A last day in Barcelona: A taxi driver with a Formula One jones; a sanctuary of eternal transforming beauty; Las Ramblas

We got off Marina this morning just before 9:00 am. As “independent” travelers, we were able to get off last and get in the queue for a taxi to our hotel near the airport. We really, really enjoyed our cruise, although it went by like a blur of seconds instead of days.

We waited about 20 minutes, then snared a yellow and black Barcelona taxi to the Renaissance Airport Hotel, located near the huge airport south of the city. Our driver was a personable young man who immediately launched himself into Steve McQueen Le Mans mode, driving precisely like a bat out of hell (Meat Loaf would have been impressed), screeching to a stop in front our hotel in a new Catalan land speed record. The trip still cost us €37. Steve pulled 3 gs on several curves and I saw my life pass before my eyes several times as our intrepid driver swerved around lots of trucks while talking on a cell phone (my life was good, for the most part, by the way). . Woof!! Who needs coffee?

We checked in, but of course a room wasn’t ready yet. We stored our bags and put valuables in a safety deposit box. We were too late to get the free shuttle back to town, so with great trepidation we hailed another taxi. This time, we had a very sedate driver who took us with great care all the way to the neighborhood of Sagrada Familia, for only €22. We had booked tickets on-line on Tuesday to enter this amazing basilica and Steve finally found a place to print them out (a nearby La Caixa bank ATM).

We had time to kill before our entry time at 12:00 pm, so we found the same sidewalk cafe located across from the stunning structure that we visited (only from from the outside) in June 2007, with my late Dad in tow, when we did a Barcelona city tour the day we embarked on a 10-day Disney Magic Western Mediterranean cruise (I can’t fathom how some of the snobs from our just-ending Oceania cruise would react if we told them that we also liked Disney Cruise Lines. I can imagine, however, that there would have been lots of shuddering and harrumphs and hurling :-().

We found the access line, which stretched halfway around the Basilica. I was suspicious, and asked a young couple in front of us if they had tickets. They said they did not, so Steve went to the entrance and found where we could go in immediately through the Internet ticket line, kind of like a Disney Fastpass line (how ironical). At precisely noon, we scanned our tickets and entered the Basilica, which was consecrated by Pope Benedict in 2010 and is still under construction, until at least 2026 (a long, long story).

A moment please…..we have been in many, many major Christian churches in the world, including some incredible ones on this very trip. We walked into the still unfinished Sagrada Familia and could not believe what we saw. This was a transformational experience, one that was was amazingly, profoundly moving. We sat in center seats in the sanctuary and on benches on the side for most of the hour we had and stared at this organic, nature-driven and fundamentally mathematical structure envisioned by Antonio Gaudí that has been in work for over a century and will not be finished for at least another decade. The path and the pointer to God is here, that’s all I can say; many people entering this place break into tears when they first see it.

After this experience that cannot be captured in words, we stumbled out and hailed a taxi and took it to the Mercado de la Boqueria, the huge food market near the Barrio Gothic and Las Ramblas. We found a great tapas restaurant near the mercado and had a repast of Jamon Iberico, the great cheese from Bilbao, good bread and some good dri nks. Later we found a place across from the Opera House on Las Ramblas and had another beverage and sat there in the perfect evening air and watched people for quite a long time.

Our luck ran out when we found another place at Plac Real, a square near Las Ramblas, where we had incredibly rude service and I had to climb many steep stairs without a railing to a restroom. We decided to head back to our hotel. We found a taxi driver who did not have any idea where the Rennaissance Airport hotel was located, but we got there eventually. When we arrived, the staff here had no clue that we had already checked in. Fortunately, we got our room, claimed our stuff and are having a light dinner in the bar area.

We have to be over at the airport very early tomorrow (6:00 am), but will be home tomorrow night, God willing. We had an amazing day in Barcelona for our last day, thanks mainly to Sagrada Familia. Overall, our trip was a major success!!

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