The Wonder of Nuns, Camera Rage, and Street Scams – Stinky Barcelona Part 2

A continuing travelogue of our adventures in Europe. Barcelona Part Uno here if you missed it.

The Wonder of Nuns (Who Sing!)

One of the highlights in Barcelona was visiting Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Família. It was on a short list of places on our trip that literally took my breath away the moment we entered.

I’m not accustomed to this feeling. It’s only happened to me a couple times in my life. That rush of air, of life, leaving so rapidly like some giant somebody just squeezed me. My whole body becoming electric, every sense heightened for that split second, so everything around me is sharp and clear and technicolor vivid.

My photos do it no justice. But I’ll share anyway.

Kelly Byrne Sagrada Familia

Kelly Byrne Sagrada Familia

Kelly Byrne Sagrada Familia_DSC9413_DSC9442What elevated our visit beyond any expectations was a superb moment of serendipity.

It started with her.

Kelly Byrne Sweet Nun Sagrada FamiliaAmid the hustle and the bustle, I was fortunate to capture her apart from her group quietly reveling in everything she saw. That look of wonder, that pure childlike awe. This is why I love candid photography. Her joy is contagious and this shot gently reminds me to try to see the world that way every day.

Let things surprise, excite, enthrall. I never want to lose that. She’s proof we never have to. The sacredness of this space shines across every inch of her face.

And then…we were even more blessed. The nuns decided to share an impromptu hymn with everyone, so we all stopped and listened in thrilled silence as their voices filled every nook of that amazing space with angel song. Talk about an experience to remember.

Kelly Byrne nuns singing in Sagrada FamiliaNow Let’s Talk About Camera Rage

I’m a photographer. I love shooting animals (yes, I’m aware of how that sounds) which is why I was a pet photog in another life. So the opportunity to shoot foreign animals was a treat. But what I’ve learned, the hard way, is that it’s always a good idea to ask their owners first.

The old adage shoot first, ask questions later doesn’t hold up so much. And because of the potential language issues, things can get ugly real fast.

Kelly Byrne dog in BarcelonaShortly after I snapped this shot an angry, arm-waving Catalonian donning his blue wife-beater got seriously up in my grill about taking photos of his beautiful pup. I won’t lie, I thought he might actually hit me or take my camera. He’d have to hit me to get my camera.

Mind you, I’d been shooting there for a few minutes, and he had ample time to protest in a nicer fashion. Alas, he chose the less nice road.

Despite him, I love this shot. I’m glad I got it. I feel like I captured a beautiful soul there. But, yeah, I’ll definitely ask next time.

So, I can be somewhat daft, and clearly I hadn’t learned my lesson about unwanted shooting, because I snapped this shot off later that night.

Kelly Byrne Barcelona womanI was embarrassed for doing it after she scolded me about taking unsolicited photos of her and her pup. She’s not on display. She’s a human being. Clearly under duress and in a bad situation.

She put me in my place, explaining that no one ever gave her respect or asked if they could photograph her, but instead just did what they wanted without consideration. I apologized profusely for overstepping. Then she told me to go ahead and shoot her pup if I wanted to.

She cried as she spoke about how they were going to take him away from her if she couldn’t come up with some kind of license fee for him the next day. I felt horrible for trying to sneak a photo of her in the first place, like she was merely a subject there for me to practice my photography skills on.

Yes, she’s in public, but it doesn’t mean anyone should treat her with disrespect and I felt taking any more photos would be doing that. Even after she gave her permission. So we knelt there, next to her, listening to her story instead.

She was the second lady in Barcelona who broke my heart. You can read about the first one here.

I really hope she came up with that license fee. I can’t imagine.

Sometimes I get carried away with capturing all the things I see without regard for the life in front of my camera. These experiences have taught me to always make sure my documentation is wanted and welcomed and to never take advantage of a person’s situation trying to make a great photo.

It’s A Scam!

There are these scam artists in Barcelona, see? Surprise surprise, right? They’re stationed everywhere, including around Sagrada Família. I’m not talking the selfie sticks, although you can make up your own mind about those.

You’ll know the guy I’m talking about by the fascinating little dancing cardboard cartoon characters he sells that seem to magically be boogying next to his boom box, no strings attached. It really is something to see, because, seriously, ‘they’re so cute and how the hell are they doing that?’

You do your due diligence, because your skeptical adult brain won’t let you just accept it. When you investigate, he’ll show you how they work.

It’s all about the little magnets on their feet, see? And how they react to the magnets in the boom box speaker. Because it sounds plausible and you’ve forgotten everything you never knew about science, he’ll convince you that he’s not completely bullshitting you right now.

Run. Don’t walk. Maybe, first, kick him in the shin for Tony and me. Then get away before he takes your five euro for a Homer Simpson doll who will do absolutely nothing but lie like the two-dimensional cardboard cutout he is. Then keep on running before your girlfriend convinces you to buy the Cartman too because, really, that’s the one she wanted in the first place.

Experience, my friends. Learn from ours.

And in fact, there are strings attached. So there you go.

And Then There Was The Smell

This was the only strange and unpleasant thing about Barcelona. Pockets of potent, sour, sewery air all around the city. Not everywhere. But every once in a while we would enter an area a little too pungent and have to scurry to get away to a fresher place.

It didn’t ruin anything for us, but it was definitely noticeable right off the bat. You get used to it after a while, but occasionally you’ll turn a corner and it’ll punch you in the face with a stinky fist. Small price to pay in my opinion.

Kelly Byrne Barcelona garbageThese trash and recycle bins are everywhere and they don’t smell at all. It’s a terrific idea and I really wish the US would follow suit. The streets in Barcelona, for the most part, were spotless.

I spoke to a friend last week who’d just returned from Barcelona (several of our friends visited Barcelona after we did this year) and she said there was no sewery smell to speak of. Most excellent. We were there in late April early May. Maybe it’s a spring thing.

Oh, Barcelona, we loved you even when you were waving your arms madly in my face and smelled kinda stinky.

Now is the time on the blog when I share more photos. If you’d like to see all of the Barcelona pics, please feel free to explore my Flickr page.

Kelly Byrne Barcelona Street Puppet
Adorable street puppets just outside Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia or The Barcelona Cathedral in Barri Gòtic (The Gothic Quarter).
Kelly Byrne Art In Barcelona
Kelly Byrne red bikes Barcelona
Bicicletas everywhere!

Next week in Barcelona Part Tres, I’ll discuss the difficulties of language barriers and how sometimes you just can’t scale that wall especially when you’re hungry.

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Author Kelly Byrne Website

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Kelly Byrne
An award-winning writer in many a genre, I currently herd words into novels and short stories about wildly flawed, but lovable characters. I strive to uncover the extraordinary in the ordinary, for those who believe in the possibility of the impossible, and those who always believe in love. My fiction embraces the idea that extraordinary things can and do happen in the real world. These whisperings of supernatural elements give my work a strong emotional edge, lending surprise and wonder to every story. I live in Los Angeles with my desperately handsome boyfriend where I’m working on my next novel.


  1. Your photos and stories are beautiful, Kelly. Thank you for sharing the fulfilling and the vulnerable moments. Traveling is such a gift.

  2. Holy neon penis, Batman!! Yes, of course that’s the *one* thing I take away from this lovely travelogue of yours. Don’t hate me because I have a dirty mind. 🙂

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