Today was perfect.
I started the day out with no expectations. Maybe that's the best way to do it. I let myself be taken on any path presented to me without worrying about what would come next. Living in the moment is hard, but it is so worth it.
My husband and I set out this morning with a backpack filled with books, snacks, our camera and a plan of the city. We took the metro (subway) to the center of the city, Plaza Catalonia, and set off from there to La Rambla, a major pedestrian walkway. We saw street performers (video to follow), vendors, cafes, tourists, locals, century-old buildings right alongside brand new ones. It was sunny and cool; the kind of day where you need sunglasses and a jacket. Perfect for exploring.
Famished and tired we sought out some comfort food. Well, I sought out some comfort food. Yes, that means McDonald's. But, to my credit I ordered in Spanish and ate on the third floor - stairs all the way up. Refueled and rested we decided to seek out The Cathedral of Saint Eulalia, as it was the week of celebration Barcelona's co-patron saint. As we entered the 5+ century old church, we were overcome by the enormity of the Gothic architecture, the hallowedness of the building and the richness of the history and art within. Every corner held some treasure, some story to be told. We visited the sepulchre of Santa Eulalia and then rode the frighteningly old elevator up to the roof of the cathedral and were greeted by one of the most beautiful views in Barcelona. The mountains in one direction, the Mediterranean Sea in another, La Sagrada Familia (which we visited just the other day) in yet another. We asked a French family to take our photo and they happily obliged.
After touring the expansive cathedral and gardens, we set off to find the celebration for Santa Eulalia and we were not disappointed at what we found. What started off as a somewhat small display on the small, narrow streets of the old city of Barcelona turned into quite the festivity. Hundreds of small children were given firecrackers on sticks to wave around as they ran down the street, sending many an onlooker for cover. Riddled throughout the dancing torch runners were groups of drummers and large, sparkler-wielding dragons. The parade lasted over an hour and culminated in the large square beside the Cathedral de Santa Eulalia. As each group made their way into the square, the drummers broke off and formed a large circle, expanding as each group's drummers joined. More fireworks were lit, more jams were played, more dragons danced and each time we thought the festival was over, the festivities would start again with a renewed exuberance from both the crowd and from the performers.
Tired from the dancing to the drummers and dodging the fireworks, my husband and I found a somewhat quite corner in which to eat the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and oranges we had brought from home. Again rejuvenated, we set off for the traditional Sardana dancing (native to the region) at another square not too far away. As we entered the square we saw groups of old Spanish seniors holding hands and dancing in circles as a band of a dozen or so musicians played from a platform. On the other side of the square was a protest against the Spanish government's dealings with March 11. The two large gatherings proceeded, mostly ignoring the other, with the Spanish police waited on the fringes watching for any sign of trouble.
We learned how to dance the Sardana from two old Spanish men, along with a handful of others and were invited back for more. We listened to what we could from the protesters and then decided to venture back home.
It turned out to be a really great day. The kind of day you hope to have when traveling abroad. And perhaps best of all, we didn't even plan a minute.