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Barcelona Journal

Have you been to Barcelona? If so, you know what a great city it is. Located on the Mediterranean, capital of of the province of Catalonia, Barcelona has more in common with its neighbors to the east (France and Italy) than Spain. Barcelonians proudly speak only Catalan, which has Latin roots, while Spanish is based on Arabic origins. Barcelona is a city that for centuries has been caught in power struggles between tribes, royals, dictators or rebels. But now, it seems to have found its identity, and is enjoying every minute of it. Tourists flock here to enjoy the great weather and food (Tapas!), energetic nightlife and take in the Moderniste (early 1900's) architecture of Antoni Gaudi and his friends. We recently spent a week in Barcelona, and here are some of the marvelous sights we saw.

La Boqueria: Everything From Almonds to Zucchinis - One of the favorite tourist destinations is La Boqueria, Barcelona's biggest food market right off the Rambla. The stalls are filled with anything/everything fresh, edible and delicious. The stacks of brilliantly colored fruit and vegetables are inspiration for any textile design. Fortunately, the sellers are used to photographer tourists and are not bothered by our gawking.

Gaudi's Parc Guell - After completing Palau Guell, Gaudi's patron Guell came up with another idea: Create a housing community in the hills above Barcelona with 60 Moderniste-style homes tucked among the area's trees and gardens. Inspired by the English Garden City model, the centerpiece would be an open air theatre over a covered marketplace. It was a great idea, but after only 2 houses were built, the project was stopped, as Barcelonians preferred to live closer to the city center. Guell ended up giving the land to the city, and its now a delightful park full of fantasy mosaics and wandering paths that climb the hillside. Gaudi lived in one of the houses while working on his cathedral project. As you can see, Gaudi went crazy with tile. This is the serpentine bench along the open air theatre space, looking out over the city. You can see Gaudi's cathedral under construction on the far left.

La Boqueria: Everything From Almonds to Zucchinis - One of the favorite tourist destinations is La Boqueria, Barcelona's biggest food market right off the Rambla. The stalls are filled with anything/everything fresh, edible and delicious. The stacks of brilliantly colored fruit and vegetables are inspiration for any textile design. Fortunately, the sellers are used to photographer tourists and are not bothered by our gawking.

MACBA in the Ravel: The Interior - Just on the other side of the the Rambla from the Gothic Quarter is the Ravel neighborhood. While many of its streets have elegant buildings and quiet courtyards, it has a grittier ambiance, with a history of ladies of the night hangouts. In fact, Picasso's ground breaking cubist masterpiece Desmoiselles d'Avignon's subject matter and name come from one of its streets named Avignon (not Avignon, France). The Ravel now houses the ultra modern MACBA (Museum of Contemporary Art Barcelona) designed in 1992 by American architect Richard Meier. Its gleaming white structure is a sharp contrast to the older buildings nearby.

We loved the interior space. Flooded with light, it is like being enveloped is a piece of sculpture. In fact, the purist black and white space seems to work best as a background to the visitors. Its cool interior was popular with folks posing for portraits, and the spaces made by the strong geometric shapes turn into abstract 'paintings' when viewed 2D.

Els Quatre Gats Restaurant - One night we ate at Els Quatre Gats, designed in 1896 by Moderniste master architect Josep Puig i Caldafalch. Located in the Old City, it was the site of Picasso's first painting show in 1899. The interiors have much of the original decor of the early 20th c. The large paintings by Russinyol and Casas are now copies, with the originals safely hung in the Catalonian National Museum of Art.

Gaudi's Masterpiece: Sagrada Familia Cathedral - In 1891 Gaudi took on the design of the Sagrada Familia cathedral. Originally begun by a different architect in 1882 with a traditional gothic style, Gaudi transformed it into an indescribably unique structure that attracts millions of tourists a year. "My client is not in a hurry", Gaudi told anyone when asked about the timetable of the Sagrada Familia Cathedral. Good thing, as it continues to be worked on to this day, funded with private donations and tourist admission fees, with a hoped for completion date of 2025. Like his other projects, the building's structure is made up of references to nature while telling the complete story of the Christian faith.

