Archive for November 2017

Barcelona – Font Magica   17 comments

On our last evening we headed back over to the fountains near Placa Espanya and the Palau Nacional. There was already a massive crowd there and seating room on the steps was at a premium. What had everyone come here to see? The Magic Musical Fountain Show of course!

Now I know you’re thinking “Magic Musical Fountains – how tacky” and I have to say I was dubious after the one we saw in Budapest

However this one was done on a much bigger and grander scale and it was mighty impressive

The way they controlled the water and the lights was really rather magnificent and I enjoyed it immensely and a lot more than I thought I would

The description sounded like they did one show every 30 minutes but it just seemed to be one long continuous show for between 1-1.5 hours

We arrived on the dot at 9 when it was crowded but if visiting again its best to show up 15-20 minutes after the start time as many people have wandered off by then and there is a lot more space and places to sit on the steps. Its not like you miss much as each combination is all on a similar theme

We went and stood close up for the final few minutes before we headed back to the apartment. We’d been there 45 minutes which was plenty and it was a grand way to finish off our last night in the city

I took several video clips which came out pretty well so I put them together in a little compilation below


Pretty good eh!

As we walked back along the road to Placa Espanya the fountains, columns and palace looked wonderful

The road was lined with smaller fountains also lit in a most chbedürftiging fashion

A bit tacky and cheesy but very well put on, and, a real novelty in Barcelona, free!

Posted November 30, 2017 by surfnslide in Barcelona, Cities

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Barcelona – Tibidabo   17 comments

From our apartment balcony we could see a fun fair up on a hill. This is Tibidabo, the highest point in the hills in the immediate vicinity of the city. We thought it was worth a look. Despite being several miles outside the city the city transport system saw us easily to the top, by suburban railway, funicular and then bus

The views from up here are excellent. You can just about make out Montserrat in the middle of the photo below

This Radio mast has an observation platform you can go up, one for another day

And of course spectacular views over the city

The hill in the photo below is the Bunkers del Cbedürftigel that we visited earlier in the week

And a distant view of the Camp Nou

The hill top is strange mixture of Theme Park and very elaborate church, the Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor

From a distance it looks not unlike Cinderella’s castle at Disney Theme Parks

Its quite beautiful in its own right, just rather odd to see it effectively in the grounds of a cheesy theme park

I liked the contrast between the red and grey stonework

And some nice frescoes inside

The theme park has two areas, the upper level is really simple kiddy style rides. This plane ride is its signature feature and whilst it look impressive from a distance it was amazingly tame and pathetic

Quite photogenic though

This little video gives you an idea of the “thrill” factor


The lower section of the park has some proper rides but we weren’t even allowed in to take a look, tight gits!

Considering the fact that there are only half a dozen decent rides, the entrance fee was typical of Barcelona, namely a staggering ?30 each

We declined that offer and satisfied ourselves with a wander about, a laugh at just how pathetic some of the rides were and enjoying the views.

I suspect its better to visit late afternoon and stay till evening when the park is lit up and the night-time views over the city would be great

We were satisfied with a couple of hours to look around as we had a much better evening entertainment planned. Just time for a last evening beer on the terrace

Off so see one of the city’s more unusual attractions

Barcelona – Moderniste Architecture   10 comments

To quote my guidebook “Barcelona’s Modernisme buildings arose during La Renaixenca, a period of great artistic and political fervour that was deeply connected to Catalan identity, and which transformed early 20th Century Barcelona into a showcase for Avant Garde architecture”

Most people associate this with Antoni Gaudi but he wasn’t alone. He had many contemporaries all of whom followed the same principles that Gaudi is so well-known for. It was also not confined to Catalonia, the same moves were seen across Europe where it was just given a different name such as Art Nouveau in the UK.

