Sunday, December 14, 2014

Barcelona potpourri

Children chasing bubbles in Parc de la Ciutadella

I think I've been clear about our feelings for Barcelona: Both Ken and I put it right at the top of the list of favorite cities, (or nearly at the top for me, as I'm still going steady with Paris). Admittedly, we have A LOT MORE of the world to see, and I wouldn't be surprised if a visit to Venice, Lisbon, Bruges, or Oslo were to give the Catalonia capital a run for its euros.

For my third and final installment of Barcelona highlights, I let the pictures do most of the talking.

In 14-hundred and 92 ...

Christopher Columbus has fallen out of favor in much of the world,
but in Barcelona, Mirador de Colomb (Monument a Colóm) still has
its place of honor at the base of les Rambles (las Ramblas).

Detail on the monument of Christopher Columbus

Statues and such

I wish I could identify all these sculptures. Yeah, I know, I should have taken better notes. 

Our tour bus stopped here: in Montjuïc, maybe?

Angel with a star on his head

Man with a bird on his head

Modern art in the Gràcia neighborhood

Francesc Macià monument in Plaça de Catalunya

Barcelona's Arc de Triomf was the main access gate for the 1888 Universal Exhibition.

Parc de la Ciutadella

Like the Arc de Triomf, above, Parc de Ciutadella was built for the 1888 Universal Exhibition. Several prominent (some rather run down) structures from the exhibition and an amazing fountain remain. Barcelona's zoo, the Catalan Parliament, the Museu d'Art Modern, and the Museu de Geologia also are located here.

The Umbracle is home to tropical plants.

The winter garden, L'Hivernacle

Perhaps the park's most prominent features is the Cascada fountain, designed by Antoni Gaudi. This is a picture of the top of the fountain.

Gaudi's simple, understated style

Pretty tourists pose with wooly mammoth

Me, happy to be here, but sad it's our last day in Barcelona

On the waterfront

Large lobster in Port Vell

Modern sculpture along Port Vell

Gravity-defying glass building along Barcelona's port

Dramatic road shoulder in Port Vell

Top of Tibidabo

We didn't go to the top of Barcelona's highest point, but I managed to take this picture
(one of my favorites). To the right of Sacred Heart church is Parc d'Attractions.  

To market, to market

The Mercat de la Boqueria is the most popular of Barcelona's food markets.
The iron-and-glass hall was built in the early 1900s.

Fresh fruit cocktails

I don't recall ever seeing burritos like these.

Inside the Mercat de la Boqueria

... And remember ...

Words to live by.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Free to see in Barcelona

Put aside culture, vibrance, beauty, architecture, and atmosphere. What makes Barcelona one of our favorite cities is value. If you know my husband, then you know he enjoys a bargain, and with our first dinner check totaling 13 euros and a 20 euro massage that he describes as the best massage ever, you can see why he loved our recent trip to the capital of Catalonia.

Even without the benefit of a massage, I find much to adore about Barcelona. Here are three favorite fabulous free things we discovered:

Roof of Arenas de Barcelona at Plaça Espanya

I'm not sure I'll be able to find Arenas de Barcelona 
shopping mall, but when we emerge from 
the subway, it's right across the street.

Interior of Arenas de Barcelona
Not much inside the huge shopping center interests me,
but the snack bar at the cinema catches my eye because ...

... this is some colorful popcorn!
View from the rooftop of Arenas de Barcelona

View from of Plaça Espanya from the rooftop of Arenas de Barcelona

Font Màgica de Montjuïc

A magic fountain? Really? I'm intrigued, but skeptical. After our rooftop stroll, we cross Plaça Espanya and pass through the Venetian Towers toward the Museu Nacional D'Art de Catalunya (MNAC). This area was built for the 1929 International Exhibition and is one of the city's main traffic hubs. 

We arrive about 45 minutes before showtime and score two seats at an outdoor snack bar. One cheap wine, a beer and a bottle of water assures us ringside seats for the Magic Fountain show. About a thousand spectators are seated on the MNAC steps and hundreds are milling around, but our view is unimpared.

I anticipate that I'll be able to endure about 15 minutes of watching water, but as soon as the music starts and the lights and water begin their dance, I am totally hooked. 

Believe me, the pictures I post here do not do justice to the spectacle that is Font Màgica. The fountain performs Thursdays through Sundays in the high season, and Fridays and Saturdays in the autumn/winter. 

Font Màgica de Montjuïc

Font Màgica de Montjuïc

 Sunday Afternoon with Pablo: Museu Picasso

Pablo Picasso lived in Barcelona throughout most of his teens, and it is said he wished his museum to be located here. Of course there are Picasso museums in Paris and in the south of France, but nowhere else is so large a collection of his early work. The museum is spread through several Gothic palaces over six blocks in the Ribera district. 

