Sunday, 8 February 2009

Playing Catch Up, Part Three: Gawping at Gaudi

Well, I guess the title and the photo above give the game away. To our utter amazement we made it to Barcelona on Tuesday as scheduled, our flight only delayed a scant 10 minutes or so.

It was an evening flight, so we saw little of the city that evening apart from through the windows of our taxi to the hotel.

The next morning (Wednesday), after a breakfast of delicious Spanish pastries and excellent coffee served with hot milk we set out to explore. Cathy and Julian are both fans of Gaudi, so there were plenty of places we were keen to see. After working out the mysteries of the city's Metro system we found ourselves in the old part of the city casting admiring glances everywhere.

That first day we explored the Barri Gotic, La Rambla and its environs, a Gaudi exhibition in the Cathedral museum, and after lunch we took the Metro to La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's immense unfinished masterwork. This truly is a marvellous, amazing, unique, impossible building. Even now, more than 80 years after Gaudi's untimely death, it is still an immense building site. And yet... it still had - to me at least - a magical, sacred atmosphere that made my spine tingle.

Outside, one end of the building depicts the Nativity in a cascade of flowing stonework that brings to mind a humoungous melted wedding cake. The immense towers and spires are attended by giant cranes and scaffolding as the vast project continues. At the other end of the building, imposing angular figures form an epic depiction of the Passion.

Amazing though the exterior is, it was in the interior that the atmosphere really struck me. Strange, considering that at the present time the interior is full of building materials and workmen in hard hats hammering, sawing and drilling in that vast echoing space. Hardly a place one would expect to have much atmosphere, and yet I was moved almost to tears by what I felt there. Perhaps it is partly that Gaudi designed it as a stylised forest, but somehow I think it is more than that - though I am at a loss to accurately convey it in words or pictures. Just go and see for yourself!

After a long day of walking through the city, we returned to the hotel promising ourselves we would have a more restful day on Thursday. We should have realised we were tempting fate by making such a statement!

Setting off on Thursday morning full of enthusiasm for more Gaudi, we opted to visit Parc Guell, an 11-acre city park for which Gaudi designed the infrastructure and much of the landscaping. Our tip: if you wish to see Parc Guell, do not follow the directions given in the Lonely Planet guidebook unless you fancy walking miles out of your way. We must have added a good couple of miles to our route and by the time we arrived we were tetchy and footsore.

Parc Guell proved a little disappointing after La Sagrada Familia, being crowded, noisy and lacking the same 'Wow Factor'. Or perhaps we were just too tired to appreciate it! Nevertheless, there were still plenty of amazing sights to see - Gaudi is so unique. My favourite area was the vaulted market place with its rainbow ceiling mosaics.

Not long after we left the park, the weather turned and we holed up in an excellent restaurant which restored our good spirits while we waited out the rain. We returned to the hotel to rest up for a couple of hours before our planned evening excursion, for me the highlight and raison d'etre of the whole trip...

[To be continued]


Mike Farley said...

MORE MORE MORE! I love it! And I would LOVE to visit Barcelona. You make it sound so fabulous. And that is the city Barcelona, not the planet, where the dogs have no noses.

aromatic said...

This is fasinating and I am loving the continued stories.... and I cannot wait until the next part!
You have written this so well. Loving all the pictures also!!
Love Jane xxx

Griffin said...

Cor! Wow! You lucky, lucky thing! I love Gaudi too! You're right, he IS unique. In books of Art Nouveau architecture he's lumped in with the rest, but he doesn't quite fit. He is utterly unique and there has never been another soul like him since... alas!

Ta for the pix tho', those are lovely. Shows his Moorish influences too.

Sunny said...

I was in Barcelona once and thanks to you I'm there again.

solsticedreamer~laoi gaul~williams said...

oh i have always wanted to go there~you lucky thing!

Liz said...

Love Gaudi - my fav thing about Barcelona :)

Liz said...

Love Gaudi - my fav thing about Barcelona :)