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Travel Column: Barcelona and Madrid, Spain
One of the hardest things to do is leave a country that you already fell in love with. The culture, the beautiful language, the weather, the environment, the food, the scenery of it. Everything.
Every person in high school takes a language whether it is Spanish, French, Italian, etc. It has been a dream of many, and mine, to visit the native speaking country newly learned language and try to communicate with the natives, see the historic landmarks, and try the delicious food. Those who are fortunate to visit the countries are amazed and awed by the country’s magnificent beauty and culture, including me.
The weather is usually crazy, sometimes raining, sometimes shining, other times cold, other times hot. The scenic view was wonderful to enjoy while walking around the city, with no plan on where to go. While walking around, hearing the beautiful language of Spanish is so melodic and perfect that it is music to your ears. One of the most famous places in Barcelona is called Las Ramblas. It is an avenue in Barcelona that is filled with amusements of mimes, flower shops, little local stores, bird stores, street musicians and of course, many tourists and locals crowding up the avenue taking a stroll. According to avewioncities.com, the Rambla was originally a small stream flowing just outside the city walls. In the 16th century convents and a university were built along the river. In the 19th century the city wall was torn down and buildings were erected along the now dried up river. The original buildings were demolished but they are remembered in some of the names of the five different parts of the Rambla. Even though it is one continuous street, the Rambla actually consists of five “Ramblas”. That's why the street is also called Las Ramblas (Spanish) or Les Rambles (Catalan). Being a musician myself, the flowing melody of Spanish music was an enjoyment. The mimes were hilarious in the way they look so realistic and how they acted towards the crowd. Odd as it sounds, they completely made my day. Then, we took the bus to Sagrada Familia to see the famous church.
In the Sagrada Família area, there were thousands and thousands of people. Of course there were many coach buses trying to jam up the streets while tourists are trying to take a picture but nonetheless is was definitely a place worth to visit. La Sagrada Família is a magnificent sight to see with its original and unique structure. Totally breath taking. This church was originally created by the Catalan publisher Joseph Bocabella as an apologetic work for the city's revolutionary ideas. The church is oddly shaped with spiral columns and pointy tops and to many they don’t understand why it is so weirdly made. But that is why it is so famous. That’s why it is so artistic of Gaudi to design a church like this that makes people wonder. Seeing the unique building makes you know what kind of genius Gaudi is and how he is especially different from the rest of the European artists. Construction for Sagrada Família began in 1882 by architect Francesc de Paula Villar, who proposed a simple church in a traditional neo-Gothic style. Eventually, Antoni Gaudí took over as lead architect in 1884. Gaudí immediately changed the project completely, seizing the opportunity to express his strong religious and nationalist feelings. He worked on it tirelessly for over 40 years.
Although it was worked on constantly, it remained unfinished at Gaudí's death in 1926. When Domènech Sugranyes took over, the construction was interrupted by the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1935. The building remained intact during the war, but in 1936 many of its models and plans were destroyed by Catalan anarchists, who saw the church as a symbol of the conservative religion that had no place in the new Barcelona. Construction began again in the late 1950s and has continued ever since to this day, there are workers still refining the building. The current director, Jordi Bonet Armengol, began using computers for the design and construction process in the 1980s, which has sped up the complicated process. Still, the final stage of Sagrada Família is not progressing much faster than it did under Gaudi. Estimated completion dates range from 2017 to 2026, which is also the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death. It is weird and not surprising that this church is still reconstructing today after 100 years of being worked on but maybe many want the building to be perfect since it means a lot to the original architect and to the people who believe in the religion.
The church is now a museum open to the public and general payment is 5.5 euros, which is about 8 US dollars. Eight of the intended eighteen towers have been built. Twelve of the towers are dedicated to the Twelve Apostles, four are dedicated to evangelists and one for Jesus and one for Mary. The church has three facades, which are also filled with symbolism: the Passion Façade on the west, the Nativity Façade on the east, and the Glory Façade on the south. Each façade has three portals representing the virtues of Faith, Hope and Love. The Passion Façade is dedicated to the suffering and death of Christ, is nearly complete. The Nativity Façade supports the birth of Christ, and shows most of Gaudi’s influence and the Glory Façade is dedicated to the Glory of Jesus. Spain is a very Catholic country where their religion means everything to them and they dedicate many of their churches and attractions to their savior. Being religious myself and understanding how much this church means to the natives, the work and effort the workers put in shows a lot of determination and pride. Although there are many other places in Barcelona that one can visit, one must also visit the city of Madrid.
