a peugeot kind of day: a drive from barcelona to toledo & arrival at la posada de manolo

Wednesday, July 3:  After I eat breakfast and check out of bcn fashion house, I carry my suitcases back to Placa Catalunya where I get on the Aerobus to Terminal 2 at the airport.  There I wait in quite a long line to get my rental car, which I booked online through Europcar.  I thought I was getting an economy car, though the price is certainly NOT economy.  Instead I get a brand new Peugeot. It’s quite a nifty little car.

my rental car: a nifty Peugeot :-)
my rental car: a nifty Peugeot 🙂

After Monday’s overwhelming train fiasco in trying to get to Montserrat, I decide at the last-minute to rent a car to drive to Toledo.  People tell me it’s a 6-7 hour drive.  It’s so strange how we in America think of European countries as being similar in size to one of our states.  I had originally figured it might take 3-4 hours. But the people who told me 6-7 hours were right on.

some sights along the A2
some sights along the A2

Somehow I envision a drive that cuts across the diagonal of the country to Toledo, missing Madrid altogether.  Little do I know that I will have to go to Madrid to get to Toledo.  I just have to figure out my way around the ring road so I don’t end up in the center of Madrid, which would be my worst nightmare.

The ubiquitous black bulls
The ubiquitous black bulls

The drive goes pretty smoothly except when I get to Lleida, where I’m supposed to switch from the A2 to the AP2, which happens to be a toll road.   The sign I pass for the AP2 seems so insignificant for such a major road, that I think it cannot be the right one.  Soon after that exit that I don’t take, the A2 turns into a two lane road clogged with slow-moving trucks, which makes for very slow going.  Finally, about 60 km from Zaragoza,  I see another insignificant sign to the AP2, and I make my escape.  I’m happy to pay the toll to be able to move along at a faster pace!

on the highway
on the highway

Along the way, the landscape is quite beautiful, with wheat farms, vineyards, and plateaus everywhere.  Atop many of the plateaus are huge wind farms, with sleek windmills twirling in the breeze.  I wonder what Don Quixote would have thought of these modern-day windmills.

About 60 km outside of Madrid, I stop at a gas station to ask directions to Toledo.  This turns out to be a very smart move!  I would have never known to look for the M50 off the ring road, which has NO SIGNS mentioning Toledo, if the nice guy at the gas station hadn’t given me directions.  He only speaks Spanish, but he writes down the important names on a piece of paper;  I follow his instructions and don’t get lost.  I feel proud of myself, and that guy’s great directions, that I was able to get to Toledo without a hitch.

I printed out a MapQuest map for Toledo with directions to the hotel, but when I follow those directions, though I get off at the correct exit in Toledo, I am told to take the 3rd exit off of several roundabouts and find myself deposited right back on the highway heading away from Toledo.  It takes me quite a while to find my way back and then quite a while more to find my way to the hotel.  I park at a garage near the Alcazar and roll my suitcases a long distance down some very steep cobblestone streets, with a nice Spanish lady helping me along the way, and I find my hotel, La Posada de Manolo, on a very narrow winding street.

My room at La Posada de Manolo
My room at La Posada de Manolo

La Posada de Manolo is a hotel in the historical center of Toledo, a UNESCO World Heritage City, in a completely renovated building.  Rooms are distributed over three floors that thematically represent the three cultures that coexisted in Toledo (Arab, Jewish, and Christian). From its two terraces, we have views of the Cathedralthe San Ildefonso Seminary and the Cigarrales.

After getting settled in briefly, I head out to find a cafe because all I have eaten during my drive is a small bag of Tostidos.  I find a nice outdoor corner cafe, Restaurant Alcazar, where I order paella de verduras, or vegetable paella, and a glass of red wine.  When I order a second glass of wine, the waiter kindly fills it up to the top!  Nice. 🙂

vegetable paella
vegetable paella
Restaurant Alcazar
Restaurant Alcazar
Restaurant Alcazar
Restaurant Alcazar
Enjoying a glass of wine at Restaurant Alcazar after a long day of driving
Enjoying a glass of wine at Restaurant Alcazar after a long day of driving

At the cafe, I get into a long-running conversation with an older Spanish-speaking couple who ask me to take their picture.  The woman goes on and on telling me about something, and though I don’t understand, I nod as if I do.  I speak to her in English and she nods as if she understands and continues to speak in Spanish.  We talk and talk with neither of us having a clue what the other is saying.  The woman shows me a video on her phone of a little girl singing and dancing.  I take it that the girl is her granddaughter.  It’s quite a lovely conversation, despite having no understanding whatsoever!

my Spanish "friends" :-)
my Spanish “friends” 🙂
parting shot of Restaurant Alcazar
parting shot of Restaurant Alcazar

After dinner, by this time around 11 p.m., I head to the main square, Zocodover Square, and begin walking. Toledo’s streets are a maze of narrow winding streets, plazas and patios, many lacking street signs.

Zocodover Square in Toledo
Zocodover Square in Toledo

After dinner and my two glasses of wine, I can’t make heads or tails of the confusing map and I end up wandering around the streets totally lost.  I begin to fear I will never find my hotel, and at one point I think I might start crying.  But I don’t.  I bear on, wandering and wondering, until I see a familiar sight, the theater, then I know I’m close.   I make it to the hotel, where I settle in for a long cozy night.

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a walking tour of barcelona’s old town

Tuesday, July 2:  This morning, I try to take care of some business; I go to the post office, which is just around the corner from my hotel, to return the purple bag I bought in Oman plus some of the clothes I’ve already worn, just to lighten my load a bit. There I meet a woman architect from Germany who lives in Barcelona; she has a huge box to mail that contains her thesis, 5 years in the making, on “Architecture and Sound.”  She’s quite proud of it, I can see, and she thinks it will be a very important paper in the architecture world.

On the opposite corner near my hotel, I find an adorable shop that sells colorful Spanish-looking skirts.  I think the store is meant for wholesalers, as it seems every shop in my neighborhood is, but the saleswoman here allows me to buy 3 for 30 euros each, which I do.  One of them needs to be hemmed but the other two, I hope to wear in Spain.  Now, I have things of probably equal weight to take the place of the stuff I just sent home!

After my shopping spree, I go to a huge department store near Placa de Catalunya to try to find a Spanish SIM card so I’ll have a number I can use in Spain.  It takes quite a while because the department store is huge and I’m told to go to the 7th floor, which takes some effort because of packed elevators that run few and far between.  When I get to the top, I’m told I need my passport, which I have left in my hotel; besides that, the SIM card will cost 30 euros.  Once I leave Spain and arrive in Portugal, roaming charges will apply.  For the few phone calls I think I will have to make in Spain, it hardly seems worth it, and to get my passport will require some degree of time and effort.  I give up on the idea.

Finally, after all that, my explorations can begin.  In my Lonely Planet Spain, I have a “Walking Tour of the Old Town” that I plan to follow.  Most of this walk is in the Barri Gotic area. Since I’m getting such a late start, I stop at a wonderful sidewalk cafe called Bar Lobo, which is packed both inside and out, for lunch. Their menu is quite extensive, and expensive, but that doesn’t stop me.  A British couple sitting beside me has some fantastic-looking tapas, so I tell the waitress to just bring me what they have: fried eggplant with honey, a cheese platter and a Coke Light.

a cheese platter with tomato jam and fried eggplant drizzled with honey
a cheese platter with tomato jam and fried eggplant drizzled with honey
Bar Lobo
Bar Lobo

I start my walking tour by strolling down La Rambla to the Mercat de la Boqueria, one of the most colorful produce markets I have ever seen.  It’s packed and colorful and so enticing that I wish I lived here so I could take full advantage of coming here daily to buy fresh produce.

Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria

Outside the produce market, on La Rambla, there are also some stalls selling flowers.

flower stalls on La Rambla
flower stalls on La Rambla
flower stalls
flower stalls

I even see an Erotic Museum, but I don’t go in!

Erotica Museum
Erotica Museum

Next, I stop at Placa Reial, a large square which seems to be quite a popular hangout for locals and tourists alike, with its 19th century neoclassical buildings around the perimeter, its palm trees and huge fountain.  The lamp posts near the fountain are Gaudi’s first known works in the city.

Placa Reial
Placa Reial
Placa Reial
Placa Reial
balcony at Placa Reial
balcony at Placa Reial

I then make a stop at Barcelona Catedral, a magnificent Gothic structure.  Most of the building dates from between 1298 and 1460, but the facade was created in the 1870s.  I attempt to go inside, but there is a 6 euro fee and I need a scarf to cover my shoulders which I didn’t bring.  Oh well, I’m happy to just wander the streets and save the 6 euro fee, as there are plenty of cathedrals to see in Spain. 🙂

Barcelona Catedral
Barcelona Catedral
Barcelona Catedral
Barcelona Catedral
Barcelona Catedral
Barcelona Catedral
me at Barcelona Catedral
me at Barcelona Catedral

My plan was to stop at the Picasso museum after the Catedral, but when I arrive there, my legs are extremely sore and there is a long queue about 2 blocks long.  I just don’t have the energy for it.  I’ll have to see Picasso somewhere else.  On the way back to the hotel, I take a couple more pictures of interesting sights.

Spanish fans
Spanish fans
interesting buildings
interesting buildings
and more; this is my landmark sight which tells me how to get back to Via Laietana
and more; this is my landmark sight which tells me how to get back to Via Laietana
more balconies
more balconies

On the way back, I stop at this little cafe, Santa Maria del Mar Bar & Restaurant, for a glass of wine.  It’s another great place for people-watching.

and pretty little squares
and pretty little squares
another beautiful building
another beautiful building
and a strange one too
and a strange one too

Since I ate such a huge and late lunch at Bar Lobo, I simply return to the hotel to relax, rather than going out for dinner. I sit on the patio and blog, and little Ben, the super-smart boy from McLean, VA who ate breakfast with me yesterday morning, takes a picture of me with the Buddha in the garden.

me with Buddha on the patio of bcn fashion house
me with Buddha on the patio of bcn fashion house

I need to get an early start to Toledo tomorrow, so I just work on some of my blogs, read The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, and sleep, dreaming happy dreams of my wonderful time in Barcelona. 🙂

a convoluted day at montserrat & dinner at bubo with some tennessee natives

Monday, July 1:  Sometimes all my travels go smoothly, just as planned and right on time.  Today isn’t one of those days.  For one, I get a very late start on my day.  I sit on the lovely patio and eat a leisurely breakfast, drink several cups of coffee, work on my blogs, answer emails and chat with a little boy who’s here with his family from McLean, Virginia, who decides to sit with me.  I finally get out the door around 11 a.m. and am on my way to explore.

I’ve decided to go to Montserrat (Serrated Mountain), 50 km northwest of Barcelona.  I’m not doing a tour, so I have to figure out the logistics on my own.  That’s a very risky business.

I ask the receptionist at the hotel what to do and she mentions, or at least this is what I hear, that I need to take the metro to Sants Station.  I head to Plaça de Catalunya, the center of everything in Barcelona, and I see a sign for Tourist Information.  There I buy an all-inclusive ticket to and from Montserrat for 26.60 euros.  That includes, though I don’t notice at the time, the metro ticket, the train ticket, the cable car ticket and two funicular tickets.  It also includes very specific instructions about metro stops, times of trains, really everything I need to know.  But.  Do I read the instructions?  I’m never one to read instructions and this is where I get into serious trouble!

I proceed to the metro station where I clumsily try to figure out how to buy a ticket for metro.  It’s not too complicated;  I buy it for 2 euros and hop on metro, where I zip straight to Sants Station, by passing the Espanya stop.  I get out, walk for what seems like miles to get out to the train station, and look in vain for the train to Montserrat.  Finally, I ask Information and she tells me I should have gotten off metro at Espanya station, which I already passed.  So, I stupidly buy another metro ticket to go back several stops to a place I already passed for another 2 euros.  At Espanya, I go outside to a big square and look for a train station, but I can’t find one.  Finally a policeman on the street points out a small nondescript elevator with an R5 sign that I should take to go to Montserrat.  Nowhere do I see any signs for Montserrat!

I then hop on the train to Montserrat, which runs approximately every half hour.  It’s about an hour ride.  During the ride, I listen to Brett Dennen on my iPod Nano, “Surprise, Surprise:”

Open up your eyes
It’s happening all around you
If it hasn’t found you
Well You know it’s just a matter of time
Surprise surprise
What do you think the world owes you
It’s not the way it’s supposed to go
Well you know It’s just a matter of time

I finally look at all the instructions and what my ticket included, and see, much to my chagrin, that it included the metro ticket (for which I paid 4 euros!) and instructions about getting off at Espanya station.  Ouch.

Now that I have read the instructions I see there are two stops for Montserrat.  The first, Montserrat Aeri, is the stop to take the cable car up to Montserrat.  Since my ticket includes the cable car, that’s my stop.  The next stop on the train is Monistrol Montserrat, which is for the rack railway ride up.  I pay close attention, frustrated with myself for wasting so much time already.  When the train approaches the Montserrat Aeri station, I stand by the door, ready to spring out.  The train stops.  The door doesn’t open.  I wait.  Then the train continues on to the next stop.

first view of Montserrat from the train
first view of Montserrat from the train

I look around for someone who speaks English.  A young lady tells me I should have pushed the button on the door to open it at the station.  I didn’t even see a button!  I take the train to the next stop, where I get out.  But apparently, my cable car ticket is not interchangeable with the rack railway ticket.  I have to wait 4o minutes at the Monistrol Montserrat station to catch the train back in the other direction to the Montserrat Aeri station.  Luckily, I’m not the only foolish person who has made this mistake.  Another group of Americans (I guess because we’re not European, we don’t know these things) was also waiting for the door to open and missed getting off.  We’re in this mess together.  We’re out in the middle of nowhere, and all we can do is wait.

view of Montserrat from the train station
view of Montserrat from the train station
the wrong train station
the wrong train station

Finally, at 2:41, the train arrives.  Did I really waste 3 1/2 hours to get this far??  We take the train back and all stand perched by the door ready to break it down if the door doesn’t open.  We actually have to push the button several times for it to open and believe me, we’re all sharing a bit of panic at that moment!

It's 2:26 already!!
It’s 2:26 already!!

