Gaudí and the Gothic

Un viaje en España – Day 10 – Barcelona

After a visit again to Parc Güell, this time to actually enter into the park and the monument, we spied the famous Gaudí salamander sculpture and the undulating, not god-less lines of the monument’s seating arrangement overlooking Parc Güell’s architecture. The rainbow-coloured broken ceramic tiles shunted sunlight around like little mirrors. Underneath this were the broken tile sculptures cemented into the ceiling, with sunbursts and octopuses. A walk uphill revealed open air views of the sea, the city, and out to the Sagrada Familia, its familiar cranes in the distance.

From Parc Güell, we ventured to the start of La Rambla to take a long stroll – and make a few side stops – along the famous shopping and tourist street. Coffee in hand, we started out from its origins at Plaça de Catalunya and ambled around, checking out shops, gorgeous buildings, and cafes along the way.

I ventured around the famous and vibrant Mercado de la Boqueria, dipping inside to find flavoured salts (mmm, truffle salt), spices from the Middle East and southern Spain, freshly-pressed juices, homemade empanadas stuffed with loads of good things, fresh Iberian ham, cheeses galore, and meat that looked so good I wished we had a kitchen to cook in at the hotel. Glazed fruit dripped with clear sugar. So much sugar that my teeth itched. So many good things!

From here, I got into my “I wonder what’s around this corner” mode and started to wander around like I was lost, However, this just meant I ended up in the city’s famed Gothic quarter. As a budding travel photographer, I could not have asked for a more perfect place to drive my friend batty by stopping for a million set-up photos and also practice my composition skills. The street lanterns, now alight with the late morning sun, glowed eerily down the dark, medieval alleys. Balconies exploded with bright pink and red flowers. Shadows played on the yellow buildings. And suddenly, around another corner, there was the magnificent Barcelona Cathedral.

While a high portion of Barcelona’s visitors describe the Sagrada Familia as a must-see, I would add the under-rated Barcelona Cathedral to this must-see list. It’s a stunner. A walk around the outside reveals both charitable and menacing gargoyle figures along with unicorns and other fantastical creatures. This was also the old Roman and medieval part of the city, so some of the old Roman foundations were still in-tact, and old courtyards and walls revealed some quite ancient history. Again – this area was a photographer’s dream along with being the best place to find excellent coffee and delicious dessert and tea snacks in cafes with character and charm.

Sit on the steps near the cathedral and people watch – it’s the perfect way to spend some time.

Back on La Rambla, I dragged my friend all the way to the end of the street at the Paseo de Colón and Monumento a Colón. From here, the cable cars zipping up to Castillo de Montjuïc were visible.

We weren’t done yet. Nope. Not on my watch.

Our final destination for the day was the Sagrada Familia. You so need a ticket for this in advance. Most definitely.

Walking up to the Sagrada Familia was to be immediately hit with Gaudí’s amazing vision for this cathedral. The construction started in 1882 – and it’s still not done. All of the signs there were hoping for it to be done in the 2020s. The Nativity facade was the first stop, with the carvings of the Holy Family leaping out from the exterior. Look up and wonder for awhile what Gaudí’s hope was for this facade. It’s pure brilliance.

However, my breath was stolen the moment I stepped inside the cool interior to be greeted by the towering buttresses shaped like a forest full of trees awash in the sublime rainbow colours of the stained glass windows. There was so much to see that I had to rewind the audioguide several times to take it all in. Sculptures of disciples. The branches of “trees.” The cool and warm shades of the stained glass to capture the most light from the sun. The soaring altar and naive.

After marveling at the interior of the Sagrada Familia for an hour or so, I visited the exterior of the basilica on the opposite side – the Passion Facade. The facade was meant to look like stretched sinews of muscles to represent the Passion of Jesus. Different scenes from the Passion were displayed in reliefs across the exterior. It’s another beautiful and tragic scene that Gaudí portrayed with as much feeling as he could muster. The Glory Facade, the last one to be worked on, was still under construction and had barriers around it.

The spires will never be taller than the surrounding mountains, as Gaudí would never have anything built taller than something God created. The construction continues, as ever. The intricacy of work required on it reminded me that it still wasn’t finished and wouldn’t be finished for probably another ten years, they speculated.

I suppose I will just have to go back when it’s completed.

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