Monday, January 9, 2012

Barcelona

I love Barcelona!
Andrea and I have been fortunate enough to go there last January and to return again this year for a week over New Year's Eve.

We were not planning to go on a trip this holiday season but I recently joined a site called Trusted House Sitters which as it sounds is a place to find house sitting opportunities around the world. As the house sitter, I take care of the person's house and animals and in exchange I basically get to go on vacation for free. Pretty awesome, right? So I signed up and I have responded to a few people's ads asking for a house sitter but in general the response rate has been close to zero. When I emailed the family in Barcelona I figured it would be the same but to my surprise the family emailed back and within a few days we had a week trip to Barcelona planned. Once there our responsibilities included feeding their cat and dog, Elvis and Roxy respectively, twice a day and taking Roxy for at least one walk a day and in exchange we got to stay in their lovely apartment that was located only 5 minutes walk away from the beach and walking distance or a short metro ride from the center of Barcelona! We felt like we got a double bonus as we got a free place to stay and we got to have these two as our pets for the week...


Elvis and Roxy
 

Barcelona is very special to me as I feel like it possesses so many wonderful factors that are rarely found all together in one city. One of my favorite things about Barcelona is that it is truly a city for the people. The city seems to be planned and constructed in such a way that it encourages people to come out of their individual dwellings and to spend time together outside in the city.

There are benches and chairs all over the city (it doesn't hurt that often they are also beautifully designed).

There are playgrounds for children tucked all over the city.

Pedestrian walkways abound throughout the city and are heavily used by walkers, runners, bicyclists and rollerbladers.

There is also a palpable appreciation and respect for art in Barcelona. This trip we did not step foot inside a museum but I do not feel like we missed out as we were still able to experience so much wonderful art by just walking around the city. At times it feels like an art treasure hunt as often wonderfully beautiful pieces of art are tucked away in places that could be easily missed which makes it feel all the more special when you spot it.

a little dragon 

beautiful stained glass storefront
I am not usually one to notice architecture but in Barcelona it made me stop in my tracks. I love the intricate details on these windows.
a beautiful passageway between two buildings
a griffin atop one of the waterfront buildings 
Miró's circular tile mosaic on the Ramblas

Lichtenstein's El Cap de Barcelona



The colorfully tiled roof of one of the many markets in the city.
 

A striking nude in Placa Catalunya.
    

staircase statue


The fat cat. It is suppose to bring you luck if you climb on top of him unaided.
 

A completely random but captivating statue in the middle of the beach.

 And then of course there is Gaudi whose work always strikes me as dream like and other worldly.


The rooftop adornments at the Palau Güell.


This was the first Gaudi work I saw on our previous trip and I must admit my first thought was that they had decorated for Christmas. I quickly learned to recognize the playful colors and shapes as part of Gaudi's unique style.


A Gothic looking creature on the front of Gaudi's Palau Güell.
 

Casa Batlló
  

The colors and tiling on the front conjure up an image of dragon's skin.

The colorful roof of Casa Batlló.  
 

The Sagrada Familia


When I arrived in Barcelona for the first time and saw the Sagrada Familia and all of the cranes surrounding it, I thought, oh no it is under renovation. I did not realize that the church, which was started in 1882, was not yet complete. The construction passed the mid-point in 2010 and there is an anticipated completion date of 2026, for the centennial of Gaudi's death, but as the construction relies on private donations the date is tentative.


It is fun to see the church ever evolving and changing. To me it almost feels as if it were alive - growing similarly to a tree. I like to think that this would make Gaudi, who was largely inspired by nature, smile.


a close up of the Nativity Facade


the Passion Facade
 

The interior of the Sagrada Familia has brilliant rainbow colored stained glass
 

and columns that are reminiscent of trees. To me the interior feels more like a New Age worship center than a Roman Catholic church which was consecrated  by the Pope.

the main entrance to Park Güell

beautiful mosaic ceiling
 

the main terrace of Park Güell with more stunning mosaics 


the main terrace with views of the Sagrada Familia to the left and the sea


the view back towards the main entrance from the terrace
 

I love this structure in Park Güell. It looks like a sand castle which has begun to melt.

Are you ready for my absolute favorite place in Barcelona? Literally, I could spend hours there everyday and be so very happy.


The Mercat de la Boqueria!

This is the most wonderful market I have ever been to. It seems like there is everything you could want inside from fruits and vegetables, all kinds of meat (probably more kinds and pieces than you want to know about), legumes and grains, eggs (and not only chicken), seafood, the list is truly endless.



one of the seafood booths
 

all different kinds of shrimp




Dried chillies, fruits and vegetables.

I loved looking at the booths and seeing so many different kinds of fruits and vegetables that I had never seen before in my life.


The market is like a rainbow of colors and smells.
 

One of my favorite things to buy at the market is one of the fresh juices offered at many of the different fruit booths. They are only 1 euro and there are combinations like orange mango and coconut pineapple. Yum!

Barcelona is a wonderful city because of all of these things and it is made infinitely better by the fact that it is located on a long stretch of coast. There is a great neighborhood called Barceloneta that borders the sea and encompasses the laid back vibe of a beach town while still being part of the large city of Barcelona.


A street in Barceloneta with the many balconies facing the street and laundry flapping in the wind.

Along the beach there is a wonderful pedestrian walkway which provides a direct path from some of the outlying beach neighborhoods into downtown Barcelona. It is also a nice place to stroll and take in the sea breeze and there are plenty of restaurants and bars to choose from if a break or a cocktail is needed.

Last year, we spotted the ladies in the left of this picture casually walking on their stilts along the walkway.
 

Each day there are people along the beach creating intricate sand castles often complete with flowing water and fire (there was fire coming out of this castle at the top right).

Sunset over the harbor with Montjuic in the background.

Our last evening in Barcelona we took Roxy to the beach. We rolled up our jeans and walked in the water as the sun set in the distance. A perfect close to a very nice, unexpected trip and a great start to the New Year.


 Check back later this week for a post about our favorite restaurant in Barcelona (and possibly the world) and a post about what makes Barcelona different from other cities in Spain.
 

1 comment:

Joshua and Ashley said...

so jealous of your Gauidi architecture encounter!