In residence with Gaudi – pt.1

Casa Calvet isn’t open to the public so I stood outside and took ‘gawking tourist’ photos.

There is more, and I particularly would have liked to visit Colonia Güell, but alas, too much to see, too little time.
The other Gaudi places that I did get to visit are all residential: Palau Güell, Casa Batlló, and the apartment block Casa Milà, aka La Pedrera.

I found Palau Güell, just off Las Ramblas, hard to navigate – but that could have been more to do with my disorentation due to being in a new city (the day after I arrived from Barcelona) or related to not all rooms being open. Who knows? But from the stables in the basement (proof that I take a lot of rubbish photos!), with a cobblestoned ramp for the horses, to the spire and (apparently, I didn’t count them) 20 chimney pots on the roof, it was a wonderful introduction to Gaudi in Barcelona. In between, while there are big windows in the rooms where public receptions were held, the place is rather dark – dark wood panelling inside, heavy but ornate shutters outside. Amazing ceilings too!

Palau Güell is just off Las Ramblas. When I was there, it was ahead of a referendum about Catalunya becoming independent. Hence all the flags on so many buildings. The referendum was downgraded to an expression of interest and the Spanish government wasn’t bound by the result … which was in favour of independence, as could have been predicted! But no change.

Palau Guell from Las Ramblas





Posted in Barcelona, Buildings and Architecture, Gaudi, Last Hurrah, Spain

Park Güell

I had no idea that Park Güell started out as a housing estate that never got off the ground, so to speak. The house that Gaudi lived in for about 20 years was the display/show home. Gaudi did not design that house (now the museum) and much of the tile work and decoration on Gaudi buildings is not by him either. Gaudi overshadows his regular collaborator Josep Maria Jujol.

The Gaudi House Museum has a layout you could live in – except you wouldn’t want to fall down the beautiful but unforgiving stairs and I’m not sure about different floor tiles in every room.

The house is largely set up as a showcase for some of Gaudi’s furniture and decorative work. However, his bedroom is supposedly as it was.  It’s quite simple although I suspect that not many people, even then, would have been so devout as to have a prie-dieu at home. The bathroom strikes me as surprisingly modern. Perhaps it’s the ‘his and hers’ hand basins.

What I really loved though were all the beautiful ceilings.
But perhaps not the green one so much!

People are probably most familiar with Park Güell’s serpentine seating with all its crazy tiling. It came as a surprise to me just how big the terrace is that is edged by that seating. And I expect most would be like me, totally unaware that the terrace is a platform built out from the ground, not cut into it. Underneath, the space, columns,  and the medallions on the underside of the terrace are quite spectacular. You couldn’t call the covered walkway, the underside of overhanging roads and footpaths, spectacular but in a very earthy way this cloister-like walk is also amazing.

I stuck to that small area that most people think of as Park Güell. However, the ‘monument area’ is only a small part of a much bigger open public space. Not that there aren’t ‘things to see’ elsewhere. But my tired legs could only carry me so far – down the grand Dragon Staircase …

… to the porter’s lodge pavilions (one of which is now the souvenir/bookshop) on either side of the main gate…

… and then up to the well tended but not particularly exciting Austrian Gardens.

I do sometimes wonder what the locals – in the nearby school or in the street over the wall – make of the tourist attraction and tourists on their doorstep.

Posted in Barcelona, Gaudi, Last Hurrah, Spain

Rambling around Las Ramblas

How do you spell tourist in Spanish? Las Ramblas! … This is where you buy your souvenirs and overpriced ‘typical’ Spanish food. It’s also a street of theatres, home of the Popular Procession (I gather a combination of elements of many festivals into one procession) and, of course, the global fast food franchises.

Las Ramblas run from Placa de Catalunya,

pretty much through the centre of the old town,Las Ramblas down to the Mirador de Colón (a giant column topped by a statue of Christopher Columbus) at Port Vell.

More than a few dollars is berthed in the marina at adjacent Port de Barcelona!

Across the swing bridge (to allow for all those masts) is a shiny new shopping centre (of no personal interest except it allowed me to take a self portrait!) and a great view of the Maritime Museum.

A visit to the Maritime Museum, in its magnificent building, was fascinating. I think in a different life I could have been a sailor. The Museum was formerly the Royal Shipyards and has also been used as an arsenal. The site has been in use for 700+ years and became a museum in 1941. The temporary exhibition when I visited was about the Vikings – hardly Spanish but they got around!

There was also an exhibition of contemporary sea creatures on paper, hung like washing on a line.

There were ships and boats from many different eras, of all shapes and sizes. Pride of place however is given to a replica of a Royal Galley. Outside was a wooden submarine. It looked like a play thing for children but was definitely a Do Not Touch piece.

Just off Las Ramblas is the Placa Reial. In the centre of its slightly faded glory is a large fountain. I joined those with their bottoms perched on the edge of the basin, watching the world go by. There are more than a few very good people-watching stations in Barcelona – although this one did rather smell of pee. Oh dear!Placa Reial

The undisputed hit of Las Ramblas would have to be the formally titled Mercat Sant Josep but universally known as Mercat de la Boqueria. What you can’t buy to eat here isn’t worth knowing about and it’s loved by locals and tourists alike. Healthy fruit and veg, meat, more than enough seafood for my friend Piers in Boston, …

… sweets to make you ill, plus bread, cheese, deli items … and on it went. At a laneway to one side there were tables and chairs to eat and drink your selections immediately but on the whole this market is a place to stock up for home.


Posted in Barcelona, Food, Galleries + Museums, Last Hurrah, Spain, Water-River-Sea