Saturday, November 22, 2014

Gaudí and Two Stars



-->Saturday was our first day in Barcelona and what we mostly learned is that it would take more like a week even to begin to experience this remarkable city. Sharon likes to “gut” a city by fist taking a plain old Gray Line bustour, which is what we set out to do. But when we got to the Antoni Gaudí masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia basilica, we just had to get off the bus. The place speaks for itself. The esthetics establish a spirituality that shines, literally and figuratively.
-->After the 19th century completion of the Köln cathedral, this has to be the next great ecclesiastical masterpiece, and like that church, which took five hundred years to complete, after 140 years workmen are still using Gaudí’s drawings to complete the exterior on the Sacred Family side and are working from both Gaudí’s and other plans on the Crucifixion Side. 



Ma and Pa and Gaudí





Crucifixion Side
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After the 19th century completion of the Köln cathedral, this has to be the next great ecclesiastical masterpiece, and like that church, which took five hundred years to complete, after 140 years workmen are still using Gaudí’s drawings to complete the exterior on the Sacred Family side and are working from both Gaudí’s and other plans on the Crucifixtion Side. We briefly debated whether or not to brave the crowds to go in. Thankfully we decided to for the interior is another wonder perhaps greater than the outside. Strangely it reminded us both of Wells Cathedral in that it forced your eye and your spirit upward. Amazing!











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From there we did something entirely different. Throughout this trip we have been eating modestly, mostly in local, typical restaurants. Barcelona is a restaurant/foodie city. So we decided to go to one of the city’s Michelin two star restaurants, the relatively new Moments created by one of Spain's star chefs and her son. We had to try the degustation menu and both the food and the experience were phenomenal.

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After that remarkable lunch we got back on the bus (a somewhat disjunctive experience) and toured the rest of the city, before walking the Rambla, teeming with people on an unsesonably warm Saturday evening.

Frank Gehry's Art Hotel, the man is everywhere in Spain, of so it seems.

This nighttime image along the Rambla seemed to capture the spirit of the city.

Tomorrow more Gaudí and whatever comes our way.




Montserrat

Approached from the Northwest, the Montserrat mountains are . . . well . . . risible.

 But as you drive up into the hills you realize that something quite different is going on, the first clues being the scenery itself and then the fact that the road is dotted with Christian monasteries, some dating back to the 9th century.


The first religious buildings we came upon (other than a few churches) was Saint Cecilia, a Benedictine monastery built on the site of a Visigoth community around the 10th century and before that a Roman temple. Benedictine nuns were active here until 1954. And as the signs indicate, the city of Barcelona is undertaking restoration of the site.




From there we continued up the hill until we hit the Monastery of Montseerrat. Our first impression was that this was Disneyland for Catholics, and it is geared to tourists with restaurants, bars and hotels. The Japanese just love it, it seems, and one gets in their way at one’s own peril. But it is also a remarkable site with buildings dating back to the 10th century and a gorgeous Gothic church dedicated to the 12th Century Black Madonna. One could easily spend a few days there and it is a popular destination for day trips from Barcelona. While we were there several different helicopters flew over, presumably laden with tourists. It was well worth the visit.












Thursday, November 20, 2014

Zaragoza's Aljaferia


We spent a good part of the day Thursday at the Aljaferia, which is one of Spain’s most important Moorish relics. It was built in the 9th century as a palace by the Islamic rulers of Spain, Christianized in the 12th and became a palace and the seat of Aragonian government by the 15th century. Shortly thereafter it was rebuilt as a fortress and was used for various military purposes until, by the late 19th century it had become a ruin. Two generations of architects devoted themselves to its renovation which was completed by the last quarter of the 20th century. It was great fun to see it, learn about it and take pictures. 














We spent the afternoon rambling through the old city by day, revisited the Basilica del Pilar, shopped and rambled. I even found both a knife shop (where I got a rather nice German made Puma knife) and a store dealing in fountain pens. There I learned about the Spanish pen industry, at least as much as my limited language skills permitted, and actually got a Spanish made pen.





 Friday, onward to Barcelona.