Finally, we take the steep cable car up to the Monastery where we can see the unusual rock formations that give Montserrat its name of “Serrated Mountain.”  The 1236 meter-high mountain of bizarre rock pillars is shaped by wind, rain, and frost from a mixture of limestone, pebbles and sand that once lay under the sea.

the cable car at Montserrat
the cable car at Montserrat
up, up and away
up, up and away
view from the cable car
view from the cable car
heading up
heading up
and up
and up
Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat

Benedictine Monestir de Monstserrat was founded in 1025 to commemorate a vision of the Virgin on the mountain.  Wrecked by Napoleon’s troops in 1811, then abandoned as a result of anticlerical legislation in the 1830s, it was rebuilt from 1858.  Today about 80 monks live in a community here.  Pilgrims come to venerate La Moreneta (The Black Virgin), a 12th century Romanesque wooden sculpture of Mary with the infant Jesus, which has been Catalonia’s patron since 1881. (Lonely Planet Spain)

The 16th century basilica is the monastery’s church. The basilica’s facade, with carvings of Christ and 12 apostles, dates from 1901.

basilica
basilica
the square at the basilica
the square at the basilica
inside the basilica
inside the basilica
inside the basilica
inside the basilica
ceiling decor
ceiling decor
corner arches
corner arches
bordering the square of the monastery
bordering the square of the monastery
the monastery
the monastery
statues in a niche
statues in a niche

I eat a Spanish ham sandwich before I take the funicular up to Saint Joan’s.  It’s so funny to me how I’ve hardly eaten ham at all in two years since pork is haram, sinful, in Oman and in all Muslim countries.  Here in Spain, practically every dish contains some form of ham or sausage.  I wonder if this is a reaction to their years of Muslim rule.

Spanish ham sandwich
Spanish ham sandwich
the founder of the monastery
the founder of the monastery
founder of the monastery
founder of the monastery
along the path
along the path
another statue in a niche
another statue in a niche
wrought iron gates
wrought iron gates
the monastery at Montserrat
the monastery at Montserrat

I take the funicular up to Saint Joan’s but I don’t walk all the way up to the chapel.  I just walk on a web of pathways along the top of the mountain to enjoy great views.  While walking, I meet two nice ladies from California, Kathy and (I think) Mary Ann.  We chat for quite a bit.  They’ve been a week in Barcelona and will be going on a cruise all next week.

Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat
me at Montserrat
me at Montserrat
me at Montserrat
me at Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat

At about 5:30, I take the cable car back down the mountain.  I don’t want to take any chances trying to catch the last cable car down at 6:30.  Not after the day I’ve had so far!

Montserrat
Montserrat

When I arrive back in Barcelona, I take the metro to the Arc de Triomphe station where I can see, guess what?  The Arc de Triomphe.

arc de triomphe in barcelona
arc de triomphe in barcelona

A friend of mine on Facebook highly recommended that I try out a cafe called Bubo near the Santa Maria del Mar Cathedral.  I find the cafe, order una cerveza and a couple of tapas: Cocas (puff pastry) with tomato, onion, Havarti cheese, dates and ceps (mushrooms) and goat cheese croquettes with tomato jam.  After sitting there awhile, I also order a Spanish omelette with a single cherry tomato.

tapas
tapas

While enjoying the whole cafe vibe at Bubo, I get into a fun conversation with Ben, Pam and Reid from a small town near Chattanooga, Tennessee.  They have been on a trip that included Morocco prior to coming here.  They tell me how they went on an overnight trip with Bedouins on camels, and they gave names to the camels.  I am so happy to have met these really friendly folks.  Pam works for the Rotary Club and Ben is a builder.

Ben, Reid and Pam from Tennessee at Bubo
Ben, Reid and Pam from Tennessee at Bubo
Bubo
Bubo

Across from the cafe is the Santa Maria de Mar Cathedral;  I went inside here during my first day in Barcelona.

Santa Maria del Mar
Santa Maria del Mar

As I walk back to my hotel, I stop at a gelato shop and order caramel cinnamon gelato on a sugar cone.  Yum.  What a perfect top-off to a convoluted day.

gelato
gelato
gelato
gelato
sign for gelato
sign for gelato
Montserrat
Gelato 🙂

meeting antoni gaudí: la pedrera & dinner at a sidewalk cafe

Sunday, June 30: Finally, I get off the bus for the last time at Casa Milà, popularly known as La Pedrera, meaning “the quarry.”  This unusual building was constructed between 1906 and 1912 by architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926) and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. Today it is the headquarters of Fundació Catalunya-La Pedrera and houses a cultural center used for various activities and exhibitions.  (La Pedrera)

La Pedrera
La Pedrera

It was a controversial design at the time with its undulating stone facade and wrought iron, organic-looking, balconies and windows, designed largely by Josep Maria Jujol, who also created some of the plaster ceilings  (Wikipedia: Casa Milà) .

La Pedrera
La Pedrera
La Pedrera
La Pedrera
La Pedrera
La Pedrera
La Pedrera
La Pedrera
La Pedrera
La Pedrera
La Pedrera
La Pedrera
La Pedrera
La Pedrera
La Pedrera
La Pedrera
La Pedrera
La Pedrera
Chimney pots on the roof of La Pedrera
Chimney pots on the roof of La Pedrera
La Pedrera
La Pedrera
View from La Pedrera
View from La Pedrera
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Chimney pots on the rooftop of La Pedrera
View from La Pedrera
View from La Pedrera
La Pedrera
La Pedrera
La Pedrera
La Pedrera
view of La Sagrada Familia from La Pedrera
view of La Sagrada Familia from La Pedrera
La Pedrera
La Pedrera
view from La Pedrera
view from La Pedrera
Interior well in La Pedrera
Interior well in La Pedrera
La Pedrera
La Pedrera
view off the roof of La Pedrera
view off the roof of La Pedrera
La Pedrera
La Pedrera
Model of La Pedrera
Model of La Pedrera
Kitchen at La Pedrera
Kitchen at La Pedrera
curtains in La Pedrera
curtains in La Pedrera
Dining room at La Pedrera
Dining room at La Pedrera
Salon at La Pedrera
Salon at La Pedrera
bedroom at La Pedrera
bedroom at La Pedrera
Hallway at La Pedrera
Hallway at La Pedrera
Potted plant at La Pedrera
Potted plant at La Pedrera
Art Nouveau door at La Pedrera
Art Nouveau door at La Pedrera
painted ceiling at La Pedrera
painted ceiling at La Pedrera

By the time I finish at La Pedrera, it’s about 7:30 and I’ve been on the go all day, seeing all of the major Gaudi attractions, starting with Casa Batllo in the morning, La Sagrada Familia at 1:00, Park Guell at around 3:30, and La Pedrera at 6:00.  My legs are killing me and I’m exhausted.  All I really want is to be “in search of a thousand cafes,” so I can find the perfect one and have a glass of wine and some dinner.  I happen upon Tenorio Braseria, which entices me because of its purple seats and its great location on leafy Gracia.  There is some great people-watching to be done here.

