Our second day in Barcelona was all about Gaudí. We had this day planned for months and we were going to rely heavily on taxi’s, since most of what we were going to see was further out in the city, but I guess the taxi drivers didn’t get a copy of our itinerary seeing as they decided to hold a strike on this day.
At least we found out about the strike the day before so we were able to figure out what we were going to do. Seeing as there isn’t Uber or Lift or any kind of car service available, we had to settle on the buses.
We got up early and had about five minutes to shove food in our face before we headed out to the bus station.
Sissy was looking pretty while walking the empty streets.
The bus stop wasn’t far from our hotel but we had about a fifteen minute wait until the bus was due to show up.
When the bus finally showed up, we started to walk on board when the bus driver, who must have known where we were going, stopped us and told us that we were actually getting on the wrong bus. This bus was the same bus line we needed but it was going in the opposite direction. He pointed us towards another bus booth across the street and we took off running to get over there.
Thankfully, we still had another five minutes before that bus was due to show up.
We got onto the correct bus and found seats somewhat close to each other and settled in for a very cramped twenty minute ride up to Park Güell.
We arrived at Park Güell just in time for opening. We had purchased timed tickets, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to get in. The Park is not a big area, so I can understand why they can only allow so many people in at once.
Park Güell is one of the world’s most intriguing parks. The park’s colorful main staircase and the fanciful pavilions that were designed by Antoni Gaudí look like they belong is some fairy tale.
In fact anytime you look up Barcelona on the internet you will always see Park Güell.
Park Güell originated in 1900, when Count Eusebi Güell (owner of Güell house where we were the day before), bought a tree covered hillside outside of Barcelona and commissioned Gaudí to create a miniature city of houses for the wealthy in landscaped grounds.
Unfortunately, the project was a commercial flop and was abandoned in 1914, but not before Gaudí had created 3km of roads and walks, steps, a plaza and two gatehouses in his inimitable manner. In 1918 the city of Barcelona acquired the property and in 1922 it opened to the public as a park.
The entrance is where you find the famous gingerbread houses, which were actually designed for the porter’s lodge of the estate. Both have roofs of great originality, clad with trencadis (tiled shards mosaic). The one on the left, which now houses the gift shop was conceived as a porter’s lodge to receive visitors to the estate, with a spacious waiting room.
The spired house over to the right is the Casa-Museu Gaudí, where Gaudí lived for most of his last 20 years (1906–26). It contains furniture by him (including items that were once at home in La Pedrera, Casa Batlló and Casa Calvet) and other memorabilia. The house was built in 1904 by Francesc Berenguer i Mestres as a prototype for the 60 or so houses that were originally planned here.
The steps at the main gate is guarded by the mosaic “el drac” or “the dragon” and happily greets visitors upon their approach to the terrace.
The steps lead to the Doric Temple, which is a forest of 88 stone columns, some of which lean like mighty trees bent by the weight of time. This area was originally intended as a market and to the left curves into a gallery with twisted stonework columns and the roof gives the effect of a cloister beneath tree roots.
On the top is a wide open space with another famous Barcelona icon, the Banc de Trencadís, a tiled bench, known as the serpentine bench, that curves around the enter perimeter. This is actually more then just an awesome looking bench, it was actually designed as a catchment area for the rainwater washing down the hillside. The water is filtered through a layer of stone and sand and it drains down through the columns to an underground cistern.
This is also a very busy area where everyone wants to get that perfect picture at the main spot that looks out over Barcelona with views all the way to the Mediterranean Sea.
For the most part everyone was being polite and had made a little line to wait their turn but every once in a while you would get that one person that was inconsiderate and would walk right in front of the people trying to take pictures and try to take pictures of themselves. Sissy took care of one these people and made sure she knew there was a line.
There had been a short lived TV show recently, Emerald City, it was a show with a weird take on the Wizard of Oz, and the Emerald City in the show was actually Park Güell.
I think this was an excellent choice for them to portray this as their Emerald City.
This place is a photographers dream, I don’t think anyone is capable of taking a bad picture here.
