Sunday, January 04, 2004

Barcelona - Gaudi day Jan 1

One of the nice things about Gaudi, architect and genius, is that he worked chiefly in Barcelona itself, so his opus is easy to get around. And it's New Year's day, with very little open. We head up to Park Guell, a 20 hectare site which Gaudi developed over 15 years or so. It's a World Heritage site, richly deserved. There's a bit of everything: fairytale gate-houses with mushroom roofs, twisted/sloping columns on walkways, an entire lookout space supported by stone pillars, dog head gargoyles, and viaducts including the 'enamorata' with included love-seats. And the salamander (tiled, huge, kids love it). And that's the best thing about this park, it is loved and used by everyone. Spanish dog walkers. Families, Tourists. Kids of all ages. And from the upper reaches the Sagrada is visible. What a marvellous memorial.
On the way back (the park is around 1.7 km from the Lesseps Metro stop) we have a cafe con leche y pastri (the Catalan language is quite easy to grasp if you've done Latin), then see the Casa Vicens - of which it's said it was the last straight line construction that Gaudi ever built. Very Moorish, rather sadly hemmed in now. Walked out (we got around most of the park). Head off to the main Cathedral which has a rather forbidding feel: they want tourists' money but deter them from being included in services. We visit the cloisters and the nativity scene which has real geese: the cathedral is built over Roman walls and the geese are descended from Roman stock. Lots of very richly gilded and painted saints shrines - dating back to the 14th century. A collection box by each. A service is starting but we don't feel welcome enough to stay. A tapas meal much later, with calamari (tempting fate, read on) back in Placa Reial, and the day is complete. Turns out that the streetlights in this placa (place) are designed by Gaudi - his first-ever commission. We had noted and photographed them first day out. Completes the circle, really.

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