Tenorio
Tenorio
Tenorio
Tenorio
Tenorio
Tenorio

I order Risotto Mantecato with prawns, thyme and lime.  Every bite is delectable.  If I lived in Barcelona I would get in serious trouble at this place!  Can you tell from the picture that I took a bite, and then remembered I forgot to take a picture?  I tried to fill in the gap where I took the bite by moving the food around a bit. 🙂

Risotto for dinner
Risotto for dinner

I don’t normally have dessert with dinner, but as I want to linger here as long as possible, I order “Fine apple pie with calvados liquor and its cinnamon ice cream.”  Yum.  🙂

Apple pie
Apple pie

As I take a leisurely stroll back to my hotel, I see this lovely balcony with a whole garden on it.  I love it!

balconies I pass on my way back to the hotel
balconies I pass on my way back to the hotel

I am so utterly exhausted after this day, that I return to my hotel and put my feet up.  I brought so many good books about Spain along on my Kindle, but I’ve hardly had any energy to read them.  On this trip, at night, I look through all my photos for the day, then I get obsessed with editing them, then I start puttering on my blog, and the next thing I know, I’m sound asleep.  Maybe trying to blog along the way isn’t such a great idea.

Normally I never even take a computer with me when I travel, and in the past I’ve never blogged as I’ve gone along.  I’m getting further and further behind, but I must remember I’m on vacation and RELAX!!  Whatever I don’t get to, I’ll do when I get home!  🙂

meeting antoni gaudí: park güell

Sunday, June 30:  After leaving Sagrada Familia, I hop back on the Barcelona Bus Turista.  I simply intend to take the two-hour route without getting off.  However, I see along the way that we pass Park Güell, and since I have quite a long time before my 6:00 time slot at La Perdrera, I decide to make a stop.  I’m really happy I did, as this turns out to be one of my favorite Gaudí creations.

Park Güell is a garden complex with architectural elements situated on the hill of El Carmel in the Gracia district of Barcelona. It was designed by Gaudí and built in the years 1900 to 1914. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Works of Antoni Gaudí.” (Wikipedia: Park Güell)

The park was originally part of a commercially unsuccessful housing site. The site was a rocky hill with little vegetation and few trees, called Muntanya Pelada (Bare Mountain).  (Wikipedia: Park Güell)

Entrance to Park Güell
Entrance to Park Güell
Entrance to Park Güell
Entrance to Park Güell
Mosaics
Mosaics
along the entry
along the entry
along the entry to the park
along the entry to the park

It has since been converted into a municipal garden. Park Güell is skillfully designed to bring peace and calm. The buildings flanking the entrance, though very original and remarkable with fantastically shaped roofs with unusual pinnacles, fit in well with the use of the park as pleasure gardens and seem relatively inconspicuous in the landscape when one considers the flamboyance of other buildings designed by Gaudí.  (Wikipedia: Park Güell)

the house at the entry
one of the whimsical houses flanking the entrance to the park
Gardens
Gardens
me in the gardens
me in the gardens
gardens at Park Güell
gardens at Park Güell
Park Güell
Park Güell
Park Güell
Park Güell
Park Güell
Park Güell
Park Güell
Park Güell
Park Güell
Park Güell
Park Güell
Park Güell

The intention was to exploit the fresh air (well away from smoky factories) and beautiful views by building luxury houses on sixty triangular lots. Count Eusebi Güell added to the prestige of the development by moving in 1906 to live in Larrard House. Ultimately, only two houses were built, neither designed by Gaudí. One was intended to be a show house, but on being completed in 1904 was put up for sale, and as no buyers came forward, Gaudí, at Güell’s suggestion, bought it with his savings and moved in with his family and his father in 1906.  This house, where Gaudí lived from 1906 to 1926, was built by Francesc Berenguer in 1904. It contains original works by Gaudí and several of his collaborators. It is now the Gaudi House Museum (Casa Museu Gaudí) since 1963. In 1969 it was declared a historical artistic monument of national interest.  (Wikipedia: Park Güell)

Park Güell
Park Güell: one of the two houses in the Park.  This is the one where Gaudi lived and now houses the Gaudi House Museum

Roadways around the park to service the intended houses were designed by Gaudí as structures jutting out from the steep hillside or running on viaducts, with separate footpaths in arcades formed under these structures. This minimized the intrusion of the roads, and Gaudí designed them using local stone in a way that integrates them closely into the landscape. His structures echo natural forms, with columns like tree trunks supporting branching vaulting under the roadway.  (Wikipedia: Park Güell)

Park Güell
Park Güell
Park Güell
Park Güell
Park Güell
Park Güell
Park Güell
Park Güell
Park Güell
Park Güell
one of many performers at Park Güell
one of many performers at Park Güell
Park Güell
Park Güell

Below is the only other house built in the park.

one of two houses at Park Güell
one of two houses at Park Güell
Park Güell
Park Güell
view from Park Güell
view from Park Güell
Park Güell
Park Güell

The focal point of the park is the main terrace, surrounded by a long bench in the form of a sea serpent. The curves of the serpent bench form a number of enclaves, creating a convivial atmosphere. Gaudí incorporated many motifs of Catalan nationalism, and elements from religious mysticism and ancient poetry, into the Park.  (Wikipedia: Park Güell)

the serpent seat at Park Güell
the serpent seat at Park Güell
Park Güell
Park Güell
me on the serpent's seat at Park Güell
me on the serpent’s seat at Park Güell
serpent's seat at Park Güell
serpent’s seat at Park Güell
mosaics
mosaics
Park Güell
Park Güell
Park Güell
Park Güell
Park Güell
Park Güell

After walking all over this park and still only making a small dent its immensity, I traipse back down the hill and catch the Barcelona Bus Turista and sit enjoying the views for nearly another hour, until I get off at La Pedrera.  Below is one of the cool houses we pass along the way.  I love the architecture found throughout Barcelona, even if it wasn’t designed by Antoni Gaudí.

architecture along the Barcelona Bus Turista
architecture along the Barcelona Bus Turista

meeting antoni gaudí: la sagrada família

Sunday, June 30:  I have a 1:00 advanced-purchase admission ticket to La Sagrada Familia, so I head there directly from Casa Batllo. I’m so happy I bought the ticket online, as the line to buy tickets reaches around the block.  Since I get there a little before my appointed time slot, I have a Spanish ham pizza in the park across from the church.

According to Wikipedia, La Sagrada Família was begun on 19 March 1882 as a project by the diocesan architect Francisco de Paula del Villar (1828-1901).  At the end of 1883 Gaudí was commissioned to carry on the works, a task which he did not abandon until his death in 1926. Since then different architects have continued the work after his original idea, combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms.

Gaudí’s original design calls for a total of eighteen spires, representing in ascending order of height the Twelve Apostles, the four Evangelists, the Virgin Mary, and, tallest of all, Jesus Christ. Eight spires were built as of 2010, corresponding to four apostles at the Nativity façade and four apostles at the Passion façade.

The Evangelists’ spires will be surmounted by sculptures of their traditional symbols: a bull (Saint Luke), a winged man (Saint Matthew, an eagle (Saint John), and a lion (Saint Mark). The central spire of Jesus Christ is to be surmounted by a giant cross; the spire’s total height (170 meters (560 ft)) will be one meter less than that of Montjuic hill in Barcelona as Gaudí believed that his creation should not surpass God’s. The lower spires are surmounted by communion hosts with sheaves of wheat and chalices with bunches of grapes, representing the Eucharist.

When the spires are completed, Sagrada Família will be the tallest church building in the world (Wikipedia: Sagrada Família).

La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia
Spires of Sagrada Familia
Spires of Sagrada Familia
the park in front of Sagrada Familia
the park in front of Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familiar though the trees in the park
Sagrada Familiar though the trees in the park
Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia

On the street across from Sagrada Familia are a number of artists displaying colorful paintings.  Some of them seem to be absorbed in an intense game of chess.

