July 11, 2004

Photos from and Thoughts on Barcelona

I, seemingly like everyone else, adore Barcelona. This was my first visit, and it was too brief (only 3 days). It became very clear very quickly that the best way to see this city is to rent an apartment for a week or two (or four) and live the life.

Being first time visitors to the city, we did our part to take in Gaudi and the other Modernist architects. Our first morning, we headed straight for Parc Guell, Gaudi's attempt at an upper-middle class garden city (which failed, and was turned into a public park).

Tourists visiting Parc Guell will be tempted to take the subway and then walk. Let me discourage this. We did it, and the walk is a) not brief, b) mostly up hill and c) has you enter at the least appealing part of the park. If I were to go back, I'd take a cab. Taxis are very affordable, and a trip up to the Parc probably would run you about 4 Euros.

parc guell column
Right angles? Bah!

Entrace-ish Area
Near the entrance to the park. I'm helping some other travelers get a photo taken.

One of the park's niftiest attractions is the Gaudi House, where he lived for the last 20 or so years of his life. It's set up as a kind of museum, and is a marvel of architecture and interior design in the modernist/art nouveau mold.

Gaudi House Exterior
The exterior. Click to make bigger and see the detail.

Inside, there's lots of nifty furniture.

Comfy Chair
Flowery couch

That would look very nice in my bedroom

After Parc Guell, we made our way to the Hospital de Sant Pau, a remarkable Modernist architecture experience. The architect's idea was that patients would recover more quickly in a beautiful place -- a marked departure from typical hospital design. It's a stunning public work.

Hospital de Sant Pau
Hospital Building

Hospital statue
Column thingy

A short walk from the hospital is Sagrada Familia, what is considered Gaudi's monumental masterwork.

Spires atop the cathedral. "Excelsis" and "Hosanna" visible in the spires.

Looking from Sagrada FamiliaYou can climb up the temple's towers, and look over the city.

The temple is awesome. As our guidebook noted, If You're Going To See One Thing In Barcelona, this is it. A dizzying, delightful work. I was particularly taken with the Passion Facade - a set of sculptures depicting Christ's death and ascension. The work of Subirachs, these scultptures are so unexpected that they really drew me in. The blocky shape of the figures is at first shocking, and then their beauty and power become clear.

Cool Lettered Pharmacy
Just thought it was wild that Art Nouveau is everywhere

Cacao SampakaCacao Sampaka (above) is a store that combines high design with amazing chocolate. It's both a chocolate store and a cafe. We ordered an "Azteca" (a warm chocolate drink comprised of 80% cacao), toasted chocolate sandwiches, and toast with chocolate-raspberry jam. And we bought bonbons to take home. This store would make a mint in Union Square in San Francisco.

Sidewalk TileThe sidewalk along the Passeig de Gracia, the main shopping strip, is laid with this delightfully detailed tile. It's just everywhere. Amazing.

One of our favorite aspects of Barcelona was learning about its origins as the Roman City of Barcino. We visited the Museu d' Historia de la Ciutat, which is set atop an archaeological site that you get to wander through. The amount of 4th century roman stuff that's preserved is remarkably -- you wander around this city, through the wine and fish factories. You can't take photos of the site, but that's okay, because Roman ruins still stand in right in the city.

Barcino was a walled city, and some of those walls remain, 1800 years later. It's fascinating that they remain the center of the city, and that their presence affected the development around them.

Cool Roman Shit
Roman sandstone walls incorporated into later buildings. I think that arch had an aqueduct above it.

Roman Gravesite
An old roman gravesite, with ...

Kitty!.... kitty!

And now, for some other stuff.
Cava Bar
An exceedingly popular cava bar, where people are pressed together like sardines. I couldn't imagine why anyone would go in there.

George Orwell SquareClick to Enlarge. This is George Orwell Square (as noted on the left), which makes the sign to the right all the more ironic.

That's it for photos.

Posted by peterme at 10:59 PM | Comments (9)


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