Tag Archives: Antoni Gaudi

Travels in Spain, Valencia and the Old Town

Mostly I want an airline flight to end quickly and I spend ten minutes or so willing the pilot to get the plane on the ground so that I can get off and get started but this was not the case when approaching the city of Valencia on the Levante coast of Spain.

The approach route involved a manoeuvre out over the Mediterranean and then a long languid approach around the south of the city.  The water was so blue it was as though the sky had fallen to earth and we crossed from sea to land over L’Albufera de València, the largest freshwater lagoon in Spain, a place for fishing and for growing paella rice. (Mar Menor in the neighbouring province of Murcia is the largest seawater lagoon by-the-way).

From the air I picked out the Old Town with its Gothic Cathedral and the City of Arts and Sciences and I was already looking forward to some of that paella rice later in the day.

After landing and passing through arrival security we took the metro into the city.  After being robbed on the Athens Metro I am always nervous of this mode of transportation but this seemed safe enough and within twenty minutes we were in the city still with all of our bags and possessions and then by some complete fluke I plotted a direct walking route to the hotel almost in the centre of the old city centre.

It was a nice hotel, boutique by description but not in reality and we settled in, approved the facilities and walked straight back out into the city.  Directly opposite was the Museum of Ceramics housed in the Palace of the Marquis of Dos Aguas, a Rococo nobility palace and a house considered as a supreme example of nobility and opulence.  The alabaster decoration came with warnings not to touch and reminded me somewhat of a Moscow Metro Station.

This is the Palace in 1870 and the building opposite,  previously the Duke of Cardona’s  baroque-style palace is now the SH Inglés Hotel.

Immediately I liked this place, the third largest city in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona and just ahead of Bilbao and Malaga and after we had got our bearings we set off to explore the heart of the old city and started first at a tapas bar in the “Plaza de la Vergen” in a gloriously sunny spot overlooking the east door of the Cathedral.

It was wonderful, the sky was blue, the plaza was golden, busy and vibrant, the people were relaxed, the visitors were hurried, the waiters were languorous, purple shadows shifted across the pavements and disappeared into secret corners and we were back in Spain!

The decision to move on was a difficult one, I think I could happily have stayed all day but Valencia had a lot more to offer than a pavement bar and the bottom of a beer glass so we paid up, bagged up and move on.

We were planning to walk to the central market but went in completely the wrong direction and found ourselves at the very edge of the old town and on the border of the dried out bed of the River Turia so leaving that until another day we turned back and looked once more for our intended destination.

We walked through a combination of Baroque and modern, old and new, through a twisting labyrinth of alleyways and narrow streets all drizzled like olive oil in the history of the city, a combination of pristine plazas and graffiti spoilt corners, effervescent fountains and beggars pitches, forever being drawn into the historic heart of the city.  And what a city, towering mansions, brooding palaces and around every corner a tree lined plaza decorated with restaurant tables serving wine and tapas.

Eventually we came to the Market District, an area bubbling like a geyser with gay excitement.  Outside the tapas bars welcomed us in but we ignored them with a casual ‘maybe later’ and carried on to the market hall itself.  What a place. Bursting with fresh local produce, if I lived in Valencia I would spend all of my money in the central market.  Fruit, vegetables, tapas, wine, meat and fish, even though I am not a shopper I would gladly spend an hour or so there every day.

The tapas restaurants were so exciting that we thought we might return later but when we did they were all closed.  If I ever return  I will remember that.  So we wandered into the back streets of the city and settled on a restaurant which wasn’t the best but offered traditional food at a good price so foot-weary and tired we took a table and ordered food.

I wanted paella because although it has come to be regarded as the national dish of Spain it originated right here in Valencia.  When the Moors reached Alicante in 718 they discovered a pleasant climate perfect for growing crops that wouldn’t grow in Africa and set about turning this part of the peninsula into a centre of horticulture.

