Finally time came when we needed a break. After such a relaxing few days in Menorca, it was hard to keep up with the go go go pace we were setting. And so we put on our swim gear and headed down to the beach!
While extremely more crowded than Menorca, and filled with what seemed like an endless supply of people selling massages and pineapples (not often at the same time), we all took a break and relaxed.
Day three found us at Montjuic, which is a hill in Barcelona, featuring a castle, beautiful gardens, multiple museums and the 1992 Olympic Games park, among other things. I took a cable car up (the first time I had ever been one one) and the adventures began.
There aren’t that many pictures, but rest assured, we explored all day and thoroughly exhausted ourselves
View from the cable car
View from the cable car
View from the cable car
Parc de la Ciutadella
I had thought, when we got back to our hostel, we would just explore the area around us that evening. But we noticed a huge crowd gathering around a giant screen.
Turns out, it was the UEFA Champions League Final (a soccer tournament). It was Barcelona versus Manchester United, and the people were going crazy! I have no pictures or videos, but what an exciting time to be there! We watched the whole game surrounded by this crowd of crazy, drunk, excited people. Every time Barcelona got a goal (three times!) they would throw whatever they were drinking in the air and cheer. Suffice to say we were covered in beer by the time the game was over.
They did win – and we heard the celebrations in the street all night long. Sometimes you are just in the right place at the right time.
Day 2 started with my most favourite activity: a walking tour of the Gothic Quarter!
First up was the Christopher Columbus monument. Christopher Columbus represented Spain when he left to search for the New World. His statue is supposed to be pointing to the New World, but they didn’t realize until the statue was put in its place that it was not facing the right direction. As it was too heavy and expensive to just turn around, he continues to face the wrong way.
Next, the Basílica de la Mercè. Barcelona has 32 saints, and Our Lady of Mercy is one of their main ones. Whenever there is a soccor game, the team comes to the church and prays to her for a win. And when they win they come back and thank her. And if they lose, they come back anyways.Plaça de George Orwell (George Orwell’s Square), ironically the first square to be under 24 hours video security. The Spanish don’t understand why this is funny to foreigners.
This was unanimously voted as Barcelona’s ugliest building. It was so ugly the government decided to make it prettier and put some art on it. Picasso had drawn some stick figures, making fun of another upcoming artist at a cafe across the street, thus they thought it would be a good idea to put his stick drawings on the building in order to make it prettier. It didn’t work.
Sant Felip Neri Church. At the end of his days Gaudi lived at the Sagrada Familia. He stayed ungroomed, and only left once in a while to attend mass at this church. On his way one day he was hit by a tram (something he helped invent). No one recognized him because he looked homeless so they left him on the side of the road. Eventually he was brought to the poor people’s hospital. A few days later people started to look for him and found him there. They wanted to bring him to a better hospital, but he was all for equality and stayed where he was. Due to his decision to stay at the hospital and the people’s inability to find him sooner, he died.
The tour ended at Plaça Reial, a large square with lots of restaurants (and tourists). Still, it was a relaxing place to have a cool drink.
After a short siesta, we took to the museums. From Picasso to contemporary art we saw it all! And had a nice wander through the beautiful streets of Barcelona.
It was good we had a break in Menorca, because our next four days were extremely busy as we toured around Barcelona.
Day one was spent with Antoni Gaudi, a Spanish Catalan architect best known as a representative of Catalan Modernism.
After a morning at the Sagrada Familia, we moved on to Parc Guell. This was Gaudi’s main project at the beginning of the 20th century. Intended as a residential estate in the style of an English garden city, the project was unsuccessful. Of the 60 plots, only one sold. Despite this, the park entrances and service areas were built, displaying Gaudi’s architectural genius.
Steps lead to Hypostyle Hall, which was to have been the residents’ market, constructed with large Doric columns.
Our final stop was to Casa Milà. This was one of Gaudi’s major projects and his most admired work. It is better known as La Pedrera and was built between 1906-1910. He designed the two houses around two large curved courtyards with a structure of stone, brick and cast-iron columns steel beams. It has a total of five floors plus a loft (made entirely of arches) and the roof, as well as two large interior courtyards, one circular and one oval. Currently a museum, it’s worth a visit.
On the same street is Casa Batllo, one of Gaudi’s largest and most striking works, constructed between 1904- 1906. He was commissioned to renovate an existing building from 1875, so Gaudi focused mainly on the facade, main floor, patio, roof and built a fifth floor for the staff. He kept the rectangular shape of the balconies – with iron railings in the shape of masks.
To the left of Casa Batllo is Casa Amatller. Casa Amatller was designed by Josep Puig i Cadafalch. It was orginially designed as a residence for a chocolatier and was constructed by 1898 and 1900. Located right beside Casa Mila, these houses make up two of the three most important buildings in Barcelona’s “Block of Discord”.
Finally there’s Casa Lléo Morera. This is the third most important house on the same street. It was designed by Llus Domenech i Monner. It was originally constructed in 1864 but was renoveated in 1902. The first floor is now made up of high-end stores.
And to finish off our day of Gaudi, we ran into his first architectural design: streetlamps depicting Hermes.
It was definitely a change of pace from our time in Menorca, but with so much to see and do in Barcelona it’s hard to find time to take a break.