Extra Days in Barcelona, Spain - Apr. 30 - May 2, 09

Two Days In Spain

April 30, - May 2, 2009
Bob & Debe
After breakfast it was off the ship pulling our luggage and in a cab. We had reservations at the Le Meridien right on the famous Las Rambas. The cab ride to the hotel was very short and cost alot. We were shocked. We got checked in but our room wasn't ready so we stored our luggage and headed out. (People - be sure to have euros!!!)

There are a couple of hop on hop off tour buses that are in Barcelona but we chose to use Bus Turistic. It was conveniently located at Plaza de Cataluyna, a huge pedestrian square next to Las Ramblas which wasn't far from our hotel. The one day pass is 21 euros but we went ahead and purchased the two day pass for 27 euros (which also gets you a coupon book for discounts to many places). We knew we wanted to visit Antonio Gaudi's architectural buildings which we had seen from afar or heard about. So come on and join us for a couple days of architectural wonders.

Our first stop was his Casa Batllo. One of Antonio Gaudi's famous architectural buildings. If you look close below, (from the angle I took the picture it is hard to tell) but the balconies are made to be skulls while the columns are bones giving it the nickname, "House of Bones!" Just one of his unique buildings where he uses nature, water, and many angles to complete his work. It is well worth the price of 16.50 euros (if you do the hop on hop off you get a coupon bringing it down to 13.50 euros) The colorful Casa Batlló, a remodeled 19th century building, is one of Gaudí's many masterpieces in Barcelona. The building was orginally built between 1875 and 1877 but Gaudi redesigned the building, adding the attic and an upper floor between 1904 and 1906..

Below left you will see a photo taken of the orginal fireplace found in the house. While on the right is a photo of one of the ceilings and its whirlpool effect helps bring the nature of water alive.

As you go from floor to floor you will also see how the blue colors change from dark to light and the balconies go from small to large.

The rooftops are a unique design he has instilled. By taking the stairwells and chimneys and turning them into art. See below to know what I am talking about. It is said that the scale of the roof represents a reptile, the roof itself a dragon, the cross symbolizes the sword of St. George stuck into the dragon. The bones & skulls also represent the victims of the dragon.

As Bob and I stand by one stairwell, you can see the three dimensional cross behind us in the picture.

As we continued our day in Barcelona, our next stop was Antonio Gaudi's most famous work. The Sagrada Familia Church which construction continues even today after being started in 1882. We spent the 11.00 euros to visit this place for over three hours. Part of that time was to take the lift (extra fee ofs 2.50 euros) to the top. What little did I know was the top was one tower that had a spiral staircase to walk back down. I don't suggest this to anyone who can't take close spaces or doesn't like heights. I couldn't stop shaking. But this structure has to be one of the most massive places I have seen with its unique design. The outside of the massive church has many sides that represent all about Christ from birth and on. Alot to see for sure. Of course, it is very hard to find a place to get a great picture of this entire church because it is so big and every side is different.

Below, a little history on the Sagrada Familia Church.

Below left is the main entrance that you go through to begin your tour (via head sets if you chose to rent them) On the right is another picture of the entrance as I tried to get all the way to the top of the building.
The columns shown in the photo on the left helps you get some visualization. These columns are designed to look like tree trunks and branches as they hold up the ceiling of the massive building. On the right is one area of the windows that are stain glass. Even the colors of the glass have a story of why the colors are the way they are.

After taking the "lift" to the drop off point, you can now see that we are up very close to the top.

As you walk down the spiral staircase, there are small windows that you can see the different areas of building as construction continues.

And again, this is not for the faint at heart. Which meant ME!! In the left photo, you can see the torpedo shape unique building known as the Torre Agbcar in the distance. Since 2005 it has changed the skyline, with controversy, but now is a landmark office building. In the right photo you can get a feel of how high we are by seeing the huge yellow bus on the street.

And below you can see the staircase that you will walk all the way back down to the bottom. OK, do you see what I mean. Notice the windows. What about those small steps! You are all lucky I had the nerve to even take pictures.
The photo on the left shows me looking up into the stairwell while on the right is a photo looking down into the stairwell.

