Of Saints and Princes

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July 12th 2008
Published: December 19th 2008
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Despite it being my 'day off' I had an early start. I raced to International House to make use of the internet, met up with one of the girls from the course, did my shopping at the supermarket and took the metro back home in time to meet Ivan by 11. We set off for Casa Battlo which I think has instantly become one of my highlights in Barcelona. The building was just amazing. Casa Batllo was designed by Gaudi for Josep Batllo i Casanovas as his fmaily home and was completed in 1907. The outside of the building is designed to represent the story of St George and the dragon. The rooftop is arched like a dragon's back and the cross shaped turret portrays the sword plunged into the dragon's back. The front facade is made of mottled ceramic pieces meant to look like scales while the window frames and balconies are designed in the shape of bones representing the dragon's previous victims. The interior of the house takes its inspiration from the natural world. It is said that there are no straight lines in Casa Batllo and this seems beliveable.
We began our tour at the foot of a staircase made of beautifully poished wood shaped like an animals back bone. The curved walls were pattered like scales and strange curved windows let light in from above. We entered a small chamber where a mushroom shaped fireplace sheltered two small seats - one for a courting couple to snuggle on and a smaller one opposite for the chaperone! Beyond that was the whirlpool room where the whole ceiling was curved to look like a whirlpool with the light in the centre.
At the end of the tour we took the metro to Palau reial de Pedralbes. The palace is no longer used as a royal residence and instead houses two museums. We weren't particularly interested in the museums but paid to go inside in order to see the inside of the palace. The front of the palace is a pretty yellow and a statue of Isabella II presenting her son Alfons XII stands by the main entrance. We went inside, put our bags through the x-ray machine and walked up the grand staircase. We walked through the exhibits of ceramics and modern art and then went to see the Museu de les Arts Decoratives - where some of the older exhibits dating from the middle ages were interesting. We walked around the upper floor where we could look down on the royal reception room with its ornate thrones and beautiful ceiling paintings. Most of the older artifacts are kept in various palace rooms. The modern exhibits are kept on raised platforms which rather take saway the feeling of being in an old palace. I was very bemused to see modern furnitiure on display and felt like I was viewing someone's living room ove rthe past 60 years rather than walking around a palace museum.
We left the palace and walked around the palace grounds until we found a suitable picnic bench where we could sit and have our picnic. We spent our lunch break watching a newly wed couple having their photographs taken. It was quite amusing to see the poor groom struggling to hold his new bride while the photographers fussed over how her dress hung and her bouquet was arranged. The bride may have looked perfect after all that fussing but the groom was starting to look a bit red in the face! We were joined by a group of pigeons who were eyeing up our crumbs and a few more exotic friends. Apparently all the parrots in Barcelona are simply escaped pets who have managed not only to survive in Barcelona's many parks but also to breed and thrive.
After lunch we walked down to the football stadium as it was so close. We couldn't get in without paying so we just wandered around aimlessly through the crowds of toursidts and FC barca fans. We walked back up towards the park and found a tree to sit under. I think our tour route should be called 'Barcelona - from one patch of shade to another' - we certainly seem to spend most of our time looking for the next cool spot to relax in!
We flicked through my guide book and decided to head for Parc de la Ciutadella. The park first opened to the public in 1869 and later in 1888 became the site for the Universal Exhibition. Close to the park is the Arc de Triomf which was originally constructed by Josep Vilaseca i Casanovas as the grand entrance to the Universal Exhibition. We went from the impressive structure back to the all too familiar metro and then homeward. We found a cafe to have a drink and then left for our respective homes.

Additional photos below
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10th January 2010

name of palm trees
I would love to know what kind of palm tree is in the photo at the Parc de la Ciutadella. Thanks for your answer.
10th January 2010

I'm afriad I have absolutely no idea! There weren't any information plaques on the trees.

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