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Posts Tagged ‘Barcelona’

I left you on the last post with a lovely street scene.  We were on our way back to our apartment and lunch.

We did not always eat out at a restaurant when we were hungry.  One of the nice things about the location of our apartment was that within a five minute walk there was a square that was surrounded by restaurants and bars, and a similar distance away there was a street with a farmer’s market and numerous other shops.  Along the way to either of these sites you walked past small supermarkets, bakeries, pharmacies, boutiques, a place where you could buy flooring, and numerous bars and restaurants.

Barcelona, like many other large European cities, does not believe in zoning ordinances or in separating residential areas from commercial ones.  What could be more convenient than walking two doors down from your place of residence to acquire what you need for dinner?   Is it REALLY more convenient to have to drive several miles to the shopping center or mall?   Okay, I could get on a soap box here, but I feel strongly that the idea of being able to shop where you live makes a LOT of sense.

So, the first day we were in Barcelona, right after we checked in to our apartment, we walked over to the farmer’s market and laid in a few supplies.  It was truly an amazing place, filled with stalls that sold everything from books to baked goods.

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It seemed to be organized in sections.  The one you are looking at above was the produce section, but just around the corner was the fish market.  This is just one of the stalls.  There were several dozen different shops selling every kind of fish and seafood you could possibly think of.  Some I did not recognize…

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There were several stalls that specialized in eggs.  This was my favorite.   She had quail eggs, hen eggs, duck eggs, emu eggs, ostrich eggs, every kind of egg you could think of.  And it was so beautifully arranged.

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This was Jim’s favorite stall, selling all sorts of olives and pickles.

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Well, maybe not his favorite.  He liked the cheese and sausage spot too.   We bought some fruit and a few veggies, cheese and sausage. Down the street in the dairy store we found amazing yogurt, and further along there was a bakery where we acquired a baguette.  We were set for in house meals.

The produce stalls at this market did not suffer from the problem we find at our supermarkets, where the apples and tomatoes get bruised from being picked up and put down.  No one touches the produce except the proprietor.   You tell them what they want, they pick it up and package it for you.   You get lots of extra points and approval if you have your own shopping bag, like a proper European.

One of the places we came across on line while we were planning our trip was the Bodega E. Marin.

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It doesn’t look like much, but the place is lined from floor to ceiling with wine and spirits.   That little table to the right in the doorway?  We witnessed a couple of workmen who were on their way to work who stopped off and bought a bit of grappa and an espresso, then drank their beverages at that little shelf before picking up their tool bags and heading off to their job.

This establishment is run by a gentleman who goes out to the wineries in the region and buys barrels of wine.  He brings them back to his shop and sells wine straight out of the barrel.   You can bring your own bottle, or he will sell you one.  This is what some of the collection of barrels looks like.

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This whole idea intrigued us, as you can well imagine, and so we visited Bodega E. Marin and sampled some wine and bought a bottle to take aboard the ship when we started our cruise.   This transaction was complicated by the fact that the gentleman who owns the bodega is fluent in Catalan, has a little Spanish and no English, while I am fluent in English, have a decent Spanish, and no Catalan.   However, with good will, pointing, and baby Spanish we were able to complete our transaction.

This is a shot of Jim waiting while the proprietor pulls the wine we chose from the barrel.  Note the espresso machine on the right.

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This is his tap arrangement.  All those barrels of wine are connected to this by tubing.

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It was a LOT of fun to buy wine this way.  We got 1.5 liters of quite good wine, a bottle, and a glass of wine (we had to buy the glass we tasted) for slightly less than 5 Euros, which worked out to about $6 American with the exchange rate.  Pretty good deal, and we participated in a unique Barcelona experience.

Barcelona has rather unique experiences everywhere.  Down at the beach there are people who do sand sculptures.   They earn a little money by accepting donations from passersby, just like buskers.   Here is a real fire breathing dragon.  Yes, I put money in his box!

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Public art is every where.   This is a large sculpture in a square paying homage to Miró, another very famous artist who lived in Barcelona.

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And along the beachfront, a huge sculpture of a fish.   No purpose except to be really cool.DSCF0325

After enjoying some bread and cheese and fruit at our apartment, we ventured out again to explore the Old City.  This is a section of narrow streets that are completely dedicated to pedestrians.   You could easily lose your way in this maze of narrow twisting streets.

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This was the scene outside one of the little bars that were all over this section of the city.   The man who owned the place was dancing an impromptu flamenco.  I loved the sign.

