Awestruck – Elizabeth explores the Sagrada Familia Cathedral

Elizabeth J. is studying with API during the spring 2011 term in the International Studies Program at the University Autonoma of Barcelona.

Sagrada Familia Exterior

This morning I woke up at 6:45 to get to La Sagrada Familia early. Every Saturday in January is free entrance into the Church. It was still pitch black out when Julie, my roommate Molly, and I left to meet our other friend Hillary at a café across from the metro stop down the street from us. The café, along with everything else, was still closed at 7:30am so we just headed into the metro. We got some café Americano and pastries at a place in the metro and hopped on the purple line to the Sagrada Familia stop. It was 8am by the time we got to the Sagrada Familia and the line wound almost all the way around the entire Church. Surprisingly, we only had to wait about a half hour before the line started moving. By that time, there was a second line that looped twice around the perimeter of the Church before entering. There were hundreds of people there and I thought fights were going to break out because some of the people in the line that looped around the Church were trying to get into our line. People were yelling “LA COLA! LA COLA!” (cola means line) and pointing. It was insane!

Sagrada Familia Interior

Words cannot describe the inside of the Sagrada Familia. The rows and rows of stone columns resembled a forest with light spilling in from intricate stained glass windows. I was craning my neck for about an hour trying to take in every single detail I could. The church is MASSIVE, with the capacity to hold 8,000 people and with 4,500 square meters of surface area. The longer we stayed inside the church, the more and more people came rushing in and soon it was PACKED. The altar was amazing and as we walked around it, we saw down into the crypt of the church where they were holding mass. I definitely hope to go to mass there during my time here in Barcelona. Julie, Molly and I left the church at the Passion façade. This entrance depicts scenes of Jesus’ last few days of his life leading up to his crucifixion and ascendance into heaven. The figures in these scenes are amazingly detailed and almost nightmarish. After seeing La Sagrada Familia and the facades of Casa Batllo y Casa Mila (on our street Passeig de Gracia), I have noticed a pattern in Gaudi’s work. The heads of his figures seem to be wearing pointy helmets/masks with devilish looking eyes. They are REALLY cool! I took a few pictures of them and I think I may be going inside Casa Batllo y Casa Mila this week so I will be sure to take more pictures. The three of us decided to take one more lap around the outside of the church before heading home. By this point, there were at least a thousand people crowded outside the church waiting to get in. You couldn’t even tell where the line started or ended, it was just one sea of people waiting to experience Gaudi’s masterpiece. I think it was well worth it and plan on going back a few times because I want to go up into the spires (“the passion lift” is the elevator that takes you up and it is only 2.5 euros!).

Passion Lift

We fought our way across the street to Plaza Gaudi where there is a little pond and you can get a clear picture of one entire side of the church (people thought we were cutting the line, it was terrifying!). We saw people playing bocce, which of course made me think of Senor y Senora Cruz! Maybe we can play when you guys come visit!

Sagrada Familia

It is hard to explain the emotions that La Sagrada Familia evoked within me. I felt in awe of its grandeur and grateful that I was lucky enough to witness it first hand but at the same time confused about the meaning of everything and almost sad because of how beautiful it is. It is odd because I have never felt any of these emotions at any of the other famous churches or temples I have been to. I think that being on my own has made me become more reflective about the things I am experiencing because I don’t have anyone planning my entire schedule; everything is up to me. I didn’t HAVE to wake up at 6:45am to get on the metro to wait in line at the Sagrada Familia, but I wanted to. I am beginning to see why so many people have told me that studying abroad is the best time of your life because you are in control. It is your responsibility to decide what is important to you and what you want to see and what you want to learn. It is disheartening to see the kids who clearly study abroad so they can go to clubs and bars and party their way through a semester of college in another country. But ultimately, I know what I plan on getting out of this experience and I am confident that I will gain even more independence and insight about the world around me in these next three months. I am not going to waste a minute and will not take anything for granted.

After taking a few hundred more pictures of the outside of the church, we decided to find our way home on foot. We discovered that we are only about a twenty-five minute walk from the Sagrada Familia. On the way home, I GOT THE BEST CHURRO I HAVE EVER HAD IN MY ENTIRE LIFE!! I was speechless it was so delicious. It was filled with chocolate and I took a picture of the place so I can go back. We walked along Traverseria de Gracia, another beautiful street that runs perpendicular to Passieg de Gracia, which is right around the corner from our flat. I had some leftover pasta with tomatoes and garlic that I had made for dinner the night before and then rested a little bit.

Best Churro Ever?!

At around two o’clock, our friend Hillary came over to go to Parc Guell with Julie, Molly, and I. I brought my camera this time! We went to The Three Crosses and it was AMAZING. You can see all of Parc Guell from up there along with the entire city. I was a LITTLE scared because of how high up we were so I had to sit down. After The Three Crosses, we showed Hillary and Molly the rest of the park that we had seen on our run the other day (Gaudi’s house, the aqueducts, and the ceramic tile benches- I learned the word for the broken ceramics in Spanish, “quebradizo”). There are a lot of jewelry vendors in Parc Guell selling hand-crafted necklaces, rings and bracelets. One of the vendors taught me a better word to use to say something is beautiful (I said “bonita”), it is “lindisima” so I will be using that A LOT. I have been carrying a little notebook with me writing down phrases that I learn and a few Catalan sayings I want to try using.

Enjoying Park Guell

We explored the park some more and walked around talking before heading back home. I was SO hungry when we got back because our short run turned into a three-hour exploration! There is an AMAZING Argentinean cuisine place literally RIGHT outside of our door so I decided to try one of their empanadas. Every time I come home, I walk by their food display and instantly start salivating at all of the empanadas, desserts, baguettes, etc. I got an empanada de pollo and it was SO GOOD. Only 1.60 euro! And, they have a lunch special where you can get a drink, empanada, and slice of pizza for 4 euro! That sounds right up my alley. My friend Hillary got a slice of spinach pie that was also AMAZING. After my snack, I hung out for a while and unwound. It’s amazing how much time I end up spending on my computer each day. I feel like eventually I am going to need to shut it down and just put it out of sight for a few hours each day.

That night, some friends and I went to the Dow Jones Bar (crossed that off my bucket list!!). It was fun! It was really packed at first but the décor was really cool. They had a huge statue of liberty, “Wall Street” street signs, pictures of the New York Stock Exchange, signs explaining the history of the stock market, and then all of the drinks were treated as stocks. Certain drinks’ prices would start falling and people would buy them and then other prices would rise randomly. It was definitely a cool experience but Julie, Hillary, and I were EXHAUSTED especially from being up the entire day at the Sagrada Familia and then trekking around Parc Guell. We walked back to me and Julie’s flat and on the way, got these really good pizzas on baguettes at this 24-hour market right near my street. I naturally got the pizza con jamon and it was really good. Definitely beats Domino’s or La Piazza in Amherst…

I will end this post with an extension of one of the lessons I was saying I have learned so far during my abroad experience that Julie, Hillary and I were talking about. It is so important to recognize that you are here to learn and grow as a person and to realize that this is YOUR individual experience, no one else’s. You need to do the things that are going to make you happy but at the same time not shy away from experiences that may be outside of your comfort zone. Having an open mind is crucial in this experience while also not letting other people affect what you want to get out of your time here.

I hope you guys are enjoying reading these posts! Bon a noche a todos!! (Goodnight in Catalan!)

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  1. It’s amazing to think about how long they have been building the Sagrada, and it’s still not finished! I really hope to see it in all its glory in my lifetime..

    Stay inspired!

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