An April 2001 trip
to Barcelona by gwelkins
Quote: On the drive from the airport – sculpture after sculpture along the motorways center island, we started a love affair with this Mediterranean jewel – this city of sophistication, cultural dynamism, tradition, history – 2nd Century BC Roman colony -- home of Gaudi, Picasso, Miro – capitol of Catalonia.
Barcelona – oh you city of sophisticated culture – you showed us your best through your museums (we counted more than 40).
Or was it the individual and eclectic cultural identity, most perfectly and eccentrically expressed in the architecture of Antoni Gaudi. – La Sagrada Familia, Casa Mila, Park Guell?
We appreciated your diversity on our walk down La Rambla, your promenade stretching from the center of the city to the waterfront.
We loved you from every angle…
* the panoramic view from Castillo Montjuic, surrounded by the Olympic Quarter – with its museums, parks and gardens.
* our stroll through Parc de la Ciutedella - a romantic garden bordered by tree-lined paths and host to Barcelona's zoo.
* The Picasso Museum -- for art lovers with paintings, drawings and sketches from the early years of Pablo Picasso's life.
A typical day -- Breakfast is eaten late, lunch takes two to three hours and dinner is a strictly post-9pm affair. Late afternoon is a good time for a stroll – stop at a tapas bar, sit at the marble counter and sample their tasty tidbits, Catalan hospitality and a chilled San Miguel in stemmed glasses.
Walks around Placa de Catalunya – enjoy spontaneous artistic performances
Fonts Luminoses has illuminated fountains and falls that lead up to Font Magica. Most nights have a light and water show that changes shapes and colors every 30 seconds in sync to classical music. The Palau National, a palace built in the international style for the country's Expo in 1929, makes a grand backdrop.
Enjoy theater of typical Catalonian and Spanish plays
The world famous Lliceu for Opera
Palau de la Musica (UNESCO World Heritage site) – evening concerts
Day trips to Montserrat or a drive up Costa Brava to Girona or south to Tarragona or Sitges.
Taxis: Hail anywhere, Minimum fare € 2. Taxi drivers might get a bit angry if you pay with a big note! Make sure to have some change.
Metro: quickest and cheapest way of getting around. Multi-trip passes valid for both Metro and buses are available, such as the T-10 or ten-trip ticket, can be shared by two or more people and costs € 6. The Barcelona Card, a discount scheme run by the city tourist authority gives you unlimited transport and reduced entrance to a wide variety of museums and attractions.
Buses: routes may be confusing as buses often do not follow exactly the same route in both directions. The Bus Turistic is just perfect for visitors who want to discover the city at their leisure.
Attraction | "BARRI GOTIC - The Gothic Quarter"
While it’s possible to get lost in this history, it seems that all paths eventually lead to the Cathedral de la Seu. Built from 1298 to 1450, the Gothic cathedral has very imposing front and a soaring interior, lit only by votive candles and streaks of sun when it passes overhead. The cloister, the ribbed vaults, the pulpit and choir stalls are the most remarkable artistic features.
The Cathedral complex also comprises three medieval palaces: Cases dels Canonges, Casa del Degà, with a restored Renaissance façade, and Casa de l'Ardiaca (Archdeacon's house), the most interesting of the three with its flamboyant Gothic architecture.
Sunday mornings at 11, people gather in the Pla de St. Jaume in front of the cathedral to perform a folkdance – Catalan dance of the sardana. They join hands and step out a rhythmic ritual, accompanied by ``cobla,'' a musical ensemble of stringed and wind instruments.
We came across many historical sites on our walks – the Plaça de Ramon Berenguer el Gran, one of the most spectacular places in Old Barcelona, with its Roman walls and broken section of the old Palau Reial Major wall with a 40 meter bell tower.
Beyond the square, is Plaça del Rei. Designed as a complete unit, considered the noblest square in Old Barcelona (we loved the Gaudi lampposts). Facing the square are the Palau Reial Major (Royal Palace, 11-14th century), Chapel of Santa Ágata, and the Museu d'Història de la Ciutat (City's History Museum). Our favorite -- the great hall called the Saló del Tinell, especially the six stone semi-circular arches. In the patio there are four Corinthian columns belonging to the old Roman temple of Emperor Augustus.
A walk down C. Banys Nous and C. Palla, led us to the old Jewish Quarter, or Call. In this sector there are several ancient houses, the lovely, peaceful square Plaça Sant Felip Neri, and the Church of Sant Sever with its priceless Baroque altarpiece.