We were here for only about forty minutes when we had to get going to our next destination, La Sagrada Familia, another famous Gaudí creation. Not having the use of taxi’s today and the bus system wouldn’t have really worked for us in this case, we set off walking. It took almost exactly thirty minutes of non stop walking to reach the entrance just in time for our timed tickets.
La Sagrada Familia towers over downtown but with being in between a lot of buildings, it actually took a while before we were able to see it.
La Sagrada Familia is one of Gaudí’s most famous works in Barcelona and is the most visited site in all of Spain. This giant Basilica has been under construction since 1882 and it’s expected to be completed in the 2020’s.
The official name of the Basilica is Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia (Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family) and was Antoni Gaudí’s all-consuming obsession.
After finishing Parc Guell in 1911, Gaudí vowed to abandon secular art and devote himself entirely to the Sagrada Familia. He worked on it tirelessly for over 40 years, living as a virtual hermit in a workshop on the site. When questioned about the slow pace, he is said to have replied, “My client is not in a hurry.”
This church, built between 1878 and 1885, is considered the finest Neo-Gothic structure in the city and is the greatest example of the work of Joan Martorell y Montells, one of Gaudí’s teachers who was a big influence on him.
The church was part of the convent of the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary and was abandoned by the Salesian nuns in 1936 during the civil war. The building was then converted into a religious college and later into a parish church.
We continued our walk through downtown and enjoyed the cool downtown architecture. We even had some fun with some local graffiti.
Our next stop was another famous Gaudí house, Casa Milà or La Pedrera as is it is more popularly known as.
Known as La Pedrera (the Quarry) because of its uneven grey stone facade, which ripples around the corner of Carrer de Provença. This is the largest civil building designed by Gaudí and was his last work before devoting himself to the construction of the Sagrada Família.
The apartment block was constructed between 1906 and 1910 and was commissioned by Pere Milà who married the older and far richer Roser Guardiola, the widow of Josep Guardiola, and clearly knew how to spend his new wife’s money. Milà was one of the city’s first car owners and Gaudí built parking space into this building, itself a first. When commissioned to design this apartment building, Gaudí wanted to top anything else done in L’Eixample.
La Pedrera breaks with traditional architecture by using not a single straight line. The building does not use load-bearing walls, but rest on pillars and arches. Together with the use of steel this allowed the architect to create completely irregular floor plans. Even the height of the pillars and ceilings differ from one to another.
We began in the courtyard were we saw Gaudí’s spectacularly organic design of the small internal patios, that he turned into two large courtyards that form the basis of the whole floor plan and maximize the building’s light and ventilation.
We made our way straight to the top to see the extraordinary roof. Gaudí looks like he had fun designing the chimney pots that either look like multicolored medieval knights or warriors in a science fiction movie.
Making our way down, the next floor was the attic where the laundry used to be washed and hung to dry. It consists of 270 catenary arches made out of brick and are arranged to resemble the interior of the Biblical whale. There is also an exhibition devoted to the life and work of Gaudí here.
The next floor down is the Pedrera apartment. This apartment shows how a bourgeois family lived in Barcelona in the early 20th century. There are recreated furniture and domestic equipment of the time. There are curves and unexpected touches in everything from light fittings to bedsteads, from door handles to balconies, all of this might seem admirable to us today, but not everyone thought so at the time. The story goes that one tenant, a certain Mrs Comes i Abril, had complained that there was no obvious place to put her piano in these wavy rooms. Gaudí’s response was to suggest that she take up the flute.
On this level was a really cool gift shop as well as a picture room where they took pictures of you and put them on different backdrops. I was surprised at how well priced the pictures were. Normally, anywhere in the US they charge $25 for just one of these digital downloads. Here is was $15 for the downloads and prints.
Once we were finished here I was feeling pretty hungry and was really wanting a little time to just sit and relax. Most of us were ready for a break as well, so we picked a restaurant right on the sidewalk and enjoyed some nice tapas.
Not far from where we stopped for lunch was our next two stops, Casa Amatller and Casa Batlló, which are conveniently located right next to each other.
Casa Amatller was designed by Josep Puig i Cadafalch, while Casa Batlló was designed by Gaudí.
Our first house we were going to tour was Casa Amatller.
