Monday, December 20, 2010

13/12/10 Barcelona: Day 2

      Ok, I have quite a few photos so we'll see how all this fits and uploads.  I've also had to significantly bump down the resolution of the photos but now I'm thinking that I really need to print some of these out.  Maybe even give them a touch of photoshop to spruce them up.  I am by no means close to knowing what I am doing with a camera and I would like to say that these photos do not do these great works much justice.  Maybe you can get a sense, or a hint of this awesomeness, but really nothing compares to seeing this art and archeticture in it's element and my photos are a far cry from capturing it all.    That's one of the things we always talked about while studying art history.  You can look at pictures of famous paintings and sculptures in books and study them and try to learn from them, try to understand them. But you don't really get a sense of them till you are standing in front of them in the museum, or stand within the walls of some great church and see it in person.  It's like a whole new work of art.  The art becomes real as you see its true size, the way the light hits it in the early morning, the brushstrokes, the sheen of the polished marble, your senses are overwhelmed as you are now including smell, sound, and touch along with sight. It's the same idea as looking at a big mountain in a book.  The picture may be beautiful but it is a whole complete experience when you are actually there hiking up it.
        When Monday morning in Barcelona rolled around I had a good idea of how to approach the day.  Sean unfortunately had to leave early to go to several meetings at the local hospitals so I was left to the exploring on my own.   I woke up early and ate a quick breakfast in the hotel.  I had my guidebook out and planned my route to the Sagrada Familia while sipping the rest of my "coffee with milk".  I was so incredibly anxious and giddy.  I had been reading all I could and the more I learned the more fascinated I became.  Gaudi sounded like my kind of guy and I only expected the best from this creation of his.  From experience I've learned that you need to get to these famous places early and beat the tour bus crowds.  The worst thing in the world is trying to stand and admire something  breathtaking while little runty school kids shout ungrateful obscenities behind you.  I'm glad I was up "early" and ready to run across town.
        The church opened at 9 am and I hoped to be at its doors shortly after.  I left the hotel and got swept up in the hustle of everyone trying to make it to work on a Monday morning in the city of Barcelona.  It was warm out with an over cast sky but the sun was gently trying to peak out.  Scooters were flying everywhere and everyone had a mission and direction, including myself.  I sort of knew where I was going but it's hard to keep looking at your guidebook when all you want to do it look up and admire.  I got turned around a bit and overshot my street which added an excrutiating 15 minutes to my trip.  I was racing against those tour buses!  I started to get a bit nervous and angry that I didn't pay more attention to the map from the get go but then there I saw it, a set of cranes (machine, not the bird) looming over the street about ten blocks away.  THAT'S where I needed to be.  I passed a few schools and dodged parents and toddlers then there I was.  I came up on the Passion facade, a representation of death.      
The Passion facade.  Completed after Gaudi died.  The sculptures were done
by a man named Josep Maria Subirachs who spent over a year studying
Guadi's work so he could get a sense of what Guadi would have wanted.
The facade tells the story of Jesus' passion from the last super up to his
death on the cross.  This face is very stark and feirce looking meaning to
give grief to the church goers and remind them of the pain and suferring
endured for them.  It's a cold humbling view. 
Judas kisses Jesus to alert the guards which man they need to take.
The artist wanted to keep these forms subtle, as if you were viewing
them in the dark since it was night in the garden when this scene took
place.  Notice the snake at Judas' feet portraying his evil.  The square
of numbers is a cryptogram.  If you add up any row, diaganol,
horizontal, vertical, you get the number 33, the age Jesus was when he died. 
This is the scene where Peter betrays three times.
The work is all so symbolic throughout the entire church.
Every corner means something.  Here you see apostle
perched on the corner, hunched over, shrouded in shame. 

Oh shameful Peter!

A dog at the Last Supper scene meant to represent the
loyalty of the apostles towards Jesus.  Pretty interesting style eh?  

You can sort of get a good idea of the scale of these statues.  
There were several sets of doors to enter the church from this side.
This is me standing in front of  one of them.  

A detail of the door.  They were cast with scripture which
narrates the scenes depicted on the facade.
Probably the most unique church doors I've ever seen.  
These were more doors.  There were four sets total.
Two with scripture then these were on the outer side.
This one depicts the crowning of thorns.   
Detail of the cast door.  Perhaps the crown of thorns?
I want a front door like this but maybe
with a more uplifting subject matter. 

