Chapter Five: A Walk Through A Gaudí Parc

1 Parc7Chapter Five: A Walk Through A Gaudí Parc

Day Five & (partial) Day Six – Parc Place, Leapin’ Lizards, Now We’re Dragon, Sweeping Views, Where’s McCartney, Gaudí’s Funeral?, A Valencia Stroll, Market Watch (part Dos), Sweet Interlude, Happening Plaça, Lunch At Yet Another Market, Cathedral View, A Snail’s Pace, Up On The Roof (Part, oh Hell, I’ve Lost Track), Cathedral Unseen, Taking A Gander At Some Geese, Hip To Be Square, Final Overture With Rossini, Not Quite The Cat’s Meow, I Want Candy, Cue The Next Queue, The Stampede and Adios Barcelona/Hola Granada!

Once again, a rainstorm hit us overnight…

1 Parc15…but by the time we were out the door and grabbing some croissants and Café Con Leche at CappUKccino (Carrer de Sidé, 2-10…a couple of blocks from Hotel Colon), the sun was peaking out from the clouds.

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We picked up the taxi (and boy was it heavy) and were off to what I thought would be my last Gaudí architectural marvel…Parc Güell (another UNESCO World Heritage sight).

P1000261Parc Güell is now a public park, but it didn’t start out that way. It began as a real estate venture that went awry.  Count Eusebi Güell i Bacigalupi, a famed Catalan industrialist, wanted to create a “Garden-city community,” which would have 60 homes, a market and a church. It never happened, and in 1925 the city took over the land. It opened to the public in 1926.

We arrived a little after 9 a.m. (€9 taxi), and they let us enter early (we pre-purchased 9:30 reservations). The taxi dropped us at the main south-side entrance off of Carrer d’Olot.  There were very few people here at this time.  Note: Keep your ticket…you need it to leave…now that I think of it, I wondered why Tracy kept asking me to give her my ticket. She can’t get rid of me that easily. The park has restrictions on the amount of people who can visit the Monumental Zone (I think it is 400 at one time, so getting here early is preferable…at least for me).

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I read that Gaudí designed the gate house and administration building in a fairytale gingerbread house style.  That only made me wish I’d had one more pastry.

1 Parc1We walked up the main steps toward the Sala Hipóstila and were immediately attacked by a giant reptile. “Hey, look at that colorful lizard,” I said.

P1010510Tracy, who actually does her homework replied, “That’s not a lizard. That’s ‘El Drac.’ He’s a dragon.” Sometimes she slays me. I should have known I’d get them confused, as I suffer from a reptile dysfunction…and there’s no pill for that.

1 Parc4We had our photos taken with El Drac.

P1010512…as did hundred of others.  There lots of photo ops on the way up, even photo ops of others taking photos.  We were out of control early.

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What would have been the market (Sala Hipóstila) stood nearby. It has 84 or 86 Doric columns (number varies on different websites…I didn’t count to see what was correct)…

P1000241…supposedly designed to look like Barcelona’s Roman foundations.

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I promised Tracy we would not go back to the ruins to check that out…marriage trumps history.

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The ceiling includes some beautiful artwork, as well.

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…along with other interesting pieces of art nearby.

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After checking out of the market (no plastic bags), we ascended the stairs to the The Grand Terrace …Plaça de la Natura…where we viewed what purportedly is the “longest bench in the world.”

P1010532Joseph Mariá Pujol decorated the bench between 1911 and 1913, using shards of broken crockery and glass that had been obtained by his workers.  I hope Señor Pujol had good insurance…and plenty of band-aids.

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The grounds were still a little wet from the overnight rain.

P1000250From this stupendous vantage point, we looked out over the Barcelona skyline to the Mediterranean…

P1010528…and another view included a vast amount of palm trees.

P1010531We were quite enjoying our stroll through and around Parc Güell.

P1000248Tracy said, “Let’s go to Austria.” Whaaat?

She added, “I think we have to go through the Laundry Room.”

