Tuesday, 20 September, 2011 23:08

Barcelona – Thriving, Busy, Crowded And Lot’s Of Fun

The Final Leg Of Our Spain Adventure
A very comfortable 6 hour train journey from San Sebastian saw us arrive in Barcelona mid afternoon. We then caught the Metro 5 stops and popped up just in front of our apartment which is located on La Rambla in the heart of Barcelona. For those that have not been to Barcelona, La Rambla is the main thoroughfare between the centre of Barcelona and the waterfront. It only has one lane of traffic each way and a wide pedestrian walkway full of restaurants, gift shops, flower sellers and of course, the essential street entertainers. A fun place to spend our 6 days in the city but a little noisy at times.

La Rambla at midnight from our apartment – Still busy

Down To The Waterfront …
Our nephew, Tim works for a large yachting conglomerate (Azzurra) that was competing in the Audi Med Cup whilst we were here, so we organised to go down to Cup Headquarters for a tour. Tim is part of the land crew that looks after maintenance and repairs to the boat, as well as undertaking all the rigging of the boat each time they build a new boat each year. It was interesting to see all the crews preparing for racing which was due to commence that day at 11:00 am.

Azzurra out on the water

It was great to catch up with Tim and meet his Spanish partner, Noa and enjoy their company over drinks and a couple of dinners before they returned to Palma following the finish of the Audi Med Cup.

Rob, Nao and Tim enjoying a beer at a local bar before dinner

Hop On – Hop Off
We had prebooked the hop on- hop off bus as it is a great way to orientate yourselves in a big city like Barcelona. With a short coffee stop in between it took 5 hours to complete both the East route and West route, but it did enable us to get a good feel of the city and where we would like to visit during our stay. Barcelona is very spread out and so you need either the bus or Metro to get to where you want to go other than a few of the sights close to the city centre.

Hop On – Hop Off Bus – A good way to get an overview of Barcelona

To The Castle …
That afternoon the weather had cooled down so we decided to head to the Parc de Montjuic. To get there is no mean feat. First a Metro ride, then a funicular railway, then a chairlift and you are at the Castell de Montjuic which is perched on top of the mountian with 360 degree views of Barcelona. A walk around the castle and a rewarding beer for getting there and we were off again.

Chairlift on Montjuic

Castell de Montjuic

The Olympic Stadium …
We took the chairlift partway down the mountain and then walked to the Olympic Stadium where the Barcelona Olympic Games were held in 1992. The stadium which is now about 80 years old was completely rebuilt for the Olympics but retained its external facade from the original construction. It is a beautiful stadium with a great atmosphere and is now used for athletics, other sporting events and pop concerts.

Main Entrance to the Olympic Stadium

Inside the Stadium

Exploring The Downtown Area …
Saturday we spent exploring the main downtown area of the city, walking everywhere rather than taking the Metro. In particular we went to see two of the famous architect, Antoni Gaudi landmarks. The first was Casa Mila, also known as La Pedrera which was constructed between 1906 and 1910. Apparently the building and the chimneys assisted in inspiring Steven Spielberg’s development of Star Wars. See the photo of the chimneys which look a lot like Darth Vader.

Guadi’s Casa Mila, also known as La Pedrera

Chimneys on La Pedrera – Inspired Darth Vader

The second of these houses is a short walk from Casa Mila and is called Casa Batlló. From the outside, the facade of Casa Batlló looks like it has been made from skulls and bones. The “Skulls” are in fact balconies and the “bones” are supporting pillars. Gaudi used colours and shapes found in marine life as inspiration for his creativity in this building, and as a result it contains brightly coloured ceramics, particularly the roof.

The Incredible Casa Batlló – Another Guadi Masterpiece

Sunday – A Day In The Parks …
Up early on Sunday morning and took the bus to Park Guell which is another Guadi landmark. This park was originally planned as an exclusive housing estate which failed and was eventually sold to the local Municipal Government and converted into a park. Designed by Antoni Guadi the park features much of his work and is well worth a visit. From there back on the bus and to our next stop, Tibidabo Mountain. To get there you firstly need to take a tram ride in an historic tram and then a funicular to the top of the mountain. Complete with an amusement park and a cathedral this park offers fantastic views over Barcelona.

Entrance to Park Guell – Designed by Antoni Guadi

Fun Park and Cathedral on Mount Tibidabo

A Day Of Contrast …
Monday turned out to be a very interesting day. We had a tour booked for the Sagrada Familia (Guadi Cathedral) but needed to fill in the morning so decided to go to the largest of the local markets in Barcelona, Mercat del Encants. Neither of us have seen a greater array of junk than this market contained, but there were locals by the thousand there all buying bits and pieces for their homes. It was a culture shock but interesting none the less. From there we walked across the road to one of the largest shopping centres in Barcelona. A nice centre but not in the same league as Chadstone Shopping Centre.

Mercat del Encants – Junk everywhere

Sagrada Familia – Guadi Cathedral …
We decided to book a guided tour of this cathedral, firstly to beat the queues to get in, but also to gain a real appreciation of the genius of Antoni Guadi, the architect. Whilst the outside of this building is nothing short of spectacular, it is not until you walk inside that you appreciate the grand scale of the construction.

Facade on the east side – The Nativity

About Its Construction …
Work commenced on the Cathedral in 1882 and Antoni Guadi was appointed chief architect 18 months later after the original architect resigned. Guadi was to spend 40 years of his life on the design and construction of this building and knew he would never see it completed. He did however leave detailed models and plans of the building and these are still being used today to guide modern architects and engineers in its construction. Target completion date is 2026 which is the 100 year anniversary of the death of Guadi who was knocked over by a tram in Barcelona. So if it is completed on schedule it will have taken 144 years to build.

Facade on the west side – The Passion

About The Cathedral …
Externally the east and west facades have been completed. The east being a representation of the Nativity and Christs early years and the west side called the Passion, representing the later years of Christs life leading up to his death and resurection. What has not yet been built is the main entrance to the cathedral which will face South and represent Glory.

Inside of the Basilica

Ceiling of the Basilica

Nothing Prepares You For Walking Inside …
We have visited many great Churches and basilicas but nothing prepares you for walking into this Cathedral for the first time. It really does take your breath away as you stand in awe of what Guadi conceived and how people have been able to construct this building. The interior represents a forest with tall trees branching out to a canopy of leaves and palm fronds with glimpses of light peaking through, just as you would see in a real forest. Stained glass adds to the effect, although in many cases this will not be installed until the building is near completion.

Another view of the ceiling which representd a forest

To The Top Of The Spire …
A visit to Sagrada Familia would not be complete without a trip up one of the spires. The spire has a lift which takes you up 75 metres and then you walk the last 10 meters. From the top you get a birds eye view of Barlcelona. You then walk down the 85 metres via a spiral staircase back to ground level. A great experience but not for people who don’t like heights.

View of Barcelona from the spire

The spiral staircase looking down – 85 meters

Despedida de España, vamos a volver …
So we bid farewell to Spain after 4 1/2 weeks. We have visited 10 cities, been involved in festivals and mixed with the locals and visitors alike. It’s now on to Singapore and home.

Sagrada Familiar (Holy Family) Basilica – The Antoni Guadi Masterpiece …
I have included a video of this architectual masterpiece to try and give visitors to our blog an appreciation of this magnificent building.

YouTube Video

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:La Rambla, Barcelona, Spain

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