Tag Archives: Barcelona Bus Touristic

Travels in Spain, Barcelona and Antoni Gaudi

Casa Batlo Barcelona Gaudi

“Allow me to state here how much I love Barcelona, an admirable city, a city full of life, intense, a port open to the past and future.” – Le Corbusier

I don’t really like sightseeing bus tours.  It seems to me that they flash by anything worth seeing with indecent haste without stopping and then spend several minutes at red lights and busy road junctions where there is nothing of any interest to see at all.  Today however I was persuaded to take the bus tour.

Our plan was to take the bus several stops to the outskirts of the city to a place called Park Guell, another of the must see Gaudi sites in Barcelona.  Everything went according to plan until we reached the entrance and it was full and without pre-booked tickets no admission available until late afternoon.  We didn’t have pre-booked tickets so were obliged to reschedule our day and return to the bus stop.  This involved a rather steep hill and a lot of complaints.

Back on the bus 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 imaginable 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.

We left the bus and feared that this would be another place where pre-booking is advisable but were delighted to discover that all we had to do was buy a ticket and walk straight in.  No fuss, no bother!

Casa Batlo Gaudi Barcelona

Casa Batlló is a unique and fabulous building that defies any sort of written description that can do it justice. It is a building that 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 through greens and turquoise and into blues.

Antoni Plàcid Guillem Gaudí i Cornet was a Catalan architect with a name which quite frankly is a bit of a mouthful so thankfully he is usually referred to by the simplified version of Antoni Gaudí.   He  belonged to the European Modernist Art Nouveau movement and was famous for his unique style and highly individualistic designs.  He designed Casa Batlló, in a prosperous middle class district of Barcelona for a wealthy city Aristocrat who was carrying out an expensive refurbishment of the property that had originally been built in 1877.

Casa Battlo exterior

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 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 to completely avoid straight lines and wherever possible to use nature as inspiration.

My favourite part of the building was the roof with its forest of coloured chimneys decorating a terrace which is arched and is likened by students of Gaudi to the backbone 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 Battlo Roof

Visit over and after lunch at Plaça Catalunya we returned to the bus and endured a rather tedious journey through the city and along the coast and after about an hour of this I remembered all of the reasons that I don’t like city bus tours and chastised myself for breaking my vow never to do it again.

My mind wandered as we followed the route and now I digress.  As far as I can make out there are seven places in the World called Barcelona, this one of course then three in South America, in Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil, one in the Philippines, one in New York State USA and most unlikely of all a small hamlet in Cornwall, England.

Eventually we arrived back at Park Guell and climbed a grueling hill for the second time today to the entrance.  Park Guell is the architect’s vision of a Barcelona middle class housing development far away from the grime of the industrial city and the fishing port and we presented our tickets and made our way inside.

Barcelona dragonIMG_0022

Actually the whole project turned out to be rather overly ambitious and the houses that were planned 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.  After Park Guell Gaudi had another project to move onto – La Sagrada Familia.

Like a lot of artistic people Gaudi tended towards eccentricity and because of his ragged attire and empty pockets, many cab drivers refused to pick him up as he walked about the city for fear that he would be unable to pay the fare.

On 7th June 1926 Gaudi was rather carelessly run over by a tram and because no one recognised him he was taken to a pauper’s hospital.  His friends found him the next day but when they tried to move him into a better hospital, Gaudi refused, reportedly saying “I belong here among the poor.”  He died three days later on and was buried in the crypt of his Cathedral, La Sagrada Família.

Antoni Gaudi Comillas Cantabria Spain

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

Catalonia, Barcelona and the Bus Touristic – Part Two

Barcelona Catalonia Spain

“A change had come upon Barcelona since my previous visit.  Then there had been little sense of danger by daytime….Now however, harm hung on the air like a rancid smell” – Ted Walker – ‘In Spain’

It didn’t take very long for the tour bus to arrive and we took seats again on the upper deck as the vehicle made its way towards one of Barcelona’s great public squares, the Plaça d’Espanya at the foot of the hill of Montjuïc and which was developed  in 1929 for the World’s Fair Exhibition.

Barcelona went to a lot of trouble to host this event as it was almost in some sort of competition with the Andalusian city of Seville which hosted the Ibero-American Exposition in the same year and in preparation for that built the Plaza Espana as a showcase for Spain and its regions.  To compete with this Barcelona constructed a whole new boulevard and exhibition palace and the Palau Nacional which is now the National Art Gallery of Catalonia.

Declining to get off at either of these two stops we carried on a little further up the slopes of Montjuïc and then got off to visit Poble Espanyol which was also built for the 1929 exhibition and is a sort of Frankenstein’s monster with various bits of Spanish architecture and heritage stitched together in one open air museum.  Whilst this may work at Beamish in County Durham in the UK which restricts itself to the North East of England or St Fagans in South Wales where the exhibits come from a relatively small geographical area it is quite something else to try and bring together all of the differing cultural heritage of a country as diverse as Spain into one setting and succeed.

Pobol Espanyol, Barcelona Catalonia Spain

I found it to be a rather odd sort of place that aspires to celebrate the various regions of Spain but, for me anyway, failed to effectively capture the spirit of the country and it isn’t really a museum but rather a collection of shops and restaurants claiming to sell and serve regional specialities.  For anyone who has been to Disney World EPCOT World Showcase you will probably know what I mean.

The Disney view of the World doesn’t include Spain in the World Showcase, which is an oversight if you ask me, but if it did then something like Poble Espanyol would be exactly what it would most likely look like.

An interesting thing about Poble Espanyol is that it claims to introduce the visitor to the heritage and culture of each of the Autonomous Communities of Spain and yet it only showcases fifteen of the seventeen and as we left I couldn’t help wondering why the Canary Islands and La Rioja didn’t rate a mention or at least a shop?

Returning to the tourist bus we were driven now past the Olympic Stadiums, the Museum of local artist Joan Miró and then down to the seafront and the World Trade Centre which turned out to be a huge shopping mall so after thirty minutes or so in there we walked through and towards the beach area of Barceloneta which was busy today and decorated from one end to the other with  sun beds and brightly patterned parasols so we didn’t stay long.

We were now at the seafront end of La Rambla so we checked and secured our wallets, purses and cameras and walked along it keeping a constantly vigilant eye open for all of the pickpocket tricks that we had read about and I had previously been a victim of.

We were completely paranoid, two bags of nerves, eyes swivelling madly from side to side and showing suspicion of anyone who came within a metre or so of our personal space and we were glad that after about half way along we were able to leave the boulevard and turn towards Barcelona Cathedral – not Gaudi’s unfinished Sagrda Familia but the medieval Gothic Cathedral that stands in the heart of the city.  It was a good cathedral and I came away with the nagging thought about why Gaudi thought that Barcelona might need a second?

After the Cathedral there was only one last place to visit and this was the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Palau de la Música Catalana which was designed and built in the Modernista style at the beginning of the twentieth century and has today become another symbol of Catalan nationalism.

It had been a long day and by now we were all touristed out so we cut back across La Rambla and through the University area back to our hotel whilst all the time looking for somewhere suitable to eat later.  My preference was for a chic looking bistro but nearby Kim took a fancy to a restaurant with a distinctly artisan character and I think that even at this early stage the decision was already made.

And so it was and we returned there later and enjoyed a very good meal at an exceptionally reasonable price although back at the room later when I reviewed the day’s expenditure I think I discovered the reason why, because they had forgotten to charge us for the bottle of Rioja that we had enjoyed as an accompaniment to the excellent seafood paella.

Petite Xaica Restaurant Barcelona Catalonia Restaurant