Barcelona and San Sebastián, Spain

After 7 months of traveling with just the two of us, we were finally about to have some company. In fact, the majority of the rest of our trip will be spent with friends. We are excited to have other people to talk to! 🙂

The many vendors at La Boqueria

We flew from Ljubljana to Barcelona, Spain to meet up with our good friends from Oregon, Mat and Tammy. Our first stop in Barcelona was to the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, a large public market in the Ciutat Vella district. Opened in 1840, the market has dozens of stalls selling olives, seafood, fruit, meats, sweets, and cheeses.

Meats and sweets at La Boqueria

Fresh seafood at La Boqueria

Gaudí architecture. Top left: La Pedrera. Bottom left: Casa Batlló. Bottom right: La Sagrada Família

We are all fans of Antoni Gaudí so we set out to explore a few of his buildings. Gaudí was a famous Catalan architect inspired by nature and religion. In the heart of Barcelona lies the Casa Batlló. Originally built as a conventional house in 1877, Gaudí restored it and created this whimsical building in 1904. The building’s facade displays few straight lines and is decorated  with colorful broken ceramic tiles. Just down the street sits La Pedrera, another Gaudí building constructed between the years 1906 and 1910.

La Sagrada Família under construction

His masterpiece, the still-incomplete Sagrada Família, is the most-visited monument in Spain. Construction began in 1882, and at the time of his death 1926 less than a quarter of the project was complete. In 2010, the project passed the halfway mark and is expected to be completed in 2026 with his original vision in mind.

Details on the outside facade

La Sagrada Família is simply breathtaking. The outside facade is highly detailed with both religious figures and small animals carved into the stone. Inside, pillars soar towards the ceiling and sprout outwards towards the roof, creating the effect of a forest canopy.

One of the most beautiful buildings in the world. Detail of the roof in the nave. Gaudí designed the columns to mirror trees and branches.

The stained glass windows stretch more than two stories high

From Barcelona we headed 5 and a half hours by train to San Sebastián in the Basque Country. San Sebastián lies on the Bay of La Concha on the Atlantic Ocean and is only 20 miles from the French border.

The Bay of La Concha in San Sebastián

Parte Vieja or Old Town San Sebastián

In San Sebastián, we strolled the beach and spent the majority of our time in Parte Vieja (Old Town).  Old Town was originally constructed in medieval times but was largely rebuilt following the large-scale destruction of the city by fire in 1813.

To get the best view of the city we took the funicular to top of Monte Igueldo on the eastern side of the Bay of La Concha . Unfortunately, it was pouring when we reached the top which nixed any panoramas of the city below.

On the western side of the Bay of La Concha, lies Urgull a 123 meter hill. We climbed to the top and were finally blessed with some clear views of the city.

Views from Urgull, including the most angular riprap I have ever seen


From San Sebastián we decided to take a day trip to Bilbao, 100 kilometers south. The city is situated on the banks of the Nervión River. Bilbao is home to the Guggenheim Museum designed by famous architect Frank Gehry. This twisting titanium-clad modern art museum was beautiful to walk around. Unfortunately, we arrived on the one day of the week that the museum is closed so we did not get to go inside.

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao

Mat Tilman with “Puppy”

Outside the Guggenheim Museum sits “Puppy” a floral statue by Jeff Koons. “Puppy” is a 43-foot-tall living plant sculpture of a West Highland terrier. Designed to be a temporary exhibit in 1997, the statue became a permanent fixture at the museum due to public adoration.

Around Bilbao

One of the main reasons our friends chose to visit San Sebastián was for the food. The city is rated one of the world’s top places to eat and has the second most Michelin stars per capita in the world, behind Kyoto, Japan.

Tilman living the high-life drinking beer and being hand-fed delicious garlic and butter soaked mussels.

Sangria is a must in Spain

The city features tasty snacks similar to tapas called pintxos. Pintxos are generally enjoyed with a glass of wine, sangria or beer.  The Spanish tradition suggests to have a few pinxtos and a drink in one bar and then move on to the next bar to enjoy more. Needless to say we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves in San Sebastián! Video of a typical pintxos assortment by Mat Tilman.

Thanks Mat and Tammy for inviting us to Spain! I still dream of all the delicious food we ate 🙂

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