Following our time in Italy we embarked for Barcelona, Catalania, Spain. Upon our arrival to Barcelona we did not have much in the way of expectations. I had heard of Barcelona but knew little about its size, culture, and orientation. Now that we’ve visited this city I can honestly say that even if we had held expectations I am certain they would have been exceeded.
Barcelona is a huge city (over 1.5 million inhabitants) with a very modern and metropolitan feel. A simple walking tour through one of the central districts is enough to understand this city’s rich architectural background, creative energy, and culinary prowess.
We arrived in Barcelona late on Monday night. Fortunately, the apartment we rented for the week, located in the L’Eixample district, was easy to find so we had no trouble locating and checking in that evening.
On Tuesday we awoke and oriented ourselves to this new city. We first walked up to La Sagrada Familia which was only a few blocks from our apartment. This amazing structure was originally designed by Barcelona’s most famous architect Antoni Gaudi. Construction on this structure originally began in 1882 and continues today. Under the current plan it is not expected to be completed until 2026!
For me, La Sagrada Familia was the most interesting site we visited. In terms of size this cathedral is similar to the larger basilicas found throughout Italy. However this building differs from those in that the surrealistic & natural architectural themes create a much more modern design aesthetic.
What was also interesting for me was considering Gaudi’s thought process in designing this building. In stark contrast to modern society’s need for “immediate gratification” he designed and began construction knowing that he would pass well before the completion of this signature work that will become his legacy for future generations to experience. This is a must see Barcelona landmark.
The rest of the day on Tuesday was spent walking around the L’Eixample district and indulging in a great meal at La Rita restaurant which we’d highly recommend to other Barcelona travelers.
On Wednesday we decided to venture out on a walking tour. From our apartment we walked to two other Gaudi designed buildings. After viewing the exterior of La Pedrera we toured the inside of Casa Batillo that was designed and built by Gaudi in the early 1900’s. The interior tour provided us with an even better understanding of Gaudi’s naturalistic influences.
From Casa Batillo we walked down to Barecelona’s most prominent open air market (Mercat de la Boqueria) right off La Rambla. The market was bustling with purveyors of produce, seafood, breads, meats, candy, and nuts. We enjoyed the culinary experience and returned later that afternoon to purchase local goods that we used in preparing our dinner that evening.
After viewing all that mouth watering food our stomachs began to call for sustenance. We continued walking towards the water and turned east for the La Ribera District. We had a great tapes lunch at El Xampneyet amongst many other Barcelonans. The lunch concluded with some tangy boquerons en vinagre (white anchovies in vinegar).
From there we ventured up a couple blocks to Museo d’ Picasso. Although there are not many of his famous pieces here the collection offers an excellent cross-section of his work which starts with his more traditional portraits of his student days and progresses to his more abstract creations which he made in the latter years of his life.
On Thursday we continued our art tour by visiting the Museum of Contemporary Art. We viewed their permanent collection which featured pieces of diverse mediums including paintings, sculpture, graphic design, 3-D design, photography, and film. Among the many interesting piece’s on display I especially liked Marcel Broodthaers’ piece entitled, “A Cast of Dice Will Never Abolish Chance” (mainly because of its title).
After touring the museum we strolled through the thin streets of the El Raval district. It was here that we happened upon a small art shop called Siesta. After looking over the many wonderful works of art we ended up purchasing a piece by Mercedes Rodrigo who happened to be in the store at the time we purchased it. Assuming that our Spanish was sufficient she’ll be shipping it home to Portland in the coming days. We’re excited to have a permanent memento in our home to symbolize our time spent in this great city.
After lunch we ventured up to Park Guell on the subway. This park is situated in the hills north of Barcelona proper and offers amazing views of the city landscape much like the Rose Garden does in Portland. It was here that Tina snapped this photo of me in my Rudy Fernandez shirt that has been submitted to the Blazers’. I’m hoping that they’ll broadcast it in their “wear in the world” segment during an upcoming televised blazer game (so keep your eye’s peeled).
The Park was originally designed by Gaudi and is one of his only landscape architectural works. This is also where he spent the last 20 years of his life (Gaudi died unexpectedly in 1926 when he was struck by a garbage truck in Barcelona). The design of the park features many of the natural influences which are also evident in his structural designs.
Thursday afternoon we met up with my childhood friend Mike Diamond. Mike and I went to middle school and high school together. He is currently living in Barcelona (by sheer coincidence his apartment was only 2 blocks from where we stayed) and in the middle of an intensive 11-month MBA program. It was great to spend the evening with him and learn more about his insights into this great city.
On Friday we took it easy and prepared for our travels to Portugal. Barcelona is a great city that I would highly recommend to other European travelers.