Nearby are 2 squares -- Plaça de Sant Josep Oriol and the beautiful and harmonious square of Plaça del Pi. Here we find the solemn church of the same name with a rose window noted for being the largest in the world. In the two squares there are weekly art and antique markets, and nearby are various antique shops which we were enchanted by – more like being in a museum – only you could touch the items of history.
While here, be sure to stop at the famous "granjas" café’s -- we savored their coffee, hot chocolate and cream filled bakery delights.
A wonderful walk in the Barri, near Parc du Citudella, is to The Picasso Museum -- a must! – see my write up in the next chapter.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 3, 2002
Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter)
La Rambla To Via Laietana
Barcelona, Spain 08002
Attraction | "The Ramblas - Spain's most popular street"
It's on La Rambla that you'll find the city's soul. With no cars to get in their way, folks amble nonchalantly along its length taking in the street artists, mimes, portrait painters, buskers and kiosks selling everything from newspapers and lottery tickets to yams, chestnuts, live birds and flowers.
As you wander down the Ramblas towards the port – keep an eye out for other highlights, like
* The Sant Josep or "Boqueria" Market -- Wrought iron building which houses one of the most popular and traditional of the city's food markets.
* The fountain of Les Canalettes -- Press the brass tap and take a drink from this fountain. Legend has it that strangers who do this are sure to return to Barcelona.
* Pla de la Boqueria -- This is the part which lies between Hospital street and Boqueria street. There is a mosaic by Joan Miró on the pavement.
* Palau Güell -- Carrer Nou de la Rambla, 3. The work of Antoni Gaudi -- built as the Barcelona residence of the Count Guell. The building houses the Museu de les Arts del Espectacle.
* Reials Drassanes -- The most important and most complete medieval dockyards in existence are to be found at the end of the Rambla. The Museum Maritime is housed inside.
Most of the restaurants along this walk look like fun, after our first meal there and being charged twice what the offerings in the window said, we didn’t return. I'd stick to the street cafe's and do people watching.
Keep in mind, however, that the petty crime rate in Barcelona is fairly high. Pickpockets just love tourists who wander around La Rambla or the other city sights with their heads in the air and plenty of cash in their pockets. So beware.
La Rambla (Las Ramblas) Pedestrian Mall
Attraction | "The PICCASO Museum"
The Museo Picasso crams three 15th century palaces: the Palau Berenguer d'Aguilar, Casa del Baro de Catellet and the Palau Meca. There are several periods represented -- in addition to works from his Pink Period and a solid collection of Blue Period pieces there are a selection of Picasso's childhood sketches of Andalusia and Barcelona.
The Barcelona Picasso Museumclearly confirms the ties that unite Pablo Picasso with the city of Barcelona. He did not only finish a solid academic training here, but the artistic effervescence that he experienced in the city was the starting point that opened up for him the path to modernity.
The museum has the most important and exhaustive collections of the works of his youth and education, in particular the ones he did between 1895 and 1904, the years in which the young artist lived in this city. It’s interesting that the works the family chose to gift to the government of Spain were from his later years – large scale drawings, very erotic in nature.. The works here in Spain are almost the bookends of his life. We found them informative and interesting. The work for which Picasso is most well known, the middle years, lives on in the major museums of the world and in private collections
His links to Catalan Modernism and, in particular, to the artists and intellectuals that used to meet at the mythical tavern, Els Quatre Gats (The Four Cats), are reflected in a series of works, chiefly in the portraits that he made of many regular customers. Friends had told us we’d enjoy a drink there, but we never did find it...was it really a myth after all?
Picasso Museum (Museu Picasso)
Barcelona, Spain 08003
+34 93 3196310
Attraction | "Antoni Gaudi -- some background"
This year, Barcelona is celebrating the 150 year anniversary of his birth. As I understand it, the purpose is to reread Gaudi and place him on the same level as Miro, Picasso and Dali.
To appreciate the artist, his vision and intention, allow me to fill in some blanks and give you a little background to enhance your experience as you move around this beautiful city of Barcelona.
Antoni Gaudi lived during the splendor of Modernism, the architectural and artistic movement of Catalonia that corresponded to the Art Nouveau movement in France and the Jugenstil in Germany.
Most of Gaudi’s works were executed in the city in which he lived, Barcelona. He courageously explored a variety of building types and shapes, and his scope of vision never got restricted by site and epoch limitations.