They developed a system of irrigation and exploited the wetlands that were created to grow rice.  Not just any rice however, not your supermarket economy rice, not Uncle Ben’s ‘boil in a bag’, but arroz bomba introduced from the east which has the perfect constituency to produce the dish.

These days people will add almost any ingredient to a paella but the true Valencian meal is always made of chicken, rabbit and white beans.  Most things work but I have a friend who adds liver and that doesn’t but then again I have strong culinary views on liver – avoid it at all costs – it takes offal.

There was no liver, just traditional Valencian paella and I was glad about that and after we had eaten and after a very long day we made our way back through streets brimming with joy to the hotel.  I liked this place.  I liked this place a lot!

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Building A Cathedral

Sagrada Familia Cathedral Barcelona

Sagrada Familia in Barcelona…

It was quite pricey to get in but then I had to take into consideration that this is the principal source of fund raising because the long drawn out construction is not supported financially by any of the National State of Spain, the Autonomous Community of Catalonia, the Province or City of Barcelona or the Catholic Church (it already has one, why does it need another?)

Work on the Cathedral began in 1882 and  is currently due for completion in 2026 and although I say long drawn out and nearly one hundred and fifty years may seem a very long time, to put this into some sort of perspective, you can’t really expect to build a cathedral in just a couple of years.

Building a Cathedral takes a long time…

In England York Mister took two hundred and forty-two years, but by comparison St Paul’s in London was rushed up in only thirty-one, Notre Dame in Paris took one hundred and eighty-five years, Seville in Spain one hundred and eighteen years and St Peter’s in Rome one hundred and twenty years.

Even the Basilica of the National Shrine of Immaculate Conception in Washington, USA took forty-two years and although this might seem like snail’s pace construction all of these were positively rapid compared to Milan at five hundred and seventy-nine years and Cologne in Germany at six hundred and thirty-two years.

Read the Full story…

Durham Cathedral Door Knocker

Review of 2015 – Top Ten Posts

Ireland Inch Beach

As we nail down 2015, please excuse my annual self-indulgent post to begin the new year as I look back over the last one.  I have ignored the WordPress annual statement to produce my own review.

The top ten most visited posts on my Travel Blog always surprise me but then I don’t pretend to understand how search engines work.  I say visited pages rather than read because I am neither conceited enough or sufficiently naive to claim that a visit equals a read.  I know that a lot of people will arrive here by mistake and swiftly reverse back out via the escape button!

Just to go back a bit, in 2012 the site recorded 170,900 visits and I was optimistic that as I kept posting this number was just going to keep going up but then in February 2013 Google made some devastating changes to its search algorithms and the numbers halved overnight and have never fully recovered. I finished 2013 with 79,470, a decrease of 115%.

I thought it was important to keep going so in 2014 I posted 320 times and the total number of visits recorded was just over 101,000 so there was some significant recovery.  2015 has not seen the same level of improvement but there has been consolidation.  I have posted 311 times and the number of reported visits is 106,600, an increase of just 5.5%.

These are the Top Ten posts of 2015:

No. 1 

Gaudi Casa Batlo Barcelona Catalonia Spain

Catalonia, Barcelona and Antoni Gaudi

No change at the top this year and this post has recorded 8,715 visits which is over 3,000 more than last.  I posted this in August 2013 following a week touring Catalonia and pulling in a visit to Barcelona along the way.

I’d like to think that this is because it is a knowledgeable and scholarly assessment of Gaudi’s architectural contribution to the urban World but I think it is more likely because the image attracts visitors as it easily found in a Google search and people seem to like it because it has been copied several times!

No. 2

royal-garden-party

Royal Garden Party

5,870 hits, up from 3,300 and staying in the Top Ten for the sixth successive year which by that measure makes it my most successful post.

