, there were no kids, which meant peace and quiet. I didn’t get naked but I did get in the water. Here’s evidence:
The Mediterranean is very salty. Who knew? (Lots of people probably.)
Besides getting a good dunk and reading, I also had an aperol spritz, which knocked me right out. I fell asleep for a good 20 minutes.
Gigantes y cabezudos
Our second weekend happened to fall on La Merce, a big annual festival honoring the Virgin of Grace, the patron saint of the archdiocese of Barcelona. One of the festival’s features are gigantes y cabezudos, which translates as “giants and bigheads.” Made of papier mache, a gigante is kind of a cross between a costume, a puppet, and your worst nightmare.
We saw a couple in action on Las Ramblas, and after that I was obsessed. Just by chance one day we passed this place, which has a whole bunch of gigantes on display in their courtyard.
During the festival, we saw the gigantes dancing around again, and I visited the Basilica de Santa Maria del Pi, where the oldest ones are kept in a glass case. Unfortunately because of said case, it was hard to get a good picture.
Walking around, neither of us could resist taking pics of the great graffiti.
Here are some of my favorites:
Want more Barcelona? Check out my posts on museums and eats and drinks.