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Here are some more pictures from our last day in Barcelona.
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After visiting the Parc Güell, the four of us split paths with the wives opting for shopping and Chris and I deciding to take the Hop On Hop Off and get an overview of the city before meeting the girls later to wander up La Rambla. The Barcelona Bus Turistic has three different routes and we took the western route which took us past the Olympic Stadium as well as the waterfront. One of the first buildings we passed was the Casa Mila, better known as La Pedrera. This is one of the buildings designed by Antonio Gaudi.
The Summer Olympics were held in Barcelona in 1992 and many of the buildings and public spaces are a lasting legacy. The Montjuic Communications Tower is in the Olympic Park and was used to transmit television coverage of the games.
The Olympic Stadium is still used and was home to Barcelona’s football team until 2009. Many rock concerts are staged there. It was built in 1927 and completely renovated for the 1992 Olympics.
Cable cars run from Montjuic to the waterfront and are very popular though we did not go on them. The bus took us past the waterfront where we got off to explore on our own before meeting the ladies.
Barcelona’s waterfront is amazing. Extensive broad pedestrian paths, many shops and restaurants and a lot of intriguing public art. There is a lot of interesting architecture. One prominent feature is a giant sculture of a fish, El Peix, by Canadian architect Frank Gehry. Gehry is also known for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain and the Experience Music Project in Seattle.
Another sculpture is of Gambrinus, a giant lobster. It used to be the mascot of a restaurant called Gambrinus. When the restaurant closed down, the city bought and restored the lobster as public art. A right friendly looking chap he is!
At one end is a large public beach. The Spaniards are not as prudish as some and topless sunbathing is common here.
We walked up the beach and out along the breakwater, stopping to dip our toes in the Mediterranean for the first time. The breakwater is popular with fishermen and just for walking along.
We walked back past the Spanish Natural Gas Company’s building and along the boardwalk to the statue of Christopher Columbus to meet the ladies. Along the way we noticed many parked motorcyles as well as places where you could rent bicycles. Bikes and motorbikes are very popular in Barcelona.
The statue is at the end of La Rambla, Barcelona’s famous street market, and the four of us headed out to take in the sights. And sights there were. The street is full of stands selling a myriad of different products. Fruits, vegetables and other foodstuffs, to be sure, but also exotic pets – ferrets and hedgehogs, as well as a lot of birds.
There were also a lot of street entertainers. Very popular are the human statues, people dressed in colourful costumes and posing as statues until someone drops a coin in the hat at which they become quite animated.
There were also a number of entertainers dressed as popular cartoon or movie characters. We saw one dressed as Jack from The Nightmare Before Christmas, and another as Edward Scissorhands. Drop a coin in Ed’s box and he would pretend to snip your hair.
Finally we got to the end of la Rambla – the Plaça de Catalunya. A number of hotels and other buildings overlook the square, a central meeting place for many. We had dinner at one of the restaurants near here.
After dinner we wandered around for a while. We wanted to see the Sagrada Familia at night, which we did. Along the way we noticed great crowds outside every pub and bar. The local football team was playing their great rivals, Madrid and everyone wanted to catch it on television. The home team won and Barcelona became a sea of honking vehicles and flag-waving crowds. A fitting end to our last day in Barcelona.
We loved Barcelona and it is definitely on our list of cities to visit again!
Click on the Photo Gallery link below for more pictures, or just scroll on down if you are on the main page.
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On our last full day in Barcelona we wanted to see everything we had missed so far. A tall order. On our first day we had explored the fabulous Sagrada Familia. On our second day we took a side trip to Figueres to check out the Dali Museum. So we started our third day with a visit to Gaudi’s other masterpiece, the Parc Güell.
We hopped a metro to the Plaça des Lesseps station which is just a fifteen minute walk from the park. Visitors are warned to beware of pickpockets in Barcelona and we encountered one on leaving the station. I was walking up the steps on the right side holding onto the handrail when a young guy came up quickly behind me and tried to barge his way between me and the handrail, but my friend warned me and I held my ground. He went up the stairs empty-handed. When we got to the top I pointed at him and shouted out a warning, “Watch out! That man is a pickpocket.” He gave me an angry scowl and slunk back down into the train station.
The fifteen minute walk took us through some narrow streets and up a fairly steep hill which did have an escalator. When we emerged, there was the elevated plaza that is the centrepiece of the park.
Parc Güell was conceived as a housing development by banker Eusebi Güell. He had acquired a large plot of land on Carmel Hill and commissioned Antoni Gaudi to design the development which was to have sixty upscale houses. Work on the project started in 1900 and continued through 1914 but a variety of factors – complex leaseholds, lack of transportation, and the exclusive nature of the project – doomed the project to failure and only two houses were built, neither designed by Gaudi.