Artists in front of La Sagrada Familia
Artists in front of La Sagrada Familia
Artists in front of La Sagrada Familia
Artists in front of La Sagrada Familia
Artists in front of La Sagrada Familia
Artists in front of La Sagrada Familia
Artists in front of La Sagrada Familia
Artists in front of La Sagrada Familia

The building is in the center of Barcelona, and over the years it has become one of the most universal signs of identity of the city and the country.  It has always been an expiatory church, which means that since the outset, 131 years ago now, it has been built from donations. Gaudí himself said: “The expiatory church of La Sagrada Família is made by the people and is mirrored in them. It is a work that is in the hands of God and the will of the people.” The building is still going on and could be finished some time in the first third of the 21st century (La Sagrada Familia).

Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia

In contrast to the highly decorated Nativity Façade, the Passion Façade is austere, plain and simple, with ample bare stone, and is carved with harsh straight lines to resemble a skeleton if it were reduced to only bone. Dedicated to the Passion of Christ, the suffering of Jesus during his crucifixion, the façade was intended to portray the sins of man. Construction began in 1954, following the drawings and instructions left by Gaudí for future architects and sculptors. The towers were completed in 1976, and in 1987 a team of sculptors, headed by Josep Maria Subirachs, began work sculpting the various scenes and details of the façade. They aimed to give a rigid, angular form to provoke a dramatic effect. Gaudí intended for this façade to strike fear into the onlooker. He wanted to “break” arcs and “cut” columns, and to use the effect of chiaroscuro (dark angular shadows contrasted by harsh rigid light) to further show the severity and brutality of Christ’s sacrifice(Wikipedia: Sagrada Família).

The Passion Facade is my favorite, as I find the Nativity Facade on the other side of the church too closely resembles Gothic, not my favorite architectural style.  The Passion Facade, though too linear and harsh to be Romanesque, resembles that style in its simplicity.

Part of the Passion Facade, completed after Gaudi's death
Part of the Passion Facade, completed after Gaudi’s death
Passion Facade
Passion Facade
Christ at the entrance
Christ at the entrance
Carvings on the door
Carvings on the door

Inside, the church plan is that of a Latin cross with five aisles. The central nave vaults reach forty-five metres (150 ft) while the side nave vaults reach thirty metres (100 ft).  Gaudí intended that a visitor standing at the main entrance be able to see the vaults of the nave, crossing, and apse; thus the graduated increase in vault loft (Wikipedia: Sagrada Família) .

Walking into this church, I find I am awestruck by the immensity and by the height, which represents to me man’s immense efforts to reach God.  It literally brings tears to my eyes.

Inside the ceiling soars to heaven
Inside the ceiling soars to heaven
Beautiful stained glass
Beautiful stained glass
ceilings
ceilings
stained glass windows
stained glass windows

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soaring columns
soaring columns
inside
inside
Christ ascending over the main altar
Christ ascending over the main altar
Stained glass
Stained glass
Stained glass
Stained glass

Although incomplete, the church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and in November 2010 was consecrated and proclaimed a minor basilica by Pope Benedict XVI.  As it is not the seat of a bishop, it is incorrect to refer to it as a cathedral.

Constructed between 1894 and 1930, the Nativity Façade was the first façade to be completed. Dedicated to the birth of Jesus, it is decorated with scenes reminiscent of elements of life. Characteristic of Gaudí’s naturalistic style, the sculptures are ornately arranged and decorated with scenes and images from nature.

The façade faces the rising sun to the northeast, a symbol for the birth of Christ. It is divided into three porticos, each of which represents a theological virtue (Hope, Faith and Charity). The Tree of Life rises above the door of Jesus in the portico of Charity. Four towers complete the façade and are each dedicated to a Saint (Wikipedia: Sagrada Família).

Nativity Facade
Nativity Facade
Nativity Facade
Nativity Facade
Nativity Facade
Nativity Facade
Nativity Facade
Nativity Facade

Gaudí devoted his last years to the project, and at the time of his death at age 73 in 1926, less than a quarter of the project was complete.  Sagrada Família’s construction progressed slowly, as it relied on private donations and was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War—only to resume intermittent progress in the 1950s. Construction passed the midpoint in 2010 with some of the project’s greatest challenges remaining.  It is anticipated it will be completed in 2026—the centennial of Gaudí’s death. The basílica has a long history of dividing the citizens of Barcelona—over the initial possibility it might compete with Barcelona’s cathedral, over Gaudí’s design itself, over the possibility that work after Gaudí’s death disregarded his design, and the recent possibility that an underground tunnel of Spain’s high-speed rail link to France could disturb its stability.  (Wikipedia: La Sagrada Familia)

views from the Nativity Tower
views from the Nativity Tower
View from the Nativity Tower
View from the Nativity Tower
View of Barcelona from the Nativity Tower
View of Barcelona from the Nativity Tower
Clusters of fruit or cactus (?) from the Nativity Tower
Sheaves of wheat and bunches of grapes, representing the Eucharist, from the Nativity Tower
Views from the Nativity Tower
Views from the Nativity Tower
Strange organic forms along the walk down from the Nativity Tower
Strange organic forms along the walk down from the Nativity Tower
Views of Barcelona from the Nativity Tower
Views of Barcelona from the Nativity Tower
the steps down from the tower
the steps down from the tower
me in front of the Passion Facade
me in front of the Passion Facade
Passion Facade
Passion Facade
Passion Facade
Passion Facade

This is an immense and amazing church and a great monument to God.

When objections were raised as to the extended completion date of the Sagrada Familia, Gaudí said:  “Don´t worry, my client isn´t in a hurry.” (Sagrada Familia: Gaudi Quotes)

meeting antoni gaudí: casa batlló

Sunday, June 30:  This morning, I get a late start.  I sleep in, have a leisurely breakfast on the patio (including sliced bananas drizzled with chocolate and a potato quiche) and work on my blog and check emails.  I’m going out today to take the blue line on Barcelona Bus Turista, which encompasses all the Gaudí attractions on the north side of the city.  Before I go, I’ve heard it’s best to get tickets online to avoid waiting in lines.  As I start to buy all the tickets online, I realize my debit card from the USA, the one that holds most of the money for my trip, expires today, June 30!!

Now, I used to be a banker for 12 years, and I know how to deal with money issues.  I took every precaution before coming here, including calling my banks, for both credit and debit cards, to inform them of my travel plans.  I made photocopies of all my cards with phone numbers to call in case a card is stolen.  I keep my Bank Muscat card in one place, by BB&T cards in another place, and my Barclay Card in yet another place.  I wear a money belt under my clothes with one card and most of my cash; my wallet contains only cash I need for the day and one card.  So you see I’m a very thorough person when it comes to money issues while traveling.

So how on earth did I overlook this expiration date on my card??

Lucky for me, I also have a debit card for Mike’s and my joint account, which I never use as we have been separated for so long.  I can luckily transfer money from my account to this joint account.  But now I have one less payment method if I lose a card.  Duh.  What a dunce.

Anyway, I use my card to buy tickets for Sagrada de Familia, Casa Batllo, and La Perdrera, all quite expensive!  Then I determine that I will get as much cash out of my account as I can today, while my card is still good.  As of tomorrow, it will be useless.

