April 21 – Ola Barcelona!

21 Apr

Barcelona . . . largest city on the Mediterranean Sea; one of the most densely populated cities in Europe; home to 1.6 million people; the second largest port in the Mediterranean Sea; home of the 1992 Olympics; art is omnipresent as this city was the home of numerous artists including Goya, Dali, Miro and Picasso; home of the statue of Columbus who is pointing the “wrong” way – he’s not pointing toward America . . .

JJ and I signed up for a tour today was called Highlights of Barcelona.  This was our first time to visit Barcelona and we were excited to see what this notorious city was all about.

The port of Barcelona is very well organized with berthing capacity of up to 11 ships.  On our day in Barcelona, we were one of 4 ships.  The port also has a super location – once you leave the immediate area of the port, you are almost in the city center!  One of the Europe’s most famous pedestrian shopping promenades – La Rambla – is quite close by.

Barcelona is a beautiful city with lots of tree lined streets, some pedestrian only streets, handsome historical buildings and monuments; and a lovely planned neighborhood of beautifully laid out streets and buildings.  We were told that Barcelona has “reinvented” itself three times in recent history – the large International Exhibition in 1888; another large International Exhibition in 1929 and the 1992 Olympics.  There are buildings, monuments and places of interest that represent each of these three reinventions.

JJ had told me about Sagrada Familia – a very famous and still unfinished church.  I was anxious to see it and that was our first stop!  This is one of the most recognizable buildings in Barcelona . . .

  • This is a Roman Catholic church and was recently named a minor Basilica.
  • Construction started in 1882.
  • Antoni Gaudi became associated with the project in 1883 and dedicated his life to the project until his death in 1926.
  • The original plans of the building were lost, so subsequent plans have been based on reconstructed versions of the last known set of plans as well as modern adaptations.
  • At the time of Gaudi’s death, the church was only 15% to 25% complete.
  • Construction crews are on site now working to complete the building by the year 2026.
  • Our guide pointed out that the cranes surrounding the church are “just part of the picture”.
  • The church has two very distinctive looks  —  one façade is very modern, the other façade is very traditional!

This is a very popular site to visit and the queue for entrance into the church wrapped around the corner!

As we drove through the city we saw a couple of other buildings designed by Gaudi.  We understand that the interiors of the building were as eclectic as the exteriors.  One story about a resident of the building goes this way . . . a lady owned a piano (must have been an upright) and was having a terrible time placing the piano against a wall in her apartment, as no wall in her home was straight.  Exhausted from her efforts to place the piano, the lady called Gaudi himself for guidance.  “Where can I place my piano?” the lady asked.  Gaudi thought for a few moments and said “do you play the piano?”  “Yes”, the lady said.  Gaudi thought for a few more moments and then said to the lady “you should play the violin!”.  What a great story!!

Our next stop was the Gothic Quarter.  Just as we were to begin the walk through the older section, we saw a drawing on the façade of a building that looked much like a child’s crayon drawing . . . you didn’t think much of this drawing until you learned that it was a sculpture by Pablo Picasso!!  This sculpture represents activities on Palm Sunday.

The old Gothic Quarter took us down tiny streets, ending at what was once a royal palace.  This section of the city is very quiet and peaceful and you truly felt that you had gone back in time – well maybe not all the way back to Gothic times, but pretty far back in time!

We made our way to the top of Montjuic that is home to a number of places of interest including the Olympic Park.  This is the home to many of the venues of the 1992 Olympics.  You may remember the dramatic lighting of the torch by an archer.  Well, the cauldron is still there – attached to the building where the Opening Ceremonies were held.  Because Atlanta hosted the 1996 Olympics, we just love visiting Olympic cities and seeing the venues. 

One of the points of interest on the top of Montjuic is El Poble.  This “town” was built specifically for the 1929 International Exhibition.  You will see artisans representing all of the regions of Spain.  These artisans are grouped together by the region from which they hail.  You can see the artisans working in their workshops – making glass, guitars, decorative hand fans, weaving fabrics,  or perhaps weaving baskets.  A small café may sneak in a spot between the shops.  Pause during your stroll for a coffee or an ice cream.  The pedestrian streets were crowded but not oppressively so.  Visit the art museum where you might see a Picasso, Dali, or a Miro.  So much to see and do!  It is a super place! 

We found a glass workshop that has one of the only two traditional glassblowing furnaces left in Spain.  The furnace’s temperature is between 1,200 and 1,500 degrees centigrade and is never turned off.  We spent some time just watching the activities.  At the time of our visit, it must have been “pitcher day” – as in water, wine or milk, not American baseball – as pitchers were all we saw being made.  Three men were twirling and blowing the glowing balls of molten glass and then cooling the finished product . . . and then just at the right moment, the handles were attached . . . just fascinating. 

A multitude of motor scooters and bicycles easily share the roads with cars and buses.  We were especially intrigued with a bicycle rental system in the city center.  The bicycles can be rented for an annual fee of about 30 Euros.  You can pick-up the bicycle at one of the racks in the city and return the bicycle at a rack in another part of the city.  There are some disadvantages to this system . . . the rack can only accommodate a certain number of bicycles, so if the rack nearest your destination is full, you might have to ride around for a while to find a rack where you can leave the bicycle.  Or conversely, if you’re ready to ride and there are no bicycles in the rack nearest you, it might take a while to walk around to find a rack with bicycles available.  Not a perfect system, but one that seem to be quite popular and successful in Barcelona.

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All good things must come to an end and so did this tour . . . we had a great time in Barcelona and will definitely put this city on the list to re-visit!!  There’s still a lot to see and do in Beautiful Barcelona . . .

 

P. S.  I had a really hard time deciding which of my three Spanish outfits to wear in Spain . . . so I wore them all!!

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