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Europalooza Trip Report Part 12: mosaics, stained glass, and Telepizza

on June 7, 2019

We had a great night’s rest at our Barcelona hotel.  Another great thing about it besides the beds?  Free Breakfast!  We were needing some fuel to set us up for our day, which included several of Barcelona’s biggest tourist/cultural attractions.  A Gaudí extravaganza was planned, including glimpses of La Pedrera and Casa Batllo, a wander around Parc Güell, and an exploration of La Sagrada Familia.  Would curvy houses, nontraditional parks, and an unfinished church hold the kids’ attention?  Maybe.  But first, FOOD.  

Let’s check out this hotel breakfast.  The beds were so comfortable that the kids wanted to stay snuggled up watching TV, so DH and I went down to vet the spread.  It was awesome: all kinds of breads including buttery croissants, proteins like manchego cheese, ham, & hard-boiled eggs, cereal/oatmeal, yogurt, and even a delicious tortilla española.  The food was regularly refreshed, and the staff monitored the entry to the area carefully, and kept everything clean.

bread

Here’s the WhatsApp pic I sent to DD letting her know they should come down and eat.

After everyone had filled their bellies, we headed out to our first stop: the Passaig de Gràcia and its Illa de la Discòrdia or “Block of Discord.” It was  9:00a.  One pleasant Metro ride later, we emerged onto this beautiful street with the goal of seeing some famously weird buildings.  It was a nice, cool morning.

ruta

After just a few blocks, we reached the lesser-known Casa Amatller, and next to it, Casa Batlló.

casas

Amatller (left) was my favorite of these buildings, mostly because it was the most symmetrical and orderly.  It also contains a Hispanic Art History museum.  Batlló (right) is supposed to be undulating, like a dragon.

Nearby, we also took a good look at La Pedrera- Casa Milà.

casas2

They hold events on this wavy rooftop all summer!

Having seen these structures, but not entered, it was time to continue with our day.  We had worked out how to get up the hill to Parc Güell on transit.  But before we left the area, DH and I saw another Casa that we were interested in: Casa del Llibre, or House of Books.

candace heart eyes

Since it was still fairly early in the morning, the store was practically empty.  DS headed straight for the kids’ section, and more specifically, the educational books section.  He is a total math nerd, and selected this red book to come home with us- it’s full of great facts and explanations, in English and Spanish.  DD also spotted something fun- a “planner for witches bitches.”  It’s got sarcastic stickers, little dark-humor comics, and the usual planner items.

As we exited the  store, DD pulled me aside and told me that she and DS had been talking in the hotel room while DH and I checked out the breakfast.  She said that they both wished we could do a Hop-On Hop-Off tour in Barcelona like we had done in London.  Serendipitously, we were right in front of a tourist bus stop.  I told DD that the adults needed to chat, so she and DS sat on a bench and checked out their new books.

DH and I discussed the possibility.  I grabbed a tour bus pamphlet from the bus stop.  Our questions were about routes and cost.  Bummer: the ticket was only good for that calendar day, not 24 hours like the London one had been (which ultimately allowed us to use it the next day after getting lost near King’s Cross).  The route was good for us- we could get on the next bus at the Gracia stop, and head toward the Parc without switching routes.  And later, after visiting the church, we could catch the bus back toward the hotel.  Finally, at a cost of approx $115 for the 4 of us, it was a pricey way to get around town- but we’d be asking the kids to be patient during some of DH’s friend reunions and so wanted to reward them, and we had stayed under budget in Paris and Sevilla so we had some wiggle room.

We went for it.  The bus came by, and we bought tickets right on board.  We headed up to the top level seats, and the kids were so happy!  I couldn’t tell you whether we went north, south, east, or west, but we made some sort of circuit, passing Sagrada Familia along the way.  The sight of it elicited another “wow” from DD.  DS just looked at it with a perplexed expression- I can’t imagine what he was thinking.

Anyway, it was breezy up there!

windy bus

DD’s hair was flying!  And DS was all cuddled into her.

