Day 3: freedom and choice

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Barcelona, January 2nd, 2016

It was magic. A moment that balanced me out, and unraveled my existence into something that made sense. Suddenly everything made sense, or maybe it was the opposite.

Once again I was walking in darkness. Lee, Lim, and I headed to Park Güell a little past 7 am. We went early because we heard it is all free before 8 am. Lee had gone before, but only to the free zone. Lim…I am not sure. Her stay in Barcelona was a little longer than expected, and she was anxious to move on to Portugal. But for me, this park (along with Sagrada Familia) was the number one place I wanted to visit in Barcelona. I have no idea why.SDC10034 I guess I always felt curious about Antoni Gaudí’s work. His art is right out of a Dr. Seuss’ book, and it astonishes me to find such boldness become part of a major city’s identity. Gaudí is all over Barcelona.

So we arrived and the sun was still not out. Trying to figure out how to enter was quite comical. But we followed a hooded stranger, and somehow made it to the terrace area. And then we saw it. It was unexpected. It was like seeing the world being created from scratch, in the moment, on the spot. A work of art product of a communion between human’s labor and Nature’s way. It was a momentous announcement of glory. It was the sunrise.SDC10025 It was not just any sunrise. It was a sunrise, overlooking the entire city, overlooking the ocean, La Sagrada Familia, and everything else in between. SDC10022It was the colors of Gaudí’s work, and how the light was reflected on them. It was the mixture of gold and hot-hot pink, and the way it made Gaudí’s artwork look pink.SDC10036 It was the way I gasped when I first saw it, and stood there in disbelief. It was the way every cell of my being was moved with inspiration. It was the way I took it in like I would never see anything that glorious again. It was my life, and the choices I have made, and the chances I have taken, and everything else I have held in. It was the way my thoughts drifted to my mother, my sister, my little niece, and the man I am surely falling in love with. It was everything I ever dreamed. It was a single moment. A single, unexpected, quiet moment that rebuilt all the confidence I had lost.

A few hours later I parted from my Park Güell hostel buddies, and headed to Sagrada Familia. It is still under construction, but that did not matter. I walked up to the street from the metro stop, and gasped at the sight of it.

(Note to reader: that makes for 2 genuine gasps of wonder in 1 morning. Life is amazing). Maybe I am a drama queen, but magnificent creations make my mind go wild. I cannot, for the life of me, comprehend how unlimited creativity is. How abundant is the beauty of this world.

I did not go inside, and if you do want to, you really have to buy the tickets online the day before…otherwise it is impossible…But I walked around it twice, absorbing the details…I even sat at a café overlooking one of its sides, eating churros and hot chocolate, pondering what kind of legacy should I leave the world with. Because when you are sitting in front of someone’s GREAT legacy, you hear a little voice that says, “What’s your excuse?” At least I do.

Then I was off to Plaҫa de Catalunya. I have mentioned this spot in my last couple entries. But this time I actually spent some time there, watching the children scream as they scared all the pigeons. After a little break here, I did the Rick Steves’ self-guided walk of Barri Gótic using his book, SPAIN 2015 (the electronic version). This was a neighborhood I was eager to explore. Rick Steves explains, “This is Barcelona’s birthplace – where the ancient Romans built a city, where medieval Christians built their cathedral, where Jews gathered together, and where the Barcelonans lived within a ring of protective walls until the 1850’s, when the city expanded.”

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“These once guarded the entrance gate of the ancient Roman city of Barcino. The big stones that make up the base of the (reconstructed) towers are actually Roman.” -Rick Steves, SPAIN 2015 

This walk was like a scavenger hunt, and I had so much fun spotting the details he wrote about (such as the carved mail slot I would have missed out on).

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“…carved mail slot by 19th century Modernista architect Lluis Domenech i Montaner.” – Rick Steves, SPAIN 2015

My favorite place in Barri Gótic was the Plaҫa de Sant Felip Neri. The little square is also a playground for an elementary school. The curious thing here is that when the kids are out playing, you can hear them speak in Catalán, not Spanish. (Catalán is the official language here). A generation ago, speaking Catalán was illegal, so you would have heard the kids playing in Spanish instead (hello there, dictator Franco). In this square you will also find a church, where Gaudí went to mass. The thing that blew my mind was the damaged wall (which is not because it is old)…It is damage from a bomb during the Spanish Civil War. 42 people were killed in the 1938 aerial bombardment…Most of them were infants. My heart grew quiet as the wind picked up, and I was able to touch this kind of history. My hands traced the holes on the stones as my mind went back in time.

 

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“Jewish Quarter (El Call): In Catalan, a Jewish quarter goes by the name El Call – literally ‘narrow passage,’ for the tight lanes where medieval Jews were forced to live, under the watchful eye of the nearby cathedral…some 4,000 Jews were crammed into just a few alleys in this neighborhood.” -Rick Steves, SPAIN 2015

 

Once I finished the walk, I was exhausted, but it was only 2 pm! I had to improvise some kind of plan. I could not imagine surpassing the fun of that morning. I looked at the map, I saw “BARCELONETA,” and I said, “I am going there.” Barceloneta is where the beach is (the fisherman’s town). This is where you come to eat great seafood 😉 I treated myself to a rrreally nice lunch…Because this day was worth the calamari, the paella de marisco, and the vino blanco. Hell, it was even worth the espresso to help myself move again after I finished eating. The waiter asked, “Just one? What’s a beautiful young lady doing… eating out by herself on a day like this?” I was almost offended, but my mood was too high to come down now. “I’m on an adventure,” I replied with a smile. “I’m enjoying my life.” He didn’t get it. But I was thrilled to be alone, and to have  the means to treat myself to anything I wanted! “Because you’re worth it,” said the L’Oreal commercial in my head.

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I went to the beach across the restaurant, took off my shoes and put my feet in the Mediterranean Sea. Another thing I had always wanted to do, for no particular reason. I strolled down the shore, completely mesmerized by all the freedom.SDC10123 I really truly got, in that moment, just how much freedom I enjoy. How many choices I get to make on a daily basis. How much time I am given to be whoever I choose to be.

An Italian family walked in front of me, the youngest child running along the shore, squealing when the cold water touched his feet, then bursting out a laugh. “He is free, too,” I thought. It was an image of an unrestrained human being. “I am the happiest woman!” I completely believed this thought as gospel truth. I am happy. It is not an “I am happy because…blah blah blah…” I do not need a reason. I do not need another person. I do not need someone else to tell me so. I do not need proof. I do not need anything at all. I am standing in happiness, and I intend to come to this place as many times as I’d like. There may be people that choose to come over as well, and there may sometimes be a specific reason to stand here again and again. Whether I have everything, or whether I have nothing, I choose to stand right here, right now. I do not know where I will be tomorrow. I do not even know where I am having dinner tonight. But whether the choices I make lead me to sunrise or nightfall, I choose to stand as a free, complete, fulfilled human being. This is where I stand.

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“It took me a minute to remember where I was and where I’d been, and then, I was happy, satisfied that my life was as full of adventure as the great novel I’d been reading.” – Nicole C. Kear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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