What Gaudi did build was the central terrace, supported by 84 Doric columns, as well as the central staircase leading to the lower terrace. And at the base of the staircase, two buildings – a porter’s lodge and an office (now called the Warden’s House) are pure Gaudi, built when he was at the height of his creative powers. And so were several viaducts, created in Gaudi’s distinctive organic style.
Güell died in 1918 and his heirs sold the property to the city. It opened as a municipal park in 1926.
The terrace is bordered by a long serpentine bench, sometimes called the wave bench. Like many of Gaudi’s works from this time, the bench is inlaid with colourful tiles. The upper terrace commands a brilliant view of the city and the Mediterranean in the distance. Looking down from the terrace, you also see the Porter’s Lodge and the Warden’s House, both also richly covered in mozaic tiles and reflecting Gaudi’s naturalist style – lots of curves.
We descended to the lower terrace and marvelled at the mozaic ceiling between the columns supporting the terrace. The lower terrace itself is often frequented by buskers providing some entertainment for the many visitors.
From the lower terrace we walked down the sweeping staircases and admired the giant mozaic salamander that is the centrepiece and a hallmark of Gaudi’s style.
We then followed a path underneath one of the viaducts. These large structures were quite different in style than the buildings and terrace. The supports and decorative elements were more reminiscent of the Sagrada Familia – a tawny jumble of stonework just piled together. No smooth lines except in the aggregate. Graceful and delicate looking despite the rough hewn edge.
Beneath the viaduct we came across another busker playing his instrument, and the path then took us past the Casa Museu Gaudi. This house was built as a show home for the Park Güell residential project by by Gaudi’s right hand man, Francesc d’Assís Berenguer i Mestres and Gaudi lived there from 1906-1925. It is now a museum dedicated to Gaudi and his works. We did not tour the museum.
We then walked over the viaduct and back down to the Porter’s Lodge which is open to the public as a gift shop.
Inside we found curved spaces everywhere. Gaudi was fond of curves and used them to good advantage. A narrow winding staircase took us upstairs. From the windows we caught a good view of the sweeping stairs leading up to the terrace.
On leaving the gift shop we came across another busker playing in one of the grottos at the base of the staircase. It was an interesting instrument, both percussion and stringed. He hammered at the strings with mallets creating a very pleasant sound.
As we were about to leave Parc Güell we came across someone in a salamander costume. He had a helmet to match which you could wear to pose for pictures with the man. For a modest fee, of course!
We had an enjoyable tour of this popular venue and still had time for more. But the wives and the men had different ideas of fun. So while our wives went shopping, Chris and I jumped aboard the Hop On Hop Off bus and took a last tour of Barcelona. We arranged to meet up with the ladies in the late afternoon at the statue of Christopher Columbus on the waterfront, after which we would explore another must-see Barcelona venue, La Rambla. And that will be the subject of my next post!
Please click on the link below to see an additional photo gallery of the Parc Güell or if you are on the main page, just scroll down. I’ve included links to official websites for the park and for the Gaudi House Museum.
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Figueres is the birthplace of noted surrealist painter Salvador Dali and the site of the Teatre-Museu Gala Salvador Dali – his famous museum. It holds the largest exhibition of Dali’s works in the world, including his personal collection. And it’s not just paintings. There are sculptures, three dimensional set pieces and a lot of interesting oddities that only the mind of the great Dali could have devised.
On the second day of our three days in Barcelona, we decided to take the train to Figueres, a small town about 25 kilometre from the French border and 140 kilometres from Barcelona. It’s a two hour ride through lovely Spanish countryside passing through the occasional small town along the way.
After arriving at Figueres, we left the train station and headed for the Salvador Dali Museum. Our walk took us through a large street market. It was May 1st, May Day, and the town was bustling. Among the street vendors we saw several with life size wooden carvings including one of Tintin, his dog Snowy and a bust of Captain Haddock. But the most unusual carving was a life-size Woody Allen!
Finally we arrived at the Theatre-Museum Dali. It actually was a theatre once which burned down during the Spanish Civil War. In 1960, Dali and the mayor of Figueres decided to rebuild the old theatre as a museum to the town’s most famous son, though actual construction didn’t begin until 1969. The museum opened in 1974 and expansion continued through the 80s. The master himself died in 1989 at the age of 84 and his body is buried in the crypt below the stage at the museum.
Even waiting with the long line to get in was a pleasure as the place is an artistic showpiece, inside and out. The front, where we were waiting features many sculptures, some on top of the building, some on the large balcony, and some in the courtyard.
