I hadn’t even stepped inside yet but had already declared Barcelona’s Sagrada Família my new favorite place in the world.
From the stony stations of the cross built into the façade on one side, to the splashes of color in just the right places all over the exterior, to dripping, stony incarnations of gingerbread house icing, to engraved names here and there of characters in the Bible stories the building tells—it was all magnificent. It was a storybook come to life.
I gave my heart and soul to Spain, but not just to the country—rather, I gave them to Valencia. The name itself swells something in me that to this day I cannot adequately define with words. Pronouncing it evokes a sort of ache, as though I’ve both held and lost this eastern swath of Spain. Like the undulating minor keys of flamenco music, the name Valencia calls out a history that was never really mine, and yet is so deeply a part of my childhood that I cannot separate myself from it.