Today is our 5th wedding anniversary and we’ve decided to celebrate this milestone in the capital of Catalonia, Barcelona. It’s our first trip to mainland Spain (only been to Ibiza before which is under Spanish rule) and it kind of feels like we’re back in South America where life is all about sun, sea, wine and football.  The locals are friendly (and very loud) but don’t seem to take life all that serious. It’s the perfect setting for our long weekend away.

We started our day with a slow stroll down the Las Ramblas, a tree-lined pedestrian road in the heart of the city, famous for its street artists, pavement cafes and souvenir shops. The Las Ramblas stretches 1.2 kilometres wide and give tourists the best flavours of the local cuisine. Unfortunately, this is also the hotspot in Barcelona where pickpockets tend to have a field day with tourists and that’s why you will see many people in the area wearing their backpacks to the front. Nonetheless, it gave us the opportunity to soak up the culture as we made our way from the beach all the way uptown.

Our aim was to walk from the Las Ramblas to the Sagrada Família in one go, but without warning, we found ourselves in the middle of a political protest, surrounded by thousands and thousands of people. But don’t worry, it’s not what you think. Coming from South Africa, we tend to associate political protests with people rioting in the streets, setting tyres on fire, throwing stones, burning down schools, homes or universities, even trashing cars and buses just to get their point across. On this side of the world, however, the protest went a little bit differently with people dressing up in bright colours, dancing in the streets and peacefully raising their banners and flags to make their case for Catalonia’s independence from Spain. Whether you like the independence argument or not, it was amazing to see how people can be passionate about their argument and have fun all at the same time. In fact, for the first 30 minutes we were under the impression it’s a parade or celebration of some sort, but we later figured out it’s actually a protest against the national government.

Eventually, we made it to the Sagrada Família Basilica and this was the highlight of the day. If like Elaine, you love architecture, then a visit to the Basilica is a must when visiting Barcelona. Construction started a 136 years ago, in 1882, and is still under construction today. It was designed by the famous architect Antoni Gaudí who died in 1926 and construction is set to complete in 2026, marking the 100th anniversary of his death. Upon completion, the main tower, also known as The Jesus Tower, will be the highest church tower in the world and will rise 172.5 metres high. Gaudí believed that man should never create anything bigger than what God created and therefore the church tower is slightly lower than the nearest mountain peak of 173 metres. Weird fact, in 1984, the Sagrada Família was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site but the building was never granted a building permit by the Spanish government until 2018. After 136 years of “illegally” building on the site, the Basilica now faces a £30m fine (that is R540m) – ouch!

After spending around 3 hours at the Basilica, we made our way to Park Güell, another masterpiece of Antoni Gaudí but this time in the shape of a public park, gardens and architectonic elements, all located on Carmel Hill overlooking the city. The park was built between 1900 and 1914 but only opened to the public in the year of his death. The park not only reflects Gaudí’s artistic nature but quickly became the global identity of the city as we know it today. We spent about 2 hours in the park, enjoying a spectacular city view at sunset before heading back to the beach for some wine and seafood.

After spending around 3 hours at the Basilica, we made our way to Park Güell, another masterpiece of Antoni Gaudí but this time in the shape of a public park, gardens and architectonic elements, all located on Carmel Hill overlooking the city. The park was built between 1900 and 1914 but only opened to the public in the year of his death. The park not only reflects Gaudí’s artistic nature but quickly became the global identity of the city as we know it today. We spent about 2 hours in the park, enjoying a spectacular city view at sunset before heading back to the beach for some wine and seafood.

Tomorrow we’ll take the day slow, spend some time on the beach or head over to our hotel spa to get pampered into the next level of relaxation. Either way, we’ll do what the locals do and just chill out.

From a beach next to the Balearic Sea, good night!