Barcelona, Spain: We saw the same things everyone else sees, and it was fun.

After a month-long road trip through France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Italy, Netherlands, and Spain, we made our way back to Barcelona by way of the Spanish Pyrenees, a section of the great European mountain range with Andorra at its center.

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It’s such beautiful countryside that we stopped several times to enjoy the vistas, and we wished we’d packed a picnic like several other families we saw.

European picnics, by the way, are serious business. It’s not just sandwiches and chips — we saw soup tureens, homemade cakes, and many bottles of wine. Nobody was in any hurry whatsoever, and it was lovely to witness.

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While we spent some time in Andorra, we didn’t have enough days to enjoy the country’s plentiful hiking since the weather didn’t cooperate during our stay and we already had plans in Barcelona.

Mike booked us a wonderful Airbnb apartment in the center of the city just a short walk from the famous La Sagrada Família cathedral. Barcelona has an easy-to-follow city layout that makes it convenient to explore on foot.

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The architecture of Antoni Gaudí rules Barcelona, and the most famous of his creations is Basilica de la Sagrada Família, or the Sacred Family Basilica.  Construction began in 1882 and remained unfinished, which is emphasized by the numerous cranes surrounding the site for restoration.

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Because of the cranes, scaffolding, and construction netting, we decided to return to La Sagrada Família at nightfall, when it was easier to focus on the awe-inspiring architecture, stained glass, and statuary.

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As one does when one is traveling with Mr. Mike Ballard, we happened upon a random live concert at the front of the basilica. People of all ages danced to the festive music, especially when the band played “Els Segadors,” the Catalan national anthem. They waved their handkerchiefs and sang passionately of their thirst for freedom from Spain:

“Catalonia triumphant
Shall again be rich and bountiful.
Drive away these people,
Who are so conceited and so contemptuous.”

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We spent another day viewing more of Barcelona’s popular sights, which include Gaudi’s Casa Batlló and Parc Güell, Casa Amatller, Antic Hospital de la Santa Creu, and Barcelona Cathedral. Perhaps the highlight of our time in the city was a trip to La Boqueria Mercat food market and a paella cooking class.

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Next up: Mallorca, Spain, in the Balearic Islands

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