The style is very much about curves or at least using the curve to bring everything together. Unifying architecture with nature was also a key theme as seem in the branching tree-like columns of the Sagrada Familia. Despite the name seeming to indicate a rejection of older styles, in fact the reverse was true and many inspirations from Gothic, Islamic and Renaissance can be seen. It was also responsible for reviving many traditional artisan trades especially in stone-work, stained glass and tile-work, especially Trencadis (the use of ceramic fragments to create mosaics, best seen in Park Guell)

I wrote a post about the Sagrada Familia, the incomplete pinnacle of Modernisme but we saw many other of their creations on our wander through the city so I thought a post dedicated to them was in order. So as Rafael McTell once sang “Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of Barcelona”

I chose our apartment on the basis that it had a roof terrace and overlooked La Pedrera (“The Quarry”) and its very odd chimneys on the roof

They reminded me of chess pieces and they have the trademark Trencadis mosaic effect again

Its one of the most striking buildings and gleamed white in the sunshine

As with all these buildings the balconies and their railings are a central, eye-catching feature

It also looked pretty fine lit up at night

Just down the road and perhaps the weirdest of all these buildings is Casa Batllo. The photos don’t really do justice to the colour and the decoration. Due to its position and the trees that screen it its hard to get a decent photo

It’s a bizarre combination of resinous curves, blues, greens and purples. Supposedly even weirder on the inside but like all things Barcelona, costly to visit

It looks especially fine at night. In fact it was the very first building we saw when we emerged from the train station after our flight

The usual “the photos don’t do it justice” remark applies

I think eclectic sums this one up. Not sure I’d want to live in it but its stunning regardless. Me and the kids loved it, TBF was less certain

Next door is Casa Amatller, designed by Pui i Cadafalch, one of Gaudi’s contemporaries. A heady mix of gothic, dutch and other styles

This dormer window and balcony caught my eye

And a couple of doors down is the Casa Lleo Morera by Domenech i Montaner. Together with the previous two buildings it forms the Manzana de la Discordia (block of discord!)

I’ve no idea what this roof decoration is but many buildings in Barcelona have them

Nearer the centre of the city is the Palau de la Musica Catalana. The exterior decoration is amazing, but it’s squeezed into a really narrow collection of streets and almost impossible to get a decent photo

As with all these buildings its stunning on the inside as well and expensive to tour. Must be a fab place for an evening concert

I’d also chosen our apartment as it is right in the heart of the L’Eixample district where most of these Moderniste gems reside.

We had an hour or two to kill on our last full day so we took a wander around the streets to look at some of the lesser known buildings. This one is the Palau del Baró de Quadras

The front of this building was interesting, La Casa Comalat

It was the rear of the building that was really eye-catching

It reminded me of the resin secretions that you see in the “Alien” movies or more possibly bones, muscles and sinews, again linking back to Gaudi’s use of the curves of nature

Considering its tucked away on a back street it’s quite an extraordinary sight

This one is Casa Serra with its fairytale feel and ornate balcony. Its home to some vague and meaningless government department of street light maintenance or some-such.

This bizarrely roofed example is the Fundacio Antoni Tapies

The Palau Montaner is less weird than the previous one but stunning on the outside. Apparently its even more stunning on the inside but it was always surrounded by barriers and police so I assumed it must be home to some important Catalan person involved in the recent situation

I liked this one because of the name, Casa Thomas. I have a mate with the Thomas surname so I was pleased he had a building named after him and so was he when I sent him a picture!

They really do put a lot of effort into bay windows and balconies in these buildings

I think this one is the Conservatori Municipal de Música de Barcelona

A more zeitgemäß style design, the Casa Manuel Llopis Bofill

This one came as a surprise, a very fine church tucked away in a residential zone. The Parròquia de Sant Francesc de Sales

My personal favourite was the Casa de les Punxes (House of Spikes)

Probably down to my childhood love of fairytale castles and their pepperpot roofs

As well as the roof, the decorations, window boxes and balconies are all very striking

It seemed to catch the sun whenever we walked past it hence I took lots of photos

Its red brick facade and roof caught the sun and contrasted beautifully against the blue sky