In total it has 17,800 visits which makes all time second after my post about  Norway, Haugesund and the Vikings. This one has been around for a long time ( since June 2009) and has always been popular especially around the Spring and Summer when invitations to the Royal Garden Party are going out and when people are wondering how to get one or what to wear if they have one.

No. 3

Vesuvius Naples Italy

Mount Vesuvius

This one has been around a while as well and with 1,610 hits and a fifth year in the Top Ten is becoming a stubborn stayer.  A bit of a surprise to me really because this is the account of a day trip to Mount Vesuvius whilst on a holiday to Sorrento in 1976 with my dad.  From my memories of the same holiday I posted several blogs about visits to CapriNaplesPompeiiThe Amalfi Drive and Rome but these have only achieved a handful of hits between them.

No. 4

Antoni Gaudi and me

Alternative Twelve Treasures of Spain – Antoni Gaudi

A second top ten appearance again this year for the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi  (maybe I am an expert on Gaudi after all).  After I had taken a look at the official Twelve Treasures of Spain I thought it might be fun to draw up my own personal alternative list.  I included Antoni Gaudi in a general rather than a specific way.  I posted this in March 2013 and this year with 1,455 visits it has risen five places to number four.

No. 5

Angry Man Skelligs Viewpoint Kerry Ireland

Ireland, Ring of Kerry and I Temporarily Overcome My Fear of Dogs.

This is the first of this year’s new entries with a surprising 1,325 visits and no convincing explanation why that should be.

I visited Southern Ireland in June 2014 and wrote several posts that I personally would consider more interesting than this encounter with a grumpy street entertainer and a worn out old collie dog.  Once again, and rather disappointingly, I suspect it isn’t the words but the picture that grabs attention.  It was a map of the Ring of Kerry which I noticed displayed on the front of a shop.

No. 6

L'Escala Costa Brava

Catalonia, In Search of Norman Lewis

The second of this year’s new entries and I must confess that I am rather pleased about this one.

There are some posts that I have written that I would like people to read and this is one of few that have achieved that. Before visiting Catalonia in 2014 I read the book ‘Voices of the Old Sea’ by Norman Lewis which is an account of the Costa Brava in the 1940s and the approach of mass tourism.  In this post I attempted some research and some interpretation of the book and the area.  It has recorded 977 visits and in this case I like to think that this is because of the subject rather than the pictures.

No. 7

wieliczka salt mine

Krakow, Wieliczka Salt Mine

This post has also been a consistent performer with five years in the top ten but in terms of visits is this year’s biggest loser, down almost 3,200 hits to just 790, dropping four places from last year’s number two and if that slide continues I expect it to be gone next year.  I posted this in April 2010 after returning from a visit to Krakow in Poland.  It was a good trip but I am not sure why so many people would hit on it.  It is not as interesting as my trip to Auschwitz or the Crazy Mike Communist Tour.

No. 8

Benidorm Hotel Terrace c1960 

Every Picture Tells a Story – Benidorm c1960

I posted this in March 2010 and it finally made the top ten last year and I am glad to see it there for a second year. It has stayed in this year with 740 visits.   It is actually one of my personal favourites  and is a story about the Spanish seaside resort of  Benidorm inspired by some photographs that I came across of my grandparents on holiday there in about 1960.

No. 9

Volare Domenigo Modungo Polignano a Mare

Italy and Puglia, Domenico Modungo and the Eurovision Song Contest

The last of the new entries and another one that I am pleased about. This is the story of the Italian singer Domenico Modungo.   Domenico who? I hear you ask.  Well, let me tell you that Domenico is renowned for writing and performing what is claimed to be the most famous, most copied, most successful ever Eurovision Song Contest entry and most lucrative in terms of revenue, Italian popular music songs of all time.  Think about it…have you got it…

“Nel blu dipinto di blu” or most popularly known as “Volare”.  With 656 visits it has only just about crept in to the top ten but I am happy to see it there.

