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June 30th 2009
Published: June 30th 2009EDIT THIS ENTRY

It was with much trepidation that we set off for Barcelona. Through chatting with fellow backpackers we were told horror stories of people being pick-pocketed everywhere and prostitutes dragging men off into side streets at night and not letting them go and finally the hostel security safes were all bent out with crowbars and not lockable and more of the like. So as you can imagine our arrival into Barcelona and catching the Metro was somewhat stressed filled especially as when we entered down the stairs into the Metro station some old guy had his wallet nabbed just in front of us... oh shit....Well needless to say we made it without much hassle to our hostel and what a relief it was. Both drenched in sweat (I don’t know if this was from the heat or from the stress of Metro travel during a busy period and being on constant high alert of our belonging) we get checked in and as usual time for a power snooze before we head out to look around.

So far so good with our hostel. We are given these nifty magnetic watch thingys that open the front door to the hostel, our room and our security locker - all in one. No keys to worry about or anything and they are locker specific, way cool. Oh I might mention that our lockers are in one piece and quite secure. So far so good, now for the next step, walking around Las Ramblas - the main drag of Barcelona and also rumoured to be the main target for pick-pockets. After we had empty all valuables from our wallets and our bags and into the lockers for safe keeping, we headed out for a bit of a look around and see how bad this place really is at night.

As we wonder down past the bar that has beer on tap at each table - every Aussie man’s dream, and make it into Las Ramblas we pass all walks of life and had me clutching my handbag probably tighter than necessary as we make it to our destination. Las Ramblas would be approximately 3-4km long and is a big pedestrian way that is bordered by and east-west (could be north-south, I’ve got no idea) one way roads. Shops line the roadside and vary from kebabs to 4* dining and..... more old buildings 😉. In the pedestrian way there are silent buskers that are dressed up in varying standards and holding the good old statue pose. The effort some go to is amazing and they are scattered the length of the Ramblas and there are some that should find another way to make a living. Something else that I noticed is there are flower shops everywhere as well and add a speckle of colour as walking by.

We made it to the top city end of the walk and turned to walk towards the Marina area. At the end of the Ramblas there is a huge statue of Christopher Columbus that is pointing to USA and then onto the Marina area. The Marina area is quite well set up with cinemas, a big shopping arcade, IMAX, Oceanairiam/aquarium and a whole host of restaurants and is a very pleasant spot to pass some time. But the evening was moving on so we walked back to the hostel for some shut-eye before we tackled more of the city.

On Wednesday we wandered back down to the marina to get some new flip-flops/thongs/jandals whatever you want to call them to replace his beloved pair that busted in Valencia. Unfortunate the Havana shop was closed - apparently the guy opened up in the morning and must have decided he had better things to do and was shut by 10.30 not to return - so making do with another brand we set off to the Born district to visit the Picasso Museum of Art.

The first artist we saw was a guy called Kees VanDongen. As the name suggests he is from the Netherlands and through his travels he became friends with Picasso and they worked together is Picassoś studio. His work is displayed in chronological order and it is interesting to see is development as an artist. He was quite prolific with his artwork and had the same love of the more celubrius walks of life and circus folk and experimented with different techniques and forms as he developed his skills.

VanDongen used Picasso partner, Fernande Olivier, in a lot of his early works. As he developed from the more portrait styles he ventured into impressionism, there is one very good piece of 4 people walking/running in the rain and the way that is painted you can almost see the urgency and movement in the scene with the brush strokes. This along with some of the other work in this room we best viewed from a distance to really appreciate each piece. Finally he developed a style he called Fauvism and then ventured onto erotism. We spent about an hour looking through all his work and periods before heading to Picasso section of the museum.

Okay, Picasso...everyone knows his skill with the cubism paintings that are uniquely his forte´ what I didn’t realise was he was painting from 12 years old and at 15 entered competitions with some fantastic portraits. Like with the VanDogen displays Picasso work is set out in chronological order so you can see the development of his art and skill. All I can say is he was an amazing artist and dabbled successfully in all forms of art. There are some spectacular oil paintings, awesome water paintings, there are print works where he sketches onto copper plates then inks them onto paper, pottery, and sculpting...the man did it all. There is even a painting on a big piece of card that he did when he was about 92 years old, about 2 years before he passed away.

As you go through the collection you pass through his development from portraits, to his blue period, then into the rose period and then cubism. I have always been quite naive about artists and art in general so I have learnt a lot about Picasso especially and am blown away by the amount of skill and talent one individual can have and able to push the boundaries of a profession so much. Okay, enough of art Thursday is Gaudi day.

Right, Antoni Gaudi. Most famous piece of work is still under construction and will not be totally completed until 2030. Not bad since work started on the project in 1882, I am talking about the Sagrada Familia, a massive cathedral that Gaudi took over as architect in the late 1800’s and decided to modify the design a little bit...well probably a big bit... This is a massive display of artistry and architecture that leaves you totally blown away on the size of it and the tallest tower is yet to be completed and will stand about 170m high, the existing towers are a mere 75m at the moment.

After you drag yourself away from looking at the intricate detail of the facade of the building - complete with cranes for the ongoing construction - you make it into the shell of the building. There are magnificent stained glass windows, the structural pillars are breathtaking and the roof stunning. It is going to be really hard to find words to accurately describe the impact the interior has on you as it’s so big and complex in its form. Jay & I went a little snap happy with the camera here and then queued for 45 minutes to go up one of the towers for a bird’s eye view of the construction.

