“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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…