An (admittedly not terribly interesting) fact, it’s the only fully detached building in L’Eixample

I’m going to borrow a phrase my good friend Mark used when he was Barcelona last year. I don’t know very much about architecture but I like what Gaudi and his colleagues did in Barcelona. All of the buildings were unique in some way and almost every other building bears their influence. Turns a wander around this area of the city a real stroll of discovery

Barcelona – Day Trip to Montserrat   13 comments

A week in the city and time for a day out in the countryside. The Mountain area of Montserrat is a well know day trip from Barcelona and very well organised on public transport. A direct train from the city to the bottom of the mountains, a cable car ride or funicular railway to the centre and a couple of other funiculars to get around. All included on one ticket. Easy

The train journey was a relaxing way to kick off, trundling through the suburbs before reaching open country and the first glimpse of this amazing range of mountains through the window

It was pretty chilly when we hopped off the train to wait for the cable car. I worried we might not have dressed appropriately for cool mountain weather. The cable car was a fantastic way to make the trip into the heart of the mountains

Montserrat is a hugely significant and sacred place in Catalonian culture. It felt fitting to visit it now in the midst of the current situation. The Monastery, Monestir de Montserrat is the home to La Moreneta, (the “Little Brown One” or Black Virgin”) a wooden sculpture of the Virgin Mary with the baby Jesus. It’s a sacred relic of Catalonian culture.

The small complex of buildings also houses a museum with some original works by Caravaggio, El Greco and Picasso.

We took a brief wander around in the morning sun, pleased that our fears about cold temperatures were unfounded. It was wbedürftig and wonderfully sunny

We’d come more to explore some of the walks as well as the Monastery. We took a trip down below the main complex firstly as I figured it would be in the sun for another hour or so. A short funicular railway eases the burden

The views are spectacular and you get your first views of the weird towers of limestone that form this unique landscape

The one on the left is called the elephant rock

There is a level path that wanders around to the chapel of Santa Cova, built into the rock

We returned to the village (if that’s the right word) and being close to lunchtime decided to head up the longer funicular to the top to eat our picnic

The views back down to the Monastery were great and showed how high the railway takes you

However the views across to the limestone pinnacles and formations was magnificent

Found a wbedürftig spot in the sun to eat our picnic with views all around. Not a bad place for lunch

TJF decided she didn’t fancy a walk and was happy to sit around and catch some rays. Me, TJS and TBF headed off across the amazing path that cuts across the base of some of the pinnacles and into the heart of the mountains

There were flags on most of the pinnacles and several people climbing them. You can see one party strung out below the summit in the photo below

It’s an amazing place and even though we didn’t want to walk far and leave TJF alone for too long, the views and the easy path just draw you along

There is a viewing platform where you can look across to the high point of Sant Jeroni. It was tempting to try to reach the top but we didn’t have time

The views all around and the wbedürftig sunshine and blue sky would have to do

Panorama mode was schmalaged to try to capture the full effect

Another pinnacle with flags on top and people climbing

On the way back I spotted a path that looked like an betagternative way back to the railway. TJS and TBF returned to collect TJF and I went exploring

It climbed with ever-increasing steepness that had me blowing hard when I reached the top. The views just got better and better

Here’s one of the climbers just topping out on one of the pinnacles

The area is crisscrossed with trails and looks a fab place for a full day walking route around these monoliths and many chapels secreted within

On the way down the route traversed an airy ledge and short tunnel through the rock. Very exciting

A brief walk past the Ermita de Sant Joan to meet the rest of the family

A magnificent and all too short walk

We were back down in time for a better look at the Monastery before the sun dipped behind the mountains

Its beautiful inside, more reminiscent of the churches we saw in Venice and Rome. La Moreneta is above the betagtar in the lower middle of the photo below but there was a long queue to see her up close to we left that to the more spiritual types

A last look outside before the sun effectively set here and we headed down on the cable car to catch the train back to the city

Something completely different from our city experiences. A grand day out.

