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Sunday 27 May 2012

Our third and final day in Barcelona

Barcelona, day three.

After breakfast in the hotel we located the nearest stop of the blue bus that takes tourists on a ride to the upper parts of the city. Once again we decided to take the entire route before picking a few places to return to. The tour includes stops at various museums including that of Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí. Higher up we came along Park Güell and decided to return to this place. Along the rest of the tour we were shown the FC Barcelona stadium and the Olympic village.

At the entrance to Park Güell

We remained on the bus and got off at Park Güell. This was meant to be a residential neighborhood with large opulent villas, park grounds and a market. It completely failed, and is now a park with a couple of the villas in use as a tourist shop and the park maintenance operations. A third villa is located higher up and seems to be lived in. The market place is a haven for musicians and its ceiling is inlaid with tile mosaic art. All over are columns holding up the roof structure which in itself is a plaza surrounded by a serpentine bench, it snakes along the edge of the plaza. The idea here was that people would be encouraged to have conversations, because the serpentine effect causes people to face each other. Another function of this bench is to collect rain water for use in the park as irrigation and to supply the water features. A large stairway leads up to the market area and a mosaic tiled lizard guards the entrance.

This villa is now the gift shop

One of the villas now used for park operations

This villa appears to be occupied

After taking this all in we walked the many paths through the park. Fantastic views of the city in all directions demand photographers to aim and shoot. The lush greenery combined with local, more drought resistant vegetation are a wonderful mix. We spent the rest of the day in this park and enjoyed a wonderful late lunch with some white wine.

The market place

Ceiling detail in the market place

Looking out from the market place

On the serpentine bench


Serpentine bench tile work, Gaudi gave the tilers free range on the design

Tile work detail

The bench drains through these holes into a gutter that feeds cisterns with water

The outer gutter on the serpentine bench

Along the many walking paths in the park

The view of Barcelona

A look back

Intricate stone work holds up the upper walkways

A stone wave

The market below and the serpentine bench above

The lizard guarding the entrance

Back on the bus we arrived at the soccer stadium and got off to check out the FC Barcelona gift shop. We chose a couple soccer jerseys and matching scarves for the boys, gifts well received by our soccer playing sons.

A late afternoon stroll along las Ramblas finished with a dinner at a restaurant in the marina area rounded out our day. The evening air was wonderful and the dinner excellent. At one point our waiter tripped and broke a plate on the floor, resulting in a small cut in Shelagh's ankle. The poor waiter was beside himself with concern and came with tissues and bandaids to stop the bleeding. After much fuss, and Shelagh convincing the staff that she was all right we were served free desserts, with a local drink called "Crema Catalán"' it reminded us of Bailey's. We returned to the hotel in the evening for our last night in this great city.

The entrance to a home on Las Ramblas

They have their own "arc de triomphe"

The Catalonian presidential palace, probably the only building without grafitti

Upper crossover from the courthouse to the palace

In the morning, after breakfast we said goodbye to the hotel staff and walked uptown to the bus stop, dragging our suitcases, looking so touristy. The bus connection to the airport is simple, no problems. Barcelona is a wonderful place to visit, and we highly recommend it.

Walking to the bus stop, adios Barcelona...

I must thank my brother and sister in law, Bart and Wilma, for making this trip possible.
Bart booked the flight, and Wilma booked the hotel, and gave us this holiday! Wonderful people.

Tuesday 1 May 2012

Barcelona, day two

We got up relatively early and enjoyed a quiet breakfast in the hotel restaurant. Once we were on the street we made it to the nearest stop of the red line tourist bus. We decided to go the entire loop with commentary from the guide on board. During the tour we came along various points of interest that we wanted to visit in the afternoon. Both of them buildings by world renowned architect and artist Antoni Gaudí.

First impressions from the bus

Casa Mila

The first, an apartment building designed around an oval courtyard. Casa Milá was completed in 1912 and is now a world heritage site. The design included some very innovative features for its time, like underground parking and separate elevators for the owners and the servants. Also new to the era were en-suite bathrooms, an enormous kitchen with eating area, and separate maid's quarters. The roof is a marvel with beautifully sculpted chimney stacks, reminding me of star wars, the movie. The entrance fee is modest and worth it. The balconies have wrought iron railings that resemble kelp like seaweed.

Casa Mila

Casa Mila, courtyard

Casa Mila courtyard. looking up

Casa Mila, attic

Casa Mila roof terrace, those are chimneys

on the roof of Casa Mila

Another building by Antoni Gaudí is Casa Batlló. From the street it is a wonderful sight. The roof looks like a dragon's back and the exterior features include pillars in the shape of femurs and very biological designs all over. The entrance fee was too high for our budget, but we still found a lot to admire from the street. There seem to be no straight lines in the design, it's an amazing building and well worth a visit.

a glimpse of Casa Batllo

from across the street the roof is a marvel

The cathedral designed by Gaudí is called "La Sagrada Familia" or the sacred family. It too is a building so unique, you'll have a hard time finding something more spectacular. One side kind of reminded me of Salvador Dalí, pure art nouveau. However, the spires are pure Gaudí and nothing looks like it anywhere. Construction started about 100 years ago and is still underway. Most of the construction is funded by tourists so it is a good place to tour.

You have to see this to believe it

Spires, under construction



Not too ornate now, is it!?

The other side looks like a Salvador Dali design

After visiting these places we were hungry and walked to the marina area to find a place to have some tapas near the water. With not too much effort we found a lovely tapas bar on a barge floating in the marina. We enjoyed a couple good local cervesas and some delicious tapas before heading back to the hotel for a freshen-up and a little break from the walking. Later in the evening, for some bizarre reason, we went for Chinese food, I don't know why, we're in Barcelona eating Chinese food?! When we are on the Mediterranean coast?! Just call us crazy!

Tapas and Cervasas

La vida es bella

We ended the day just relaxing in the warm Barcelona evening air strolling through the alleys. What a great city Barcelona is, so vibrant and alive with young folks backpacking. Street musicians and comedians entertaining the crowds in the many little plazas that are scattered through the down town core. We were so comfortable and relaxed, and felt like the town had embraced us completely.