1 Parc7 At this point, I seriously considered calling a doctor, but as it turned out she was correct…again!  We traversed a long and winding road (well it was really a path) that is dubbed the Laundry Room because there is a laundry woman sculpted into one of the columns. I quipped, “I wish I’d brought my shirt I spilled on the other day.”

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Tracy and the others walked on…quickly.

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As you can see, Kim did find her, and she washed his underwear and two shirts while we were at our next stop.

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The Jardins d’Àustria were turned into a plant nursery when Parc Güell was designated a public park.  Why Austria?  Trees from Austria were donated to the park. I assumed they were from the Vienna Woods, so we waltzed right through.

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Our final stop was at one of the Gingerbread houses, where Kim and I entered.

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Had it not been for a couple of cool photos Kim got of the ceiling, I think this part could have been skipped, especially since the day was heating up rapidly.

1 Parc13The crowds were now here, too.

P1000261After touring the park for more than an hour, we caught another taxi and had our driver drop us off at an interesting church we had seen on a previous cab ride. We believed it had some important history.

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We had been told by a taxi driver that the St. Francis de Sales on on Passeig de Sant Joan was the site of Gaudí’s funeral, however since returning home, I haven’t found any proof of that. In any case, it had a lovely exterior, and after briefly going inside, we all decided to take a hike…

P1000265…across a busy street, to…

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…Carrer de València, a street housing numerous beautiful buildings. However, a fanciful glass and iron structure replete with a colorful array of flowers caught Tracy’s eye at Navarro.

    P1010564                                     3 Market2

She…and we…were sucked in, and we’re glad we were.

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After taking some photos of the flowers and plants, we walked inside and “discovered” a La Bouqueria-type market, without the hordes of touristas.

P1000271Mercat de la Concepció was constructed in 1888…

P1010567…making it one of the oldest markets in Barcelona.

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Although this sign might make you think otherwise, Mary and Tracy did not think this market was a piece of, well, you know.

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We wandered for a bit…

P1000268…and then continued on our walk down Carrer de València.

P1010572                                        Valencia

More beautiful buildings beckoned.

4 Pastries 1It wasn’t long before hunger reared its ugly (and fattening) head. We stopped along Rambla Catalunya at an outside table belonging to Forn de Sant Jaume, an establishment where some delicious pastries were calling our name.

4 PastriesDeeelicious! If we weren’t walking ten miles a day, I’d hate to see how much weight I would have gained.

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We then took our last stroll down Las Ramblas, bid farewell to La Bouqeria…

P1010582…and finally hit the happening Plaça Reial (Royal Plaza).

P1010618 There were so many palm trees, I thought we’d run into Jimmy Buffett sipping a margarita.

6 PlacaThe square was laid out in the mid-1800s at the site of an old Capuchin monastery. There is a large fountain at the center, Font de les Tres Gràcies’ (Fountain of the Three Graces).

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In 1879, Gaudí, fresh out of architect school, designed the two lampposts in the square near the fountain.

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We thought that Plaça Reial would be a nice spot to have our final dinner in Barcelona, and there were plenty of restaurants to choose from.

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As we wound our way back toward the Cathedral,  I first ducked into a church whose name escapes me.

P1010589We also stopped to take a quick look at Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya, home of the offices of the Presidency of the Generalitat de Catalunya.

P1010590 This Renaissance building with a façade dating from the 1500s is located on the Plaça de St. Jaume.

In a couple of minutes, I thought I was back in Venice at the Bridge of Sighs…and remember, Sighs matters.

P1010594Instead, we were really at the Carrer del Bisbe Bridge, a neo-Gothic bridge built in 1928 that stretches over Carrer del Bisbe.

P1010596Onward we trudged past a woman playing some street music.  There’s a lot of street music in Spain, which only adds to the charm…and to my incessant tipping. 

8 WatchIt must have been getting hot, because Kim took a photo of a watch that looked like it was melting.  Finally we reached the Cathedral, and sure enough it was €7 to enter.  As witnessed below…

9 Church3 (1)…Kim took some really gorgeous photos inside on this day.

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The ceilings are magnificent…

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…as are the coats-of-arms of the Order Of The Golden Fleece in the choir stall.

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We paid our last respects to Santa Eulàlia.