And in the below photos you can see one of the side entrances to the church that was all hand carved by Gaudi. He didn't finish alot of the church before his accidental death but the details of what he did is unbelievable. The lower level of the church is a museum with forms, models, etc.. from the work he completed along with others that continue to finish his work. You will also find drawings of the project once final work is completed.
Next to the church and included in your entrance ticket is the School House that Gaudi built.
As with all of his architecture, this school building also takes on its own design. No straight lines in the outside structure of this school. More of a Dr. Suess style.

In the below photo you can see the classroom that was used.
And the below photo shows a sign that is displayed by a room that was designed to look exactly like Gaudi's office at the time of his death.
From the church it is back on the hop on hop off and to the Park. Read the sign below for a little history of Park Guell.
For a very unique place to visit, try the park built by Gaudi. This park originally was to be a subdivision and even Gaudi had a home built that he lived in from 1906 - 1926 at which time he died. He did not build his own home but was a huge part of building what is now called the Park Guell. When you see pictures or search the wide web for Park Guell, the mosaic lizard is the famous photo you will see. Gaudi used many mosaic works in his projects.The Guëll park is one of the most intriguing parks in the world. The pavilions and main staircase designed by Antoni Gaudí look like they belong in some fairy tale. As you walk through the park - you also see his real style of nature everywhere. As he said, he wanted the park to look as if it grew from its surroundings. I believe he accomplished that.
Two houses above, were completed as pavilions for visitors and park keepers. The pavilions, designed by Gaudí, seem to be taken out of Hansel and Gretel, with curved roofs covered with brightly colored tiles and ornamented spires. Below the staircase at the entrance of the park, also designed by Gaudí, is dragon-like lizard. It is located at the center of the ceramics decorated staircase and is the best known symbol of the park.
The water displays, also found on this staircase, even take on a unique look of nature. You want to just spend some time figuring it all out but you will have to little time because of so much to see.

And of course, the most famous thing to photograph - the huge mosaic lizard. It is very hard to get a picture with no one standing by it. If you want that - stand in line. For me, it was take the photo and crop everyone out that you can. lol

As you continue up the steps and past the lizard mosaic you enter the colonnade hall. You are now below the gathering spot called the Gran Placa Circular. The Serpentine Bench platform is supported by 86 huge columns, creating a hall beneath the plaza, known as the Sala Hipòstila. Many people just stand, look all around and up at the ceilings to take it all in.

As you go through the columns, a connecting flight of stairs leads to the famous feature of the park: the Gran Placa Circular. Originally intended as a market place for the residents, this plaza is bordered by what is known as the largest bench in the world. The colorful ceramic serpentine bench. The sitting area around the square is uniquely built to fit your body and decorated with again, mosaics. In the below photos you will see that people come in to entertain only to make a few dollars while others meet up to enjoy the park. The view from the plaza is spectacular & you can see as far as the Mediterranean Sea.

As you walk around the park - don't forget to check out Gaudi's home for a short period of his life. Now used as a museum. As you check out the next few pictures - notice how Gaudi really makes the park grow out of nature. Amazing

Bob and I take a moment to photograph ourselves in this unique and unusual park.
Once back on the hop on hop off bus, it was off to the Gate at Miralles Estate: It was built between 1901 and 1902. The wall has a stone base covered in white ceramic mosaic and crowned by a typical Gaudí four-armed cross in forged iron. There is also a bronze statue of Gaudí, the only statue of him in Barcelona. Gaudí designed the gate, the gatekeeper’s lodge, the stables and the coach house at the entrance to the Güell’s summer residence. The entrance features the striking Dragon Gate, a five-meter wrought iron sculpture of a mythological dragon with bat’s wings, a scaly body, great fangs and a sinuous tongue. The walls and the domes of the stables are covered with tiles, ceramics and mosaics. Today it is property of the University of Barcelona and houses the Gaudí Chair.

Below in the left photo you will see the Christopher Columbus Statue, built in 1888 in honor of the renowned explorer and discoverer of America. The 197 ft high monument was placed at the spot that Christopher Columbus arrived in 1493 after his discovery of America. In the right photo is the colorful sculpture by Joan Miro , the painter, sculptor and ceramist. The sculpture is named "Woman and bird" and was made in 1982. It is located in the Joan Miro Park next to the Spain square and La Arenas de Barcelona.