Detail of the cast door.  I'm sure you can figure
out some symbolism here. 

Just so creative and different.  Every inch is detailed
and beautiful with chains or every size,
plants, leaves, keys and little trinkets. 

The first thing I did when I got to the church was buy
my ticket then go right to the lifts to the top of the towers.
 I asked the lady at the booth if I could take the stairs to the
top and she told me that it was impossible. Impossible? Ya
 right! I can handle some stairs!  I later found out that you
couldn't walk UP because the stairs went in one direction,
down, to avoid traffic jams on the narrow passageways.  
The lift to the top of the towers was really shaky but the
view was astounding.  This is a photo looking over the
sea as the sun tries to peak out.  Right now there are only
a handful of towers built.  In the end there will be 18 total.
12 dedicated to the apostles, 4 to evangelists and then one
for Mary and one for Jesus. Jesus' tower will be the highest.
I went up in one of the apostle towers and although these are
some of the shorter ones you can still
get a great view and a bit of vertigo.  
Current construction.  What a mess! How do they
make sense of it all? I think these construction scenes were
 just as interesting to see as the finished building.   So, you
go up an elevator in one tower then take a few stairs down
where you cross on a little arch to the next tower.  Then you
go up a little more then cross over and go down a little more
then cross over and go up a little...etc...etc... Up down up
down weaving your way towards the bottom through two
towers.  I got lost and my leg cramped.  I was also glad that
I got there pretty early because I could only
imagine crowds trying to get through these tight spaces.  

So complicated. 
I'm not sure which spire this is but you can see some of
the mosaic work.  Guadi ordered that all tile come from
Murano, Venice since it was of the highest quality glass
in the world.  I can only imagine being that high up and
trying to mosaic.  Such detail so high
up! I hope pigeons don't poop all over it!
Some guys working on the spires.  This was taken on the
last day of our trip when I came back with Sean.  The
sky was so blue that day but I figured I'd
add in the photos.  Imainge rapelling from that!
Fruit to represent the fruit of the Holy Spirt or something like that.  

Someone was hanging off of this tower.
These colors were so stunning and bright in the sunlight.

An apostle on one of the towers.

Long way down and I wasn't even at the top.  Once the
church is done it will be twice the height of what it is now. 

Sean in the narrow tiny staircase in the towers.
Again, he wasn't here with me on this day but I'm adding
the photos.  Gaudi wanted a lot of light and ventilation
in this church and as you can see he did a pretty good job
considering where we were.  The vents slanted down
allowed sound to flow out of the bell towers
and the ringing to be heard throughout the entire city.   

Spiral stairs leading down the last of the tower into
the church.  There was a handrail on the outer edge and
the marble on the inner edge was worn smooth from
everyone's hands touching it.  See the resemblance of
a spiral shell? Guadi was really
talented at replicating nature in his architecture.  
Inside.  Gaudi loved nature  and wanted to make it
feel like you were in a forest. He did a pretty darn good job.  

A side wall covered in windows.  The surfaces separating
the windows were not flat though.  They had convex
angles and edges which helped
to deflect light and illuminate the interior.  

A view looking towards the alter.  Since the original
design of the church was a classic gothic cathedral,
the plan called for  flying buttresses to support the
walls and vaults of the church.  When Gaudi took
over he did not want these eye sore buttresses so he
designed his columns to hold all the weight.  He
looked to trees as inspiration and slightly tilted and
spiraled the columns.  He was then able to remove the
buttresses from the original plans.  To do all this he
came up with an ingenious system to study weight and
angles.  I'll talk about that in a little bit
with the photos from the museum of the church.  

The ceiling which was designed to allow natural
light in and resemble the canopy of a forest.  It was
 also very light in weight.  This is a good view to
see how the tops of the columns
branched out like trees.  Imagine! Branching columns!

I like how everything is sort of monotone.  The
columns were different color due to use of different
stone for different weight bearing needs but the
 rest of the interior was quite white.  You didn't need much color.  

Another view.  You can see why not
much decoration on the inside was needed. 

You can see the different colored columns
here.  The pink being the biggest and strongest. 

Above the altar. 

A view from the altar to the other end. 


Me in the middle.

Holy water. 

Sean checking out the organ pipes. 

