Before taking our belated honeymoon this past September, I had never stepped foot outside the continent of North America. I had been to Mexico as a kid, I had been to Canada as an adult. I had travelled to Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Alaska, the freaking Yukon, a smattering of states between Maine and California.
But until September of 2013, I couldn't claim to have visited any country outside of North America.
This fact seemed to puzzle many of my friends. They had all assumed that I had travelled to Europe or Asia at some point in my life. Nope. Summers were spent interning/working/finishing my degree/studying for LSATs or the Bar, etc.. The excuses went on and on. I could have travelled. I should have travelled as an early 20-something, when it's far more acceptable to be reckless and the cramped space of a 10 hour flight in coach is more tolerable with your best friends in tow. But I really can't complain about my first adventure on foreign soil. Matt is a fantastic traveller and planner. He did just enough planning that we weren't randomly wandering around but not so much that we were over-scheduled and stressed about our time there. For a newbie traveller, it was just right.
We visited Barcelona in the second half of the trip, and I instantly fell in love with the city. Dubrovnik is beautiful because of it's dramatic seasides and views, but Barcelona had the palpable pulse that only a few major metropolitan cities can claim. There were pieces of history at every corner, architecture that I had only seen in books, even the way the streets and avenues were planned--it felt different in a re-energizing type of way.
The photo I have featured at the top of this post was taken from inside La Sagrada Familia (click the link to see the full album). If you're not familiar with its story, here's an abridged version: The famous Catalan architect Antonin Gaudi designed the Catholic cathedral, beginning work on the structure in 1883. By the time Gaudi passed away in 1926, only about 15% of the project was completed. 15% in 43 years. Once you see the intricacy of the design and attention to detail in each stone, you can understand why. After Gaudi died, a variety of different architects have been at the creative helm, creating some very distinct differences in aesthetic that still somehow manages to come together. The projected completion date of La Sagrada Familia is 2026--the centennial of Gaudi's death and over 143 years after he began the project.
Standing inside of La Sagrada Familia is like standing inside of God's Art Museum. It is a grand combination of both the natural and the manmade. As a photographer, I made the mistake of bringing my telephoto lens (to this day, I still have no idea why I did that) instead of a wide-angle lens. I was able to take clear photos of the details that struck me, but I wish I had taken my wide angle lens to capture the enormity of the structure. Each component was so beautifully and masterfully accomplished, but each part together as a whole was breathtaking. I couldn't stop looking up with my mouth open in awe.
We paid extra on our ticket to be able to tour the spires that flank the church. The spiraling staircase hundreds of feet in the air had occasional platforms and balconies that gave you sweeping views of Barcelona. I forced myself to ignore my massive fear of heights in order to enjoy the view. It was a struggle, but I did it and it was worth it. At one point toward the bottom of the spire (but still relatively high up, maybe 3 or 4 floors), the inner wall of the staircase disappears and you are left to make sure you don't accidentally fall into the abyss. My knees were already shaky from the adrenaline rush of standing on a balcony three-quarters up the spire. When we made it to the ground floor, I think I may have fallen to my knees in relief. It's really a miracle I didn't trip over my feet or drop my camera at any point. But I guess the miracle shouldn't be all that surprising, considering where I was.
I hope to up my International Travel Level from "Greenhorn" to "Adventurer" soon. I've been dying to see the Blue Lagoon in Iceland. But maybe we should check out parts of Asia on the second go 'round?
And If you have any fun travel stories or tips to share, please do in the comments!