Smile- You’re in Spain!

Returning to a city for the fourth time may be quite boring to the average traveler, who wants to count off as many cities as possible off their list.  But returning to a city is never dull.  There are always no adventures to be had.  For my 40thbirthday I returned to Barcelona, but I decided to do things differently.

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I always visited the Sagrada Familia from the outside, but never paid the money to enter.  Either funding was limited or it was overbooked.  But this time, it was different.  Words cannot express the beauty that awaited for me inside.  This church is set to be complete by 2026, 100 years after architect’s Antoni Gaudi’s death.  It has been under construction for over 100 years.  Sitting in this church, my mouth was agape. I felt as if this was the first time I noticed art and spirituality merging as one. I couldn’t help but have tears emerge as I sat in one of the pews.  The colors of the stained glass were stunning and awe-inspiring.  It was as if the church was oozing with rainbows or bursting with the vitality of all our chakras being woken up, as the windows gently held various color schemes. I was so immersed by the beauty of this church, that I failed to listen to the accompanying audio guide.  One piece of advice that was offered when I first turned it on, was “You are to have your own experience of Sagrada Familia.” This was true, I turned off the headset. What else did I need to hear here? All I truly needed was to experience this moment, without any influence of what I should look at and notice?  My eyes would land on what is was nudged to see.

Prior to entering the church, I had offered an elder woman 50 cents.  She was just outside the church.  I did not think twice of this, until needing to enter the elevator for the towers.  I was required to put my bags in a locker, and needed either one euro or 50 cents.  I was out of coins as I had just given them away, and would have to leave my space in line, go to the downstairs gift shop in order to get a euro.  A fellow traveler heard this, and offered me 50 cents.  This was my experience of “La Sagrada Familia.”  Kindness from strangers that was unexpectedly reciprocal.

There is so much more I experienced on this trip, and will write in future blog posts.

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It is my last day, I only had several hours to spend before I headed to the airport. Each day included a tour excursion, except today.  I could awake at a leisurely stroll, without an alarm or plan.  The only plans I had needed to be altered, due to the fact the markets and shops were closed on a Sunday.  Why not take a 30 minute walk to the pier?  And that’s what I did…

To feel the sun on my face, drink freshly squeezed orange juice, have a latte waiting, eat a bikini (which is a toasted buttered ham and cheese sandwhich) as I look out at the pier.  This is the travel slow down that I have been waiting for.

 

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There’s a commercial for Spain I have once seen, the main catch phrase for visiting the country is “Smile, you’re in Spain.”  Simple.  There was no particular place to visit in the ad, or things you had to purchase as souvenirs. Just smile.  That’s all that is necessary to remember when I am here.

There’s so much to say about this trip to Barcelona, but now I am on pause. Maybe that is what travelling does, it pauses your life.  It mutes my thinking momentarily and brings me to right now, as I listen to fellow travelers around me.  As I sit for hours on bus rides from city to city each day, my mind wanders.  I don’t listen to any music.  I take tiny breaks for bursts of inspiration where I write in my journal, read my Paulo Coelho book, or nap.  But most of the time I look out the window at the Spanish natural surroundings and let my mind drift with the scenery.  How often does this happen anymore?  I generally feel I must be so productive during times of transportation.  I must listen to the latest podcast, catch up on phone calls, or struggle to see the directions on my phone gps to direct me to the right locale.  Infrequently do I let my mind take a break during moments of transport where I can view the landscape as it shifts from town to town. It reminds me of long car rides with my family, as I sat in the backseat.  I didn’t have the control of the wheel or didn’t know the direction we were headed.  My only job was to be along for the ride.  I would fall in and out of sleep, inspiration, reflection, and nothingness.

As I am at the airport, I try to remind myself the simplicity of the Spanish ad.  “Smile, you’re in Spain.”  As I head towards the terminal, and see people cueing up, I opt to take a seat. What’s the rush to return? Smile, I’m still in Spain.  Let me linger a little more.  Enjoy one last meal and a peak at the sun’s rays.

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