In the crypt.  This part was very first
thing to be built.  Guadi is buried here.  
After going through the Church and up the towers
I came out on the Nativity Facade side.  Wow. So
much to look at here and as you have guessed it
depicts the birth of Jesus.  This was the first facade
to be built and Gaudi was
still alive while it was under construction.
A detail of the Nativity.
I LOVE the horse head trying to get a peak.  

Old construction meets new construction.

Me petting Myrtle the Sea Turtle.

Detail, detail, detail.

The gargoyles weren't monsters but reptiles and
slimy animals.  They were meant to represent
evil and were always faced pointing down as if
they were running away from Jesus and the Holy
Spirit.  It also probably helped in
directing the flow of water down, not up. 

Dripping with detail.

The tree of life at the top of the Nativity facade.

A view of Barcelona from behind the tree of life. 

The tour of the church wasn't over yet.  There is a
museum underneath with models and drawings and
this nifty display.   When Gaudi wanted to redesign
his columns to eliminate the need for flying buttresses
he used string and evenly measured bags of lead pellet
to study displacement.  Then he could use the
curve of the strings to recreate the columns.  What a genius.  

The studio where they are still working to this day
on models.  When Gaudi was working he literally
moved into the church so he could work around the
clock.  He also did everything through models.  He
rarely drew up a blue print but instead built plaster
models.  Work has sped up due to
computer technology but they still use his models. 

Plaster everywhere you look.  What a fun
place to work though! Imagine THIS being your job!

A portrait of Gaudi.  Love it!

Sean in front of a model.  They used two scales 1:10 and 1:25. 

Sketch for the Passion facade.   Josep Maria Subirachs
who did the sculptures also moved into the church, like
Gaudi.  This guy really wanted to channel
his energy I guess.  I think it worked though. 

Very intricate model. 

    I left the church exhausted, hungry, and parched.  What an experience though.  It was all I was hoping for and more.  I felt so lucky to be able to see this place while it was still being built.  Maybe we'll be back to see how the work is going and watch it's progress.  Once it is finished it will really be a sight to see.   I bought a book from the gift shop then pushed my way through the accumulated crowds and headed north to the Park Guell, another Gaudi masterpiece.  When I left I was so overwhelmed and drained and I promised myself that once I made to the park I would get something to eat in the cafe.  That was a dumb idea.  The walk to the park was all uphill and it wasn't the prettiest of walks.  At least I was smart enough to keep my face in the guidebook and NOT get lost.  The park was gorgeous but the sun was still hiding behind the clouds.  I was glad I went to the church first thing in the morning because then I had this park to stroll through and just enjoy.  So, this park was designed by Guadi for a friend's private garden and during his time was considered a huge failure.  Really? I wouldn't mind having a back yard like that.  I don't know too much about it's history but it was a nice relaxing afternoon after the flood of emotions in Sagrada Familia.  On my way out of the park the sun came out and the colors just came alive! This section will be mostly photos and probably not a lot of talk which is pretty much what I was feeling at that point.  Just enjoying the sites. Letting it all sink in.  
The entrance to the park.  

A person dressed up as a lizard. 

Palm motif that Guadi used for the gates. 

That building is now the gift shop. 

EVERYONE taking photos in front of the famous lizard. 

Up on top.  Everyone was selling shit.
The park is free to enter so come on in!

The famous wavey benches covered in
mosaics surrounding the whole upper level. 

Yup people still taking photos with the lizard. 

A house in the park.  Gaudi
lived here for a couple of years.
That sculpture can be found on the
Nativity facade of Sagrada Familia. 

Those look familiar!

Furniture in the house.

Geometric studies made by Gaudi. 

Floor tiles.  Kind of remind me of mom's kitchen ;)

These are the types of door knobs he designed.....

Now there's a planter!

A view of the pink house. 

More arches and secret places. 

One last view before leaving the park. 

Leaving the park and finding a pretty purple house. 

Someone else's version of the
Nativity in their front yard. Love it. 