On the balcony are several figures including a deep sea diver and statues carrying loaves of bread on their heads. Dali’s work is rich in symbolism and bread plays a large role in his work. The guide book says the diver is a “symbol of immersion into the depth of the subconscious that await the visitor.”
After going through the entrance, we passed into a open air courtyard. High walls form a semi-circle around the open space. The centrepiece is an old touring car, an exhibit called Rainy Taxi. Over the hood of the taxi is a statue of a huge buxom woman, The Great Esther by Ernst Fuchs. Behind the car is a huge stack of tires surmounted by two crutches (another element of Dali symbolism found in many of his works) holding a boat, Gala’s Boat. Gala was Dali’s wife and muse.
The car is called Rainy Taxi because it rains – not on top of, but inside of – the taxi. Inside is some greenery and two figures, the driver and a passenger. Live snails crawl around inside. The original Rainy Taxi was created for the 1938 Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme. The one at the Dali Museum is a reproduction.
Behind this tableau is a giant picture window through which you can see the large stage-cupola area. Above this room is a geodesic dome.
The room itself is immense and the centrepiece is the stage curtain, a reproduction of the backdrop for the ballet, Labyrinth (1941). Against one side of the room are displays of artwork in recessed alcoves. The most stunning is a large picture of Gala from behind in the nude. But looked at from a distance, the picture becomes a digital image – a portrait of Abraham Lincoln.
On the other side of the room is a staircase and archways to other galleries. There are a lot of them, some simply galleries of paintings hanging on the wall, and some much more than that.
One such striking room is the Mae West Room. It features a living room with two paintings on the wall, a cabinet with two cubby holes for displaying artwork, and a large sofa shaped like lips. At the front of this set are two large, billowing, yellow curtains pulled back and held by ropes. There is a short staircase to an observation platform in front of this and when you mount it and look at the living room set through a large lens, you see the stylized face of actress Mae West.
There is also a bedroom which features an elaborate bed on dragon legs above which hangs a large tapestry, a reproduction of Dali’s most famous work, The Persistence of Memory.
And yet another room is called the Palace of the Wind and is surmounted by a giant mural on the ceiling. Looking up you see the bottoms of two pairs of feet attached to figures standing up with their upper bodies out of sight in the clouds. The two figures are Dali and Gala “pouring a shower of gold over Figueres and Emporda” according to the guidebook.
There is much more to see here, including rooms with the furniture attached to the ceiling, and a display of stereoscopes. But even upon leaving the museum, surprise await you. As you exit, you look back and see a whole new aspect of the museum – a large rectangular building with a turret at one end. The walls are pink and festooned with figures of bread. Buns really. And on the top of the building, giant eggs alternating with waving mannequins.
The Dali Museum is truly amazing and well worth a day trip from Barcelona. I didn’t have the best camera when I made this trip. Nor did I take as many pictures as I now do on trips. But I did take enough to fill another photo gallery. Click on the link below or scroll down if you are on the main page of the blog. Do check it out!
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Our 2009 trans-Atlantic cruise ended in Barcelona. We stayed three extra days there before flying back to Canada and covered a lot of ground in those three days.
Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain and the capital of Catalonia. Its history goes back to Roman times. Situated on the Mediterranean coast, it is known for its warm climate, beautiful beaches, vibrant retaurants and entertainment and most of all, for its stunning architecture, particularly that of Antoni Gaudi, a pioneer of Catalan Modernism.
After leaving the ship, Janis and I and our friends Chris and Sheila took a shuttle bus to our respective hotels, then met up for a walk around, before settling at a restaurant near the Sagrada Familia for lunch.
Construction on this famous church whose name means Holy Family started in 1882. The work continues to this day with completion expected in 2026, the hundredth anniversary of Gaudi’s death.
We first took a walk around the church, which is huge. The immense scope of the project can be seen from the drawing below. The brown parts are the elements finished so far. The white areas, including the mammoth central tower, are barely started.
The text says: “Drawing of the church showing the completed part and the part that is still to be built. It will help you understand the scale of the work. When it is finished it will have 3 facades (alluding to the Nativity, the Passion and the Glory) and 18 towers (12 on the facades, dedicated to the apostles, 4 to the evangelists, 1 to the Virgin Mary, and the highest one to Jesus).”
Considering they plan to have it completed by 2026, they have got their work cut out for them. The half way point was reached in 2010, 128 years into the project. But the project was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War and went slowly for many years. With modern technology, the work has accelerated.
After walking around the outside we went in, first to see where work was continuing inside. We saw massive scaffolds many stories high, as well as artisans moulding giant cement and stone pieces that would eventually be hoisted into place.
