A September 2003 trip
to Barcelona by travelprone
Quote: Superb markets, expansive, clean beaches, the unique houses on the "ruta modernisme', Picasso Museum, an historic castle, replicas of Spanish regional architecture and the Olympics and, above all, the panorama of Tibidabo--in Barcelona, you’ll see unforgettable art and architecture everywhere!
If you know Spanish, you can usually find someone willing to speak it. Don't assume just because you know Spanish, you'll find Catalan easy. I made that false assumption. Catalan is phonetically quite different from Spanish. For example, Jaime is a man's name very common as it's our "James." In Catalan, it's pronounced "ha-mo", with the accent on the second syllable, whereas in Spanish the same name, spelt the same way, is pronounced "hi-may" accent also on second syllable.
One of the highlights of our walk was seeing the Hotel Arts Casino and Garden; the spray of automatic sprinklers over the terraced garden while the misty rain also dripped over the area, created a very pleasing effect. Then, the "Fish" sculpture that Frank Gehry created for the ’92 Olympics attracted our attention as we approached the wide, largely deserted beachfront. We strolled down that beachfront for several blocks, noting that only a social club for mostly senior men appeared to be open in an area with lots of empty outdoor dining tables and chairs. In autumn the Barcelona beachfront seemed to be as quiet as autumn is on San Diego beaches.
When we turned north again we passed the cavalcade of cafes and restaurants on the Passeig Juan de Borbo, a wide boulevard bordered by yacht basins, a new street that had also been constructed for the 1992 Olympics. An outburst of much heavier rain forced us at this point to curtail our walking tour and, luckily, duck into the Museu de Historia d’ Catalunya located in a renovated port warehouse just north of the Passeig.
Our son on a later day visited the Columbus Monument though he did not go up to the top, took several photos of the southernmost section of the Rambles, called Rambla de Santa Monica, and visited the Museu Maritim, in a building that contained the medieval shipyards, on the Avinguda de les Drassanes, "Drassanes" being the Catalan for shipyards. Revamped in 1990 for the Olympics, this museum features simulations (headphones with English) of great moments in the history of Maritime Barcelona. He enjoyed the 2 highlights: the replica of Don Juan of Austria’s flagship at the key battle of Lepanto in 1571, and the prototype of the first submarine, the Ictineo, invented by Narcis Monturiol. Barcelonans are especially proud they were the first to produce written maritime laws (preserved for display in the museum).
The Museu Maritim costs 5.40 euro for adults and is open Tues through Sun 10am-7pm. Click on the ‘Welcome’ on their website for an itinerary and descriptions of the collections of this excellent museum.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 3, 2004
Hours Vary with season-in Oct. Sat, Sun noon-8 only
Because it was there, our son just HAD to go to Tibidabo. However, because he was using an old guidebook he did not know that the Parc is only open on weekends during October when we visited. The tram that takes visitors up to the top where the Parc is located doesn’t run during the week. So, when he arrived at the terminus of the FGC funicular, he saw the only way to go further was by climbing. Even he balked at doing so, and he was glad he hadn’t when he met a group of British tourists who had gone up and down in a taxi. They informed him that none of the rides and attractions were open. If you are in Barcelona during July and August, the attractions are open from noon on every day and the famed Tramvia Blau will transport you up the hill.
For other months, hours and days vary. Check www.barcelona.moodmapper.com for details on some of the rides available on "La Muntanya Magica," as it’s called and phone the above number to verify opening hours on the day you visit. It’s pricey at $14.40 or so for adults, but for seniors (over 64) it’s only around $3.60 or so, according to this site. There’s a lot of appeal to adventurers who enjoy variety and danger in their rides. This is where Barcelonans have summer fun and get way from summer heat in the city.