It isn’t until 11:00 that I finally make it out of the hotel.  I leave my neighborhood, L’Eixample, Barcelona’s 19th century answer to overcrowding in the medieval city (Lonely Planet Spain).  L’Eixample was inhabited from the start by the city’s middle classes and that remains broadly the case.  It’s home to many Modernista creations.

I head to Gracia, north of L’Eixample.  It has a Catalan feel with its narrow streets, small plazas and multitudes of bars and restaurants.   Casa Batlló, one of Gaudi’s masterpieces, is in Gracia.  Luckily it’s not far from my hotel, just about 5 blocks, so I walk rather than take the bus.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Casa Batlló's facade and wavy windows
Casa Batlló’s facade and wavy windows
Casa Batlló
Casa Batlló
Casa Batlló
Casa Batlló
Casa Batlló
Casa Batlló

Casa Batlló’s Modernist façade is sprinkled with bits of blue, mauve and green tiles, and graced with wave-shaped window frames and balconies.  It rises to an uneven blue-tiled roof with a solitary tower.  Inside the main salon, everything swirls; the ceiling is twisted like a snail around a sun-like lamp.  The doors and windows are waves of wood and colorful glass.  (Lonely Planet Spain).

doors and windows of waves and colorful glass
doors and windows of waves and colorful glass
looking out Casa Batlló's front window to the street
looking out Casa Batlló’s front window to the street
wavy door panels
wavy door panels
wavy doors
wavy doors
and wavy windows
and wavy windows

The patio of the house has some interesting mosaics.

on the patio
on the patio
close up of the undulating mosaics on the patio
close up of the undulating mosaics on the patio
wavy mosaics
wavy mosaics
close up of mosaics
close up of mosaics
close up of mosaics
close up of mosaics

I love the oval mosaic samples and the round photos of Gaudí’s work that make up the wall decor.

plates as wall decor
plates as wall decor
wall decor
wall decor

The central well of the house welcomes light into the interior.

the central well
the central well
the elevator in the central well
the elevator in the central well
wavy glass
wavy glass

The roof is covered with mosaic-covered chimney pots.

mosaic covered chimney pots
mosaic covered chimney pots
view of Barcelona rooftops from Casa Batllo
view of Barcelona rooftops from Casa Batllo

According to Casa Batlló’s website, the building is a key feature in modernist Barcelona’s architecture. It was built by Antoni Gaudí between 1904 and 1906, having been commissioned by the textile industrialist Josep Batlló.  The “Manzana de la Discordia”, or Block of Discord, is a series of buildings in Passeig de Gràcia.  Casa Batlló is only one in this collection of buildings by renowned architects.

mosaic-covered chimney pots
mosaic-covered chimney pots
mosaic-covered chimney pots on the roof
mosaic-covered chimney pots on the roof
mosaic-covered chimney pots
mosaic-covered chimney pots
The house that is today known as Casa Batlló was built between 1875 and 1877 by Emilio Salas Cortés, who, incidentally, was one of Gaudí’s teachers. It was a sober and classical building with a basement, a ground floor, four upper floors and a garden behind the house.

The building was bought by the textile businessman Josep Batlló and his wife in 1900. The original house was of no particular architectural interest; however, its location in the middle of Passeig de Gràcia, which was a very fashionable and prestigious area, made it a desirable dwelling. Being a distinguished family, they wanted to stand out from the crowd, and to do this they wished to build a spectacular house.

In order to realize this ambitious project, Josep Batlló decided to contact an architect who was different, who was an innovator. The one he selected was Antonio Gaudí. His initial orders were to knock down the original building and to build a new one from scratch. Gaudí, however, managed to convince Josep Batlló that this was not necessary, and that renovation would be sufficient. In November 1904, when Gaudí was 52 years old and at the height of his professional maturity, the planning application was submitted.

The building works were completed in 1906. Gaudí carried out a full refurbishment of the building using innovative techniques and with total creative freedom.  Gaudí modified the main facade and added the balconies and the main gallery. In the interior of the house, he transformed the main apartment, which was the Batlló family’s residence, expanded the central well to supply the entire building with light, and added new floors. He also crowned the house with what appears to be the spine of an animal.  The roof represents Sant Jordi (St. George) and the dragon.

the roof: St. George and the dragon
the roof: St. George and the dragon
Sant Jordi (St. George) and the dragon
Sant Jordi (St. George) and the dragon
Sant Jordi (St. George) and the dragon
Sant Jordi (St. George) and the dragon
Sant Jordi (St. George) and the dragon
Sant Jordi (St. George) and the dragon
mosaics on Sant Jordi (St. George) and the dragon
mosaics on Sant Jordi (St. George) and the dragon
Sant Jordi (St. George) and the dragon
Sant Jordi (St. George) and the dragon
Sant Jordi (St. George) and the dragon
Sant Jordi (St. George) and the dragon

In the same year the Barcelona City Council selected the house as a candidate for the 1906 award for the best building. In the end this prize went to another architect, probably because the same prize had recently been awarded to Gaudí for another house, Casa Calvet.

In 1934, Josep Batlló died.  In 1940, his wife, Amalia Godó, died. Following the death of the two parents, Casa Batlló passed to their children.

In 1970, the first refurbishment of Casa Batlló took place.  In 2002, as part of the International Year of Gaudí, Casa Batlló began a new line of business: cultural visits to the Noble Floor, the former dwelling of the Batlló family. For the first time, Casa Batlló opened its doors to the public, and the initiative was met with a wholly unanticipated success.  (Casa Batllo)

Later this afternoon, when the sun is brightly shining, I take another picture of Casa Batlló.  I adore this house!

Casa Batlló at a brighter time of day
Casa Batlló at a brighter time of day

barcelona: la ribera & esglesia de santa maria del mar

Saturday, June 29:  I get off the Barcelona Bus Turista back in the heart of the city to explore a bit of La Ribera, cut off from the Gothic Quarter, Barri Gòtic , by Via Laietana, which was constructed in 1908.  La Ribera was once the commercial center of medieval Barcelona.  I’m headed for the Esglesia de Santa Maria del Mar, which opens onto Passeig del Born, a plaza that once was home to medieval jousting tournaments.  The Gothic church was built in the 14th century.  It was always a simple church, lacking the ornate decoration of most Gothic churches, and when the anarchists gutted it in 1909 and 1936, it was simplified further.  I love its lofty open spaces, fine proportions and simple interior design.

esglesia de santa maria del mar
esglesia de santa maria del mar
esglesia de santa maria del mar
esglesia de santa maria del mar
esglesia de santa maria del mar
esglesia de santa maria del mar
esglesia de santa maria del mar
esglesia de santa maria del mar
esglesia de santa maria del mar
esglesia de santa maria del mar
esglesia de santa maria del mar
esglesia de santa maria del mar
esglesia de santa maria del mar
esglesia de santa maria del mar

I love labyrinthine streets like these in any European city.  I enjoy looking up at the wrought iron balconies, hung with laundry, brimming with plants, or occupied by elderly ladies in flowered house dresses holding fluffy dogs.  I always like to imagine myself living in one of these flats. 🙂

