The vacation is over. Now we try out the Spanish lifestyle.

We are now in Alicante, Spain, where it’s nice and warm. No jacket required here! Our “vacation,” traveling through the UK and spending time in Barcelona, is finished. We have moved into our temporary quarters at Calle Mayor, 43, first floor, apartment 1. We are in the Casco Antiguo, or Old Town, with narrow cobblestone streets and very old buildings. Our apartment, however, is modern and cozy. More on that later.

First, a bit about Barcelona, since this is partly a travel blog. We visited the Gothic Quarter and walked down the famous Rambla. Some of the shops and restaurants are for locals, while some are just there to take the tourists’ money. Fascinating to see the stalls in the Mercat de Saint Josep de la Boqueria. You can buy candies, pastries, seafood and the Spanish “jamon iberico,” the thinly sliced cured ham that comes only from black Iberian pigs. Sabroso!

But the highlight of any trip to Barcelona is seeing Sagrada Familia. This is the cathedral designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. Construction began in the late 1800s and continues today. You can see construction cranes in any photo you take of this building. The authorities say they expect completion in 2026.

It’s unlike any church or cathedral anywhere. You’ve probably seen photos of the soaring spires, the crazy architecture and the modern statues depicting the life of Christ. img_1240But your jaw drops when you go into the basilica and look up.

Gaudi designed the stained glass windows differently for the east and west sides of the basilica. On the east side, struck by the morning sun, he used blues and greens. Cool colors. On the west side, he went with warm colors of red, yellow, orange. The difference is stunning.

We were there about 3:30 p.m. The sun coming in those west windows was dazzling. So bright I could not get a good photo. Here are the east windows.img_1252


Heavily influenced by nature, Gaudi designed the supporting pillars in the center of the church to look like trees. You can see how the branches spread out as they approach the ceiling. Yes, I did get a little dizzy looking up, but you have to look up!img_1253

Then there are the statues on the two main facades. They are stark and modernistic. The photo below shows Christ on the cross, but looking up toward Heaven, not down as in most crucifixes. Below that are Roman soldiers, but they appear to be wearing midaeval style armor. On either side of this sculpture are statues of Judas, who betrayed Jesus, and Peter, who denied Him. This facade is all about Christ’s death. The opposite facade is about the Nativity.img_1275

Barcelona practically worships Antoni Gaudi. You can see more of his buildings throughout the city. His unfinished cathedral draws millions of tourists, and his style is now Barcelona’s style. Meanwhile, the English word “gaudy” means something that does not look stylish at all.

When Gaudi died in 1926 in a tram accident, thousands attended his funeral. He is buried in the crypt section of his cathedral. He saw the structure as his gift to God.He once responded to a critic who thought the work was taking too long, saying, “My client is not in a hurry.”

The crypt, below the main level, is actually the only place were services are held. There is an altar set up there, and priests say mass daily. There is also a small chapel behind the nave set aside for prayer. Leslie and I spent some time there, and it was awesome.