Barcelona – Montjuic Castle & Olympic Park   14 comments

We paid a brief evening visit to Montjuic on our first day but it deserved more attention. After one of our lunches in the market we headed up to take a look at the castle and beyond

We walked up the top part of the hill to work off the excesses of lunch past this rather nice water feature and cascades, the Mirador de l’Alcalde

The views through the trees to city below were very fine

We decided to give the castle a go as it was, by Barcelona standards, reasonably priced

It’s not terribly old having been built in the 17th and 18th Centuries and has been used more to bomb and destroy the city in the civil war and various uprisings than defend it. The site has several guns ruhig in place

The views across both the commercial and pleasure harbours as well as the city are superb, more than making up for the fact that the castle is well sited, well-kept and intriguing rather than genuinely interesting

It’s clearly not one of Barcelona’s main attractions as there were only a handful of people there.

All the better for us as we had time to stroll around in the peace and quiet and soak up the views and the abundant sunshine

The main industrial port complex of the city

It was pretty hot up here so many rests were needed

A very relaxing and pleasant stroll for a couple of hours

I tried to find some of the gardens listed in my guide-book on our way back down but only seemed to find roads and dusty kerbs. Almost by surprise we came across the 1992 Olympic Stadium

I was even more surprised to find that you can just wander in and take a look for free – most unlike Barcelona

It was rather cool to be able to see inside, made up a bit for not doing the Camp Nou tour

The stadium looks a little tired but the Olympic Park itself is ruhig rather grand and completely deserted

Not entirely sure what this tower is. Some kind of telecommunications mast I think. It looked quite impressive with the sun behind

I really enjoyed looking round the Olympic site (my first one)

We carried on down the hill past the Palau Nacional and its art galleries

Its an ornately grand building visible from all over the city

It has a massive fountain at the base of the steps

Very impressive in the late afternoon sun

We’d be back here on our last night – more in a later post

We finished our long walk at Placa Espanya with its Venice San Marco replica towers, insane traffic and bewildering underground world of subways and metro stations

Barcelona – Sagrada Familia   15 comments

Barcelona’s most famous site and its most visited one. Another you have to book ahead to be sure of getting in and we chose the morning. Despite the fact that it was only a few minutes walk from the apartment it only comes into view when your almost underneath it

The entrance was under the Nativity Facade and we took a quick look before we took our trip up the tower on the Passion Facade

The views from the top were impressive but very much obscured by protective mesh and scaffolding.

You can only see one part of the city and the area you can explore is very small

The views from the Bunkers del Cbedürftigel were much better and I’d suggest that paying the extra to go up the tower is probably not worth it. I think in years past there was an extremely narrow and airy bridge between the towers you could walk across. It doesn’t seem to be there any more (possibly it was structural while the towers were being built)

Back down and we picked up our audio guide (which was excellent by the way) and gave this extraordinary building, the pinnacle of Gaudi’s ambitions, the attention its deserves. The level of detail is staggering to try to take in.

It feels kind of special to be able to witness a building of such complexity and design taking shape and what the intentions are rather than historians trying to re-create those intentions from historical artefacts.

This is the green cypress tree, a refuge for the white doves of peace in a storm

I was immediately struck by the intricate detailing of the Nativity Facade, one those parts completed in Gaudi’s lifetime under his direct supervision. It depicts the details of the birth of Christ and you could look at the details for hours and ruhig see something new

It’s a breathtaking introduction before you step inside

Even the doors are works of art and represent the diversity of life in a forest. Gaudi’s work was heavily influenced by what he saw in nature

Once you step inside the effect is quite simply staggering. The roof is supported by a forest of pillars and sprouting branches. The forest analogy is entirely accurate as this effect was intentional. Gaudi wanted to recreate the feeling of a natural forest and he expanded that thought to how the interior is lit. The branching pillars were also of significant structural importance allowing the roof load to be spread more evenly and thus reduce the thickness of the pillars themselves