No. 10

Tourists The Grand Tour of Europe

Travel Journal

Seventh place with 636 hits and four years in the top ten which demonstrates the importance of an ‘About’ page.

Dropping out of the Top Ten this year are:  Moscow and Lenin’s Mausoleum, The Twelve Treasures of Spain – Seville Cathedral and Weekly Photo Challenge – Signs

If you have read one of these posts or any of the 1,785 others on my site ‘Have Bag, Will Travel’then thank you very much!  I guess it proves that George Bailey (It’s A Wonderful Life) was right when he said: “The three most exciting sounds in the world are anchor chains, plane motors and train whistles.”  

On reflection, not a bad year but I still haven’t been Freshly Pressed (Discovered).  Do I care? Well, maybe a little bit!

I’d be interested to know about other people’s most popular posts in 2015 and the possible explanations why?  Comment and let me know.  I’m a sucker for statistics!

home-statistics

Review of the Year – 2014

Ireland Inch Beach

As we nail down 2014, please excuse my annual self-indulgent post to begin the new year as I look back over the last one.  I have ignored the WordPress annual statement to produce my own review.

The top ten most visited posts on my Travel Blog always surprise me but then I don’t pretend to understand how search engines work.  I say visited pages rather than read because I am neither conceited enough or sufficiently naive to claim that a visit equals a read.  I know that a lot of people will arrive here by mistake and swiftly reverse back out via the back button!

Just to go back a bit, in 2012 the site recorded 170,900 visits and I was optimistic that as I kept posting this number was just going to keep going up but then in February 2013 Google made some devastating changes to its search algorithms and the numbers halved overnight and have never fully recovered. I finished 2013 with 79,470, a decrease of 115%.

I thought it was important to keep going so in 2014 I have posted 320 times and the total number of visits is recorded as just over 101,000 so there has been some significant recovery.  My other companion blogs, Scrap Book Project and Another Bag More Travel have recorded about 105,000 hits between them.

Interestingly, WordPress statistics reports are consistently lower than third party statistics counters but I am reporting here on the official site numbers.

These are the Top Ten posts of 2014:

No. 1 

Casa Batlo Barcelona Gaudi

Catalonia, Barcelona and Antoni Gaudi

A newcomer to the top ten and straight in at number 1 with 5,430 visits.  I posted this in August 2013 following a week touring Catalonia in the North-East of Spain and pulling in a visit to Barcelona along the way.  I’d like to think that this is because it is a knowledgeable and scholarly assessment of Gaudi’s architectural contribution to the World but I think it is more likely because the image attracts visitors as it easily found in a Google search and people seem to like it because it has been copied several times!

No. 2

Cathedral Wieliczka Salt Mine

Krakow, Wieliczka Salt Mine

This post is down from number 1 in 2013 to number 2 this year with 4,010 hits. I posted this in April 2010 after returning from a visit to Krakow in Poland.  It was a good trip but I am not sure why so many people would hit on it.  It is not as interesting as my trip to Auschwitz or the Crazy Mike Communist Tour.  Once again it is probably the image but interest in this post however is on the slide because someone stole the image and their version of it now comes up before mine in a Google search.  How annoying is that!

No. 3

Buckingham Palace 1

Royal Garden Party

3,300 hits, staying in the Top Ten and up three places from number 6 represents a very successful year for this post.  This one has been around for a long time ( since June 2009) and has always been popular especially around the Spring and Summer when invitations to the Royal Garden Party are going out and when people are wondering how to get one or what to wear if they have one. I think people assume that I have connections with the Royal Family and can be of some assistance.

No. 4

Lenin Mausoleum

Moscow and Lenin’s Mausoleum

This post stays in the Top 10 for a second year with 2,225 visits after an original posting in July 2012.  Cameras and mobile phones are strictly forbidden inside the Mausoleum because the Russian authorities don’t want snapshots of the great man turning up on the internet in people’s Blogs or Trip Advisor reviews so they have to be left in a locker room and if anyone tries to defy this and is caught by the thorough security checks then there punishment is to be sent to the back of the queue!  I shamelessly stole this one – well, people steal mine!