As we continued pass the Miro sculpture, you pass the Barcelona Arena, the Placa d'Espanya home of the Central Fountain and pass through the Venetian Towers. In the below right photo you can see the Venetian Towers (designed and named after the Bell Tower at St. Marks Square in Venice). As you pass through the middle of them, you see the majesty National Palace up on the hill, home to the National Art Museum. In the photo on the left are the many watchtowers found in the Parc de l'Espanya. (very close to the bus station)

Below is a photo of the Olympic Stadium. Its exterior dates from 1929 but the interior of the stadium was completely rebuilt for the Olympics. Take a look at the second photo to get a peek into the inside.

Below on the left you can take the funicular at the top of Monthuic. What an outstanding view you get of the city while on this skyride. In the right photo, you can see one of the many sculptures around Barcelona. This one is in the harbour and is a lobster.

In the below photo on the left, you can see Port Vell. Before the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, Port Vell was the city's old obsolete harbor, only a run down area with empty warehouses, industrial buildings, refuse dumps and railroad yards. In one of the most drastic urban renewal projects, the area was transformed into a yacht basin and entertainment center, opening the city up to the sea. The biggest attraction of the Port Vell is the aquarium, one of the largest in Europe, you can see it in the below right photo.

On the left you can see a photo taken down on the water at Palau Del Mar. This area comes to life with exhibits, food, etc. Further down the waterfront and pass many lovely beaches you will find the Port Forum. (right photo) Another place that takes on a life of its own.

This below sculpture of a fish was designed and built by Frank Gehry. The fish marks the start of the Olympic Port area and is placed at the base of two landmark towers. As an artwork, it grabs the eye for its scale and as its copper color shines in the bright sunlight. If you are looking for a great beach and/or seafood - just fine this sculpture.
And yes, as I said, the beach is fabulous. This is the beach directly in front of the fish sculpture.
Now for the most famous known thing in Barcelona - The Las Ramblas (also pronounced Les Rambles, La Rambla). It is the most famous street in Barcelona. The wide boulevard connects the Placa de Cataluyna, a busy square, to the Christopher Columbus Column. You will find many vendors set up here selling anything from food, to souvenirs, to flowers to live animals. A little of everything. But you will also find many people there just trying to make a buck. Magicians, dancers, tumblers, acrobats, people made up as statues, you name it. On both sides of this wide median walkway, and past the two lanes of vehicle traffic on each side of the walkway, you find hotels, restaurants, stores of all kind and money exchanges. The goal is to have you stay here, eat here, and buy all you need right here. lol And you will spend some time just enjoying the surroundings. Take a look at the many things you will see.

I can not continue down Las Ramblas without elaborating on the St. Josephs Market. Just off to the left (if walking from the Christopher Columbus Column to the Cataluyna Square) you will find this market. Go in even if you are not hungry but just for the experience. It is filled with fruits, vegetables, nuts, chocolates, eggs, meat of all kinds, etc.. It is so worth the visit. But in the next few pictures you will get a little feel of it. So stroll along with me.

Ok, so you could have done without seeing the goat heads. lol Come on - when in Rome do as the Romans, so go ahead and give your tastebuds some cooked goat head in Barcelona. lol Not for me. lol Below, you will see that also on the Las Ramblas was our hotel. Located almost at the middle area and very convenient to everything. (even though we didn't find ourselves at the room very much) There were many places to eat at while still on the Las Ramblas (yes, you are still strolling down the Las Ramblas with me. lol) These two were just a couple of our picks.

And you can see in the next two photos below that there are some unique restaurants/stores trying to get your business. The lights on the floor made this restaurant appealing while hanging shirts from the ceiling for you to view was very unique. (Oh my neck)

