My weekend in Barcelona was one of those rare trips where I had next-to-no time for planning. It came about because I was whining to a friend about having no idea of where to go or what to do with the vacation time I had to use or lose, to which she sweetly responded by inviting me to join her in Barcelona. Before I knew what was happening, we were soaking up the Mediterranean sun together.
And so, when my friend suggested we start off the weekend with a self-guided walking tour she’d found in the guide book I’d purchased but not yet cracked open, I was all for it.
The tour was called the Modernisme Circuit and I had absolutely no expectations. Which is probably why I was so taken aback by my first few hours in Barcelona.
See, there was this Catalan architect. Antoni Gaudí was his name and he is at the heart of what makes Barcelona so unique. I had never heard of the guy, but as my friend and I walked from one Gaudí-designed building to the next, our mouths were agape. And I couldn’t stop taking photos, of course.
Gaudí’s designs were deeply influenced by his love of the natural world. There are no straight lines on his buildings. Like this one.
A large family home, Casa Batlló was built in 1877. In 1904, its new owner hired Gaudí to tear it down and build another, but Gaudí said no. He would remodel it instead. This is the result.
Casa Milà was another private commission. It was built between 1905 and 1910.
As I wrote above, Gaudí was deeply influenced by the natural world. Storks (the real ones) on rooftops are a common sight in Spain.
One of Gaudí’s best patrons was a Catalan industrialist named Eusebi Güell. He commissioned several buildings in and around Barcelona, including the elaborate Park Güell, which opened in 1926. My friend and I spent several hours wandering around this spectacular park.
Upon his graduation from architecture school, it has been said that Gaudí was told, “Who knows if we have given a diploma to a nutcase or a genius? Time will tell.”
Genius, I’m thinking.
Well, here we are. Still in the thick of the Long Winter (aka the second wave). Although the early daffodils have started blooming in Vancouver, I’m far more excited about tonight’s forecast calling for snow. Just, you know, to shake things up a bit. (It has been a snowless and very rainy winter for me so far.)
I was thinking that I also need to shake things up a bit on this blog. A travel-related topic to focus on would go a long ways to stop me from writing about the weather (ahem) or this year’s obsession (the pandemic).
And so, to that end, I’m going to concentrate on Spain for the next little while. I’ve always meant to write about this fascinating country, but somehow it kept getting pushed aside due to other, more recent, travel stories. Since none of us are going anywhere at the moment, it’s the perfect opportunity to move it to the top of my list.
My first visit to Spain was a weekend in Barcelona. Even as short as it was, my friend and I managed to fit in a lot. Lots of sightseeing, lots of great food, lots of good wine, and even lots of shopping.
Here is the Plaça Reial (Royal Plaza), just off La Rambla in the heart of Barcelona’s Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter).
For the Third Sunday of Lent, we’re moving on to Barcelona.
Most European cathedrals were built centuries ago. The cornerstone of this one, Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família, was laid a mere 131 years ago in 1882. Except for a stoppage during the Spanish Civil War, construction has continued ever since. The basilica is the final work of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, the face of Modernisme, who spent the last decades of his life working on the structure.
When finished (estimated to be in about 15 years), La Sagrada Família will have 18 spires and will be the tallest cathedral in the world. There will be three facades, two of which have already been completed: the Nativity façade and the Passion façade. The Passion façade, which faces west, was sculpted by Josep Maria Subirachs and is particularly moving.
I visited La Sagrada Família with a friend in October 2001. After we left what is essentially the largest construction site either of us had ever seen, we took the metro back to our hotel. Sitting across from us was one of the cathedral’s stone workers, covered in white dust, heading home after his work day. I marvelled at the thought of spending your entire career working on one project. And I felt honoured to be riding the metro with an old-school master craftsman.