Madrid, the capital city of Spain is also a beautiful place. It takes about 3 hours to get from Barcelona to Madrid by train. It is easy to navigate around the train station with simple signs to direct you where to go. The train is very comfortable with clean bathrooms and a fantastic view when traveling. Transferring from Barcelona to Madrid is quite a difference in that Barcelona seems more like a suburban area while Madrid is more city like, being the capital of Spain.
One of the hotels that are 10 minutes away from the Madrid Barajas Airport though is the Novotel Madrid Puente de La Paz. Novotel is a French brand name hotel that has 395 hotels and resorts in 60 countries including one in New York City. This particular hotel features 240 rooms, an outdoor swimming pool, a restaurant, a bar, six meeting rooms and parking. It is said to be “ideal for families” although it only contains one bed and a pull up bed from the couch. It also has fast access to the city center by bus and subway within 20 minutes. The rooms include a huge bathroom and bathtub along with a LCD TV and other accessories for bigger suites. Unfortunately, the view might not always be so nice sometimes just being a barren ground with few areas of vegetation but the comfort of the room is to its highest ability along with free Wi-Fi in the room. The bathroom is indescribable with its vast bathtub and large sinks and mirrors, unlike my typical, normal size bathroom at home.
One of the most known attractions in Madrid is Palacio Real. According to travelinginspain.com, the palace is actually used but not owned by the King of Spain for state ceremonial activities. The palace was built on the site of a former alcazar that burned down in 1734. It took 26 years to complete.
Palacio Real is rarely used by the royal family, and many of its 3,000 rooms are open to the public. The architects who created the final design of the Royal Palace reflect the taste of the Spanish Bourbons. These talented, Italian men were Giambattista Sacchetti and Francesco Sabatini along with contributions from the Spaniard Ventura Rodríguez. Filippo Juvarra was one of the King’s advisors and had planned the palace to be four times larger, but after his death the project became a little less ambitious. Completed in 1764, the late-baroque Royal Palace was built almost entirely of granite and white Colmenar stone with magnificent gardens surrounding it. Palacio Real includes private apartments of the palace's first resident, Charles III, again decorated by Italians. Other highlights of the palace are the Gasparini Room, the king's dressing room, covered in mosaics and rococo stuccoes by Mattia Gasparini; and the Porcelain Room of the Royal Palace, its walls covered entirely in porcelain reliefs. A later addition to the palace is the State Dining Room, redesigned for King Alfonso XII in 1880 and still used for official banquets. Also in Palacio Real are collections of table porcelain, gold and silver plates and tapestries of King Charles IV. The rooms are gigantic, filled with authentic artifacts and luxurious treasures from Spanish history and are used by the Spanish royalty. Many of the rooms in the palace are so luxurious and royalty like that it makes people jealous like me to think they could never live in such a rich, dream-like place. Outside of Palacio Real is the Real Armería, the royal armory is reached with a separate entrance off the palace courtyard, with a large collection of ceremonial armor, much of it actually worn by Charles V and other Habsburgs. On the other side of the courtyard of the palace, Real Farmacia, the Royal Pharmacy, is one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe.
Another tourist attraction is the Museo Nacional del Prado. The museum contains more than 7,000 European detailed paintings, many from German, French, English, Spanish, Italian and Flemish artists from the 11th-18th centuries. The artwork is painted so realistically that the sight of them all was astonishing. The way European artists spend so much time painting really pays off to their wonderful result. Museo Nacional del Prado is home to numerous amazing masterpieces such as Las Meninas by Velázquez, the two Majas by Goya, Nobleman with his hand on his chest by El Greco, the Garden of Delights by Bosch, and the The Three Graces by Rubens, along with other major collections of drawings, engravings, coins and medals, as well as items of decorative art. The museum’s exhibition area increased by more than 50% in 2007 with the extension designed by Spanish architect Rafael Moneo. The new area includes four rooms for temporary exhibitions, the restored church of Los Jerónimos, an auditorium for storage and workshops of restoration of art. Written in a famous tourist book, there were many paintings that one must see while visiting this museum and my family scavenged all around the museum trying to find these must-seen works of art. It is quite tiring since that there are about 7,600 paintings, 1,000 sculptures, 4,800 prints and 8,200 drawings. It was actually really fun seeing who could try to find the painting first but at the same time exhausting.
Barcelona and Madrid are definitely two of the cities that must be seen when one travels to Spain. There are foreign cities that many people want to see before they die and the beautiful Barcelona and magnificent Madrid are one of them. There are other famous attractions along with trying the famous paella, calmarones bocadillo and seeing other museums and churches. When getting to know Spain and staying there for at least a week sightseeing every known attraction, one will fall in love with the great culture and know that Spain is definitely worth a place to visit.