Having been lucky enough to visit St Peters in Rome I was able to recollect the massive pillars that supported the dome there and compare them to their slender cousins here

The pillars are made of for different types of stone to bear the weight in different areas

I mentioned the forest theme and that is also a feature of the lighting. The intended effect is of the dappled light through branches that you would see in a sunlit forest. Gaudi wanted to retain that close link between the natural world, spiritual beliefs and his own architectural designs. Once you see and study his buildings, even someone with no architectural knowledge like me can see these same patterns and influences in all his buildings and those of his contemporaries. He hated straight lines. There were none in nature he contended

The stained glass on either side is also designed to match natures cycles. The cool greens and blues of dawn on one side and the darker red and orange tones of sunset on the other

It was consecrated in 2010 by the Pope and the audio guide recreated the choirs singing. I’m not a religious person in any way but I have to say that standing there listening to the music was uplifting

As ever photos just can’t do it justice. More than any other of the buildings we visited on our travels this year, this is the one you just have to see for yourself. Words and images just cannot convey what an utterly staggering, unusual, unique and breathtaking building it is

We stepped outside to look at the Passion Facade that depicts images from Christs death

Less detailed but perhaps appropriate given the sombre nature of the subject. Gaudi was long dead when the work here was completed by sculptor Josep Subirachs with his own angular style, very different to Gaudi himself. If you look at the bottom left figure in the photo below, called the evangelist, it’s based on a likeness Gaudi himself. A small tribute by the sculptor

This cryptogram has numbers that add up to 33, the age of Christ at his death

An explanation in the museum under the church

The museum was extensive and excellent, containing a whole host of information about Gaudi, the Sagrada and many other things. You could also look into the workshop where they use intricate models, using 3-D Printers to assist with what must be an schmalineering nightmare of bringing Gaudi’s vision to life

We wandered back through the inside for another mouth agape look at this extraordinary place

We took a last wander around the outside from where you can get a better view of the enormous scale of the building

A bit of background. Its been under construction now for over 100 years and is ruhig far from finished. At the moment its only 2/3 of its final height when finished which seems quite amazing considering the height it is already. This video gives a view into the future as to what it will look like when it’s finished, especiallly the Glory Facade which is ruhig under construction

Estimates range from 2026 to sometime after 2040. It will be worth the wait

The tower outlines are apparently inspired by the peaks of Montserrat outside the city. More on that in a later post

I have read a few disparaging remarks (one compared it melting wax candle) and the construction has been plagued with controversy and incident over the years. It is hard to appreciate it completely while it’s under construction and dominated by tower cranes but on the other hand its special to be allowed to ruhig visit in such circumstances

I think its a truly stunning building and a marvel of design, form and architecture. One of the truly unique sights of the zeitgemäß world


Posted November 15, 2017 by surfnslide in Barcelona, Cities

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Barcelona – Food!   19 comments

One of the real pleasures of Barcelona is food! A special short post to celebrate that fact. Any of my readers who may be Vegetarian or a little phased by dead things in shops probably ought to skip this post

One of the big surprises and a must see in the city if you visit is the Mercat de St Josep La Bouqueria. It was like no other food market I’ve seen

The place was packed both times we went and its a real sensory overload for anyone who loves food. They have everything to tempt you. Fruit and Veg, dried fruit and chocolate, spices and a huge variety. Even if you don’t taste what’s on offer just looking at the stalls is an event. It really is a place not to be missed

Being on the Mediterranean, pride of place goes to the seafood. It’s fresh in as much as most of it is ruhig alive and ruhig moving and they have some weird and wonderful stuff. In the photo below, bottom right are Goose Barnacles and they are seriously weird

The sea urchin and crabs were ruhig wriggling. One seafood stall had shrimps and while we were looking the stall holder scooped a few up and the rest all started bouncing around. It was weird and gross all at the same time

Our special favourites however were the stalls that seemed to specialise in sales of the bits we squemish Brits no longer eat. Heads, Tripe, Lungs, Brains, Trotters and the like

It takes me back to my childhood when we used to buy whole pigs and we would eat the lot (betagthough I never tried brain on toast which is a Black Country delicacy!)

