Chapter Three: A Wonderful Hospital Experience

P1010316Chapter Three: A Wonderful Hospital Experience

Day Three – Up On The Roof (Part Tres), Another Familia View, A Lovely Gaudí Walk, MaiTaiTom Is Admitted To The Hospital, “Kingdom Of Health”, I Think I’m Done With Tapas, Tracy Is Definitely Done With Ruins, Museum Stays Off Elevator List…Barely, A Short Date With Picasso, Rodney Dangerfield Lives, Take My Wife…Please, A Nacional Treasure, Let’s Meat For Dinner and The Rain In Spain

I got up before the rest of the gang, and walked out into the quiet of a Barcelona morning for some pastries.  The church was empty and the place where we would grab taxis throughout the week was nearly cab-less.

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Today our tired feet would take us to our first destination, which just happened to be another Gaudí creation, Casa Milá (La Pedrera).  It was about a 20 – 25 minute walk from Hotel Colon.

P1010254Upon arriving, I was glad I was not drinking this week because the exterior of this house looked like a wavy hangover dream from the Stone Age.   At first I thought, “This kind of looks like Fred Flintstone could live here.”  For a second, I even thought I saw Wilma. Yabba-dabba doo!

flintstones-house15La Pedrera translated means “The Quarry,” and I guess the locals didn’t particularly care for this design when it was first built in 1910.  “There goes the neighborhood!”

1 casa 4We had 9 a.m. tickets I had bought online, and the woman said, “Oh, you have premium tickets, so you can go straight to the roof.”   I didn’t know I had purchased premium tickets, but I was glad I had done so because we were the first people allowed on another crazy Gaudí roof.

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Casa Milá made the Casa Battló’s roof look almost normal.  Clearly, OSHA has no control at this property.


As we carefully navigated the sloping roof with steps, we feasted our eyes upon the 28 chimneys that were nicknamed “Espanta Bruxes” (witch scarers).

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Come to think of it, the chimneys were bewitching and nothing to twitch your nose about.

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A poet once called Gaudí’s rooftop chimney park “The Garden Of Warriors,” although I didn’t see a chimney that looked like Stephen Curry anywhere.

P1010265I can see why Gaudí went a little over budget on this project, resulting in a bit of friction with the Mila family (who lived on the main floor…while the apartments above were rented out).

P1010263La Sagrada Familia and its cranes could be viewed from a few vantage points.

P1010260The audio guide enhances the entire tour.

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As the roof filled with people, we went back inside to scope out the remainder of the house, which, as we would find out, has a much more livable layout than yesterday’s Casa Batlló.

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In the attic are displays of Gaudí’s works. Tracy and Mary did their best Godzilla imitation attempting to destroy the replica of Casa Milá.

P1010273Throughout the house we ventured to the Pis de la Pedrera (please insert your own joke here) apartment where we traveled from room to room to see what life was like in early 20th century Barcelona.  From the kitchen…

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…to the bathroom (Pis de la Pedrera indeed)…

1 casa 10…to the study…

1 casa 9 …to the dining room…

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…and more.

P1010280It was an interesting stroll through the apartment. We all agreed we liked this casa better than Casa Battló.

P1010284Ornate doors opened to a beautiful courtyard with a gorgeous grand staircase, and if you don’t think Gaudí was ahead of his time, he also constructed an underground parking structure, one of Barcelona’s first.

P1010285This is another place where advance reservations and early arrival are highly recommended.  When we walked out at 10:15, there were seven tour buses letting off the masses of tourist who descend upon this house.  Instead, we grabbed a quick bite to eat, and then it was time to hit the pavement again.

2 Breakfast We walked toward La Sagrada Familia and our next destination.

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I really enjoyed the different architecture and green spaces we would see on our various sojourns through Barcelona.

P1010290We commented that this had to be one of the cleanest cities we had ever visited in all our trips.

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We came out on the other side of La Sagrada Familia…

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…which is just as crazy as the side we had seen the previous day.  We stood and gawked with others…

P1010300…and then headed up the aptly named Avenida Gaudí, a lovely tree-lined street.  As the path with beautiful light fixtures rose in elevation, La Sagrada Familia appeared even larger as we walked away from it.

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Suddenly I blurted out, “I feel I should go to the hospital.”  Tracy responded, “Damn, this happens every vacation!”

P1010304As Kim and Mary were pulling out their trip insurance documents and Tracy was rethinking that “sickness and in health” oath she sometimes regrets, I replied, “I’m not ill, I just want to see the Hospital de Sant Pau (aka Sant Pau Recinte Modernista…Modernist Complex), and it’s straight in front of us.” The official name is Hospital de Santa Creu i de Sant Pau.

P1000109This Domènech i Montaner architectural gem became our favorite sight in all of Barcelona.  It started out with a stroke (fortunately not by me, but we were at a hospital) of good luck. We arrived at 11:58 and walked to the ticket counter. “I heard you have tours in English…when is the next one?” The answer…”Two minutes.”  The cost: €14 each…it was worth that and more.

4 Hospital 4Our tour guide Marta told us that Domènech i Montaner built this as “A Kingdom Of Health” for poor people, and it earned him his third Barcelona “Best Building” Award in 1912. It took 25 years to complete (1905 – 1930).   After a renovation and restoration process, it opened back up in February of 2014.

P1000137At the time of its construction, the King of Spain was not quite as impressed. He thought that too much money was being spent on poor people and refused to donate any money to the hospital.

                            P1010308Montaner believed an environment that was cheerful and not sterile would help patients heal faster, so along with the buildings there are plentiful, colorful gardens throughout the complex.