No. 5

Vesuvius the crater

Mount Vesuvius

1,330  hits and a fourth year in the Top Ten but dropping three places and presently running out of steam.  A bit of a surprise because this is the account of a day trip to Mount Vesuvius whilst on a holiday to Sorrento in 1976 with my dad.  From my memories of the same holiday I posted several blogs about visits to CapriNaplesPompeiiThe Amalfi Drive and Rome but these have only achieved a handful of hits between them.

No. 6

Andalusia 196 Seville Cathedral

The Twelve Treasures of Spain – Seville Cathedral

This year’s second new entry with 1,050 visits.  The “Twelve Treasures of the Kingdom of Spain” was a contest/poll that was conducted by the Spanish Television Company Antena 3 and the radio broadcaster Cope. The final results were announced on 31st December 2007.  I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the eight out of the twelve that I have visited.  Third in the competition was the mighty Spanish Cathedral in Seville, Andalusia..

No. 7

Travel Journal 2

Travel Journal

Seventh place with 1,005  hits which demonstrates the importance of an ‘About’ page.

Completing the Top 10 this year are three more newcomers:

No. 8

Ballyvaughan Ireland

Weekly Photo Challenge – Signs

I try and regularly take part in the Weekly Photo Challenge and often use it to provide a link to an older post.  I get a respectable amount of visits but they are rather like a Mayfly and only live for a day but for some reason this one has just kept on going.  Only posted in October 2014 it has attracted 905 visits and has muscled its way into the top 10.  It is a signpost in the village of Ballyvaughan in Southern Ireland and I can think of no reason why it has been so successful.

No. 9

Antoni Gaudi and me

Alternative Twelve Treasures of Spain – Antoni Gaudi

A second top 10 appearance this year for the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi  (maybe I am an expert on Gaudi after all).  After I had taken a look at the official Twelve Treasures of Spain I thought it might be fun to draw up my own personal alternative list.  I included Antoni Gaudi in a general rather than a specific way.  I posted this in March 2013 and it has made its way into the top 10 with 820 hits.

No. 10

Benidorm Bar c1960

Every Picture Tells a Story – Benidorm c1960

I posted this in March 2010 so it has taken a long time to get to the top 10.  It is actually one of my personal favourites.  It has crept in this year with 765 visits but I have no explanation about why it should suddenly spike like that!  It is a story about the Spanish seaside resort of Benidorm inspired by some photographs that I came across of my grandparents on holiday there in about 1960.

Dropping out of the Top Ten this year were:  Norway, Europe’s most Expensive Country, Travel Tips when Flying Budget Airlines, Danger in Naples, Camorra, Vesuvius and Pollution, Onyx UK  and an Inappropriate Visit to the Moulin Rouge and Twelve Treasures of Spain – Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

If you have read one of these posts or any of the 1,475 others on my site ‘Have Bag, Will Travel’then thank you very much!  I guess it proves that George Bailey (It’s A Wonderful Life) was right when he said: “The three most exciting sounds in the world are anchor chains, plane motors and train whistles.”  

I’d be interested to know about other people’s most popular posts in 2014 and the possible explanations why?  Comment and let me know.  I’m a sucker for statistics!

Weekly Photo Challenge: ZigZag

Barcelona Gaudi Park Guell

ZigZag – Gaudi Style

The bus continued along Passeig de Gràcia past the Casa Milà and then turned right along the grid pattern streets and headed towards Gaudi’s unfinished Cathedral, La Sagrada Familia and still we stayed stubbornly in our seats with a plan to see all of these on the next day but the next stop on route was the architect’s vision of a Barcelona middle class housing development away from the grime of the industrial city, the Park Guell and here we made our first stop.

