Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Barcelona Travel Guide: Feeling Gaudi

Hola Bloggy Friends,

On the roof of Casa Milà
Picasso isn't the only great artist celebrated in Barcelona. In fact, compared to architectural visionary Antoni Gaudi, his presence is minimal. Gaudi, whose name the English word "gaudy" originates from, made a name for himself designing outlandish structures throughout the city that are made up of whimsical shapes and forms that may look like tacky multicolored ice cream cones, but in fact, are scientifically thought out and shockingly ahead of his time.

To see for ourselves what all the hoopla is about, we devoted our final full day in Barcelona to a tour of some of his most famous works — most of which are situated in the busy Eixample (pronounced eye-sham-plah) neighborhood. We started at the guidebook-recommended Casa Milà, an eccentric apartment building that was built between 1905 and 1912. The tour included a peek into one of the large, tastefully decorated apartments, cave-like attic and peculiar rooftop decorated with what appears to be Stormtrooper heads on spikes and huge dollops of soft serve. What we learned along the way, though, was that Gaudi drew his inspiration from nature – particularly things from the sea like conch shells and sand dollars. It was tacky as all get out, but fascinating, nonetheless.

Sagrada Familia's sanctuary
From there we headed to one of Barcelona's top destinations, looming Sagrada Familia. We've seen a lot of churches on our trips to Europe, but I can honestly say none of them compare to this one. Still incomplete, Sagrada Familia is Gaudi's shining achievement, looking like a church from outer space. The outside is flanked with Modernist figures telling the story of Jesus's life, from Nativity to Passion. The sanctuary is insanely futuristic, with slick columns reaching hundreds of feet in the air and vibrant stain glass windows punctuating the space with lasers of color. I felt like I was walking around in a space ship. With it's unconventional, playful design, it's unlike anything I've ever seen but hoped could be. If you come to Barcelona and only have one thing to do, this is it. Hands down. I have a tip for you, though: buy tickets online HERE. You can pick them up at one of several ServiCaixa stations located all over the city. Believe me, you'll love zooming by the line to get in. We didn't have to wait one second.

Already won over by Gaudi's genius, we decided to cap the day off in Parc Güell, a 30-acre garden that he envisioned to be an otherworldly gated community for Barcelona's elite. And while the upscale housing project was never fully recognized, the hilly landscape is still speckled with ceramic fountains and benches, intriguing pathways of jagged stone columns and houses that look like they were made out of gingerbread. It's a grassy wonderland that reminds me of a magical version of San Francisco's Twin Peaks. Feeling adventurous, we hiked to the park's highest point where we watched the sun set behind the best views of Barcelona we've seen so far.

Senses overloaded and feet achy, we bussed back to our hood for dinner. We stopped in a vegan cafe called Cat Bar where we munched on homemade veggie burgers while finalizing plans for the next leg of our trip — a five-day road trip to Granada!

See you along the way, amigos.

Love, Josh


Bill Fogle said...

Amazed by that funky modern cathedral! I'm no fan of Modern (sorry!), but I love the colored lights in it ... very much in keeping with the classical concept of a cathedral ... luminous and colorful.

Your photos on this trip are outstanding ... prettier than any of your previous trips.

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