And above, you can see we have finally come to the other end of the Las Ramblas. A busy plaza square is behind me and below that square you will find the hop on hop off offices. This Cataluyna Square/Plaza is also a great meeting place and very busy with the hop on hop off stops. It is a station for changing from blue to red line and is also were many protests can be seen. My legs feel like noodles and the bed is now calling me. How about you? But it will be an early morning tomorrow as we want to be the first in line for Gaudi's last building we will visit. (we tried it today but over 1 1/2 hour wait) It is a brisk walk from our hotel so up early, breakfast and over to the Casa Mila.
Ok, rested, ate and ready to go. We chose to walk since it wasn't to far. The walk from the hotel to Casa Mila is about 15 minutes but it is interesting. The stores build clear plexiglass boxes on the sidewalks and you can see the latest fashions well away from the store fronts. How cool is that. Mannequins and all. Anyway, a little rain this morning but won't stop us. We are FIRST in line for the next venture and I am happy just holding my umbrella and waiting. (about 30 - 40 minutes. lol We all know Bob isn't. lol But hey, he has his coffee) We were told to visit this building first as the upper floor has a museum that details all of his work and you can get more of the history and design of his other places. (Park Guell, Casa Batllo, Sagrada Familia, etc...) But we do run our own schedule. So we are doing it last. The Casa Milà, commonly known as La Pedrera is the largest civil building designed by Antoni Gaudi. The apartment block was constructed between 1906 and 1910. It was Gaudi's last work before devoting himself to the construction of the Sagrada Familia Church. The building is designed with wrought iron balconies that give it a unique look. And this definitely wasn't his more fairy tale/Dr. Suess style. (by the way, I can only remember that the entrance fee was less than Casa Batllo. But about 10 euros per person.) The top floor, attic and the extraordinary roof are all that is open to visitors. The apartment on the top floor gives an idea of how the interior must have looked at the beginning of the 20th century. (it is displayed totally furnished) Just like on the outside, the interior has virtually no straight lines. The attractive rooms have a lot of character, with a mixture of expressionist and Art Nouveau styles.

In the very top, attic floor , you will find this unique tool used in his architectural design. As you can see Gaudi designs his buildings upside down. The chains and weights help to make the form of the building and when looked at in a mirror on the floor you can see how the building will look. What a unique way of creating the look you want. In the below photos you can see the hanging design followed by a photo looking into the mirror on the floor.

Now onto the roof. The most fascinating design of his building to me. Again, as in the Casa Batllo, you see the chimneys and stair cases covered with unique design. This rooftop takes on the look of warriors protecting it. A little rain did not stop Bob and I or others from walking around and checking it all out.

From Casa Mila it was back on the hop on hop off and around Barcelona. From the map I could see where the Arch of Triumph was but we literally had to just get off the bus and walk street by street until we found it. And finally we did. The Arc de Triomf is a triumphal arch built with colorful brickwork in mudéjar style. The Arc de Triomf, situated at the end of a wide promenade, served as the 1888 Universal Exposition's main entrance . If you continued through the arch and through the park, you would end up at the entrance to the zoo. For us, it was a pick up for the hop on hop off bus.
As we finished up doing all of the hop on hop off lines, it was time to get packed up and head to catch the Aerobus to the airport. We would not leave today but we would be moving to our final hotel closer to the airport for an early morning flight.
With suitcases in hand we walked up the Las Ramblas (for our final walk), into the Cataluyna Plaza area to catch the bus. But a quick stop at the Hard Rock Cafe for my "collector" pin and then on to the bus. They leave quite often so no big deal.
On the bus, which had a few more stops and the bus became quite full, we headed to the airport. A shuttle picked us up and off to the Frontair Hotel by the airport. They do provide a shuttle to the airport but we found out our flight was to early. So after a good night sleep we caught a taxi and got to the airport. I will say that the taxi started his meter from leaving his home or wherever. On early morning pickups they do. We went literally a couple miles from the airport and was hit with over 20 euros for a taxi. Bob left Barcelona with a bad taste in his mouth from this. It would have been about the same price to just catch a cab from Las Ramblas.

Oh well, the trip was a wonderful time. The 14 day cruise prior to the 2 days in Barcelona, together made for a great time to relax and see the world. I hope you have enjoyed this trip with us even though many of you might not enjoy Barcelona's tour as we did it. There are many many many more things to do but seeing Gaudi's architectural places was definitely number one on our list. (The church and Park Guell are two of the biggest tourist attractions in Barcelona) Again, thanks for taking this trip with us in pictures and words. Feel free to post any questions you might have and as always, click on any photos to make them bigger for a better view.


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