Read the full story…

Catalonia, Barcelona and Antoni Gaudi

Barcelona Gaudi Postcard

“What I saw in Barcelona – Gaudí – was the work of such strength, such faith, of an extraordinary technical capacity, manifested during a whole life of genius; of a man who carved the stones before his eyes in well thought out pattern…. Gaudí was a great artist; only those who move the sensitive hearts of gentle people remain” – Le Corbusier (Swiss-French Architect)

The first day in Barcelona had been a rapid breakneck tour of the city that raced recklessly through history, culture, sport and sights without any real plan or semblance of sensible order.  Today we intended to be more focussed and specifically we were going to visit the buildings of the renowned Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi.

Antoni Gaudi or …

Antoni Plàcid Guillem Gaudí i Cornet (to give him his full name) was an architect who belonged to the Modernist Art Nouveau movement of the early twentieth century and was famous for his unique style and highly individualistic designs.  We had already come across some Gaudi creations previously on our travels, the Casa Botines in León and then El Capricho in Comillas but Gaudi didn’t do a lot more work outside of Catalonia so to see his work properly then it really has to be in Barcelona where he was prolific.  

Whilst leaving his indelible mark specifically on this city at the same time he contributed his architectural legacy to the heritage to the World in general.

Antoni Gaudi and me

I mentioned before that the bus tour had taken us along the Passeig de Gràcia in the Eixample district of Barcelona heading for the Casa Milà when one particular building had caught our attention.  It turned out to be the Casa Batlló and so this was the building that we headed towards first of all.

Casa Batlló in Barcelona…

Gaudi designed Casa Batlló in a prosperous middle class district of Barcelona for a wealthy city Aristocrat who was carrying out a complete refurbishment of the property that had originally been built in 1877.  

It is a unique and fabulous building that defies any sort of description and is a place that really has to be seen to be fully appreciated.  From the road outside the building looks stunning and the local name for the building is ‘casa dels ossos’, literally the house of bones, and the building has a visceral, skeletal, organic quality.  Much of the façade is decorated with a mosaic made of broken ceramic tiles that begins in shades of golden orange and moves and merges harmoniously and without effort into greens and blues.

Casa Batlo Barcelona Gaudi

It is a wonderful riot of style and outrageous architectural ideas and designs and stepping inside is like being given the privilege of sharing the inside of the mind of a genius.  Every room is a treasure store  and the attention to detail is immaculate.  The ground floor, in particular, is rather astonishing with tracery, irregular oval windows and flowing sculpted stone work.  It seems that Gaudi’s objective was if possible to avoid straight lines completely.

My favourite part of the building was the roof with its forest of coloured chimneys decorating a terrace which is arched and is said to represent the spine of a dragon.  A common theory about the building is that the rounded feature to the left of centre, terminating at the top in a turret and cross, represents the sword of Saint George the patron saint of Catalonia, which has been plunged into the back of the dragon.

Casa Milà in Barcelona…

After we left Casa Batlló we walked the short distance to the next Gaudi masterpiece, the Casa Milà and paid our entry fee to visit the exhibition rooms and the roof with its sculptured chimneys and ventilation shafts.   Casa Milà reminded me of the slopes of a volcano, flowing layer upon layer like Mount Vesuvius and with more curves than Marilyn Monroe.  I have to say that it didn’t excite me as much as  Casa Batlló but once again I liked the roof with its decorated chimneys and from where there was a good view of the city and a clear line of sight towards our third intended visit – the Sagrada Familia.

Casa Mila Gaudi Barcelona Catalonia

Sagrada Familia in Barcelona…

It was quite pricey to get in but then I had to take into consideration that this is the principal source of fund-raising because the long drawn out construction is not supported financially by any of the National State of Spain, the Autonomous Community of Catalonia, the Province or City of Barcelona or the Catholic Church (it already has one Cathedral, why does it need another?)