Our son was disappointed he didn’t get to the top, but he did feel the view was outstanding from here, better even than from Parc Guell and Montjuic. The name of this mountain on which a communications tower was added for the 1992 Olympics is explained in most guidebooks for those who don’t know Latin and/or are not familiar with the New Testament account of Satan’s tempting Christ by offering him dominion over all he could see from the highest mountaintop if he would swear allegiance to a devilish master. "I will give to you ( all that you see)" is a rough translation of what the name Tibidabo means.
The church you see on Tibidabo is the Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor (Sacred Heart); the architect was NOT Gaudi and its architecture is not particularly remarkable. Remarkable is the Torre de Collserola that has an observatory with telescope and public viewing area that shows the whole of Barcelona.
Designed by the famous English architect Norman Foster and completed for the 1992 Olympics, the tower is open Wed to Sun from 11am-2:30pm and 3:30-6pm (7 or 8pm in summer). From Tibidabo funicular terminus, take bus 211 to the Torre.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 3, 2004
Sarrià Sant Gervasi
Barcelona, Spain 08035
Attraction | "Museu de Picasso"
The collection in this museum stems from his earliest periods of art, especially from 1895 and 1904., and including his Blue and Rose Periods. Although he left Barcelona to reside in Paris, Picasso remained Spanish in spirit,and his famous "Guernica" reflects his outrage at the destruction of that Basque city during the Spanish Civil War. During his lifetime he would not allow the mural to be exhibited in Franco Spain ; on the centenary of his birth, October 25, 1981,"Guernica" took up residence at the Centro Reina Sofia in Madrid. Don’t miss his mature (1957) studies of Velasquez’ Las Meninas that show his appreciation of that great Spanish artist.
Other highlights include early paintings of Barceloneta beach and later paintings of Cannes’ beach. The works here were donated by his friend Jaime Sabartes, Picasso himself and Picasso’s widow, Jacqueline who donated ceramic works. Most interesting to observe is how accomplished an artist he was while he was still a teenager.
The five palaces of which the museum is composed are located in an authentically narrow medieval lane; the edifices themselves were overhauled in the Renaissance style in the 17th century. With their expansive wooden doors and lovely courtyards, they typify the splendor of Barcelona when it was a Mediterranean Sea and trading power in the thirteenth century because they were the residences of wealthy city leaders of the time. In 1974 the whole street, Carrer Montcada was declared to be a national Conjunto Monumental Historico Artistico (national historic and artistic treasure). Art and architecture both provide a feast for visitors here.
For a preview, click here, and then click for ingles Also on www.bcninternet.com are photos of Gothic Barcelona and Modernist Barcelona by Christine Scharf that will prepare you for this special Ribera street, as well as the Eixample.
Picasso Museum (Museu Picasso)
Barcelona, Spain 08003
+34 93 3196310
Attraction | "The Mercat de Boqueria & Mercat Gotic"
The Thursday we visited this world famous market, a goodly crowd of housewives were shopping for dinner, dragging their little canvass-covered shoppers’ carts with them as they eyed an array of tempting possibilities. The fish and shellfish cases, the sides of beef, the strings of colorful chilis, the roar of customers and commerce –all the sights and smells of glorious food will overwhelm you.
"Boc" is the Catalan name for goat so most historians think that’s how this market got named, as goat meat was and is very popular in Catalan cuisine. On March 19, St. Joseph’s Day, 1836, this now venerable market opened, on a site that had been occupied by a Carmelite convent of St. Josep. Especially in the large, main "avenue" of the market, the way in which products are displayed is both artful and colorful. See this website under "Comer en la Boqueria," for mini-reviews of four eateries here If you can read Spanish, this site is great for restaurant reviews .
