Monday, 30 January 2017

Barcelona - Gaudi Casas

We spent our second day in Barcelona in the Eixample, walking the Passeig de Gracie between the Gaudi casas and exploring the adjoining neighbourhood.  We visited La Pedrera (Casa Mila) in the morning and Casa Batllo in the afternoon (online tickets are a must) with a three and a half hour lunch at Disfrutar in between.  If you are interested in the exceptional 20 course food experience at this Michelin starred restaurant, please visit my food blog Foodsparks.

La Pedrera, described as a "petrified wave" and built at the height of Gaudi's career, was jaw-dropping amazing. We spent three hours there without realizing the time passing because there was something to see around every corner. We started at the unusual roof terrace with its dynamic forms, artistic yet functional and which inspired the figures in Star Wars. Then we entered the attic where we marvel at one of the gems of Gaudi's architectural creations - the 270 beautiful brick arches and the exhibition on Gaudi's life and work. The apartments brought us back to daily life in the early 20th century and how Gaudi designed for it. 

By the time we got to Casa Batlló after a long lunch, we were tired but it didn't dampen our enthusiasm for the beautiful interior of this remarkable house.  I loved the many curves and arches that made up its stairs, walls and ceilings.  The rooftop was on a much smaller scale than La Pedrera but still the same fascinating symbolic sculptures, this time reminiscent of the dragon and St. George.  

It was a great day in the Eixample, with its many high-end shops established in old houses, we enjoyed the fascinating mix of architectural styles and streetscapes.

La Predrera

The internal courtyard

Roof terrace of La Perdrera

Rooftop sculptures were all functional elements

 Beautiful brick catenary arches in the attic

Inside the apartments

Tile detail

The colour glazed internal facade

Lobby ceiling and front entrance

Disfrutar inside design - see Foodsparks

Casa Batlló

More curves!

Fireplace and chimney on the main floor

The front window
Whirlpool on the ceiling of the main room

 Attic corridor and attic with catenary arches

Staircase to the rooftop
The dragon

Staircase from the lobby

Passeig de Gracie


Plaça de Catalunya

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Barcelona - Montserrat and Park Güell

Barcelona!  A place I had wanted to visit for more than twenty years!  It was with great anticipation that I looked forward to visiting it this time at the end of our 12 day cruise.  Our ship docked in the port early in the morning and since it's to early to check in at the hotel, we took a small group tour to Montserrat and Park Güell.  The driver also took us on a quick tour around the waterfront and up to Montjuïc to see the panoramic view of the city before we headed out to Montserrat.

Montserrat with its spectacular mountain backdrop was awe-inspiring.  We had planned our visit to coincide with the boys' choir concert at 1 pm but the church was way too crowded before it was even time for the concert, literally packed from door to door, with hardly room to allow people to leave if they wanted to.  It became more of a spectacle than a spiritual experience. 

We returned to the city and visited Park Güell, another crowd experience and one almost had to learn to be skilled crowd dodgers, with practice, to survive and claim a right to enjoy this magnificent piece of art without always having someone posing in front of it.  It was a challenge but lesson learned - visit first thing in the morning or put up with the crowds - and we got very good at it, as there were crowds everywhere in Barcelona.  According to the word on the street, Barcelona was experiencing an unprecedented influx of tourists because of the fear of terrorism in the other parts of Europe. And of course, it was also thanks to the many cruise ships that either started or ended in Barcelona throughout most of the year.  I knew it would not be our last visit so we did not rush to see everything in the four days that we were there.

Panorama from Montjuïc, the hill in Barcelona with the Olympic stadium and a couple of art museums, including the Joan Miro collection and the Catalan Art Museum, neither of which we got to see - but one had to leave some good stuff for another visit!

Sculpture depicting Catalan national dance the "Sardana"
Barcelona Face sculpture by Roy Lichtenstein at the old port
Montserrat was an hour's drive out of Barcelona - these mountains are over 4,000 ft. high with trails right to the top

The Benedictine abbey and the church Santa Maria de Monserrate, reachable by road, cable car, or rack railway - and of course, by hiking trail!

The trail and the rack railway

Inside the Santa Maria

The loggia between the church and the abbey

Arthurian myth? 

Boys' choir in concert

Park Güell entrance

Gaudi built this as the Porter's Lodge of the estate - this is now the Barcelona History Museum
The "monumental" flight of steps up the Hypostyle or Columns Room
The star attraction here is the dragon - absolutely everyone must have a photo with it!

Uncluttered view
Detail beside the stairs
Ceiling of the Hypostyle Room - the room has 86 columns - directly above this is the ceramic undulating bench of the upper square

This was quite a photographic feat - finding a patch with no one sitting on it!
The gardens

The outside of the Hypostyle Room

Dinner tonight at a Basque tavern, with a nice surprise on the menu, was a great way to wrap up our first day in this great city!  Please visit Foodsparks to read more about the meal.