But eventually we got the Parc stop.  We disembarked, and then…had no idea where to go.  We knew we needed to travel uphill, so DH led the way to a side street and we began our long trek up the Parc. It felt like forever, but it took less than 20 minutes.  When we arrived, I found a restroom right away.  I was pleased to see that it was relatively clean.  While in the stall, I heard people complaining about being turned away at the gate.  I groped around in my purse for our preprinted tickets that I had tucked in there, and felt grateful.

In October 2013, a charge was introduced to enter what is called the Monumental Zone– essentially, the most famous parts of the Parc, and a world heritage site.  That includes the main entrance, the serpentine terrace, and the parts containing the mosaics.  Before the trip, I wasn’t sure we should reserve the entry in advance.  My husband and I talked about it, and he uttered one of my own travel adages…”better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.”  I think I hesitated initially because it was yet another tourist entry fee, and I had purchased so many tickets from home that my credit card was practically smoking.  Plus, there was some restoration going on, which reduced the area one could access.  This was all disclosed on the ticket purchase page, though I noticed they hadn’t reduced the fee accordingly.  Well, purchase the entries from the USA we did, and when I exited the restroom in Spain, I saw a large sign that had been posted at the entrance saying that the only people allowed into the Monumental Zone were those with advance tickets.  No tickets were being sold for the rest of the day.  And it was only 11:30a!

So, I was all ready to be blown away by the mosaic work, interesting structures, and general atmosphere.  We got into the timed-entry line, and were quickly scanned/checked in.  From there we generally followed the crowds.  DH was once again our guide, and gave us some fun tidbits of information to chew on.

guell1

Taken from the serpentine terrace, looking out toward the Mediterranean.  You can see the construction cranes of the Sagrada Familia on the middle left there.

As we passed these colonnades, I provided a tidbit of my own.  I recalled an old season finale of America’s Next Top Model that had used them as a runway.

DH was going on about cultural patrimony, Modernisme, and the life of Gaudí, and I contributed this essential fact, lol.

I think we wandered around the area for at least an hour.  DS was wondering where the playground was, having heard we were going to a “park.”  Today’s attractions were definitely more for adult tastes, sorry buddy!  I loved the Hall of Columns and many of the mosaics.  Finally, there was no missing the iconic, gingerbread house-looking Casa del Guarda.  The similar-looking house across from it contained the gift and book shop.  A magnet and some other little gifts later, we were ready for lunch!

guell2

guell3

We walked a bit downhill to the main street, the Travessera de Dalt, and walked for about 5 minutes until we reached Bracafé.  It seemed like a good place for a meal.  And it was!  DS had a pretty tasty personal pizza, while DD chose a bocadilla, or sandwich.  DH and I both chose pasta dishes- mine was with different kinds of mushrooms.  Delicious!  It really hit the spot.  DH went to pay, and realized he couldn’t find one of his credit cards.  After a thorough search of all our bags/wallets, we concluded it must have been left behind in the room.  We resolved to look into it further once at the hotel later.

After eating, we decided to hop back on the tourist bus to get down to Basílica de la Sagrada Família.  But when we got to the stop, we realized that we might miss our timed entry into the church if the bus was delayed even a little bit, due to its circuitous route.  DH said we could walk, and it was all downhill, so we did.  I loved this walk, because they were truly local streets.  We passed neighborhood markets, school soccer fields, and post offices.  It took about 20-25 minutes, and we made it to the church right on time.

The security around here was FIERCE, with armed police surrounding the structure on all sides.  Once our tickets were scanned, we were allowed to get into the security line.  It was airport-style, with metal detectors and everything.  But it was all worth it.  Stunning.

sagrada1

First view of the Passion Façade.

 

There was a small roped-off area in the center facing the altar.  It was reserved for people wanting a quiet place to worship.  I told DH I needed a minute, and went in to have a seat/kneel.  See, in the few months leading up to the trip, my aunt, who was in her late 80s, had been having some serious health complications.  I knew how much my dad and my mom (her younger sister) were doing to help her get better, practically living in the hospital with her.  I couldn’t do much from afar, but I sat in that huge church and asked for my aunt to be at peace, whatever that might mean.  After a little while, DH joined me, as the kids were sitting quietly on a side bench reading their new books.  We sat in respectful silence, and it was a nice moment.