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Part of the reason we wanted to explore this part of Barcelona was because this was where there is a section of the original Roman wall that enclosed the city way back before there was a Spain or Barcelona…

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We found it.  There was also a section near a square, and we were fascinated by the way the city grew up around the wall and incorporated it.   You can see the old arches of the city gates within the structure of the wall.

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For a second, look at a couple of pictures in this post and note the wonderful granite and basalt stones that the streets of the Old Quarter are made of.  I had reason to discover on this trip that stone is harder than kneecaps.   I missed a curb that afternoon, after successfully negotiating Park Güell and all the walking to and fro.

When I fell, I heard my lovely new camera smack against the pavement.  When I looked up from the shocking fall, I found myself surrounded by concerned residents and tourists.  I was asked in at least four languages if I needed an ambulance.

I reassured everyone that I was not in need of transport to a hospital, and with great concern tried to see if the camera was broken or not.

“We can buy cameras everywhere.   I’m pretty sure they are for sale in Barcelona,” my loving spouse told me with a certain amount of asperity.  “How are YOU?”

“Oh, I’m okay, I think,” was my response.   “My knee hurts, though.”  It quickly became evident that my knee was progressing expeditiously from “hurt” to “agonizing.”   We started walking towards the metro so we could go home, immediately shelving all ideas of stopping for a drink.   Within moments my massage therapist training kicked in, though, and I told Jim I thought I ought to try to get some ice on my knee PDQ.  Where to get ice?

We came across a bar, and my thought was that a bar serving drinks was going to have ice available.   As soon as I crossed the threshold, though, I knew that establishment was not going to be able to help me.  They were slammed, full of people wanting their afternoon refreshment.  The waiters were rushing about madly.  We left the place without bothering them.  Right next door was one of the small restaurants that were everywhere in Barcelona.   They had no customers at all.

We went in.   I was doing very well with my high school spanish until I tried to excavate the operative word for what it was I needed from the depths of my memory.   The proprietress really wanted to know what it was I was in need of, but the shock and pain of my injury caused the word for ice (hielo) to disappear from my mind.   I was floundering, near to tears by this time.   All I could think of to do was pull up my pants leg and show her my knee.

Well!   That was the perfect thing to do.   “Sientese!” she commanded,  adding “Usted necesita hielo!”   Yep, I did!   She bustled around the bar and brought me ice immediately, along with some napkins to mop up the melt water.   Once she got me settled, and I was apologizing for the mess, I was ordered to “No te preocupa.” (Don’t worry)   A rapid fire series of orders were issued to her husband, who disappeared for a short while and returned with a chunk of very cold ice from their deep freeze, which was probably located in a different building entirely.

Eventually, I decided that I really needed a mojito, so we ordered a couple.   They were excellent!  Meanwhile, the restaurant filled with customers, which made me very happy to see how their kindness and generosity was being rewarded by the universe.

After enjoying our drinks, we expressed our gratitude profusely to our generous hostess, who brushed it off as of course it was the right thing to do.  So we made our way home on the metro, and I was extremely grateful for the Barcelonan custom of youngsters giving their seats up to their elders.   I really needed to sit.  The 61 stairs up to the apartment were  a real purgatory, and while I rested Jim went off to buy more ice from the little supermarket across the street.

After the cruise, when we got home, after I had limped me way through Malaga, Gibraltar, Funchal and our cruise, I went off to the doctor and found out that my fall had actually fractured my knee cap, and bruised the meniscus and joint capsule as well.   No wonder it hurt so much for so long.

I’m fine now.   But I don’t recommend the personal experience of finding out just how hard stone paving is in relation to tissue and bone.

 

 

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For some reason, I cannot get the umlaut into my title.  So I apologize for starting this post off with a technical error.

I am not really a food blogger, so I am not going to regale you with the amazing food that we found to eat, all within easy walking distance of our Airbnb apartment.  Let me just say that Barcelona is much like Seville:  every where you turn there is a little hole in the wall that will sate you with wonderful food and great wine and beer.   Finding a place to eat is not a problem.   Deciding which one of dozens of options you are going to patronize IS the problem.

That being said, we had a wonderful dinner after our adventures at the Maritime Museum, and the next day was the day chosen to visit Park Güell.  We had purchased our tickets to this attraction on line, weeks before our trip.

A little history is in order.  Güell was a wealthy industrialist who admired Gaudí’s vision.  Together they decided to establish a planned community in the hills outside Barcelona.  Gaudí designed the whole place, including innovative ideas like separating vehicular traffic from pedestrians.   He envisioned a central market place, where the inhabitants could shop without having to go downtown.   This market place, called the Colonnade, was completely covered so the vendors could be in the shade.  On top of it was a large flat square for public gatherings, games, fairs and the like, that was completely surrounded by a structure known as the Undulating Bench.   There were public gardens planned.

