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Published: January 28th 2017
The next morning, Thursday 26th (Australia Day back home), I'm up early and ready to head out by 7.30am. I have a pre-purchased ticket to Park Guell, valid for admission between 8.30 and 9.00am. If I miss this time frame I'll have to buy another ticket. Only 400 people are admitted to the park every half hour, in an effort to preserve the area and control the crowds.
But, crowds were something I didn't have to worry about at that time of the morning. I caught the metro to Lesseps Station, one of two you can reach Park Guell from, and walked from there. I had a map, but the route was well signed, and the walk took 20 minutes from the station. The closer I got to the park, the steeper the hill and there were a few steps to negotiate, though two escalators had been installed to make it easier.
Park Guell was deserted, except for a Korean tour group and the occasional other person, when I arrived. Now was my chance to take some photos before crowds took the park over, and they were arriving in droves by 10am.
But first some history on Park
Park Guell - Portico of The Washerwoman
So called because of the rock statue of a washerwoman at one end
Guell, another of Antonio Gaudi's creations.....
When the construction of Park Guell began in 1900, backed by Gaudi's friend Eusebi Guell, the vision was to create an estate for wealthy families, a place outside Barcelona with open spaces and great views to the sea and beyond. The estate made provision for 60 home sites with a network of paths and steps to cope with the steep terrian.
Building work progressed well during the first years of the century, although the conditions imposed on acquiring a plot, the exclusive nature of the estate and a lack of transport made the project unviable and work ceased in 1914. Only 2 homes had been built there, one now a school and the other, which was originally built as a display home, is now a museum. After Guell's death, his heirs offered the park to Barcelona City Council who acquired it in 1922. Four years later it was opened as a public park and became a treasured leisure centre for residents and eventually the huge tourist attraction it is today.
Most of the park is free to visit except for the Monumental Zone, the area where all of Gaudi's beautiful mosaic
Beautiful dining room windows
work and the two pavilions which were to be the porter's lodges of the estate are. Both these buildings have great originality, with beautiful roofs clad with mosaic work and are great examples of Gaudi's curved, free flowing creations.
I spent a morning at Park Guell, enjoying breakfast in the cafe and walking through the gardens. The sheer scope of the mosaic work here is breathtaking and inspiring. Once you leave the Monumental Zone you can't return without purchasing another ticket, there are no 'pass outs'. I also visited Casa-Museu Gaudi, the house in the free section of the park, where Gaudi lived for 20 years, the aforementioned museum. It contains furniture and other fittings like door handles and an amazing door peep-hole, all of which Gaudi designed for the houses he built.
After leaving here, I returned via metro to the Eixample district to track down some other buildings which, according to Lonely Planet, were worth a look. I did find Casa Serra, a neo-gothic building, now Government offices and Casa Comalat, built in 1911 by Salvador Valeri, which shows strong Gaudi influences with its wavy roof and bulging balconies.
Eventually I ended up back on
Passeig de Gracia, after walking a big loop, and found myself standing outside Casa Batllo, a few blocks further down the street from La Pedrera. I have a pre-purchased ticket for a visit tomorrow so can only stand and gawp at the exterior for now, along with dozens of other visitors.
Right next door to Casa Batllo is Casa Amatller, another building worth a visit, so I purchased a ticket for a half hour guided tour (€12 or $17), starting in 20 minutes.
This beautiful building is one of architect Puig i Cadafalch's finest creations, and was built for the Amatller family who made their fortune in chocolate. Inspired by 17th-century Dutch townhouses, it has a distinctive stepped Flemish pediment covered in shiny ceramics, while the lower façade and doorway are decorated with sculptures by Eusebi Arnau. The interior is rather dark so taking decent photos was a challenge.
Unlike Cadafalch, Gaudi was ahead of his time in the way he introduced natural light and fresh air into every room of the houses he designed, something we take for granted these days. The tour ended with chocolate sampling in the original kitchen, which now forms part of
A closer photo of the beautiful detail of the facade
a chocolate and coffee shop on the ground floor. Absolutely the best ever....
Passaig de Gracia is a very upmarket shopping area with some gorgeous shops. I have browsed the sales and resisted the impulse to buy, but it's an enjoyable way to pass some time. I've enjoyed the coffee shops but now pass on the hot chocolate drinks they make here. It's like a melted chocolate bar in a tiny cup, too thick and too sweet for my taste.
Today has been another enjoyable day walking the Barcelona streets and visiting some very special places. All it took to prompt me to visit this city was a photo of the mosaics at Guell Park which I saw on the internet, and now I've seen and touched them for myself.
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