18.07.2010 101 °F
Because we had such great success with the Hop-On/ Hop-Off Bus in other cities, we decided to kick off our visit to Barcelona with its own version on our first official day, Saturday. We worked out and had breakfast before hopping on the bus around 11:30am. We didn’t get off until around 6:30pm, so we saw a ton of sites and got a great feel for the vibrant city of Barcelona! Because pictures out of a moving bus window just don’t turn out that well, I’ll focus on the places where we actually hopped off the bus to look around, rather than the places we saw through the window only! It was another HOT day … up to 101 degrees Fahrenheit … and we were definitely feeling it by the end of the day, but really enjoyed our tour!
We are staying on La Rambla, the main street of Barcelona, which runs right into Placa de Catalunya, one of the two major plazas in Barcelona. It’s a huge roundabout with tons of stores lining the circle, and statues and vendors inside the circle. We forgot to take pictures, but we’ll get some tomorrow. This is where we caught the bus.
Our first stop was Casa Batlló, which was built by Antoni Gaudí, easily the most famous and well-known architect in Barcelona. Gaudí worked in the Art Noveau style, and to the average Joe (or Megan or Kevin), his work just looks trippy and crazy! He almost never uses straight lines, and employs bright colors and strange proportions that make you feel as if you were in a fun house. Gaudí worked on several of Barcelona’s most famous architectural wonder, and Casa Batlló is just one of them. It was built between 1904 and 1906, and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2005. Here you see the outside of the building, which is located in the middle of a normal city block and definitely stands out!
We took an audiotour (where you have your own headset and go at your own pace), so most of my information is from there. This is the main staircase, which is said to resemble the backbone of a huge prehistoric sea mammal, and forms the middle support of the “body” (house). You can also see that the walls and ceilings are all hand-painted with scaly designs, and the stained glass throughout is very ocean-like, both of which carry on the symbolism of the sea animal and ocean itself. Notice how Gaudí uses NO straight lines!
Gaudí supposedly did not work on the actual building of the house himself, and didn’t even draw out accurate plans, but just hand-crafted this plaster model and asked his builders to recreate it. He would then make on-the-spot changes and additions until it met his standards … I have a feeling he’d be a tough boss! Here are a few shots of the inside of the house, including a huge skylight spanning all 5 stories of the house that is lined with handcrafted, blue tile (darker at the top, since the sunlight is stronger there). There’s also a “spine” room that makes you feel like you’re inside the ribcage of the sea animal (supposedly!).
Gaudí did some crazy things with his outside terraces, as well. Here you see the balcony (notice the random pillars blocking the exit from the house) and the roof garden, with some funky chimneys. We really enjoyed this visit and enjoyed hearing the “artistic” perspective, since we are pretty uneducated in that arena!
Our next stop was Sagrada Familia, Barcelona’s most famous church, and Gaudí’s dream, which he worked on for over 40 years and was almost manically obsessed with. Construction started in the late 19th century, and when Gaudí died in 1926, he said “my client is in no hurry for Sagrada Familia to be finished … God has all the time in the world.” Apparently, he knew it would drag on for a while, and it’s still not completed! It’s now completely funded by private, anonymous donations, so progress is quite slow. Unfortunately, the line to enter was crazy long, so we didn’t try to wait, but we spent time walking around the outside and admiring all the intricate details that went into constructing this enormous church!
Our next stop was Park Guell, a large park designed by (you guessed it) Gaudí. The Park has several interesting features, all of which integrate Gaudí’s work with nature. You see here the famous statue of a lizard, the view up to the Park, and the pillars of the “cave” originally designed as a marketplace. The Park was really interesting to walk around, but at this point we were hot and hungry, and Kev decided that he was not Gaudí’s #1 fan (despite being really glad he saw everything and learned about the style), so we decided to leave and grab lunch.
As many of you know, I love Spain and have such great memories of almost every part of it … besides the food. Now, for some people, it is delicious, and the Spanish certainly take pride in their cuisine. As many of you also know, neither Kev nor I are the biggest fans of ham or unidentifiable meats (besides Wild Boar. We LOVE Wild Boar, as you all now know – ha!). Ham just so happens to be the most important staple of the Spanish diet, followed closely by other unidentifiable meats, SO … we’re not the biggest fans. I know I’m offending any Spanish people reading this, so I’m sorry … it’s our problem, not yours! Anyway, we looked for an “un-Spanish” place but couldn’t find one, so Kev went with the standby cheese pizza, and I went with the “Mixed Salad with Tuna,” of which I had WAY too many while I was studying in Madrid. It was pretty good, but we didn’t gain points for authenticity.
Anyway, after we got back on the bus, we passed by a famous Monastery (Monestir de Pedralbes), the Palau Reial (former royal palace), and Futbol Club Barcelona (the stadium of Barcelona’s main soccer team, shown here). We also saw the Placa de Espanya (Barcelona’s other major plaza), and several neighborhoods with unique architectural styles. We got off briefly at MNAC (the National art Museum of Catalunya), but didn’t go inside – we just wanted to see the views! They were great.
We drove past all the Olympic stadiums and facilities from the 1992 Olympic Games (you see the Torre de Calatrava, used for Olympic communications, here), as well as the World Trade Center and the Port of Barcelona. Here’s a picture of Kev on the bus (I think it was heat stroke that got to our heads!).
Finally, we returned to La Rambla (seen here … more pictures later), took a quick nap, and headed out to dinner. We did a terribly American, terribly touristic thing … we went to Hard Rock (gasp!). I have to say, though, it was pretty good! Kev had a chicken sandwhich with bacon and cheese, and I had the most gigantic salad in the history of mankind (basically a huge head of romaine lettuce split in half, thrown on the grill – very interesting! – and topped with chicken, pineapple, blue cheese, pecans, and balsamic vinegar). After dinner, we called it a day and relaxed in our hotel, resting up for the next day in Montserrat! Only 2 days left … then back to reality! (PS ... like the blue dress in these pictures? I bought it from a vendor in Florence!)