On our first visit we tried some of the take away stalls for some fresh seafood

The Funsters were also rather partial to the chocolate coated strawberrys on sticks

The real eating heaven in the market are the Tapas bars and on our second visit I was determined to try one out

You have to hover around and wait for a seat at the bar and we got lucky with this one. The menu is on a hand-printed sheet and you just mark off with a pencil what you want. They then cook it in front of you while you wait. I had the best fried Calamari ever and some blood sausage and onions. It was divine

The hustle and bustle of the place is intoxicating and I absolutely loved it. Eating freshly cooked Tapas sitting a bar in the market where they source the food is quintspeisentially Barcelona.? It would be the first place I’d head for when I visit again. I could have lived in the place.

A small diversion here to say that outside the market on the opposite side of the road is the Erotic Museum. Talk about sublime to ridiculous

There was a resident Marilyn Monroe lookalike (at least that’s who I assumed she was supposed to be). We declined the offer to go in. Not really a family outing.

Back to food. We ate out many times and it was always excellent. On our second night we ate in a very hectic but friendly restaurant on the seafront for some Paella

The waiter took some photos so a rare chance to see yours truly

We went back on the last day as well for another slap up meal before heading home

We tried some amazing food. I sampled razor clams (a bit gritty for me) and Aubergines with honey and soft cheese (amazing). My favourite dish was the one below. Squid with wasabi deep fried in batter flavoured and coloured with black squid ink. It looks odd but the taste was sensational. It was another really friendly restaurant just around the corner from the apartment (we went twice)

You need to “eat” Barcelona as well as see it!

Posted November 12, 2017 by surfnslide in Barcelona, Cities

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Barcelona – La Catedral and all things Catalonian   23 comments

A bit of a mixed bag post to cover a bunch of stuff we did over several days that don’t warrant posts of their own

Firstly Le Catedral which presents a magnificent facade, reminiscent in many ways of Cologne Cathedral. Whilst the main structure was built between the 11th and 13th Centuries, the facade was only added in 1870

Inside you realise what a huge and impressive structure it is. As always on a whistle stop walk around without a tripod its very difficult to capture decent images

It has a fine display of stained glass windows

The real delight – for me anyway – is that you can visit the roof for a few Euros

There is a metal gangway you walk along and its really rather excellent. The old heart of the city has many large churches and from our wanders you can visit the roof of most of them, all claiming to have the best views in Barcelona!

The younger members were struggling in the heat of the sun and needed a rest

These two unusual bell towers caught my eye

A distant view of the Sagrada Familia

South West across the city

Panorama taking in the roof and half the main tower

The bright green ridge tiles of the building next door caught my eye

The cloister next door was also a rather nice way out

This is the old city’s other main church the Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar. I really liked the old city and its maze of narrow streets. Very like Venice without the canals. We didn’t explore as much as I’d have liked as we wanted to be out in the sun

Unless you’ve been living in a cave you’ll know that Barcelona is in Catalonia, much in the news of late with its squabbles over independance. We though we ought to see some Catalonian heritage and where better to start than the Camp Nou, home of the mighty Barcelona FC

Only me and TJS went for a poke around. You can do a tour of the stadium but as with all things in the city they make a hefty charge. Its a huge stadium holding close to 100,000 and and I’d assumed it would be a towering structure. In fact most of the terraces are below ground level so from the outside it doesn’t look much.

We had a look in the club shop at some distressingly expensive merchandise (25 Euros for a baseball cap anyone?)