4 Hospital 8It’s also the world’s largest Art Nouveau Site, and yet another UNESCO World Heritage spot.

4 Hospital 1Marta first led us through a network of subterranean tunnels that connected the different pavilions (27 of them). It was fascinating.

Once outside, we viewed the incredible buildings, façades and stained glass windows. I felt like we were at an historical Disneyland without the rides. The gardens were planted with herbs and plants dedicated to healing.

P1000113Stone represented death, while ceramic and glass stood for healing. There were ceramics, statues, mosaics and murals at every turn.

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I only wish the day would have had blue skies, because then the buildings would have really popped with color for our photos.

4 Hospital 6There was only one spot in the complex where brick touched the ground…the Surgical Suite. It represented “where life meets death.” I could relate. The Surgical Suite faced north so the sun is behind it all the time and emitted soft light for the surgeons.

P1010324Fruit trees were everywhere.

P1000144Then it was time to enter the Administration Pavilion that looks more like a chapel, which was the whole idea. The “wow” factor rose even higher.

4 Hospital 9Famed Spanish artist, Paul Gargle, decorated the reception area.

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The entrance hall with its columns and beautiful ceilings led to a gorgeous hallway and then staircase that took us to more wonderment located upstairs.

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The ceilings had people gazing upward.

P1010329Luckily no one fell down any stairs while attempting those upward stares.

4 Hospital 12There was a view of La Sagrada Familia out one of the windows.

P1010341The tour lasted nearly 90 minutes and was tremendous.

4 Hospital 11Let me just say…

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…you have to see this place in person to believe it.

P1000168Our taxi ride back to the hotel provided us with more thrills.

Hélio Castroneves is a Sunday driver compared to our guy, who got us back before we could sing the second line of “In Sagrada Familia.”  I quickly changed my shirt that I’d spilled on, and we were off again…to lunch.

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We stopped at a little tapas place in Barri Gotic, where we chose from an array of items on the bar.

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We had chorizo sausage, potato frittata, cheese with blueberry sauce and anchovies…all on crostinis.

P1010348Although the food was pretty good, and my table manners impeccable…

5 Food 3I knew I had to stop eating tapas. Man does not live by bread alone.

P1010346Our next stop almost made the Tracy/Tom “Elevator List.” Kim and Mary enjoyed it more.   The Museu d’Història de la Ciutat (situated in the former Royal Palace) contain Roman ruins, and I’m kind of ruined on ruins.

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All these ruins are starting to run together.

6 RuinsWhat saved Barcelona’s Museum of History from The Elevator List were two things: the palace’s history (the steps are where Isabella and Ferdinand greeted Christopher Columbus) and the Palace Chapel.

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There is a huge altarpiece in the chapel.  It was created by a host of Catalan painters from the 15th century.

P1010362Tracy went back to the Hotel Colon, while Kim, Mary and I walked over to the Museu Picasso to pick up the Articket BCN that Kim had ordered online.  It gets you into six museums (Museu Picasso, Fundació Joan Miró, Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC), Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB), Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) and Fundació Antoni Tàpies). Since we planned to hit three of these museums, it was a no-brainer…Cost €30.   It also lets you skip the line, which is really helpful at the Museu Picasso, because when we picked them up, there was a two-hour wait.

P1010366 We ventured inside.  Not surprisingly, Kim, Mary and I (none of us Picasso fans) were once again baffled by Picasso’s popularity.  He is just not our cup of tea, but there’s no doubt that his museum is very popular.  Fortunately, the Articket BCN let us skip ahead of that two-hour wait time, so we didn’t have to waste much time.  The courtyard at the Museu Picasso (above) was quite tranquil.

P1010369There was some rain beginning to fall as we headed to the hotel.

P1010370When we got back to the Hotel Colon, there was a police presence at the Cathedral (probably someone getting angry at the €7 entrance fee).

P1000010For dinner that evening we headed to El Nacional.  It was raining fairly heavy by now, so we scurried over to our taxi pick-up area in front of the Caixa Bank building, and got into a cab driven by Rodney Dangerfield’s long lost Spanish nephew.

rodney-dangerfieldHe started talking in broken English about his ex-wife and soon that escalated into a five-minute comedy routine. Seinfeld would have been impressed.  Among other comments, he said, “Once I got the number for Pizza Hut, I filed for divorce.” To celebrate his divorce, he traveled to the United States with a fellow taxi driver and would send a postcard to his ex-wife from everyplace he visited.  “Greetings from Atlantic City…F-U!”   The “greeting” would remain the same…only the cities would change.  He would receive our largest tip of the trip…hell he was cheaper and funnier than a Comedy Club.

P1010382We dined at La Braseria, a steakhouse located inside El Nacional.

P1010372A few of the best dishes included a roasted pumpkin soup (poured from a pitcher) with croutons and chorizo (fabulous)…

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…a sirloin steak with French fries…

P1010378…some roasted peppers…

P1010379…and a bitter chocolate fondue accompanied by fresh strawberries waiting to be dipped.

P1010380Our waitress had told us that this heavy downpour was unusual for Barcelona, and we had an important decision to make the following morning. As we went to bed that night with the rain pounding at our hotel, we didn’t know if our plans for the next day would be called on account of inclement weather. If it cleared up, however, we’d be heading for the hills.

Next: Day Four – The Train In Spain, Mountain Basilica, The Near Shutout, Going To The Chapel, Incense & Peppermints, Direcció Barthelona, Lunch At The Bullring, Cascading Fountains, A Nacional Treasure (Part Dos), Joan Of Art, Tracy’s Favorite Piece Of Modern Art, Public Transportation, I Finally Need A Siesta and A Beautiful Restaurant Find


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