Balconies in La Ribera
Balconies in La Ribera
La Ribera
La Ribera
La Ribera
La Ribera
Supermarket in La Ribera
Supermarket in La Ribera
Street art in La Ribera
Street art in La Ribera
Gelato in La Ribera
Gelato in La Ribera
the daily news in Spain
the daily news in Spain
Spanish dancer wax figure
Spanish dancer wax figure
Spanish fans
Spanish fans

I stop for una cerveza  in a colorful little cafe reminiscent of Gaudi.

cafe reminiscent of Gaudi
cafe reminiscent of Gaudi
una cerveza, por favor
una cerveza, por favor
in the cafe in La Ribera
in the cafe in La Ribera
the bar
the bar
love the colors in this place
love the colors in this place

While seated at the cafe, I look out at the little square and I see some extra-large people proceeding down the street with no fanfare at all.

procession to some Medieval event?
procession to some Medieval event?
procession
procession

And of course, more intriguing balconies.  I wonder what life is like in those flats with their romantic balconies?

balconies in the square in La Ribera
balconies in the square in La Ribera
a church on the way to Plaza de Catalunya
a church on the way to Plaza de Catalunya
a monument at Plaza de Catalunya
a monument at Plaza de Catalunya
Fountains & gardens at Plaza de Catalunya
Fountains & gardens at Plaza de Catalunya
Fountains at Plaza de Catalunya
Fountains at Plaza de Catalunya
Fountains at Plaza de Catalunya
Fountains at Plaza de Catalunya

When I return to bcn fashion house, I find Matt ensconced on the patio working away at his computer.  He says he spent all day here because his paper about the conference he attended is due when he returns to work on Monday.  He apologizes for not showing up for breakfast; he tells me he went back out after we came back and ended up getting lost and unable to find the hotel for 1 ½ hours.  Then he slept in this morning.  Oh dear.   There’s that bit of wild streak I talked about earlier.  Anyway, he gives me his card and I promise to put Adam in touch with him regarding his institute and his work as a food scientist.

I relax for a bit in my room, drinking an Estrella beer and looking through my pictures.  Then I put on a clean skirt and top and head out to Casa Alfonso, a couple of blocks away, for a glass of wine and a light dinner.  While I wait for my dinner, the waiter brings me fresh bread with some kind of red sauce drizzled on top.  I ask the waiter what it is, and he tells me it is tomato juice mixed with olive oil.  It’s delicious.  I also order a light appetizer of jacket potatoes with green asparagus and Romesco sauce.  I delve right into the food, destroying the artistic presentation, before I remember that I should have taken a picture.   Ah!  Food is so ephemeral for a foodie such as myself.  I need to remember to pause and enjoy the art of it all before I start stuffing it into my mouth.

at Casa Alfonso
at Casa Alfonso
Ham is served in nearly every meal in Spain; it was forbidden in Oman!
Ham is served in nearly every meal in Spain; it was forbidden in Oman!

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bread with tomato juice and olive oil drizzled over it
bread with tomato juice and olive oil drizzled over it

montjuïc: fundació joan miró, teleferic de montjuïc & castell de montjuïc

Saturday, June 29:  I get off next at the  Fundació Joan Miró, the museum dedicated to the work of Spanish painter, sculptor and ceramicist Joan Miró i Ferrà (April 20, 1893 – December 25, 1983), established in the artist’s native city in 1975.

His work has been interpreted as Surrealism, a sandbox for the subconscious mind, a re-creation of the childlike, and a source of Catalan pride. In numerous interviews dating from the 1930s onwards, Miró expressed contempt for conventional painting methods as a way of supporting bourgeois society, and famously declared an “assassination of painting” in favor of upsetting the visual elements of established painting. (Wikipedia: Joan Miró)

I can’t help but think as I look at Miró’s paintings and sculptures that they seem very childlike.   I am not at all artistic myself, but I feel I could produce paintings similar to his.  I daresay no one would call such work by me “art.”  I don’t really have much interest in Miró’s work, but I make the stop to see the museum because it’s on the route and is a place of importance in Catalan culture.   I’m also disappointed that no photographs are allowed inside the museum.  I can understand the prohibition against flash photography as light can damage art, but I’m always baffled by rules against photography in museums.

Fundació Joan Miró
Fundació Joan Miró
Fundació Joan Miró
Fundació Joan Miró
Fundació Joan Miró
Fundació Joan Miró
Miró sculpture
Miró sculpture
Fundació Joan Miró
Fundació Joan Miró
Sculptures at Fundació Joan Miró
Sculptures at Fundació Joan Miró
Miró sculpture
Miró sculpture

After the museum, I take a short walk through the Jardins de Laribal, where I find this sculpture.

In the gardens
In the gardens

And then a parting shot of the museum.

Fundació Joan Miró
Fundació Joan Miró
fountain across the street from Fundació Joan Miró
fountain across the street from Fundació Joan Miró

My next stop on the Barcelona Bus Turista is Castell de Montjuïc.  In order to get to the castle, you can either walk up a long steep incline or you can take the Teleferic de Montjuïc for 10.30 euros round-trip.   I think the fee is exorbitant, but I’m exhausted after my journey through the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, so I pay the hefty price.  The views of Barcelona are amazing from the Teleferic; I can see Sagrada de Familia poking its spires well above the rest of the city.  Barcelona doesn’t seem to be a city of skyscrapers; there are only a few on the horizon.  I like that about the city, along with its red rooftops and its location by the Mediterranean Sea.

view of Sagrada de Familia from Fundació Joan Miró
view of Sagrada de Familia from Teleferic de Montjuïc
View of Barcelona and its beaches from Fundació Joan Miró
View of Barcelona and its beaches from Teleferic de Montjuïc

Montjuïc Castle was first built in 1640 and then rebuilt over the centuries numerous times.  It was used as a prison and execution site by various governments, including the Republicans during the Civil War and Franco thereafter (Lonely Planet Spain).

In the 1890s, the workers involved in the wave of anarchist violence were locked up here.  In 1919, more than 3,000 workers were jailed because of the Canadenca conflict. It was filled with right-wing prisoners in 1936, and between 1936 and 1938, in addition to continuing as a prison, 173 people were executed by firing squad. Also executed was the President of the Generalitat of Catalonia, Lluís Companys, on 15 October 1940.

The castle remained a military prison till 1960, when it was ceded to the city under the direction and administration of the army. After three year’s work to refurbish the complex as a military museum, on 24 June 1963, Francisco Franco presided over the inauguration. (Castell de Montjuic)

Castell de Montjuïc
Castell de Montjuïc
Castell de Montjuïc
Castell de Montjuïc

From the top of the castle, Barcelona Port spreads out beneath us.  Apparently, Barcelona is now the busiest port for cruise ship traffic in Europe.

view of the port from Castell de Montjuïc
view of the port from Castell de Montjuïc
port view
port view
port view
port view
Castell de Montjuïc
Castell de Montjuïc
Castell de Montjuïc
Castell de Montjuïc
view from Castell de Montjuïc
view from Castell de Montjuïc
view from Castell de Montjuïc
view from Castell de Montjuïc
Teleferic de Montjuic
Teleferic de Montjuic
back on Barcelona Bus Turista
back on Barcelona Bus Turista
Interesting building along the bus tour
Interesting building along the bus tour

barcelona: breakfast for one at fashion house and a day at montjuïc: the museu nacional d’art de catalunya-MNAC