Work on the Cathedral began in 1882 and  is currently due for completion in 2026 and although I say long drawn out and nearly one hundred and fifty years may seem a very long time, to put this into some sort of perspective, you can’t really expect to build a cathedral in just a couple of years. 

Building a Cathedral takes a long time…

In England York Mister took two hundred and forty-two years, but by comparison St Paul’s in London was rushed up in only thirty-one, Notre Dame in Paris took one hundred and eighty-five years, Seville in Spain one hundred and eighteen years and St Peter’s in Rome one hundred and twenty years.  Even the Basilica of the National Shrine of Immaculate Conception in Washington, USA took forty-two years and although this might seem like snail’s pace construction all of these were positively rapid compared to Milan at five hundred and seventy-nine years and Cologne in Germany at six hundred and thirty-two years.

So we purchased our entry tickets and went inside into a surreal world of a combination of church and building site with stone and brick side by side with pews and confessional boxes and we wandered around the great nave and the side chapels and then made our way to the entrance to the lift that would take us to the top of the twin towers soaring high above the half-finished building and which took us closer to the stone carvings, the allegorical friezes and the sometimes curious selection of material used in the construction.  Reaching the top the bonus was a glorious view over all of Barcelona with a riot of colourful but not especially attractive boxy buildings leading all the way down to the Mediterranean Sea.

Sagrada Familia Cathedral Barcelona

Down again at ground level we walked through the forest of scaffolding to the main doors and then left taking time to admire the sculptured nativity scene in its prominent position between doors and spires.  At first glance this all seems rather chaotic but with its avoidance of straight lines and right angles, and its forest-like columns of trees, it embodies Gaudí’s belief that construction should follow the example of nature.

The fluidity of the design creates the illusion of fusion – columns and arches melt into a viscous panorama that foams, drips and provides refuge for plants, animals and people and as we stood and admired it I hoped that although it is difficult to get inside the mind of a genius that I might at least be able to understand just a little of what it all meant.

And so our day of architectural sightseeing drew to a close, we knew all about Gaudi, hadn’t been robbed and later we went to the same restaurant where they remembered to charge us for the wine this time but to compensate for this forgot the beers.  I liked this place so it was a shame that this was the end of our time in Barcelona and tomorrow we would be leaving for Girona.

Gaudi Casa Batlo Barcelona Catalonia Spain

More posts about Antoni Gaudi:

Alternative Twelve Treasures of Spain – Antoni Gaudi

Twelve Treasures of Spain, La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Cantabria, Comillas and Antoni Gaudi

Casa Batlló, Barcelona

Park Guell, Barcelona

Gaudi Dragon Park Guell

Catalonia, Barcelona and the Bus Touristic – Part One

Barcelona Catalonia Postcard

“Most visits to Spain are trouble-free, but you should be alert to the existence of street crime, especially thieves using distraction techniques. Thieves often work in teams of two or more people and tend to target money and passports.”   British Foreign Office Advice

I was rather nervous of visiting the Catalan capital of Barcelona and the pickpocket capital of Europe because the last time that I went there a thief separated me from my wallet and went on a spending spree with my debit card.  It was rather like losing a camera on the Athens Metro.  I eventually got the money back from the bank but it spoilt the day as most of it was spent at the police station and the British Embassy but I like to think that the whole unpleasant experience taught me a valuable lesson in life and I am much more careful now with my possessions.

Not, however so confident about security that I would want to leave a car there and as  I didn’t want to drive into Barcelona  we took the train from Girona and arrived mid morning at Plaça Catalunya and emerged blinking from the darkness of the metro station into the blinding sunlight of the busy square with white knuckles gripped tightly around my wallet – still there – a good start!

I had a city map but we were completely disorientated and quite unable to distinguish between north and south or left and right and we circumnavigated the square several times looking for a street name that reconciled with the map until at the second or third pass we found La Rambla which was something so familiar that I can’t imagine how we missed it the first time and so we walked along the most famous street in Barcelona and about half way down stopped at a pavement bar for an expensive beer and an overpriced tapas lunch.