I have done my homework and know the museum is free after 3 p.m. on Sundays (all day on the first Sunday of the month). We arrive around 2:15 and join the line of about 100 people. By the time the clock strikes three, and we are heading inside, the line winds around the block (and still is long when we leave the museum a few hours later).

I can't take pictures inside, so a few photos of the colorful La Ribera district will have to suffice.

Lady in La Ribera

Painter across from Museu Picasso

Architectural detail in La Ribera

Architectural detail in La Ribera

Architectural detail in La Ribera

A sculpture by Julio Nieto at Cathedral of Barcelona

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Gettin' Gaudí with it in Barcelona

Ken and I recently took our first trip to Barcelona, and (spoiler alert) it will no way be our last. Barcelona is vibrant, delicious, gorgeous, and, at least in late November, comfortable in terms of climate and crowds. Over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing some highlights of our trip.

Gaudí is everywhere in Barcelona, from its lamposts to its skyline. I can think of no other city so influenced by one architect. This trip, we decide to visit just two Gaudí sites, Park Güell and La Pedrera, leaving more to savor next time.

Antoni Gaudí i Cornet (1852-1926) is the most renown and prolific architect of the Modernisme (Catalan Art Nouveau) style. His work was heavily inspired by nature. Unlike other architects, Gaudí would rarely draw his ideas on paper; instead he would build three-dimensional models.

Gaudi would construct forms of wire that
he would hang over a mirror ...
 ... and appear as the right-side-up
form in its reflection. 

Artist and benefactor met in 1878 when a window display that Gaudí had designed for a glove store at the Universal Exhibition in Paris caught the fancy of entrepreneur Eusebi Güell. Over the next quarter century, Güell would commission Gaudí to design a variety of projects including his home, immodestly named Palau Güell, and a church for his textile workers, unsurprisingly called Cólonia Güell.

In 1900, Gaudí began designing an estate for well-off families on a large Barcelona property belonging to Güell, known as Muntanya Pelada (bare mountain). Güell wanted the estate to be solely residential, and he directed the architect to restrict the heights of the houses, so as not to block views of the sea or sunlight.

The result, as seen today is Park Güell, a unique (and I very rarely use that word) celebration of Gaudí art and architecture.

Park Güell

Overlooking the main entrance to Park Güell
It's mild but overcast when we arrive at Park Güell, about a 15-minute walk from our hotel in the Graciá neighborhood. After exploring the Portico of the Washerwoman, a series of buttresses woven through the mountainside, we stop to rest in Nature Square, the esplanade once known as Teatre Grec. The square is partly dug into the mountain and is held up by 86 massive columns soaring up from the Hypostyle Room below. 

Ken stands in the Portico of the Washerwoman at Park Güell.

Domed ceiling of the Hypostyle Room at Park Güell

The undulating bench ringing the square was planned by Josep Maria Jupol and is made from concrete clad with tile-shard mossaic and pieces of pottery, the style called trencadís, much favored by Gaudí.

The undulating bench ringing Nature Square
at Park Güell is composed of mosaic tile shards
on a concrete form.
We take a break from people-watching to admire
a pair of Park Güell residents.

We make our way down the Monumental Flight of Steps, passing gargoyles, a snake-head fountain, and a brightly colored salamander. Ken people-watches outside while I visit the gift shop that is housed in the estate's Porter's Lodge.

Ken (center) enjoys the view from circular
bench at the top of the Monumental Flight of Steps. 

This colorful mosaic salamander greets visitors
at the main entrance to Park Güell.

Casa Milá

Chimneys atop La Pedrera

Standing on the roof terrace of  La Pedrera, the mansion commissioned by industrialist Pere Milá and his wife Roser Segimón, (the building is informally known as Casa Milá), we are clearly in the midst of a masterpiece. We wander among the undulating shapes, some are chimneys, others are arches framing sites off in the distance: Mount Tibadabo or La Sagrada Família, Gaudí's (still unfinished) masterpiece.

An arch frames MountsTibadabo on the roof
of La Perdrera. 

Shards of champagne bottles were used to
cap off this structure on the rooftop of La Perdrera.

Inside we explore some of the architect's models and display cases that contain Gaudí's inspirations from nature. We descend another floor and walk through rooms decorated much as they were in the early 1900s.

Model of La Sagrada Família

Gaudí was inspired by forms in nature, such as this
snake skeleton.

A reproduction of the kitchen dining area in La Perdrera

On our way down  stairs, we pass the doors of private apartments. How cool would it be to live at La Pedrera?

Although we decide to postpone visits to La Sagrada Família and Casa Batlló, two more of seven Gaudí works in and around Barcelona that are classified as UNESCO World Heritage sites, I include some exterior photos here.
Work continues on La Sagrada Família.

La Sagrada Família detail

La Sagrada Família detail

La Sagrada Família detail
Casa Batlló