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Published: January 26th 2017
Not too crowded on this wintery day
My Easyjet flight from Bristol landed in Barcelona 20 minutes early, definately a good start to my stay! The weather had a lot to answer for though, it was cold and rainy and not at all what I was hoping for.
Before visiting a new destination I always research places of interest and how I'm going to get around. I choose accomodation and find the nearest metro, pour over street maps, metro maps, and read, read, read. You can never be too prepared! So I already knew how I was going to find my accomodation for the next four nights - via the metro from the airport and then on foot.
The L9 metro line from the airport was opened only last year, and has it's own ticket, aptly named 'Airport Ticket', costing just €4.50 or $6.40. I alighted at Diagonal Station and walked from there.
I knew that my accomodation had no street sign so could be a little hard to locate, and I did walk the block several times before finding a tiny sign inside a doorway with a heavy grille door. It opened onto a wide communal hallway with a marble floor and the tiniest
and oldest lift I have ever seen....and no sign of a B&B anywhere!
I eventually found it on the first floor, again just a door with a buzzer, after being pointed in the right direction by a woman on the ground floor. So, I'm settled into my room at The Forgetmenot+ B&B in the L'Eixample district. This area is famous for being home to the majority of Barcelona's art nouveau masterpieces, and is a high-class residential and shopping area and very centrally located.
After settling in I headed out again, walking back to Diagonal Station where I purchased a T10 ticket from the vending machine. This ticket entitles me to 10 trips in Zone 1 which should cover all the attractions I want to visit. At €9.95 or, in Aussie dollars, $1.40 per trip, it's good value.
I was heading to Barcelona's most famous street, La Rambla. A tree lined pedestrian mall, it stretches for 1.2klm, from Placa de Catalunya to the Christopher Columbus monument at Port Vell. Dotted with the usual souvenior stalls, flower stands and tapas restaurants in tents, I was more impressed with the beautiful buildings lining La Rambla and the endless variety of
metal balconies, shuttered windows and decorated facades on display.
It was rainy and cold when I visited the La Boqueria Food Market, supposedly one of Europe's largest and most famous and can be found on La Ramblas. I wasn't that impressed, I think I've seen too many Asian food markets to get excited about this one.
I never did make it to the Port Vell end, preferring instead to wander off and explore the Gothic quarter of Barri Gotic, which is the centre of the old city of Barcelona. My Lonely Planet guide had a walking tour of this area, which I used to find my way to Barcelona Cathedral, entrance fee €7 or $9.90.
This Cathedral is an important example of Catalan Gothic architecture and services are still held here regularly as it is Barcelona's main place of worship. Someone was playing the massive organ during my visit, adding a sombre element. I did look for the geese which, supposedly, lived in the cloisters, but couldn't see any. I took the lift to the roof for photos.
On returning to La Rambla, I visited the first of the Antonio Gaudi buildings I've come here especially
to see - Palau Guell. But first some background information on this brilliant Catalian architect....
Antonio Gaudi was born in 1852, into a copper-smithing family. He showed an early interest in architecture, and went to study in Barcelona, Spain's most modern city at the time, around 1870. After his studies were interrupted by military service, Gaudí graduated from the Provincial School of Architecture in 1878. I've read that his tutors claimed they have unleashed either a lunatic or a genius on the world....
Gaudi created works of remarkable symbolism and spirituality, and was an expert craftsman. In collaboration with artists of his time, he designed all the architectural elements: works from forged iron, furniture, ceramics, sculptures, mosaics and stained glass windows. His forms were always organic and curved and he got his inspiration from nature. He died in 1926 after being run over by a tram. At the time of his death he was thought to be a pauper as he had nothing but orange peel in his pocket. He was a very pious and religious man, living with few personal possessions.
Palau Guell was the first commission Gaudi received from Eusebi Guell, an industrialist, politician and
patron was was to become his greatest client and best friend. Gaudi incorporated an entirely new perception of light and space, and has used richly decorative details in wrought iron, pottery, glass, stone and wood that were highly original.
I booked an audio tour of this property for €12 or $17, so walked around on my own with the device glued to my ear. Not all rooms were open to the public, but certainly enough to make the visit worth while. I walked through the coach house, underground stables, some of the beautifully decorated rooms, servants quarters and finally to the roof top terrace.
The Casa Milà, also known as La Pedrera, is an unique modernist structure built between 1906 and 1912 by Antonio Gaudi and declared a UNESCO world heritage in 1984. Even though the official name of the building is Casa Mila (Mila House) in reference to the Mila family who commissioned it and lived there, it was nicknamed “La Pedrera” for its exterior appearance that looks like an opencast quarry.
An after dark light and sound show on the roof of this building was my final activity for the day. I walked from my
accomodation for the 7pm start as La Pedrera was only a block down the road from Diagonal Station. This particular tour only covered the entrance area and one of the two internal courtyards, the attic where there is a modest museum focusing on Gaudi's concepts and inspiration and then the roof with it's giant chimney pots where the light and sound show was held.
During construction, Gaudi wanted to put a tall statue of the Virgin Mary on the roof as well, but when the Milo family said no, Gaudi resigned from the project in disgust and the building was finished without him.
A very busy first day in Barcelona! My feet ached as I walked back to the B&B after the show, and I'm looking forward to a good nights sleep before hitting the streets again tomorrow!
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