Today, we went back to Barcelona to see some of Gaudi’s famous buildings. It was amazing and everything I hoped it would be. Sometimes things in your head never quite match up to the real thing, but Gaudi was a genius. I have never seen anything quite like this architecture before and he allows you to take in all the senses.
Before filling you in on the day, I will give you a bit of history about Antonio Gaudi for those that don’t know about him, and for those that do just skip this part…
Antoni Gaudi was born in 1852 in Reus, Catalonia, Spain. At 26 became an architect after graduating in Barcelona in 1878. His first major work came after he met his patron Eusebi Guell and designed the parks and houses in his name. He was fascinated by nature and explored much of the countryside around Catalonia and France. He used nature for inspiration, devising unheard architectural techniques. . He analyzed plants, animals, and geothermal formations to see how they naturally supported shapes and weight, even using the orbit of the stars to design spiral columns.
Gaudi disliked straight lines and angles because they don’t appear naturally, so many of his works are based on flowing, swirling curves that appear in nature. Gaudi thought that everything should be pleasing to the eye and had an impressive eye for detail. The chimneys at Casa Mila and Casa Batlló are prime examples. At Casa Batlló even the water tanks are designed to involve senses and the water trickling into the tanks can be heard with the acoustics in the tower being designed in a special way, the reflections on the ceiling with the sun shining in leave you with a sense of wonder at his genius.
The main work of Gaudi is the Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) to which he devoted over 40 years of his life and still remains unfinished today (it is envisage that the construction will be finished by 2026, 100 years after Gaudi’s death). Building works carry on through private donations and the tourist trade. After 1910, Gaudi devoted himself to Segrada Familia even living in the workshops (1925) until his unfortunate death in 1926 when he was killed in a traffic accident (by tram), and because of his shabby appearance , he was mistaken for a beggar and did not receive immediate medical attention. He is buried in the chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the crypt of the Sagrada Familia he so loved.
After his death his works fell out of favour and suffered a period of neglect. They were unpopular amongst international critics who regarded them as over the top and baroque. However, by the 1950s his work was acclaimed by the artists of the day Salvador Dali and architect Josep Luis Sert. By 1984 international recognition of Gaudi’s work culminated in seven of his most iconic works being listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
We started the day after arriving at Plaça Catalunya with a trip into the Bracafe, a lovely atmospheric place where we were welcomed back by the waiter who remembered us from Friday and had dos cafe con leche i dos croissants. Very Spanish he said..
We had purchased tickets online for 11am to visit Casa Mila and then at 2pm to Sagrada Familia. If we had time we might see something else who knows.
We walked to Casa Mila which is about 20 mins from Plaça Catalunya and easily recognised. It was a beautiful sunny day and the heat in the sun just warming up. We took the usual selfies outside as we were early but then made our way to the roof just after 11am. The view is amazing. As you walk out from the central stairwell, it’s like walking out to another world. The sky was so blue it was the colour of lapis lazuli, a deep blue gemstone colour.
We wandered about the undulating roof and peeped in and out of the chimney tops (which resemble either Star Wars Storm Troopers, teddies or faces), and through the arches which Gaudi had placed in a specific position to frame the Sagrada Familia, taking more and more photos. The view from the other arch where he had originally framed the the Temple de Sagrat Cor church has been oblitrated by a newer high rise block so you cannot see the view he imagined. But you get the idea.
The Casa Mila is also known as La Pedrerer (The Quarry), and is awash with balconies both on the exterior and surrounding the interior. The building feels as though straight lines would be a crime as it has been designed as a figure 8 or infinity sign ∞. With 2 open wells either side of the building letting the light flood down. The inner courtyard is a mass of curves and the eye just wants to look upwards as the light from above floods in and lights up the broken ceramic. Gaudi didn’t use complete tiles as they cannot mould themselves to the curved structure, so broke them up…. Ingenious.