9 Church4We spent about a half hour inside…

9 Church2…and then rode the elevator to the top.

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It was windy up there…

P1000294…but the views out to Barcelona and the sea were something to behold.

P1000296Then I told Tracy I was feeling sluggish. “Oh no,” she said. I pointed to the side of the church where a large snail statue occupied a spot on the church tower. One story said that it was put here because the cathedral tower was being built at a “snail’s pace.”

P1000293Yet another website (WC1.bc.cat) told this tale: “According to legend the master builder was so busy building these towers that he forgot about his wife for some time. While her husband was out all day working, his wife got to know a young man with whom she fell in love and had an affair. On discovering this, the architect let her continue with her affair.”  But revenge was sweet. “He put horns on the snail figures on the Cathedral’s façade, a clear reference to his wife’s cuckoldry that would stay frozen in time. Another version seems more credible and helpful. They say the snails were made in memory of the plague these gastropods visited on the city during the period the towers were being built, in the 16th century.”

After our church visit, we made it to our final market (Mercat Santa Caterina) in time for lunch. I will admit this market was a letdown after visiting La Bouqeria and Mercat de la Concepció.

Our lunch was rather forgettable, although Mary taunted me with another beer. “In 48 hours, I’ll join you.”

P1010616                                                       Mary beer lunch

Tracy and I bid farewell to Kim and Mary as they went back to the hotel to rest their feet. No such luck for my poor spouse. I told Tracy,  “As long as we have a couple of hours left, maybe I can get one more notch in my Gaudí belt.”

P1010619So while Tracy wandered around Las Ramblas one last time to see if there were really any pickpockets, I ventured inside (and on top of) Palau Güell, an early Gaudí creation.  It was his first major commission that he received from wealthy industrialist Eusebi Güell i Bacigalupi…remember him from this morning?

P1010622I bought the audio guide and was off on a whirlwind tour.  There’s a lot of Moorish influence (I would really start loving Moorish architecture when we hit Granada) and the filtered natural light in the central hall with its parabolic dome had the distinct feeling of being in an observatory with constellations overhead.

P1010632I stopped by the dining room.  Dinner was not on the table yet.

P1010624There were interesting ceilings throughout the house.

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I enjoyed myself indoors…

P1010633…but once again, as would become his style, Gaudí saved the craziest architectural pieces for the roof.

P1010636The polychrome ceramic chimneys were typical Gaudí.  The main chimney even has a “Flying Bat” weathervane, symbol of Jaume I el Conqueridor, who I guess was the original Batman.

P1010635The story goes that James I the Conqueror during his Majorca campaign was awakened by a “fluttering rat penat” (which I guess is also a bat) in time to ward off a night attack by the Moors. No word, if a Robin also appeared.

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After 15 minutes on the roof, I decided I had better head back down to see if Tracy had any money remaining after her walk on Las Ramblas.

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I met Tracy who had safely rambled Las Ramblas for the last time while I toured the house, and we headed back for a siesta, but were diverted into a small opening that lead to a cloister.  “I wonder what this is?” I asked Tracy.

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To my amazement it was the cloister of Catedral de Barcelona, the church I had already visited twice. I didn’t even know about this part.

P1010643Fortunately we had kept our €7 tickets, so we were allowed to go in at no extra charge.  It was beautiful.

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Palm trees, orange trees and medlar trees abounded. I read that historian Cirici called this space, “The loveliest oasis in Barcelona”…and to think…we almost missed it.  A friendly gaggle of geese appeared. The cloister has 13 geese; each one representing a year in the life of the martyred Santa Eulàlia. P1010646Also impressive was the Font se Sant Jordi (St. George).   It has striking green vegetation and is topped with a beautiful bronze statue of Jordi slaying that dragon.

P1000306The dragon never had a chance!

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We ducked (sorry geese) inside a small museum and took a gander at the Monstrance Of The Cathedral of Barcelona, a 14th century piece that’s solid gold.  Also on display was the oil painting, Pietà of Desplá, dating from 1490. It is described as “stunning for its beauty and for its dramatic sadness before the death of Jesus and the pain of the Blessed Mary.”

