Sunday, 5 February 2017

Barcelona - Old town

Our first three days in Barcelona, we were confined by schedules for the different venues, so it was a great relief to not have a schedule on the last day and we were free to wander around the old towns, Barri Gotic and El Born, stopping when we wanted to.  It was also our first chance to really see the much hyped Ramblas.  The star attraction was La Boqueria, the indoor market with its beautifully laid out stalls.

We wandered over to the Cathedral as it was free only in the morning and discovered another Holy Gate to walk through - this trip had unwittingly turned into quite a pilgrimage!  We walked through the impressive Plaça del Rei with its medieval buildings and also found the Roman ruins inside a courtyard surrounded by modern apartments.  

We made it to the gorgeous Santa Maria del Mar church while it was still free and had time to admire its unique Catalan Gothic style.  The church staff was in the midst of raising a huge wooden cross above the altar which added to its ambiance.  The Picasso Museum, located in five medieval town houses, took up the rest of the afternoon although by that time, we were "museum-ed" out and the collection, comprising mainly of his early works, required patience.  

We were finally able to spend some time people watching as we sat in the Plaça del Pi for an early supper while there was still enough light to see.  We were hugely entertained by a clown who was absolutely hilarious, so outrageous were his people imitations.  We lucked out once again as we wandered back to our hotel we came upon the beautiful Santa Maria del Pi Church which happened to be open because of a concert rehearsal.  It was wonderful to actually see what Catalan Gothic meant in the unusually wide nave of the church, 54 ft of unsupported unreinforced stonework (apparently one third of its length).  It was a great way to wrap up our visit to this amazing city.

Inside the market La Boqueria - it was not only the huge selection of goods but also how carefully they were arranged

Santa Caterina Market in El Born was not as colourful

The Cathedral - designated "Holy Door" on the right

The vast nave inside the cathedral

The famous geese inside the cloister
The medieval Plaça del Rei

Remains of the Roman temple from the first century B.C.

The narrow stone streets were great acoustic venues for street musicians
Collection of water fountains

Lone animal activist spread out in front of the church

Santa Maria del Mar - Catalan Gothic from the 14th century

Beautiful rose window

Raising of the crucifix

The Picasso Museum located in five medieval townhouses

Entertainment in the Plaça del Pi

Santa Maria del Pi with its extra wide nave
The Ramblas at night
This wraps up our Amsterdam-Barcelona trip.  Watch out for posts on our next trip to Iguassu Falls and Patagonia.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Barcelona - Hospital de Sant Pau and the Palau de la Musica

The Hospital de Sant Pau and the Palau de la Musica Catalana, both created by architect Lluis Domenech i Montaner in the Art Nouveau style of his time, are great artistic and cultural treasures not to be missed in Barcelona.  The Hospital was a short walk from the Sagrada Familia but had far fewer visitors so it was the perfect place to escape from the crowds in and around the basilica.  It was a peaceful haven and built with that idea in mind. The hospital complex was built as an independent isolated site, "a city within a city", with an area of 145 square metre per patient, including the landscaped grounds - a concept unheard of at the time (1930). The complex was made up of 27 pavilions (16 were modernista), each with a specific medical specialty and linked to each other through underground galleries.

Materials chosen were the best, including brick, colourful clay tiles, glazed ceramic or decorated stone, ceramic mosaic, wood, marble, glass, metal and iron, to create pleasant natural surroundings for the patients.  Not just functional, the hospital was a work of art.  You can see from the photos below what an exceptional hospital environment this was.

The Palau de la Musica Catalan was not just an architectural jewel, it was also a "symbolic emotional heritage" for the people of Catalonia. The building brought together all the decorative arts: sculpture, mosaic, stained glass and ironwork.  Guided tours were offered but we purchased advanced tickets for a concert at the Palau to fully experience the venue. We lucked out as the week that we were in Barcelona, there happened also to be a concert commemorating the 50th anniversary of Habaneras in Calella (a seaside town near Barcelona). We enjoyed an evening of lovely singing and also participated in a bit of nationalistic expression - everyone was given white kerchiefs to wave along with the choirs on stage for the grand finale.  Lots of fun even though we have yet to figure out what the white kerchief signified although it was clearly an expression of support to wave it together!

I am also happy to report that despite all the warnings of thefts and pickpockets in the city, we were able to walk back unmolested to our hotel from the Palau after the concert.  We felt safe because there were lots of people on the street at night - of course, we were also lucky...

The front of the Hospital de Sant Pau faced the Avenue de Gaudi, a straight line to the Sagrada Familia.  The photo below is a view of the Sagrada Familia through the front portal of the Administrative Pavillion, framed by the reflection of another building in the portal glass.

We entered through the basement - these were the decorated steps leading to the upper level

Beautifully kept gardens were part of the planned concept - a new one at the time since open-air areas for patients' enjoyment and wellbeing were regarded then as unnecessary.  Here the architect designed two gardens per pavilion.  The plants and trees served the purpose of purifying the air and also modifying the weather.

Beautifully decorated pavilions

The magnificent foyer of the Administration Pavilion and the stained glass cupola over the stairs (below)

The Dominech i Montaner Room, formerly the main hall of the hospital: convergence of a host of artistic disciplines - architecture, sculpture, stained glass, mosaic, ceramics and painting

The Palau de la Musica Catalana

Beethoven frowning down upon the street

The grand stairs in the foyer

Stained glass everywhere

Lluis Millet Hall - the double colonnaded balcony could be seen through the stained glass windows

The main concert auditorium
The skylight in the auditorium portraying the sun

Mosaic covered columns

Waving the kerchief with the performers at the concert celebrating the 50th anniversary of Habaneras in Calella

Customers waiting to get in to Tosca, just across the street from the Palau, as we were leaving the concert - we had great tapas here before the show.