So still recovering from the ridiculously reasonably priced drinks of Ryan's, we students desperate for knowledge and hungry for enlightenment dragged ourselves downstairs to sit around the kitchen. I ate my cornflakes with UHT milk. If I was to pick the bit about travelling in hot countries I like the least it's the milk and butter. Cheese is great, lovely even, but UHT milk is an abomination to cereals and teas everywhere.
But moving swiftly along...
Sagrada de Familia appears looming from behind you as the ascend the escalator in a feat of startling poor planning that leads to backwards pile-ups at the top as people twist to admire it and trip as they're flung off the end unexpectedly.
This minor mishap aside you stand gazing up, with the dozen of others gazing up and wondered what your eyes should settle on. Then you try to take a few photos but none of them seem to quite get what it's like so you give up and stare some more.
€16 gets an adult inside (€11 if you're a suddenly more than usually impoverished student) and if you can fit it into your budget you should.
Breath-taking fluted columns sweep upwards to an ornate, gold-encrusted ceiling. One of the guys whispers in reverence "it's like the inside of David Bowie's mind" and it is.
The rainbow hued stain-glass windows give the air a strange blue glow except on the side of the church where the stain-glass hasn't been fitted yet and it just slants through the air in white lines. Emily Dickinson filters up from some forgotten corner of my brain.
There's a certain slant of light,
On winter afternoons,
That oppresses, like the weight
Of cathedral tunes.
Heavenly hurt it gives us;
We can find no scar,
But internal difference
Where the meanings are.
None may teach it anything,
'Tis the seal, despair,-
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the air.
When it comes, the landscape listens,
Shadows hold their breath;
When it goes, 't is like the distance
On the look of death
A pipe organ booms away, vibrating in the air, reminding my solemnly that Gaudi died while the Sagrada was in its first leg of being built. He was backing across the road to get a better look when he was hit by a tram. Apparently Gaudi's personal hygeine wasn't the best and the people on the street though he was a tramp so it took a good while for an ambulance to get there and in the meantime he died. A cautionary tale for hair-brushing if there ever was one.
But maybe Gaudi left his soul there, in this his masterpiece, it's so full of organic shapes and flowing lines that it wouldn't be hard to believe it was carved from a kind of living stone.
But it wasn’t until I was hanging around outside this masterpiece waiting for the rest of my group that I noticed the little park across the road. It was there that I appreciated for the first time that the Sagrada was not just some monumental piece of art floating disjointed from the rest of the city but rather part of the urban landscape as much as lake and birds singing and the children playing and stream bouncing over the stones and you could look up through the trees and see it as part of the greater whole, as part of the lives and context of the people around you as they lived and played.
Then we left again and we got the metro over to Park Guell (which is the sunniest of all the city sun traps).
Even the famous lizard and the lovely little water features that go down the steps were distorted by the melee of tourists staring at it through the camera lenses without appreciating it as a thing of real tangible beauty they could touch. A place of rest and peace - in theory.
That was when I met up with two old friends of mine and we went exploring with a falafel lunch in hand.
Despite Sean's crutches and the broken cable cars we made up a ridiculous amount of steps...
To watch the sun go down front the top of Montjuic.
After climbing all those steps it really felt like we’d accomplished something worthwhile for this sunset, like we’d earned it. The evening, dustiness that I adore settled in over Barcelona and we watched and it was something more than just the end to another day. It was a living piece of art that could only be share by us three.
Then we walked back to the Bari Gothic and found a little restaurant called Venus, just up from Ryan's the Irish pub (with the unreasonably reasonably priced cocktails) and I had the first really brilliant meal of the trip.
And the next day I came home.
Barcelona remains one of my favourite places, I would go back there a hundred more times and never bore of its twilights, its surprises around the corners and its disregard for the expectations of others.