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I had to nimbly sidestep someone’s final resting place. Yes, it would have been a grave mistake, but that’s what happens when they bury you in the middle of the room.

P1010644There are times you have to be lucky to be able to see things on vacation. Since we were at a church, we counted our blessings we ran into the cloister quite by accident.

Back at the hotel, I tried to go online and book Rossini Ristorante, a restaurant on the Plaça Reial where we had spoken to its charming hostess earlier.  The website said the restaurant had no reservations available.  We stopped into Kim and Mary’s room where we (well, they) toasted our Barcelona trip with cava.

P1010655We all decided to give Rossini a try anyway, and we walked over to the Plaça Reial, where the same hostess secured us a table outside after we made overtures to her. We figured it was probably due to Kim’s and my dashing personalities that we were able to get that last table (either that, or dumb luck).  I told Kim with the way my hair was growing, I might need a barber by the time we hit Seville.  You could tell by his expression he was waiting for the next act.

While Mary chatted with an English couple seated next to us, Kim, Tracy and I decided what to eat. Our meal was very good (rivaling the previous evening for our best in Barcelona).

P1010656From the salmon to the pollo to my tremendous penne aglio e olio, we were quite satisfied.  It was a great way to end our last night in Barcelona.

P1010659The square was full of people dining…

7 PLaca night1…and the palm trees lent an air of serenity to it all.

7 Placa nightIt was time for for a final Barcelona nighttime stroll.

P1010660 The four of us had spotted a chocolate shop on the way to the restaurant and thought we could pick up dessert on the way back.

P1010665Although we came upon numerous colorful shops, alas we couldn’t retrace our steps to that sweet store, so back to the hotel we traveled.

P1010666Tracy and Mary gave one last wave to the cathedral…

10 Bye Barca…and surrounding buildings, and we all hit our rooms to pack for our flight to Granada the following day.

P1010670In the morning, we met up with Kim and Mary and walked the short distance to Els Quatre Gats for breakfast.  Breakfast really didn’t satisfy, but its history is what makes this a place to visit.

P1010066 Lots of artists hung out at Els Quatre Gats, including Gaudí and a very young Pablo Picasso.

P1010674In fact, the 17-year-old Picasso would hold his first solo exhibition in the restaurant in 1899.

gats 3Picasso also created the image for the menu.

Gats 3The restaurant was closed for decades…

P1010676…but reopened in 1989.

gats 1Tracy and I did a little window-shopping after that.

P1010678As we headed back to the hotel for the final time, we happened to walk right past the chocolate store that was just opening for business.

P1010681With our bag now filled with orange and ginger dark chocolate pieces, as well as a few lemon and white chocolate goodies, our time in Barcelona was sadly over.

P1010680Arriving at the airport, the Vueling line stretched all the way to Madrid, but I spied another line with only a couple of people. “What could it hurt to try?” I thought.  We did have boarding passes.  It turned out be a good call, because we had something called Optima tickets, meaning we could go in this shorter line.

airport 1I pretended that I knew I had purchased them for this very reason.  Hopefully, Kim, Mary and Tracy won’t read the trip report and find out I was just plane lucky.

Along with seemingly 200 other people, we got in line for our flight at about 12:45. We waited…and waited…and waited. It was now past our scheduled flight time, and still no sign of a plane. Then the intercom announced a gate change.

london-marathon-e1366537441130Suddenly we were at the beginning of the Boston Marathon as 200 impatient people all turned and scurried for the new gate. A little over an hour later, we settled into our Vueling seats for the short plane ride to Granada.

P1000136Gracias and adios Barcelona…we will return!   Hola Granada

 

Next:  Day Six (cont) – Well That Was Fast, Could You Tuck in That Side Mirror, Right Down Our Alley, Oh My What A View, This Place Will Cost Me Some Money, Easy Alhambra Ticket Office, Stupid Americans (and they weren’t us), Onto The Bicycle, I Am The Eggplant, Ah Capilla (Part Uno), Weren’t You In Jaws, My (Almost) Last Tapas and Lighting Up The Alhambra

 

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