Unfortunately, the idea did not take off.   Güell had a house constructed in the community, and so did Gaudi.  But they didn’t sell enough lots and ultimately Güell donated the entire property to the city of Barcelona for a public park.

The above photos are taken of the outer wall that surrounds Park Güell.  Alternating along the whole wall are these mosaics.   It really pretty much tells you in a nutshell what you are going to find inside.  There are fantastic walls and constructs of unworked native stone, and fabulous mosaics made of porcelain and glass.

We decided that since the park was only about a mile from our apartment, we would walk there.  We started out giving ourselves plenty of time just in case we got lost (we did not even though we have NO [gasp] GPS and rely completely on maps printed on paper [second gasp]).

It was a very pleasant walk along streets that were NOT choked with traffic.   The transports of choice seem to be either feet combined with public transit, or scooters.   Most of the streets in the area we were walking through were one lane, and one way.   It was quite wonderful and peaceful.   Along the way I spent quite a while admiring the brick work that was ubiquitous.

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Every structure in this part of town seemed to display gorgeous examples of the mason’s art.  Of course there were plenty of people who felt that they needed street side security for their windows.   But it also seemed that if you felt like you needed security you didn’t necessarily want to uglify your building.

I liked this one, where the barbed wire of the security grill was woven into a spider web.

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I also really liked this ironwork grill.

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So much so that I had to put my camera through its paces to get some art shots of it, while my very patient husband waited.   He was not feeling any urgency at that point.   We were within a couple of blocks of the entrance to the  park and we were about 45 minutes early for our appointed time of entry.   So he admired the view of Barcelona while I clicked away.

We enjoyed the view of the iconic entry to Park Güell as we descended the staircase that led to it.

We were still quite early, and so in no rush to join the queue at the entrance.   Along the way we paused to admire the fantasy of palms that were visible inside the park.

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They were inhabited by parrots who were busy eating the tiny fruits the trees were bearing.  Later on, within the park, we came across a colony of the same parrots who had chicks in nests, anxiously awaiting their parents’ return from foraging.

Finally the time arrived, and we entered the park.   Before you get to the famous sculptural section that we had paid to see, we walked past very plain stone retaining walls.   These were inhabited by an impressive selection of lizards, who were availing themselves of the drain holes the masons had left in the walls.

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These are just a couple of the different species sunning themselves.  As I was standing there taking the portraits of these reptiles, the crowds that were streaming by in their rush to view the work of Gaudí paused to try to see what I might be photographing.   They seemed to be concerned that they might be missing something that wasn’t in their guidebooks, which of course they were!   But to a person, not one of them “got” what I was interested in.  I know, I’m fairly weird.

Presently we proceeded along in the wake of the crowd, and were immediately surrounded by the mosaic work that Park Güell is noted for.

Believe me, there are dozens of shots I took of this artistry.  Everywhere you turned, there was color covering organic forms in concrete.   The blue tiles above are a good image of Gaudí’s artistic vision.   He haunted the porcelain factories of Barcelona, buying up their seconds and broken pieces.  The square tiles above were probably seconds, which he brought to the site and then had broken so they could be laid around the curves of the concrete structures.

I also like the white ceramic tile with its border of raw stone.   The juxtapositions of these materials happened over and over throughout the park.

Once we had sufficiently admired the mosaic walls, we proceeded to the main staircase where the Salamander resides.  This mosaic fountain is probably one of the most famous images of Gaudí’s sculpture.  You can find “Draco” everywhere in Barcelona: on tea towels, trivets, coffee cups, etc. etc.  A few years ago some madman attacked him with a sledge hammer, but he is fully restored now.

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I don’t want you to think that it was EASY to get this shot.  It required quite a lot of patience, because most of the time the fountain and its surroundings look like this:

We continued on our pilgrimage, past more amazing rock work and mosaics.  The Colonnade itself is a wonderful sculptural place, and I can imagine how pleasant it must have been to be able to set up your market stall in this deep shade in the summer, and out of the rain during the winter.

The ceiling of the colonnade is decorated with numerous medallions.  These installations epitomize the way Gaudí scavenged for mosaic material.  I believe he may have been the original recycler.

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This is one of the central medallions in the ceiling of the Colonnade.  Take a close look at it before you move on.   Notice the bottoms of cups and saucers around the central flower.   Notice that the arm of the flower at 12 o’clock appears to have been formed in part by a broken porcelain figurine.  You can see its chest and arm, and you can also see the bottoms of bottles elsewhere in the form.