A little while later, after watching all the video information screens and reading many of the informative plaques, we decided we were good to go.  Crazy to think that there might actually be a day in my lifetime when this place will be complete- it’s been under construction since 1882!  It was about time to meet up with another of DH’s friends from back in the day.  We headed outside to find them, and DH’s friend spotted him first, with a loud cheer.  After introductions all around, we headed to a nearby outdoor cafe for a drink and chat.  It was a nice time, slightly marred by the smokers at the table next to us.  I have a very sensitive nose, and they were just chainsmoking the early evening away.  But the trade off was that I gained some new friends 🙂

After the reunion ended, we walked the few blocks back to Sagrada and hopped back onto the tourist bus.  We took a very long ride back to the hotel, doing nearly the full route to a) get our money’s worth, and b) pass attractions we wouldn’t get to on this trip, like Camp Nou (stadium of Barcelona’s famous soccer team).  It was well after 5p by this point, and very dark.  It also got so cold and windy that we had to come inside from the top deck of the bus.

We got to the hotel area and then grabbed the local Metro.  Once we were in the room, our first priority was finding that credit card.  No luck.  We retraced our steps, and DH thought he might have left it at El Pibe the night before.  I decided to log into our account online to check what the last charge was.  I had trouble, due to slow/spotty internet and needing to reset my password.  In the meantime, DH found the number of the restaurant and called.  They confirmed a card had been left there, but needed him to come in and present ID to retrieve it- fair enough.

He walked the couple of blocks and successfully picked up his card.  A few minutes before he returned to the hotel room, I was able to access the online account and confirm no fraudulent pending/posted charges.  None ever materialized, by the way- lucky!  But while I had my email open, a message from my mom came through suggesting that we book a hotel for the 2 nights we would spend in NJ.  A Fairfield Inn was built very close to my parents’ place in NJ, with reasonable rates.  I remembered an email from Marriott (now Bonvoy) offering bonus points for stays of 2 nights or more.  I quickly registered for the promo, then a few clicks later, I had booked the hotel, making sure to use my Marriott (also formerly SPG) number for stay credit.

That done, it was time to decide on dinner.  Brief story: our family had spent a few days in Madrid in 2010.  One of those evenings, we ordered Telepizza to our hotel room, and unanimously declared it the worst pizza we’d ever attempted to consume.  Cold.  Rubbery. Tasteless cheese.  A revolting mixture of barbecue sauce and tomato sauce- ugh.  Since that fateful day, the word Telepizza has become our go-to phrase for crappy food.

source

So this night, DD had found a Telepizza menu in the hotel room, and started lobbying to order from there.  DH and I balked- how could we possibly assume that it had improved?  It had a known record with us for being absolutely terrible.  She was laughing and saying we needed to give it a chance, as the menu had expanded to include salads, appetizers, and other things besides pizza.  She begged, and got DS in on it- he had to try it at some point, she argued.  DH and I still resisted, not wanting to spend money to suffer and still be hungry.  The kids danced around and finally convinced us.

So we ordered.  On the phone, DH specified at least twice that we wanted to pay by credit card (we were low on paper Euros), and they said they would send the Square-type payment device with the delivery guy.  I got a chicken burger and mozzarella sticks, DS got a burger with fries, DD got chicken wings, and DH got a pasta dish.

I’ll give it to you straight.  We waited nearly an hour, the delivery guy came without the card-payment device and had to give us the food, leave, and come back later so we could pay him, and the food WAS WORSE THAN THE FIRST TIME.

boo-boo-boooooo

All we could do was laugh.  Now DS had his own awful Telepizza experience, and we vowed never to eat it again.  We ate as much as we could, and raided some of our snacks, but I went to bed slightly hungry, lol.

The next day was our last full day in Europe, and I’m sure we’d find something yummy to make up for this dinner disaster.  The Boqueria awaits!

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2 responses to “Europalooza Trip Report Part 12: mosaics, stained glass, and Telepizza

  1. gina says:

    Beautiful memories for your family!!! Thank you for your prayers at the church.

    Like

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