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BARCELONA: Gothic to Gaudi

September 26th, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

Barcelona has been on our “must see” list as long as we have been in the Med, and did not disappoint.  Even from the sea, Barcelona is a city of contrasts.

Arriving by boat with a reservation at Reial Club Maritim, the contrast between the “old” and “new” Barcelona is evident from the skyline.

High rise buildings along the coast are in striking contrast to the sepia colors of Old Barcelona.

The Westin Hotel, a black monolith, dominates the harbor entrance. . .not what I expected.

We had made reservations at Reial Club Maritim, a private club/marina that sits right under the famous Mirador a Colom, a 19th century monument to the glory of  Christopher Columbus. 

Entry into the marina is through a swing bridge that is a pedestrian walkway to the Convention Center.

The club is in the heart of Barcelona.  On one side is Gothic architecture and on the other the modern Convention Center and large shopping mall.

From our berth. . .

Columbus points the way to the "New World". . .to which we will soon return.

The statue of Columbus sits high atop an ornate column and is visible over an equally ornate building that sits on the waterfront, making for an incredible view from Destiny.

The wide tree-lined boulevards, classic architecture and cafes are reminiscent of Paris–another favorite city.

Tree lined streets with whimiscal wrought iron street lights. . .

are interspersed with monuments to the past.

The glory of Barcelona’s Gothic past is reflected in its Cathedral and many of its buildings.

Barcelona's Gothic Cathedral. . .

has an elevator that takes you to the roof for an impressive view of the towers and a birdseye view of medieval Barcelona.

The interior architecture of the Cathedral is austere but imposing.

Modern Barcelona is juxtaposed with its Gothic history.

Modern buildings sit side-by-side with exotic Gothic structures. . .

with ceramic tile roofs. . .

Romanesque facades. . .

and castle-like public buildings, such as this one facing the harbor.

But Barcelona is probably best known as a place where a mix of art and architecture have produced some of the most amazing contemporary buildings in the world.  Antoni Gaudi, a late 19th century architect who died in 1926 is viewed as a visionary in contemporary architecture who transformed buildings into an art form.

In 1833 Gaudi became chief architect for a neo-Gothic church known as La Sagrada Familia.  This church which is designed to hold 13,000 worshipers obviously predates modern tele-ministry and has been under construction for 130 years.  The projected completion date is 2020-40.

La Sagrada Familia rises above the trees of a nearby park. . .

but Gaudi's "masterpiece" is expressed in the many details that make up the structure which are impossible to capture in a single picture.

Gaudi is buried in a crypt under the church, but during his life brought “modernism” to Barcelona architecture in the way that Picasso transformed the art world.  Another of his crowning achievements is the avant garde, La Pedrera with curvy balconies decorated with highly stylized metal vines and chimney pots reminscent of the storybook fairy chimneys.

La Pedrara seems to be in motion. . .

with not a straight line to be seen, and art-deco flora & fauna accents on each balcony.

My favorite Gaudi creation is Casa Batlio, a private apartment house that is whimsical by day and sparkles by night. 

Casa Batlio is a fairy tale residence. . .just up the street from La Pedrera.

Throughout Barcelona there are avant garde scupltures, that some would call “art” and others less Picasso-minded may think of as weird.  Some of the buildings also fall into that category.

Only in Barcelona are you likely to see a building shaped like. . .a certain male appendage:)

Architecture aside, there are many things to like about Barcelona.  It has a great subway and bus system.  For the conservation minded, there bicycles that can be rented and dropped at various locations in the city.

Kent checks out the self-serve bike rentals at Cataluyna Square in Central Barcelona.

 Barcelona is also known for its great food–tapas, paealla, sangria by the pitcher, but that would be another whole post.  Suffice it to say that we ate very well, but still couldn’t resist a little “taste of home”.

There seems to be a Burger King in every country, but at 8 euros for a burger it isn't a bargain.

Unfortunately, we had only a few days in Barcelona, so only got a flavor of the place by visiting some of the most popular sights.  You could spend a month in this city and still not see everything.  Next time, we do the museums!

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