There's no escaping Antoni Gaudí. The eccentric modernist architect has left his mark on the city from the smallest iron lamps in the Plaça Real to the fantastic curvilinear masked balconies of the Casa Batlló. But it's his last unfinished piece that draws the crowds. The eight soaring, skeletal needlepoint spires of his cathedral, Templo Expiatorio de la Sagrada Familia (The Church of the Sacred Family) are Barcelona's unofficial symbol.
Since our travels were in the 149th year of his birth, we did not participate in this extraordinary celebration – but if we were there, this is what we would go and do and encourage you to do as well.
- Center for Contemporary Culture will present "Gaudi and his time".
- Caixa Catalunya in La Pedrera will be the scene for "Gaudi: Arts, Trade and Design".
- The Workshop will show Gaudi as a research into new construction techniques.
- Park Guell is setting up a permanent show reflecting the architects’ urbanistic thoughts.
- Gaudi public and privately owned buildings will be open to the public, many that haven’t been available to see before.
- The will be conferences, publications, guides, monographs, CD-ROM’s, special tours, packages and activities with the Gaudi theme, etc.
- Go have fun, enjoy this city and its artistic and creative wonder.
- Did you know that many people feel he was a living saint? The Vatican started a beautification process that may lead to his sanctification. Five friends who have continued his work started this process in 1992. Maybe "Patron saint of architects"?
Antoni Gaudi Landmarks (Gaudi Route)
La Exaimple -- Center City
Attraction | "La Sagrada Familia - Gaudi's Church"
What started as the idea of a bookseller – Josep Maria Boscabella – returning from Rome, a stop in Loreta inspired him to make an expiatory temple in his home of Barcelona that was dedicated to the Holy Family. After disagreements with the first architect whose vision was traditionally neo-gothic, a friend of one of the men on the council brought his friend, named Antoni Gaudi, on board – the rest is history.
This is Gaudí's greatest and most enduring masterpiece. In 1883, a year after work had begun on a Neo-Gothic church, the task of completing it was given to Gaudí, 31 at the time, and he changed everything. It became his life's work – 43 years of dedication - he lived on site for 16 of those years. Only one tower had been completed before his death – he was knocked down and killed by a tram in front of the project in 1926. He knew he would not complete it in his lifetime and was said to have thought it could take another hundred years. I was awestruck to think that he started building this when my grandfather was born – and overwhelmed when I realized it would not be finished in my lifetime.
What we most loved in Gaudí's architecture was its organic feeling – he honored nature in organic structure and symbolism. The columns in the interior are designed to look like trees, when you look up it’s like being in a forest. His design for the spires was said to have been inspired by the jagged profile of Montserrat.
This unfinished church is a symbolic structure with three main façades representing the Nativity on the east, the Passion and Death on the west, and the Glory planned on the south. The scheme of four towers on each façade represents the twelve Apostles. The dome crowning the apse is the symbol of the Virgin. The naves are supported by a complicated structural system of inclined columns and arches. The wall of the apse is adorned with unusual and original plant and animal motifs. The Nativity façade is decorated with organic forms, and its four 107 meter spires with polychrome mosaics crown the facades three doors. The west façade is in an advanced stage of construction, undertaken by a group of architects following Gaudi's original design.
Be sure to take the elevator to the top and look down into this creation. We returned many times over the 2 weeks we were in and around Barcelona – the play of sun bouncing off the organic angles was fascinating and inspiring. The play of the twilight and moon was mesmerizing. Thank you, Mr. Gaudi, for this gift to humanity.
La Sagrada Familia
Carrer de Mallorca, 401
Barcelona, Spain 08013
+34 93 2073031
Attraction | "Park Guell UNESCO World Heritage site"
Once referred to as a failure, it has become an UNESCO World Heritage Treasure. Envisioned as a utopian, private residential enclave, it became a city park for the public. Just a few houses were built here, one lived in by Gaudi prior to moving into his studio in Sagrada Familia -- it is now the Casa-Museu Gaudi. Gaudi’s fancy, fun and whim are ever present in their natural surroundings with the sun dancing on the colorful mosaics of glass and tile that make up his fountains, benches, columns.
If you go, take the metro but do NOT follow the street signs when you exit the station. The signs are for vehicular traffic and take you by the longest route imaginable up the backside of the hill. Instead, follow your map and you'll end up at the entrance where the small Gaudi houses sit on either side of the gate, and a large mosaic lizard sculpture fountain trickles water over mossy stones.
Park Guell (Parc Güell)
Montana Pelada, Gracia District
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