After touring the construction zone, we went through an exhibit explaining Gaudi’s style. One of the fascinating elements of Gaudi’s work is his love affair with nature. Themes like giant pieces of fruit, honeycombs, spirals, roosters, a giant turtle supporting a column and so on, abound. Not to mention that the entire church looks like it is a sandcastle with glops of sand dripping off it.
Then another walk around outside to where we could go up the completed towers themselves. We took an elevator up one tower and exited high above the city. The towers soar above the street level offering a fabulous view of Barcelona. And everywhere – work continues.
After wandering around up in the open air high above the city, we went still higher up the spiral staircase in another tower. These giant shafts are layered with scalloped lookout holes.
Then down to the basement for an exhibit of models Gaudi used in designing the church. Some of these models are a good size in themselves.
Without a doubt, the Sagrada Familia is the must-see sight in Barcelona. Even if you don’t tour inside, you must at least walk around this massive edifice. It is nothing short of spectacular. You’ll find a link to an additional photo gallery after this video from the Sagrada Familia website. The video shows a speeded up version of some of the construction so far followed by an animation of the construction yet to be done, ending on the completed structure planned for 2016.
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The fourth stop on our 2009 cruise was Malaga, a small Spanish city on the Mediterranean 134 kilometres from Gibraltar. As we did in Cadiz, we decided to explore Malaga on our own rather than take an organized excursion. The city is a short hop by bus from the port.
Malaga is an ancient city with a history spanning 2800 years. It was founded by the Phoenicians in 770 BC. Like Cadiz, it is also within the autonomous region of Andalusia.
Upon leaving the ship, we took a short bus ride to the city. We were dropped off at the Paseo Parque, a broad boulevard spanned by parks on both sides. These parks are lush with greenery and the occasional statue and fountain.
We wandered though the Parque de Malaga to a road that took us to the first of two castles, the Alcazaba. The road is flanked by a steep retaining wall which is dotted with little pigeon holes.
Tha Alcazaba is an old fortress built by the Moors from 756 to 780 AD and extensively rebuilt by the Hammudid Dynasty in the 11th Century. It has features of Roman, Moorish and Renaissance architecture.
The roadway took us to an elevator which took us up into the fortress. Inside we found gardens and fountains as well as displays of crockery and other artifacts. There were also stables and drinking troughs for horses. We enjoyed walking around the battlements which command an excellent view of the city.
While we were there, a teacher dressed as a knight explained the history of the Alcazaba to his students. A colourful and interesting outing for the kids.
But the Alcazaba is just one of two Moorish castles in Malaga. The other is a short walk up the hill – the Castillo de Gibralfaro. The road is fairly steep and we passed fields of cacti.
Along the way we got a good view of the Malagueta, Malaga’s bull fighting arena. This 14,000 seat stadium was built in 1874 and bull fights are still staged every year from April through September.
Arriving at the Castillo de Gibralfaro, you enter through a museum showing military uniforms through the ages as well as a model of the two fortresses. There is a similar model at the lower fort. from there you can wander at your leisure. The fort is a large one and offers excellent views of the city from its ramparts. We circumnavigated the parapet as we had done with the lower fort.
At one point there was a sort of small dungeon below the walkway, with a grate above it. My wife and her friend Sheila went to check out the place while I stayed above with the camera. When they entered I shouted down to them, “Look up! Look waaaaaay up!” Someone nearby quickly added, “And I’ll call Rusty!” and we all had a good laugh. A fellow Canadian! The lines come from a popular kid’s show called The Friendly Giant.
We explore some more of the castle and then made our way back to the street level and a beautiful garden park called the Jardines de Pedro Luis Alonso.
We wandered back to downtown through the park flanking the Paseo Parque and stopped at a restaurant for some paella. Then we wandered through part of the downtown with its marble pedestrian ways and beautiful buildings. The city looked so clean and bright. A gorgeous city.
Along the way we came across some street entertainers. They were living statues. They were dressed in gray costumes and stood absolutely still like statues. If you put a coin in a hat, the statues came alive and posed for pictures and gave you a souvenir coloured pebble.
We wandered back towards the ship and passed a bus, half buried in the sidewalk. It was an ad, an unusual billboard for a movie, Fuga de Cerebros, a romantic comedy about young college students. It was panned by critics but the biggest drawing Spanish movie of the year, later released in English as Brain Drain.
We loved Malaga. It is a beautiful city with two great castles to explore, lush green parks, great restaurants an a colourful and entertaining downtown. Well worth a visit.
We took so many pictures you’ll find a separate photo gallery linked below. Or just keep scrolling if you’re on the home page.