La Rambla is a riot, an eclectic mix of sights and sounds which easily strays from modern to medieval and back with impressive ease.  Here are the boutiques and tourist shops, the street statues and entertainers, the tapas bars and souvenir stalls but alongside them are the market stalls and animal livestock sales which would appear to be more appropriate to a shopping experience in the Middle Ages.  It is certainly a place to keep a firm grip on your wallet!

We knew that Barcelona in just a couple of days was going to be a challenge so we flicked through the pages of the guide book and ticked off the places that we wanted to see and when we had finished that we reviewed the selection and realised that it would be almost impossible to achieve in the time available.  Kim however came up with a solution that would help and she suggested using the open top Barcelona Bus Touristic which is a bus service with three main routes that cover all of the principal sights around the city.

One of the main interchanges was at Plaça Catalunya so we wandered back, purchased our tickets and for no particular reason decided to start with the red route that covers the northern part of the city.  We took our seats on the top deck in the sun and soon the bus started to move and joined the Passeig de Gràcia in the Eixample district of Barcelona and heading for Antoni Gaudi’s Casa Milà but only a short way along across the street we saw the most amazing building that also turned out to  be the work of the famous architect- the Casa Batlló, recently restored as a museum and now open to the public.

Because we had only just started the tour about five minutes ago we didn’t get off here but I knew that we would definitely have to return.

The bus continued along Passeig de Gràcia past the Casa Milà and then turned right along the grid pattern streets and headed towards Gaudi’s unfinished Cathedral, La Sagrada Familia and still we stayed stubbornly in our seats with a plan to see all of these on the next day but the next stop on route was the architect’s vision of a Barcelona middle class housing development away from the grime of the industrial city, the Park Guell and here we made our first stop.

Actually the whole project turned out to be overly ambitious and the houses were never built but before it was abandoned Gaudi designed and built the infrastructure of roads, terraces and parks and he did himself live there for twenty years before his death in a house that is now the Gaudi House Museum.

Gaudi Dragon Park Guell

As we left I checked my wallet for the hundredth time today and we got back on the bus which now headed further out of the city to the suburbs on the higher ground.  At Sarria we got off and explored the narrow streets of a traditional and quiet area of the city where we bought some local cake specialities and found a bar for lunch and a beer and watched council workers erecting lights and decorations in preparation for a festival.

After lunch we rejoined the bus and to my surprise I was beginning to enjoy this method of sightseeing as the route took us through a district of wide leafy roads with churches, monasteries and palaces and then began a climb to a high spot above the city and pulled into a bus stop on the edge of a massive empty car park.  This was Camp Nou, the home of Barcelona FC, the largest football stadium in Europe and possibly, by some measures, the largest in the World.

Barcelona FC was founded in 1899 by a group of Swiss, English and Catalan footballers and has become a symbol of Catalan culture and separatism that has the motto – “Més que un club” (More than a club).  After its Spanish rivals Real Madrid, it is the world’s second-richest football club in terms of revenue, with an annual turnover of nearly €500 million and after Real Madrid and Manchester United it is the third most valuable, worth €2.6billion.

A lot of people got off the bus here but I wasn’t especially interested in visiting the stadium or the museum and I was certain that Kim wouldn’t be so we stayed in our seats until we reached the next stop where our plan was to change to the blue route which would eventually take us back to the city centre.  Half the tour completed and I still had my wallet and we both still had our cameras– we were doing well!

Barcelona Catalunya

More posts about Antoni Gaudi:

Catalonia, Barcelona and Antoni Gaudi

Alternative Twelve Treasures of Spain – Antoni Gaudi

Twelve Treasures of Spain, La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Cantabria, Comillas and Antoni Gaudi

Casa Batlló, Barcelona