Saturday, June 29:  Last night Matt asked if I wanted to meet him for breakfast at 8:30.  When morning comes, I don’t really feel like getting up, but I go out to the patio for breakfast only to remember it isn’t served until 9:00.  I return at 9 to still find no sign of him.  As a matter of fact, I eat my entire breakfast and leave for the day without ever seeing him.  It’s okay; he’s young and I figure he probably slept in.  Anyway, I want to do my thing today and I don’t know if he might invite himself along; it would be nice to have his company, but I find it hard to really absorb what I’m seeing when someone else is along.

dining table in bcn fashion house
dining table in bcn fashion house
there's a buddha in the garden.  I like him a lot. :-)
there’s a buddha in the garden. I like him a lot. 🙂
there he is again, at a distance. :-)
there he is again, at a distance. 🙂
Spanish laundry
Spanish laundry
flowers in the garden
flowers in the garden
there's Buddha again :-)
there’s Buddha again 🙂
and the buildings around the patio
and the buildings around the patio
Ohm, Mr. Buddha
Ohm, Mr. Buddha
breakfast for two, but only one of us arrives :-)
breakfast for two, but only one of us arrives 🙂

I decide to take the Barcelona Bus Turistic at a cost of 28 euros for 2 days.  Today I’ll go to the south of the city to see Montjuïc on the red line.  Tomorrow I’ll do the north side on the blue line.  It’s like many city bus tours, where you can hop off anywhere along the line that you want, and then hop back on whenever you’re ready.  I love these kinds of tours when I first arrive in a city because it gives me the lay of the land.  Also, it takes care of a lot of logistics and is informative as well.

Barcelona Bus Turista
Barcelona Bus Turista
There's La Perdrera from the bus
There’s La Perdrera from the bus
love these city tours
love these city tours
I think they said this is a Gaudi sculpture, but I honestly don't remember
I think they said this is a Gaudi sculpture, but I honestly don’t remember
Spanish balconies
Spanish balconies

Montjuïc means Jewish Mountain.  The name indicates there was one a Jewish cemetery, and possibly settlement, here.

The Parc de Montjuïc occupies a hill overlooking the port, offering a plethora of green areas and gardens, museums and cultural attractions, sports facilities and Olympic sites.

Montjuïc Hill has borne witness to, and been the focus of key events that have shaped its personality. The first such event was the 1929 International Exhibition held in Barcelona which fostered the zone’s development. More recently, the 1992 Olympic Games brought about major renewal.

Montjuïc is also home to museums, such as the Fundació Miró, the Museu d’Arqueologia, the Museu Etnològic and the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya-MNAC. The latter, which is housed in the Palau Nacional, the centerpiece of the 1929 exhibition, holds 1,000 years of Catalan art.

The Olympic Ring, the main site of the Olympic Games, features the stadium and a the telecommunications tower designed by Santiago Calatrava, among other things.  I don’t really care about the Olympic sites, but intend mainly to see Fundació Miró and Montjuïc Castle, where many people were imprisoned and killed during and after the Spanish Civil War  (Barcelona Turisme: Parc de Montjuic).

When the bus stops at the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya-MNAC , housed in the stunning Palau Nacional, I hop off the bus because the guide says that there are amazing views of Barcelona from here. On the steps, a Spanish guitarist is playing passionately away.  The views are stupendous.  I can see the whole of the city, the Mediterranean, Sagrada de Familia and the surrounding hills.  I had no intention of going into the museum, but now that I’m here, I think it’s a waste not to check it out.  I doubt I’ll be coming back to Montjuïc during my stay in Barcelona.  So I pay the hefty fee and go inside.  It’s huge and has collections of art from Catalonia through the centuries, ranging from Medieval / Romanesque Art, to Gothic Art, to Renaissance and Baroque, to Modern and Contemporary.

Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya-MNAC
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya-MNAC
view of Barcelona from Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya-MNAC
view of Barcelona from Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya-MNAC
the Museu Nacional D'Art de Catalunya
the Museu Nacional D’Art de Catalunya
view of Sagrada de Familia from the Museu Nacional D'Art de Catalunya
view of Sagrada de Familia from the Museu Nacional D’Art de Catalunya
the Museu Nacional D'Art de Catalunya
the Museu Nacional D’Art de Catalunya
view from Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya-MNAC
view from Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya-MNAC
Another nice view :-)
Another nice view 🙂
entrance to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya-MNAC
entrance to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya-MNAC
view from Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya-MNAC
view from Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya-MNAC

The star collection is the Romanesque Art.  I don’t know why, but I adore the amazing mural paintings, most of which came from Romanesque churches in the Pyrenees.  The collection is made up of works from the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries and includes richly painted panels, wood carvings (especially frontal altars), metalwork and stone sculpture.  This is my favorite collection by far in the museum.  I feel incredibly moved by these kinds of murals, because of their simplicity and rich colors, much more so than the paintings from the Gothic period, which I pass quickly by.

Romanesque wall murals
Romanesque wall murals
Romanesque wall murals
Romanesque wall murals
in the Romanesque section of the Museu Nacional D'Art de Catalunya
in the Romanesque section of the Museu Nacional D’Art de Catalunya
a Romanesque door
a Romanesque door
Mary and Jesus: Romanesque
Mary and Jesus: Romanesque
Romanesque frontal altar
Romanesque frontal altar
Romanesque carvings at the Museu Nacional D'Art de Catalunya
Romanesque carvings at the Museu Nacional D’Art de Catalunya
from the Romanesque period - another frontal altar
from the Romanesque period – another frontal altar

The extensive Gothic Art section contains interesting material such as works by Catalan painters Bernat Martorell and Jaume Huguet.

Gothic Art at the Museu Nacional D'Art de Catalunya
Gothic Art at the Museu Nacional D’Art de Catalunya
Stomping on the devil
Stomping on the devil
Gothic art
Gothic art

There is also a famous Fortuny painting called “The Battle of Tetuan.” Despite the artist’s inability to finish the painting, it has become an icon of Catalan culture.  According to Wikipedia, the Battle of Tetuan was fought near Tetuan, Morocco between a Spanish army sent to North Africa and the tribal levies comprising the Moroccan Army in 1860. The battle was part of the Spanish-Moroccan war of 1859-1860 (Wikipedia: Battle of Tétouan).

Fortuny's "The Battle of Tetuan"
Fortuny’s “The Battle of Tetuan”
Close-up of "The Battle of Tetuan"
Close-up of “The Battle of Tetuan”

Works by Picasso, Ramon Casas, Joaquim Mir, Santiago Rusinol, and other Spanish Modernista artists are included in the Modern collection. (Lonely Planet)

Ramon Casas: Pere Romeu en une automobil: 1901
Ramon Casas: Pere Romeu en une automobil: 1901
Stained glass
Stained glass
Gaudi?
Gaudi?
More stained glass
More stained glass
PIcasso
PIcasso

After lingering in the Romanesque and Modern collections, and rushing through Gothic and Renaissance, and enjoying the views of Barcelona from the museum’s grounds, I hop back on the bus and head to the Fundació Miró.  On the way, I can see the museum I just left, standing proudly above the tree tops.

Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya-MNAC
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya-MNAC

On our way we also pass by the Olympic Stadium (yawn!) and the telecommunications tower (yawn again!).

the telecommunications tower on Montjuic
the telecommunications tower on Montjuic