About a year ago, we began planning a family vacation to celebrate the bar and bat mitzvahs for my two grandchildren.
Israel was our destination to celebrate the brilliant and kind Blake’s bar mitzvah. Now, his sister Morgan and their cousin Jonah had their bat and bar mitzvahs at their synagogue. We decided to have a family celebration in Spain mainly because my nephew Danny Adler owns the travel company Adler & Marlow specializing there and offered to help us organize a celebration.
With the aid of my daughter Samantha, who’s good at figuring out the details, we decided on a 10-day trip to the ancient city of Barcelona, followed by a few days at a resort in Costa Brava before ending with a visit to Madrid.
Our adventure began with a relaxing flight to Barcelona on American Airlines — it was more like being on a smooth sailboat than a plane.
The landing in Barcelona was as smooth as silk and my fears of my family traveling together were softened when we arrived.
Our guide greeted us at the baggage area and, at 6:30 a.m., we stuffed our luggage into the van that was to carry us to our hotel in Barcelona.
We arrived too early to check into our rooms, so we stopped at a coffee shop with delicious pastries.
Danny had booked us into Casagrand Luxury Suites, which offers apartment-style suites featuring a living room, kitchen and even a laundry room! The kids were happy that it even had a rooftop pool and gym!
The location was a perfect launchpad for our day trips around the city with a population of about 1.7 million people that is, geographically, about the size of Brooklyn and Queens combined.
The city is famous for its great food and wine, as well as its unique architecture. For me, nothing compared to the genius of architect Antoni Gaudí, who put his unique stamp on an enormous number of projects in and around Barcelona.
We visited the stunning, enormous and not yet completed Basílica de la Sagrada Família, which is 150 years in the making. For 43 years, it was Gaudí’s life mission to create a perfect temple for prayer and religious worship.
As I walked through the unique doors, I was stunned by the enormous interior that Gaudí wanted to make people feel like they were in a celestial space. The roof is held up by what looks like tree trunks surging into the sky. I felt so tiny as I made my way around this unique house of worship. When it is finally completed, it will be the tallest church in the world!
Born in 1852, Gaudí’s prolific career came to an abrupt halt in 1926 when he was run over by a tram as he was still working on the church.
His fanciful details make each building recognizable as a Gaudí! I loved looking at each one. Maybe the word “gaudy” comes from his name, because each work is colorful and full of twists and turns. Even the pinnacles at the top of the church are both colorful and fanciful!
From the Basílica, we went to a site that overlooks a part of the city with church spires spiking through the skyline of burnt red roofs.
Dinner was a feast for the eyes and stomach at El Nacional. It’s a restaurant with multiple offerings in an enormous space. There are different sections throughout the restaurant: one serving steak and meats; another serving pasta; one serving tapas; another offering gelato; and also a massive bar! Every table was taken in each area with lines to get in!
Since some of the kids don’t like meat, the restaurant allowed us to order pasta from another area and had it quickly delivered to our table.
We enjoyed such a unique meal that filled each person’s palates!
The next day was for me one I will cherish forever.
We celebrated the bar and bat mitzvah of Jonah and Morgan in a centuries-old building in the heart of El Call, Barcelona’s medieval Jewish Quarter.
Casa Adret, now a Jewish community center, had been the oldest inhabited house in the city that was owned in the 12th century as the “palace house” of the Jewish-Catalan merchant Astruc Adret, who had been forced to convert to Christianity after the pogroms of 1391. In 1492, Queen Isabella forced the total expulsion or conversion of all Jewish people.
In one of the oldest houses of the Jewish Quarter, Jonah and Morgan (our bar and bat mitzvahs) stood proudly in the building’s ancient rooms reciting specially written prayers for the occasion.
A special meal was prepared by the directors of the center and it was the best meal of our vacation! Each dish was based on a key ingredient linking to our traditions and history of Jewish food in Spain.
During the Aug. 18 ceremony, we enjoyed the Sephardic music performed by extraordinary musicians playing guitars and drums, vocals and percussion.
The joy and pride and smiles of all six children is burnt into my memory bank forever!
What a day!