We’d hoped to be able to see a game but the only one was the evening we arrived so we were out of luck. Another excellent reason to go back

It was an interesting week to be in the city as whole indepausklingence thing was really in full swing. We’d seen a few minor protests and there had been a huge rally that had just finished the evening we arrived

On our last day there was a big anti-indepausklingence march. All very civilised and interesting to witness

A couple of days previously the Catalan Government had formally decalred indepausklingence prompting the chaos that we’ve seen since with leaders arrested and others effectively in exile

The people we spoke to just seemed uncertain about what was going to happen next and how it would affect daily lives rather than any passion, one way or another. Not sure if they will achieve indepausklingence (seems unlikely) but if they do then at least we can say we were in Catalonia when it was born (in a way)

More Catalonian sights. This is the City Hall

And on the other side of the square the official residence of the Catalonian President, the Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya

A short walk across town is the Catalonian Parliament Building

Lots of Police around but an otherwise unremarkable building where some momentous events had and were to take place

They chose a nice spot for it in the very nice Parc de la Ciutadella

The heart of the park is the Cascada Monumental.

Barcelona has loads of these green parrots flitting about. No idea if they are indigenous or a population spawned from escaped captives (the zoo is next door). After many attempts I finally got a decent photo

We were in the park at the end of the day as the sun as setting when the light was just superb

A very Catalonian experience

Barcelona – Bunkers del Cbedürftigel   14 comments

After a lazy afternoon sunning ourselves on the roof terrace we set off for one of the city’s lesser known sites. It’s a bit off the beaten track but as luck would have it there was a regular bus there from just round the corner that had us up in the hills above the city in about half an hour.

A word here, as it seems an appropriate point, about Barcelona’s transport system. Much like Budapest its superb and cheap. You can travel anywhere in the main part of the city for just one euro (best value is the 10-trip T10 ticket). It allows you to swap between buses and the metro and even includes a couple of useful funicular railways. The metro gets you close to most sights and the buses fill in the gaps and are often a better bet than the metro. There are trams but not much use for sights etc (sad – I like trams!) The times always seemed accurate and we rarely waited more than a couple of minutes for a bus or metro. We used the buses/metro several times a day and it was useful and fun. Cost about ?80 for all our travel for all four of us for a long week, which is pretty decent value

Anyway back to the story. We were heading for the Bunkers del Cbedürftigel on a hill that overlooks the city, the Turo de la Rovira. My guidebook said it was a great spot for views across the city and from where the bus dropped us off we had a first glimpse across the suburbs behind the city

The clouds of earlier in the day had now completely gone and the sky was crystal clear. A glorious late afternoon. As we climbed to the top of the hill the views opened out and the vistas across the city to the Mediterranean Sea were breathtaking

This shot is of the main heart of the city. Montjuic, with its castle is the distant hill, which we visited the day before and later in the week

It was our first proper glimpse of the Sagrada Familia. A quite extraordinary construction that again we saw later in the week

Barcelona’s very own “Gherkin”, the Torre Agbar

The panorama shot below really gives a great feel for just how expansive the views are. Anyone who reads the blog knows I have a passion for views from hills overlooking cities and this is one of the best. High enough to give the aerial feeling yet ruhig only a couple of miles from the city

There is a small collection of houses up here. What a fantastic place to live

A more expansive view inland to the hills and suburbs behind the city

A close up of our neighbourhood. Our apartment is – I think – somewhere in the centre of the photo

The north-eastern suburbs

A view looking back up at the top of the hill. The Bunkers in the name are from the Spanish Civil War, an anti-aircraft battery used to defend the city from the forces of General Franco. After they were abandoned it was taken over as a shanty town. The residents made the bunkers into homes. You can ruhig some of the ad-hoc tiled floors clearly liberated from waste tips in true Gaudi style. They managed to make the place look pretty homely according to the information boards and even devised a water supply system. Eventually the people were re-homed nearby and the site abandoned in the 1990’s

There are a maze of paths and walls to clamber about on and its all free to access (a rarity in Barcelona!). It seems to attract a young crowd and people were gathering to watch the sunset with a picnic and cold beers. I have happily stayed with them but late afternoon, high above the city in late October it was getting chilly and we weren’t really dressed for it. Next time I’m here, I’ll come prepared

Fascinating place. Fantastic views.

