My intent was to spend around 36 hours in Barcelona. A stop on my way from wine country in France to my final point in Madrid. A layover; a place to catch my breath.

It wasn't until nearly a week later that I left.

My friend, Bruna (Brazilian adventurer/instigator whom I met by chance in Boulder earlier this year; she has been mentioned in my blog before), has been working and living in Barcelona and I thought it would be a good opportunity to catch up and hang out for a bit before she and I both split off to our next destinations. Little did I know I'd have such a great time and meet so many wonderful people along the way. 

Sunrises, the sounds of cigarette lighters and clinking glass, the sharp smell of the sea, gravel under foot, sand in my clothes, the too-loud music at the pub crawls, the sensation of lounging on an old bean bag at the hostel (with beans that were just a bit too big), the mechanical whine of the entry gate at the Metro processing my T-1o ticket, the view overlooking all of Barcelona from Los Bunkers, the goosebump-inducing beauty of watching a dancer dance, sunsets. These are some of the things that have stuck with me since I left Barcelona last week. I'm writing from Madrid, but I can't help but think that spending a few extra days in Barcelona was one of the best decisions I made on this trip. Often it seems to be the unplanned excursions that end up being the most special and memorable.

On another note, while the wonderful city of Barcelona could be mistaken as the city of Gaudí, I didn't explore his unique, earthy contributions to the cityscape on this trip. Sagrada Familia can be seen in the first image below, but I'm pretty sure that's the closest photo I got of it. While I've seen quite a few of his buildings on a previous trip, I was more interested in seeing what inspired the famous architect on this journey. The history books say that trips to Montserrat Monastery over the course of his life had a great influence on his designs. The monastery sits perched up in the mountains about an hour outside Barcelona. It's strikingly obvious the connection between Gaudí's work and the mountains the moment you arrive at the monastery. The finger-like rock formations share a lot of similarities with the buildings at Park Güell as well as most of his other designs.

Part I: Dawn (& dance)

Part II: National Day of Catalonia. These are proud people here and hundreds of thousands of people came onto the streets to celebrate the unity of this little piece of Spain.

Part III: Montserrat. Bruno and I went out to Montserrat, about an hour out of Barcelona by bus. You can get dropped off right by the monastery and explore the buildings. We opted to take a couple-hour hike to get up to the highest point in these mountains. The summit was absolutely frigid; neither of us adequately prepared for this. Quick summit beer, photos in which we're acting much less cold than we look, and descend. Despite the cold, the views were pretty spectacular.

Rock stacks were everywhere. Bruna decided to make a contribution.

Rock stacks were everywhere. Bruna decided to make a contribution.