Barcelona has big boulevards. And bike lanes. And lots of Gaudi.
The Sagrada Familia basilica (started 1886, with construction to finish sometime in the next 50 years) is a modern wonder. It is also a wonder that the catholic church let Gaudi build the SFB, because the whole thing seems like a drug-fueled fever dream. Faceted pillars start with 8 faces, then double to 16, 32, 64 in geometric progression as they reach nave-ward, and explode into branches of a tree. The staircases of the belfries dive to the floor of the sanctuary in tortuous, logarithmic spirals. From the outside, rows of slender towers are topped with the "fruits of the spirit." Or are they giant stalks of grass, laden with grains? Gaudi seemed to find God in nature, and used his architecture to convey this. I have rarely seen this so centrally featured in Catholic imagery, but it is a school of thought that I can relate with, and probably why I enjoyed Gaudi so much. Needless to say, admission into the cathedral and a ride up the elevators was worth the 15€ pp.
nautilus mimicking winding staircase
shadows cast on the streets below by the Sagrada Familia towers
intricate stained glass
tree sprouting branches of columns inside the Basilica
We tested the bike lanes riding across town to the bus station later that evening. Those worked pretty well: wide, off-street lanes and bike-shaped stop lights all the way to the station. We arrived with 20 minutes to spare. However, Mordor conspired against us to the very end. We nearly had to wrestled the bus conductor to let us take the bikes on board, despite our duly purchased additional fare for the beasts. We finally placated him by buying 10€ "bike bags" that did nothing but make the bus late. Oh well.
After the usual nightbus antics, we were unceremoniously dumped at dawn at the "Avenida de Americas" in Madrid, wherever that is. Ando had slightly learned his lesson from Barcelona and this time had the name and address of the hotel (correctly?) memorized. Somehow, that was enough to deduce a sensible metro stop, navigate our bikes through a couple of transfers, then find our way under/over two (count 'em) limited access freeways and bike to the hotel, feeling certain that we were the first people in the history of Madrid to have arrived on bicycle at that particular hotel. All this transpired without the benefit of Internet. Yeah, we are two badass hobbits. We gave each other a high-five once the bikes were ensconced in the luggage room of the hotel, then proceeded to shop 'til we dropped at the Plenilunia Centro Comercial, which really did have some excellent ofertas. Ando plans to fill his bags with discount euro-tailored clothing when he returns.