The sun is out. It has not been bright in Madrid for weeks. This is really unusual, Madrid. Last year, I hardly ever heard the sound of rain here. But now I hear it a lot. I have always felt European rain is pretty – a romantic touch. I am grateful for the wide bed I get to write this post from, with a big window, in a blue painted room.
I am drinking this eucalyptus, mint, malva, thyme tea that’s supposed to boost my immune system. I got the flu last week. November was a strange month. I encountered all kinds of bumps on the road, of all sizes. A man dressed in black stole my wallet on the metro. The infamous pickpockets of Europe. This wasn’t a very good one because I felt him do it. I just thought he was weirdly trying to touch me, so I took a tiny step to the side instead of a more bold reaction. I should have been very bold, but I played the polite card…with my thief. He only stole every document on me except my passport, but hey, at least I got the least evil of all evils going around these days.
Despite misfortune, there were some really good days: a day trip to Toledo, and a weekend getaway to Barcelona. I had been to Toledo 3 times before (I danced. And then I replied “YES!” ) and to Barcelona…I lost count (Day 2: happiness). These are by far my two favorite cities in Spain, though I find it unfair to choose. What I love about these places is that I always want to return. This month, I visited places I had truly missed out on my previews times, and I could not wait to go there!
On the daytrip to Toledo, my friends and I visited the Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz. Being Spain’s old capital, and a city for the major religions, I had it on my list to go back to Toledo for this ancient mosque, which dates back to the 300’s, and was at some point used as a church. Each time I visit Toledo, I get a completely different experience of this city. Each time I visit, I am with different people, and the overall reaction to the city changes. The one acitivity that’s become my tradition there is going to “La Malquerida de la Trinidad” next to the cathedral for a classic mojito and tempura vegetables. This restaurant never fails to satisfy, and the ambiance is lovely. But the mosque in Toledo is now my favorite attraction. It’s got the most peaceful view. The kind of place where you get an epiphany while you write a postcard to your lover overseas.
The following weekend I escaped to Barcelona! I strolled down the beach again, and explored the hipster El Born neighborhood.
Old buildings, pops of color, artsy cafés, and a Friday-night ambiance are all found in El Born. If you know Madrid, this would be the equivalent of Malasaña neighborhood. I cannot choose which one I like more. But the one big thing that brought me back to the heart of Barcelona was Las Sagrada Familia. Twice before, I had sat in a café, overlooking the outside, surrounding it, and zooming in my camera on the intricate façade (Day 3: freedom and choice). I returned to Barcelona with a Sagrada Familia ticket* in my purse (this could save you one hour or more!).
After visiting Barcelona a few times, I have become fond of Antoni Gaudí’s work, who designed La Sagrada Familia. Religion aside, this basílica is a true masterpiece. Its contruction began in the 1800’s, and if it is still unsual and innovative, I cannot imagine what it was like back then. I was very moved. Its details are endless. The colors are vibrant. The light is captivating. It is a shame that the construction noise, and the massive crowd is part of the visit, but it’s the best building I have ever been in! I have never been so moved by a man-made sight. Although, now that I write that, I take it back. Because going through the memory, I now see that it was not the actual structure that was so moving. It was the light. This building showcases sunlight like no stainedglass window has. Gaudí was a big fan of light (according to a documentary they were showing that day), and he was deliberate in his choices with sunlight.
There hasn’t been much light in Madrid lately, and my mood’s been mostly low. With difficult decisions in the making, and newly added concerns to my life in Spain, the light in La Sagrada Familia gave me hope. I am glad I was in “darkness” when I finally made it inside La Sagrada Familia . I am glad for the challenges that have kept me on my toes. I am glad for stainedglass windows. And wide open views.
*To purchase your ticket to La Sagrada Familia, click https://www.tiqets.com/en/barcelona-c66342/sagrada-familia-priority-entrance-p918256?gclid=CjwKEAiAjvrBBRDxm_nRusW3q1QSJAAzRI1tMtC8eUkxZEEMjcHEAt-3eUdJ2evT4Ile51rqO2pS9RoC_GDw_wcB