Once we had marvelled the inside and watched the ongoing plaster work for a little while we continued into a room that tries to describe Gaudi’s inspiration for his designs. During his childhood he spent a lot of time outdoors observing nature at work and he leans onto natural forms for architecture inspiration. The main columns inside are like trees with branches coming off them to support the roof. As construction is still ongoing inside the floor is bare concrete. There are plasters at work in one side of the building and there is scaffolding throughout the main auditorium. The stained glass windows that are currently in place are beautiful and brilliant in colour and photos just don’t do them justice. Then once you’ve marvelled your way through the interior and go outside for a more detailed and closer view to what is being created.

Outside on the facade Gaudi has represented several stages of Christ’s life. As you look at the facade you see he has mixed into the works all sorts of flora and fauna and through doing so seems to embellish it all the more. The detail that he has gone into designing everything here is unbelievable and he worked on this project for 30 years or so till he died due to an accident onsite.

After going through the Segrada Familia we then head out to see some more of Gaudi’s creations that were houses/apartments, more so to look on the outside with the view to going through them another day before we headed out for the rest of the afternoon at the Gaudi Park.

The Gaudi Park is something else. It’s like a childhood fairytale brought to life with little castles that you can imagine Rapunzel letting her hair down from one of the windows of the two buildings that flank the entry gates. Upon entering you come up to a gorgeous fountain that is not only busy with tourists getting photos but strangely tranquil at the same time. Up a few steps and you see the Gaudi Dragon lizard that is made of multi colours mosaics. When you turn back to look at the entry buildings and look at the roof tops they have little toadstool like structures on them all with mosaics. Turns out Gaudi was into completing his structures with mosaics to give them more depth and colour, a very cool concept that is extremely eye catching.

As you continue up the stairs there is a huge arena with lots of columns (I think it was here that Gaudi experimented with angles and his tree like columns) and lots of recycled broken porcelain white tiles on the roof and some stunning mosaic motifs between the ceiling “grooves”. Once you’ve finished marvelling over these you then go up to the 3rd level and there is an open space with mosaic tiled seats around the edge in a curved pattern that over looks the city to the Mediterranean Sea. Behind are arches and landscaped gardens and yet another one or two levels that can be visited. After a bit of a look around we headed to the Gaudi Museum, which is really his old house with some of his old furniture etc set up the way it was when he was in it. The interesting thing from here is Gaudi was the first to design a chair that was moulded to the human shape so it was more comfortable to sit.

Anyway after a long day it was time to head back for a bit of a nape before we decided on an impromptu visit to the “magic fountain”. A quick ½ hour walk to our destination and WOW, the Magic Fountain is a water, light and music show in one. With the fountain spurting water in time with the music the lights too are timed and the overall effect is spellbinding. I went a little snap happy on the multi shudder setting and ended up with over 100 photos....oops. But anyone going to Barcelona has got to put this on the list.

Friday, right today was a free day from each other. I chose to go up to the Olympic stadium take a few snaps and then out to the Spanish Village have a wonder and then to the Gaudi “house of bones” and finally the zoo. I won’t write much about Thursday as it was a pretty shitty day as lost my favourite scarf (the one in nearly all the photos of me) so spent much of my time backtracking steps till I found it at the first location of the day. Couldn’t find the entry to the village, bypassed the Gaudi house and went straight to the zoo to find it was the most antiquated zoo I think I’ve ever visited and to top it off they had the tiger enclosure closed so I still haven’t seen a tiger on this trip! One good thing did come out of the day though; I went through the Arch de Triomf ....... and into the park before the zoo.

To make up for my crappy day before I headed out early (helped out by our room-mates waking me at 3am and not getting back to sleep) I went to the Casa Batllo (House of Bones) and the Casa Mila (La Pedrera) and was blown away by them both. Gaudi believed in ventilation and was extremely creative in achieving that. The house of bones, as it is commonly referred as, was built by Gaudi for a local family and you can see his use of natural, organic shapes, from the backbone shaped stairwell to turtle shelled shaped skylight at the top. Looking through the main windows you can see where the house got its name from with the bone like shapes at the front of the balcony. As you go through the building you notice the ceiling is not flat, it has curves and shapes, There are arches and very few straight lines. There is a stunning courtyard to look back onto the building and when you make it to the roof top it’s like a fantasy land with the chimneys looking like toadstools and the front of the building looking like the back of some prehistoric dinosaur.

La Pedrera, just down the road, employs the same sort of designs with the ventilation, curved and natural concepts that his signature to him. You start at the roof top and work your way down into one of the apartment buildings. From the roof you see the use of recycled bottles for one of the chimneys to the sentinel shaped groups of chimneys. Downstairs there you go through the apartment and see the many shapes and forms complete with the seaweed like wrought iron balcony. Overall a building by Gaudi is a building that will capture your mind and imagination.

Saturday night Jay and I treated ourselves to attend the Sonar Dance Party Night session. Was pretty cool set up and Orbital and Deadmou5 were awesome and made the late night worthwhile and getting back to the hostel at 7am Sunday morning for a nice long sleep!
Next stop, Italy!


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