    What a long day! After meditating through the park I headed downhill.  I knew for sure I would not get lost heading back to the hotel but of course I did.  I was incredibly lazy and didn't even pull out my guidebook.  Instead I decided to follow some other English folk.  Hey we should all be going to the same place right?  What the hell was I thinking?  I decided to leave them after I watched them come dangerously close to getting hit by cars several times.  I made it back to the hotel, soaked my feet in an ice bath and cracked open my new book on Sagrada Familia.  I read the whole thing right there in the hotel room while drinking a coke and watching Captain Ron on the tv.  Captain Ron was dubbed over in Spanish and it was really entertaining.  The little boy sounded like a chipmunk.  Sean sent me a message saying I was invited out to dinner with him, his boss and a couple other doctors they were doing business with.  I got ready and met Sean and his boss downstairs at the hotel bar before we went out.  Dinner reservations were for 8:30pm so we had some time to kill.  The three of us took our drinks up to the roof top pool and enjoyed the evening view.  Oh here is a photo Sean took of the pool when we first got to the hotel. 

    It was such a gorgeous night out!  A bit chilly but it was great to finally meet Sean's boss Karl and talk to him about living in London and traveling.  He helped us make a list of "must see places" which seems to constantly be getting longer and longer the more we talk to people.  
    We called a cab and headed to one of the busier streets in town. I don't even know the name of the restaurant that we went to but once we were inside we knew we were somewhere memorable.  The house looked like it was designed by Gaudi himself but the host quickly gave us a tour of the place and told us it was one of Gaudi's students who designed it.  Me, Sean and Karl had the place to ourselves as we waited for the rest of the guests to arrive.  We drank more wine, had some Iberian cured meats and chit chatted.  This place was fancy, the guy at the door even took my coat off for me.  The rest of our guests arrived around 9 and two out of the three men barely spoke English but they were so friendly and there were plenty of people there to translate for me and Sean.  The menus arrived and I almost fell over.  50 Euros for an appetizer?? 100 for a main course. Holy Moly. What did we just get ourselves into?  Sean and I stared at the menus for a while but they took them away and the man in charge decided to do all the ordering for us.  Thank God! I think!  We started with a really nice red wine.  I can't remember what it was, I pretended to know what was I drinking. We had more cured meats which melted in your mouth and little fried potato things.  Then came more tapas of shrimp, clams, and little plates of shells with tiny mellon balls.  I tried it all and despite my fear of oysters and clams it was REALLY good.  I also realized that these guys weren't too serious since the one on my right, Franchesk, challenged me to a sword fight with one of the wooden skewers. I could relax a little more and enjoy myself. I was so nervous, I am not used to being this fancy. But next came the sea urchin.  My favorite dish of the night.  It was like a little creamy soup in the shell of the cut open urchin spikes and all still stuck on the sides.  Sooooooo good! It tasted like creamy scallops and something green.  It was like nothing I had ever tried before.  The mini meals kept coming and we kept eating as they cleared plates and silverware then put new forks and spoons down followed by a new plate of food.  I felt like I was on some food network show eating delicacies and meals prepared to perfection.  The main meal was a beef type of dish.  Again, I'm not exactly sure what to call it but the meat melted in your mouth and it was just plain and simply delicious.  I felt full even though every meal they brought out could fit onto two spoons.  THEN dessert came! A little mini display on each plate of mango sorbet and something chocolately and who knows what the other things were! Ohhhh I love dessert and this was sooooo good.  This was the perfect end to the day.  At that point the bottles of wine stopped coming and we ordered capuchinos and espresso. The other doctor spoke to the waiter in quick Spanish or French, who knows, about bringing out their best cognac. I only had a sip of Sean's but it was tasty.  A hundred year old cognac.  The guys talked business and I reflected on my full day of sight seeing.  A second bottle was brought out and Sean and I had to hold back yawns.  It was now 1 am and wayyyy past our bedtime.  Finally the food was all eaten the drinks were all drunk and one of the other guys picked up the bill.  I could only imagine what it came to. I can only imagine but boy was that some amazing food.  


  1. What a wonderful day you had............I wish some day to see the church unbelievable!! Your pictures are great and I can't wait to see you and Sean to hear more about Spain.
    Love & God Bless,
    Auntie Rita

  2. Breathtaking!
    Wish I could be there.

  3. It was really like nothing I've ever seen before!!!

  4. Lovely pictures! I'm so glad to hear that you had a great sightseeing day, especially after reading your IKEA story from Hell.
    Question: Have you watched L'auberge Espagnole (The Spanish Apartment)? Seeing all of your pictures from Barcelona reminded me of scenes from that movie. It's quite entertaining, but for adult audiences.