Josep Puig i Cadafalch was a contemporary of Gaudí and he combined the neo-Gothic style with a ridged facade, that was inspired by houses in the Netherlands, when designing Casa Amatller on this part of the city block known as the “mansana de la discòrdia.”
The buildings on this block were here for about twenty years before their new owners had famous architects refurbish them.
The owner of Casa Amatller, Antoni Amatller, was the famous son and grandson of chocolate makers that turned the family business into a leading industry.
The outside of the building has many hidden details including decorative motifs in the form of almond tree flowers (Amatller is the Catalan word for almond tree).
This was my favorite house we had toured. I loved the all the different colors used throughout the house.
We entered through the lobby and waited for our tour to begin. There was a coffee/chocolate store attached but we held ourselves back from entering because we knew that was were the tour was going to end.
We opted for the 30 minute express tour, but before we could begin we had to put little booties over our shoes to protect the floors in the building.
There is a lot of the family’s original furniture laid out exactly as when the Amatller family lived here.
This house was definitely beautiful inside. There was so much detail to look at. It amazes me how much went into designing each room.
As promised the tour ended in the chocolate shop where we made sure to stock up on lots of Amatller chocolate.
Bags of chocolate in hand we made our way next door to Casa Batlló, one of the strangest residential buildings in Europe, this is Gaudí at his hallucinatory best. From the outside the façade of Casa Batlló looks like it has been made from skulls and bones. The “Skulls” are in fact balconies and the “bones” are supporting pillars.
Gaudí used colors and shapes found in marine life as inspiration for his creativity in this building. The colors chosen for the facade are those found in natural coral.
The building was designed by Gaudí for Josep Batlló, a wealthy aristocrat, as an upmarket home. Señor Batlló lived in the lower two floors with his family and the upper floors were rented out as apartments
There wasn’t a set tour to the house, we just entered and made our own way through each room.
As was the norm for Gaudí he stayed away from straight lines, so it seems like everything swirls. The ceiling is twisted into a vortex around its sun like lamp and the doors, windows, and skylights are waves of wood and colored glass.
Out on the roof is more of Gaudí’s famous tiled chimney pots that are made to almost seem like real characters out of a movie.
Mom and Marion were still looking around the house but Sissy and I this point were kinda done and we were ready to take a break. We remembered there was a juice store connected to the chocolate shop, so we made our way over there and ordered some veggie juices and waited for the kids to finish up.
Once the kids finally finished up, got some juice of their own, we headed back down the street until we came to the Egyptian Museum of Barcelona.
This is an outstanding museum on ancient Egyptian culture, housing jewelry, sarcophagus’s and artwork. It wasn’t a big museum, which was actually nice, but they had some really interesting artifacts to look at. I must have been over taking pictures because the only picture I have is of the outside, but it was an impressive museum.
At this point things get a bit fuzzy on where else we went. At some point Sissy left and Marion sat down for some refreshments.
Eventually, we ended up on La Rambla trying to find some water fountain Mom had read about. We looked all over the place and were about to give up when I turned around and saw it.
This famous water fountain is called the “Font de Canaletes” and is similar to the folklore of the Trevi fountain in Rome. The folklore says that if you drink from this famous fountain at the top you will fall in love with Barcelona and always return to the the city.
Continuing on and getting closer to our hotel, we stopped to peak inside the 4 Cats café. This café has quite a history, it first opened on June 12, 1897 and became a central meeting point for Barcelona’s most prominent modernist figures, such as Pablo Picasso and Ramon Cassas I Carbó. The café closed in June 1903 due to financial difficulties but was reopened and restored to its original condition in 1989.
The next place we ran into was the Disney store!
We stood in a very long line to buy some cute shirts that said Disney Barcelona on it and made our way around the corner back to our hotel.
With our hotel being right in front of the Barcelona Cathedral, there was lots of activity going on. There was music and dancing going on and we stopped for a few minutes to enjoy.
We had had a very long day and saw some really cool things but at this point I was ready for bed. I was so pooed that I pretty much had to crawl to get to bed and I was out for the night.
Stay tuned for our next day’s adventure in Barcelona.