Barcelona and Madrid are not very far apart and yet I have had no burning desire to return since my last visit in 2009. In many ways I felt like I had seen everything that the city had to offer. Many say that you either love Barcelona or Madrid and we all know which city has captured my heart.
Ali said it was somewhere she wanted to go and since we found cheaper flights from Barcelona than Madrid to Amsterdam fortune seemed to prove that I needed to visit the city one more time. (We flew a cheap airline that claimed it was in Barcelona, but in reality was in Girona, but more on that later.)
We found a small hostel right off of las Ramblas, which gave us access to all of the main monuments of the city without having to rely on anything but our legs. Since we arrived around midday our first activity consisted of checking into the hostel and then walking to the main market: Las Ramblas.
Here amongst many different types of foods, you can have specialty fresh squeezed juices for 1 euro. Above Slack is enjoying a papaya coconut flavored juice. The bright colors and smells are mesmerizing.
After viewing Guernica, what some may consider the pinnacle of Picasso’s career, we sought to see his beginnings as displayed at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. I find it to be an amazing museum that gives a thorough overview of his roots, allowing anyone to understand the steps that led to the radical changes seen in his later works. I loved spending time looking at his different renditions of Velazquez’s Las Meninas and the different ways that he distorted the image attempting to create his own work. Below are two images of the building that houses the museum’s collection:
We continued exploring the city making our way back towards the ocean happening upon this intricate wire sculpture.
Eventually we made it to the port, where it promptly was time for a photo shoot with the large lions!
Serendipitously, we found a restaurant with a menu del día and ordered a large paella to share. We had no plans of where to eat our first full meal in Barcelona, but knew that we wanted to eat somewhere along the water, and we not only got the view we were hoping for, but also delicious food.
After dinner we continued our journey walking along the water before deciding to turn in for the night.
Our hostel advertised a free bike tour that visited all of the Gaudí sites in the city. Since we did not have that much more time in the city and wanted to see as much as possible, we jumped upon the opportunity. Here is where we met our tour guide:
And then weaved through the various streets until we reached the shop from which we rented 5 euro bikes! Here is a photo of Ali ready to begin our tour!!
This tour is a phenomenal way to see many of the major sites of the city. We had a very talented tour guide who focused his personal studies on city planning and so the theme of his tour was how major events such as the World Fair and the Olympics drastically changed the city. To fully comprehend this notion, we started our tour at the beach, which originally was the poorest region of the city, the home of the fisherman. When the Olympics came to Barcelona it was transformed into one of the richest regions. An interesting fact, leases can be passed down from family to family under Spanish law and so in the same building you can have a woman paying the same small rent as her ancestors next to someone paying multiple thousands to be in the up-and-coming region. Therefore, you have a space where the rich and the poor literally live next to one another.
Like little ducks, we followed the mother goose on our tour. Our next main stop was the Monumental Bullring of the City. This is a 20th century building although the mudejar and byzantine features hint at an earlier erection. No longer can you sit in the hot sun and watch the cultural spectacle of the bull fight. It has been banned throughout the Catalan region. This brought about a discussion of the differences between the Catalan Region and the rest of Spain and the Catalan’s desire for independence. We also talked about how the modernist architecture movement took many different forms, more than just the traditional Gaudí for which the city is known.
We continued pedaling through the city to arrive at La Sagrada Familia, which has been much discussed amongst my family after a special aired on 60 Minutes.
Above I have tried to capture as many different views of the world’s most visited construction site. Antonio Gaudí devoted his life to its production; however, died before it could be fully completed. As a pious man he saw the Church as his gift to God and used many of his other projects found throughout the city as a means to pay for its construction. The three main facades depict the different forms of Trinity: Mary, Joseph and Son, the Crucifixion and Resurrection into heaven. The Holy Family faces the sunrise, whereas the Crucifixion faces the sunset, marking temporally the religious changes. Now there are only four towers, but there area desired 18: 12 for the Apostles, 4 higher ones to mark the Evangelists, 1 even higher to mark the Virgen, and the highest at 170 meters to honor Jesus Christ. 170 meters is an important height because the highest mountain surrounding the city Monserrat is 171 meters, meaning that God is still the highest point in the city. Some say that construction will end in 2032 marking the 150 year mark of the beginning of its construction. We will see if this happens or not!
After seeing the lifelong project of the greatest Catalan architect we continued our tour to see the sites that he used to pay for its completion: Casa Mila and Casa Batilo.
The beauty of his architecture is that it evokes an emotional reaction. Each person can create his or her own reaction to the space that was used as apartment complexes even though they were designed with a certain theme in mind. I implore you to look at the various photos to see what you find. Each building has many peculiar characteristics that play into a whole complete structure, most have a religious connotation. I have decided not to say what they are, just to allow you to appreciate the buildings. If you are super curious you can use their names and google definitions. Sometimes it’s best to experience art, not to learn it.
From here we rode through the Arc de Triumph built for the World Fair held in the city, which like the Olympics left its mark on the city’s growth and plan.
Obviously some soccer player had some great aim to get his ball stuck amongst the coat of arms of the Spanish kingdoms. We continued the tour to our last stop, Park Ciutadella, where Gaudí worked as an apprentice on the main statue in charge of the hydraulic systems. This fountain is placed on top of the site where Philip V’s Citadel once stood. For many years it was the only place of greenery within the city and thus is the place to pass an afternoon. We learned that the following day they were having a huge park birthday party because the government just passed a new law that you must have a permit to host your child’s birthday party there. It sounded like a lot of fun, too bad we were in another city.
This was the last stop on our tour and we then headed back to the starting point of our journey. We drank our final 1 euro juice grabbed our suitcases and then headed to the train station to head to Girona!