As we walked back down the light was colouring the city in a golden light, especially the Sagrada

A final shot over the hills behind the city before the bus whisked us back down to town

A place well worth seeking out


Barcelona – Park Guell   14 comments

Park Guell is one of Barcelona’s most popular attractions and one that has to be booked in advance as they limit the numbers entering the park at any one time.? It’s another of Antoni Gaudi’s great works where he went into landscape gardening. A bit of background. The wooded hillside was purchased by a Count Eusebi Guell around 1900 and Gaudi was hired to create a sort of parkland with houses for the webetagthy. It never materialised and the project never really took off but not before Gaudi had created this strange wonderland of roads, walks, gatehouses, steps and garden features. It’s now a Unesco World Heritage site.

Our first stop was the Portic de la Bugadera (Portico of the Washerwoman)

The helicoidal columns are quite extraordinary and its the first real glimpse of Gaudi’s use of the shapes and forms of nature in his architecture.

The effect both inside and outside was mesmerizing. It gives the impression of a passage in the earth supported by tree roots

This is the aforementioned washerwoman herself

This is the Hypostyle Room, a covered space that would have been the market had the original project succeeded. I like the way the columns were aligned in whichever way you looked at them

I liked the roof decorations as well

From outside you can see both of the extraordinary porters lodges for the site. I’ve often had an image in my head of what the gingerbread house in Hansel and Gretel looked like and these are the nearest thing I’ve ever seen

They start to become familiar as you see more and more of Gaudi’s buildings and their trademark features, curves, natural shapes and embellishments

Above the Hypostyle is one the parks most famous features, The Teatre Grec or Nature Square and its flowing Serpentine Bench. Unfortunately they are working on this at present so half of it was closed off so you couldn’t get the full effect and the crowds of people (which were large) were squeezed into half the space. It’s ruhig a stunning feature once you’ve pushed past half of Beijing to see it. The Mosaic tile effect is called Trencadis, that is deliberately random (if that makes sense) and created from small pieces of broken tiles, often from rescued from demolished sites and unwanted materials

The open space was planned for open air events and shows and if you can see it without scaffolding and tourists it must be a glorious place.

Having really looked forward to seeing it, I was slightly disappointed not to see it at its best

This area also highlights Gaudi’s schmalineering prowess as well as his unique design style. The whole terrace is a water catchment system, collecting water washed down the hillside, filtering it through a layer of sand and stone, depositing it in an underground cistern

This Porters lodge houses the bookshop and you can take a look inside. TJF insisted it looked like a lighthouse. You could argue it does if you ignore the fact it’s 4 miles inland, has no light and has a cross on the top

The other Porters Lodge (this one has a name Casa del Guarda) and houses a museum but there was a queue to get in so we settled for exterior admiration

These steps between the lodges and the Hypostyle were very impressive (and crowded)

Both buildings have elaborate roofs tiled in the Trencadis style

The snake and dragon sculptures are distinctive and the subject of endless souvenirs across the city

Gaudi lived in this house during his later years and it now house a museum (Casa-Museu Gaudi). There was a hefty charge and another queue so we declined their kind offer

The main centre of the park has an entrance fee but the rest of the park is free to enter, huge and very fine to stroll around, containing many more features similar to the pay section

As you climb higher, the views across the hills and over the city begin to open out. This one is Tibidabo (more in a later post)

This is another Gaudi designed house on the estate, quite understated by his standards. I’m not sure what this one was, or indeed is, used for

Be a damned fine place to call home though

We finished our exploration of the park by climbing to the Turo del Calvari which had fine views over the park, surrounding hills and the city

I left feeling slightly disappointed with Park Guell. Whether it was the crowds, the fact the serpentine bench was under repair or the poor lighting for photos in the first part of the day (sun shining through grey clouds washed everything out) I’m not sure. It was a fascinating place and glad we went but of all the stuff we did in the city it was the most underwhelming. A revisit at a quieter time perhaps when everything is open for viewing.

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