Tuesday, November 25, 2014

La Rambla Gaudí

 We began Monday with a walk along Barcelona’s famous Rambla after breakfasting just off the Plaza Catalunya.
The flags you see on these buildings and throughout the city are in support of Catalonian independence. A recent advisory referendum passed by 70% and raises interesting questions in Spain and throughout Europe about the nature of nationalism and the future of the nation-state.

As we went along we came across the Market St. Josep, which combined genuine food and produce stalls with those more attuned to the tourists who began flooding it at mid-day when we returned to, what else? Eat. Our lunch consisted of meat and veggie pies, olives and some lovely confections for dessert. Yum!  

At mid-morning coffee, I had to take an image of this old fellow, a real "type."

And that fortified us for our next experience, the iconic Casa Milá, or La Pedrera. You cannot say you know Gaudí until you experience directly his work and through it the man and his genius. I’ll let the images speak for themselves except to note that the house is beautifully interpreted by the foundation that runs it. I understand Gaudí far better now than I would have by just going through Sagrada Familia as brilliant a monument as that is.

The tour takes you first to the rooftop. One of the (many) things that Gaudí objected to were beautiful buildings that stopped with a simple rooftop. This rooftop is famous and it is a photographer’s paradise. Gaudí designed two arches among the other ornamentation (all functional part of heating and ventilation), one pointed to Parc Güell and the other to, of course, Sagrada Familia.

Your humble servant with the pen that was inspired by the Casa Milá, the Pelikan Spirit of Gaudi

This chimney pot inspired the packaging of the pen

Sagrada Familia in the background

From there you descend to the vaulted attic which served then as a play and storage place, but which now is an interpretive center where Gaudí’s methodology and craft is set forth. I have included a larger number of images than usual, so I am not including any of the attic exhibits, even though I want to!

On the 4th floor is a exhibit that represents the Milá family’s living quarters. Pere Milá died in 1941, but his widow Rosar Sagamon lived in the building that she had earlier sold until her death in 1964. For the next twenty years the building was effaced until 1984 when restoration efforts commenced.

At ground level there is 1,300 sq m of temporary exhibit space. I mention this only because it was devoted to the work of the Soviet Russian illustrator El Lissitzky, who did some work for Pelikan. I was so excited that I lifted my camera to phjotograph some of his Pelikan work, but could not do so, of course.

After La Pedrera we were a bit Gaudi’ed out, so to speak, and so we paid only passing attention to the Casa Battlo just up the street, but easily as remarkable a an accomplishment. It is part of the Block of Discord, a row of modernist homes built by wealthy Barcelonians trying to outdo one another architecturally. It was fun, though we were too worn out to give each of the houses the attention they deserved. Next time.

The north part of the block of discord

The ground floor space of the Casa Amatller

Interior of another of the houses on the block

Looking south (I think)

But we were not quite done. Earlier while we were being driven around the city, I happened to note this storefront.

As we left the Block of Discord Sharon insisted we visit the pen shop and who was I to argue? and I came away with a Super T. Who knew there was once a pen maker in Catalunya?

Monday, November 24, 2014

It Was a Balmy Sunday in Barcelona

(with apologies to Bulwer-Lytton) 

The temperatures unseasonably high. We began the day by deciding we need another day here. We’ll see Toledo next time.

In the morning we rode the tour bus to the Picasso museum, had a quick breakfast and then spent a couple of hours wandering through the museum which gave a wonderful perspective on his later domestic life and on his origins as an artist, with other perspectives in between. No images, of course, though one patron almost got into a fight with a very forbearing guard over her right to take pictures (she had none).

From there we strolled through the old city, amazed to suddenly come across an 11th century chapel, old even among the medieval buildings, and had a light lunch at an outdoor trattoria in one of the many plazas and then headed up to the Parc Guell, another of Antoni Gaudí’s efforts. Supported by one of his many patrons, the plan was to create a park-like housing development for forty residences. Long story short, it did not work out and Guell gave the land to the city as a park (he insisted that it be spelled as parc). It was designed by Gaudi and is a pleasant, if crowded place, especially on a beautiful day. To our amazement, the iconic Salamander is not available for general viewing, but only at a cost between five and eight euro. We refused. So no lizard, dragon salamander, but some pleasant views.

Monday, more Gaudí and a walk through La Rambla by day. Hopefully our brains won’t fry nor our eyeballs pop.

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
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!

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.

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.