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)
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 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)
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)
Below is the only other house built in the park.
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)
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.
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.
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).
The patio of the house has some interesting mosaics.
I love the oval mosaic samples and the round photos of Gaudí’s work that make up the wall decor.
The central well of the house welcomes light into the interior.
The roof is covered with mosaic-covered chimney pots.
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.
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.
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!