The tour comes with a ‘free’ photo… which cost us €12 for 3 different backgrounds as it is done on a green screen. When we viewed them they were actually not bad so we paid the money and had a laugh. The photos stay online for a maximum of 24 hrs for download. So we can use them in the photobook which is bound to happen
It took us a good 2 hours to discover the house and I suggest that if you visit, allow yourself this period of time.
We left Casa Mila and bought tickets for the underground, the Sagrada was only 3 stops on the tube, however what we hadn’t factored in was the 30 mins walk underground from the metro stair entrance to the L2 platform (note to oneself – make sure you look at the street names), having nearly come a cropper in Paris years ago we decided to sit on a platform and work out ourselves where we had gone wrong. I didn’t want to be abducted again.
We arrived at Sagrada Familia and the Basilica reaches for the heavens as you look up and up…. we waited for our time slot of 2pm and received the ubiquitous information headset, this time green earplugs.
After listening to the information about the entrance facade which is about the nativity, we went in and were awestruck. The light coming in through the stained glass windows is breathtakingly beautiful. The yellows, oranges through to the reds symbolise sunrise and sunset whereas the blues and greens are the Mediterranean days.
The south (I think) facade depicts the Passion. How anyone has managed to get some much pain in a sculpture is incredible.
We managed to see all the lower floor if the Basilica in around 2 hours, and found the museum and Gaudi’s rooms. All included in the price.
We left and headed back to Plaça Catalunya where we had enough time to photograph once again the Casa Batlló… or so we thought… “no queues” said Mike, “would you like to go inside?”… did I need asking twice? Three out of the seven Gaudi World Heritage sites in one day, is fantastic and more than I could hope for. So €49 later we entered one of Gaudi’s best known projects. The Casa Batlló is a renovation, not an original construction, yet one accomplished with such style and skill. The frontage is truly remarkable with the broken ceramics decorating the facade, the balconies are like the Venetian masks, the roof with the Dragon shape and broken ceramic tiles their shades of amber, reds, through to blues and greens enhance the image of the dragon’s scales and the bone shape pillars which give the house is local name, house of bones.
Inside is just as spectacular as outside, the inside balconies are made from rippled glass so when you look through it to the floors below, it looks like you are looking under water, such is the effect.
Many rooms are open to explore and there are lots to amaze you with his innovations. We finally made our way to the roof and marvelled at the chimneys and open space up here. Even the water tower had sensory points, sight and sound. The water drips onto a ball which fills the tanks below, the sound is magnified by the acoustic in the round bulbous roof. The water talks reflects against the walls and roof from the sunshine coming into the tower. I’ll say it again… Gaudi was a genius.
Once again the ‘free’ photograph could be taken for €12, this time actually on one of the Venetian mask like balconies. Now you know me and heights but this was one photograph I wasn’t going to miss out on.
Time to go eventually, so we make our way back to Bracafe where we noticed they did meals in the evening. We find a table and are treated to a wonderful fresh tapas meal of squid, clams, mussels, some form of sausage (chorizo tasting), bread, olives and a few other tasty bites ( Talking a tasty bites, I’m being eaten alive by the mozzies at the moment – bites all over me – ouch they itch like crazy, and the flies who keep landing on me every 3 seconds of the day don’t help – but hey I’ll survive without moaning…). The Waiter then brought up a Seafood Paella, which is a speciality of the house, . It was scrumptious and after washing it down with a couple of Catalunya beers, we ask for “¿Nos trae la cuenta, por favor?” He laughed but I could tell he was impressed….. as he gave us dos cafe con leche…. getting the hang of this Spanish lark.
The cost for everything was only €38 so we left €45 (feeling warm and generous today), and caught the bus back to the campsite. Arriving home about 9pm we had a cuppa tea (always the tea), made up the bed and fell asleep, exhausted and cultured out but thoroughly contended.
Here are a few random photos to further the ‘feel’ of the day.
There are so many other places we would now like to visit in Barcelona, Park Guell, the Port, Montjuric, Plaça Espanya to name a few, but they will have to wait till next time. We will miss Barcelona and Villanova Park, but I think it wont be the last time here, we’ll be back. Easy day Tuesday and then we move on Wednesday to Valencia.