The city is an intermingling of gorgeous deterioration and grandiose modernism. Wander deep into the alleyways off of crowded La Rambla and you’re in eerily quiet pedestrian lanes that recall medieval Spain. We found ourselves exploring the Ciutat Vella quarters later that night - Barri Gotic and La Ribera. They are at once charming and sepulchral, and every lane beckoned us towards a new adventure.
Without any direction, we followed the alleyways and got caught at Basilica de la Merce, a gloomy church overlooking a quiet, desolate plaza. It was a dramatic contrast to the warm afternoon we’d had - the well-meaning drunken stranger had been replaced by shadier characters and an unexpected, darker Barcelona.
I fixated on La Merce and tried to capture its gothic architecture with the camera before we finally continued on, winding back through the gothic quarters to Plaza de Santa Maria and the basilica, Santa Maria del Mar. It seemed odd that we ended up at three different churches that day, each one extraordinary in its own way. Santa Maria del Mar was, by far, the most beautiful, humbling and serene; but there is no denying the significance of Gaudi’s brilliance – or obsession, perhaps – and the powerful presence of La Merce. It was La Merce that would stay with me - it became the scene for the nightmares I had during the rest of my stay.