Oh here.   Just take a look at a series of shots I took of the medallions in the ceiling.  I was fascinated.

Above the Colonnade is the square with the Undulating Bench.   This bench was also decorated with mosaics made from porcelain, bottles, and broken tiles.

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On the back side there were drains and gutters.   I loved the fact that where the water was draining from the square the details in the concrete were water drops.

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I didn’t take a lot of pictures of the buildings where Güell and Gaudí lived.   But here is a detail of the windows of the home built for Güell.

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One of the other features of the park is the road/walkway system.   This was specifically designed to keep the pedestrians safe.  The walkways were under and shaded by the roads.

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Here is another one of the walkways.  The rock work was designed to mimic the bark of the local trees.

In another area, there were spectacular spirals worked into the pillars.

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By this time, we were overcome by the crowds and were suffering from sensory overload, so we decided to leave the park and have some lunch.    We walked back to our little apartment, enjoying the sights of the residential streets of Barcelona along the way.

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We all have a bucket list.   Ever since our good friend Doug went to Barcelona over a decade ago and came home with amazing photos of his odyssey through Gaudí’s architecture, I’ve felt a need to go see it for myself.   Then my niece went there just a few years ago, and reinforced that desire.

We like to cruise, and we REALLY like cruising on Seabourn’s ships.   I believe I have written about what that is like on previous occasions.   You can search “Seabourn” on my blog and find several posts, one all about the on board experience.   you can find it here.  Anyway, when we found a Seabourn repositioning cruise that began in Barcelona, we decided to book a cabin.   We traveled to Spain several days in advance of the sailing date, so that we could do some sight seeing.

First, let me tell you right away that if you decide to go to Barcelona and want to visit some of the popular sites, it is WELL WORTH getting on line and booking your tickets to those sites in advance.  The most popular venues are ticketed in such a way that the number of people inside is controlled, so they do not get too crowded. Your ticket will have a date and time, and you must be there during the window of opportunity for entry.   If you show up at the place you want to visit with no ticket, you may find yourself waiting in a very long line and then perhaps not even be able to get in that day, or possibly having to wait several hours before you can enter.  So take my advice and BOOK AHEAD.

That all being said, I have to tell you that I wish we had planned to stay much longer in the city of Barcelona.   There is a LOT to see and do, and it is a fantastic place to eat, drink and be merry as well as be completely gobsmacked by art and architecture and history.  We booked a very nice apartment through Airbnb, and completely enjoyed our non-hotel experience.

So.   To the sights!   While Barcelona is host to a myriad of amazing artists, the one we were most interested in on this trip was Gaudí.  I will not bore you with a biography of this architect.   If you are interested, google him and you will have PLENTY of fodder for your edification.

Our apartment was in the village of Gracia, a few blocks off the main drag.  Every time we walked down to catch the metro, we walked past two of Gaudí’s very famous buildings: La Perdrera and Casa Batlló.  We never actually paid for the interior tours available for these buildings, and in retrospect we probably should have.   There are thousands of images of these, so I’m just going to favor you with a few of my favorite captures from the street.

La Perdrera:  The exterior of this iconic house is sculptural.  Bear in mind that this was designed and built in 1906-10.

Almost directly across the street is Casa Batlló.   Apparently, the owner of La Pedrera saw this house and immediately hired Gaudí to build his own surrealistic paradise.  The exterior mosaics and roofs are amazing.   We spent a lot of time standing around just looking at them.

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We did not spend our first day immersed in architecture, though.   We planned a fairly easy day to accommodate our jet lag.  We took the metro down to the maritime museum and spent a pleasant morning being awed by the gigantic building and the amazing models within it.

Called the Drassanes, this place began as a shipyard for the Spanish royal navy, construction of which happened in the 13th century.   In the 16th century, another building was put on top of the original.   When they were doing excavations during the restoration in the 2000s, they discovered a Roman cemetery beneath it all.  Needless to say, the place has been around for a long time, and the structure itself is probably even more interesting than the ships and models inside it.

Bear in mind that the gold encrusted royal yacht in the right hand shot is 60 meters long.

Before we even got into the museum, we were captivated by this wonderful wooden submarine.   It was donated to Barcelona in 1859!  This is a replica of the original.DSCF0269

After spending several hours in the museum, we walked along the waterfront to a restaurant serving Neapolitan style pizza, baked in an authentic wood fired oven imported from Naples.

The pizza was great!

I will continue this odyssey in the next post….

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