So Gaudí

Un viaje en España – Day 9 – Barcelona

The first morning in Barcelona brought us to Parc Güell, further north of where we were staying near the Gran Via in the L’Eixample neighborhood. It was cool (relatively cool in the mid-80s F, which was a far cry from 115’F in Seville), overcast, and spitting a bit of rain. We ducked into a cafe near the park for coffee and muffins, then wandered into the park with a ticket for Gaudí’s house. However, as we quickly came to realize, the ticket was only good for the Gaudí house and museum and not to the entirety of the park. Most of the tickets were sold out that day until 7 PM. Bummer. Lesson learned – book everything here and book early.

Data access came in handy as we booked tickets for the next morning, making that two days in a row that we would seek out the masterpieces of Gaudí in Barcelona. I felt that there were worst ways to spend one’s day than strolling around the city and marvelling at fairytale-like architecture.

Parc Güell, even without visiting the main section of the park, was a stunner. Flowers bloomed everywhere, lifting the humid air with their fragrance, and a walk to the Gaudí museum was a pleasant one. Inside the museum were examples of his work, including furniture and architectural drawings of places he was designing. It was an interesting insight to the man and the legend. You can preempt a visit to Barcelona by listing to Stuff You Missed in History Class‘s podcast episode on Antoni Gaudí.

From Parc Güell, we ventured toward Casa Milà, otherwise known as La Pedrera. One of Gaudí’s gorgeous masterpieces on Paseo de Gracia and Carrer de Provença, it stood out among the other more “classical” houses and buildings on the block. Hundertwasser once said, “the straight line is godless,” and Gaudí took him to heart on it.

La Pedrera looks a bit like a weathered rock in the desert, its tan waves undulating above the famous street. Built between 1906 and 1912 by Gaudí, La Pedrera (“the stone quarry”) was once home (and still is home to) several families of the time. A ticket inside got me into the downstairs foyer, which was a beautiful look up into the heart of the building, and then, one of the treats was visiting an open apartment designed to look as it would have during the early 1900s.

However, the best part of a visit to La Pedrera was the walk up to and around the rooftop. The impish chimney pots, designed to conceal the necessary but ugly workings of a building, twist and turn toward the sky. There were fantastic views out to the Sagrada Familia, another of Gaudí’s Barcelona beauties. It’s easy to spend a good bit of time exploring the walkways on the rooftop and looking over the city proper. Everything in La Pedrera was designed to feel as if one was living in softer surroundings instead of the straight lines of city architecture.

Down the Paseo de Gracia was another Gaudí house, Casa Batlló, built in 1877 and redesigned from 1904-1906. From the outside, it looked like a fairytale dragon in a children’s book. Sometimes called casa dels ossos (house of bones), it’s easy to imagine the outside being the skeletal remains of the fictional dragon (or even a whale, I heard some suggest), with its waterlily scales extending up to the rooftop.

On the inside, the parlour rooms, with a view over the Paseo de Gracia, felt like being inside a whale’s stomach, for some reason. Or like I was diving along the bottom of the ocean, coral and seaweed dancing gracefully around me. The illusion was that strong and that convincing. The interactive audio tour was phenomenal – hold it up to see turtles swimming from the ceiling or fish floating in the shapes of windows – or how the room would have been decorated in the early 20th century. A mushroom-shaped sitting area formed around the fireplace. Curves of ivory structures held up the loft in the attic, also contributing to the illusion of bones.

The blue tiles of the interior courtyard were evocative of water, and the tiles ranged from light to dark blue to recall the light of the sun and keep the apartment from being too dark inside. Don’t miss the Coke-bottle-glass stairwell railings on the inside as you wind downstairs, as they give the illusion of being in water.

The rooftop here was also an essential part of the visit. Getting up close to the “dragon’s back” was amazing. The broken ceramic tiles, alternating in colors, did look like dragon scales. The tiles had an iridescent quality to them as well. To be sandwiched between other buildings had to be difficult, though the “plainer” neighbors might be wishing for something as outlandish and fantastical as Casa Batlló now.

I know – it was a lot to see in one day, but that didn’t lessen the wonder and awe over seeing both of these brilliant designs. They are part of what makes Barcelona one of those absolutely unforgettable cities of the world.

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