On the eastern side of the Ramblas is the Catedral. You can take the Rambla north to Carrer Portaferrissa, then walk till you reach Placa Nova. Ahead of you to the south you can’t miss seeing the catedral covered with green netting in ongoing restoration. Tourists thronged a lively little open-air market of trinkets and crafts in stalls on the catedral praca the day we passed by. Open only on Thursdays from 9am-2pm, this antiques market is called Mercat Gotic. We didn’t visit the Cathedral or the antiques market as we were more interested in taking photos of the narrow alleys and hidden enclaves of the Barri Gotic during the daylight. In actuality, many of the buildings here were transferred from other locations in the city; as urban renewal has been ongoing in Barcelona, off and on during waves of prosperity, since the mid-nineteenth century. The balconies of many old buildings sport netting indicating ongoing rehabilitation. Walls on empty lots offer opportunities for elaborate, often bizarre street art. This process emphasizes the busy enterprising Barcelonan spirit -- a city always becoming newer in the midst of what is very old.
La Rambla, 91
Attraction | "The Eixample - Manzana de la Discordia & Casa Mila"
My favorite of this trio is Casa Amatller (#41) by PuigiI Cadafalch. I like its Lowlands stepped-down roof, its colorful tiles, and its Gothic similarities to the medieval palaces that house the Picasso Museum on Carrer Montcada. Of course Gaudi’s Casa Batlo (#43) is in a class by itself for ultimately his work was so individual it defies classification as part of the Modernisme movement. Batlo’s scaly roof look, its spooky protuberances are so distinct that the building really strikes the viewer’s eye. This project was a remodel of an existing building; it’s probably safe to say its present appearance bears little resemblance to the building he started with. Although I found Domenech I Montaner’s Palau Musica to be the most memorable secular creation I saw in Barcelona, the Casa Lleo -- Morera (#35) did not impress me as much although its curved balconies are very beautiful. The building we see today is one that was altered during the 1940’s, so what we see is NOT exactly what he created.
Ignoring the nearby sight of the chair on the top of the Tapies Museum that we could see as we viewed the Manzana houses, we proceeded south to Casa Mila (La Pedrera) to at least view it from the outside as we did not have time to tour it. This extraordinary building consists of a wavy stone façade over a steel frame completely obscured but functionally supporting seven stories. Underneath Mila has a garage, an innovation in its time. Josep Jujol’s wrought-iron balconies complement the building’s undulations, yet contrast with the rough "melting" texture of its façade. Surreal as its chimneys are, this building works and functions today as a Caixa Catalana Bank with its museum acknowledging the Casa’s UNESCO World Heritage site status.
Open for touring 10am-7:30pm daily except holidays.
La Manzana de la Discordia
Passeig de Gracia 92
Attraction | "Montjuic- Poble Espanol (Castell & Olympic Stadium"
Just to the east of the Mies van der Rohe pavilion, that was dismantled after the 1929 Fair, but rebuilt in 1985, this collection of Spanish villages also has a section devoted to eating and drinking with restaurants, bars, and night clubs. Especially in summer, the cool of Montjuic draws families escaping from a densely populated city, and so, in its refurbishment of the Poble the new management added Sunday clowns and puppet shows, and encouraged nighttime activities.
In early October on a week day when our son visited the Poble it was very quiet; few craft workshops were open and his photo taking was unhampered . In particular, he focused on doors and squares, but there are also church facades and towers, and the over-all variety of architectural styles does highlight the significant climatic and geographic as well as cultural differences in this large country. If you’re exploring Montjuic anyway, you can do as he did, just stroll around and take advantage of the picturesque "snapshots" of Spain before you. Many guidebooks and visitors feel this attraction is just a tourist trap, too expensive, but these generalizations apply to the site’s amusement park activities. On a weekday when he visited, its exploration can be pleasant and free.
While he was in the Montjuic area, our son also visited the Placa d’Europa and Torre de Calatare at the Olympic complex and the Castell where Catalans were imprisoned during the Civil War . Executed here was the president of the Catalan republic, Lluis Companys. The street running north to south at the Western border of Ciutadella Park commemorates him. Built in 1640 as a Spanish fortress to keep watch for Catalan revolts against Philip IV, this hated symbol of Spanish suppression is now the Museu Militar, but our son did not visit it but took photos of the scenery with beautiful castle gardens and terrific views of the city.
Southwest of City Center Overlooking the Harbor