I had visited Barcelona in 1963 with my family and remember seeing the cathedral then. As my mother said upon viewing it for the first time, "Gaudi is certainly gaudy". Back then we only could see the nativity facade and its bell towers, but the interior was basically a sand pit. Imagine my surprise when I entered the enclosed space. Consecrated by the Pope in November 2010, remarkable progress had been made in the last 50 years. While the building techniques are traditional, the shapes are anything but. The striking columns are based on tree-like forms and the incredible ceiling is a leafy arbor protecting the visitors. Some of the stained glass windows are in, but the clear glass temporary ones cast a beautiful light in the enormous space.

Barcelona's Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter) - It may seem that Barcelona is all about Gaudi, but it has a long history and many buildings to show for it. The medieval Gothic Quarter sits just to the east of the Rambla, and was actually built over the first Roman settlement. It is a maze of pedestrian walkways, with balconied buildings tightly packed over the narrow streets. Barcelona's impressive 15th c City Hall and beautiful plazas and many small restaurants are found in this historic area. We were in Barcelona during the soccer finals and it seemed that every balcony had a BARCA banner on display.

Gaudi's Parc Guell - After completing Palau Guell, Gaudi's patron Guell came up with another idea: Create a housing community in the hills above Barcelona with 60 Moderniste-style homes tucked among the area's trees and gardens. Inspired by the English Garden City model, the centerpiece would be an open air theatre over a covered marketplace. It was a great idea, but after only 2 houses were built, the project was stopped, as Barcelonians preferred to live closer to the city center. Guell ended up giving the land to the city, and its now a delightful park full of fantasy mosaics and wandering paths that climb the hillside. Gaudi lived in one of the houses while working on his cathedral project. As you can see, Gaudi went crazy with tile. This is the serpentine bench along the open air theatre space, looking out over the city, decorated in Gaudi's distinctive style.

The Barcelona Pavilion - Right down the hill from the Catalonian National Museum of Art sits the renowned Mies van der Rohe Barcelona Pavilion. Designed in 1929 for the German contribution in International Exposition, it couldn't be in starker contrast to its 'classic' neighbor on the hill and all the moderniste architecture so popular in this city. Imagine the exposition attendees' shock to come across this low slung building with its cool marble surfaces void of any decoration except one very elegant statue in the reflecting pool. Mies designed his iconic stainless/leather chair for the pavilion. The original pavilion was razed after the event, but fortunately it was reconstructed in 1986. The cool rainy day we visited seemed to complement the serene space. I was thrilled to visit this masterpiece on such a quiet afternoon.

Cafe d'Academia in Barcelona's Bari Gotic (Gothic Quarter) - It may seem that Barcelona is all about Gaudi, but it has a long history and many existing buildings to show for it. The medieval Gothic Quarter sits just to the east of the Rambla, and was actually built over the first Roman settlement. It is a maze of pedestrian walkways, with balconied buildings tightly packed over the narrow streets. Cafe d'Academia was the perfect lunch stop on a rainy afternoon.

MACBA in the Ravel - Just on the other side of the the Rambla from the Gothic Quarter is the Ravel neighborhood. While many of its streets have elegant buildings and quiet courtyards, it has a grittier ambiance, with a history of ladies of the night hangouts. In fact, Picasso's ground breaking cubist masterpiece Desmoiselles d'Avignon's subject matter and name come from one of its streets named Avignon (not Avignon, France). The Ravel now houses the ultra modern MACBA (Museum of Contemporary Art Barcelona) designed in 1992 by American architect Richard Meier. Its gleaming white structure is a sharp contrast to the older buildings nearby.

La Boqueria Tapas - One of the favorite tourist destinations is La Boqueria, Barcelona's biggest food market right off the Rambla. The stalls are filled with anything/everything fresh, edible and delicious. The stacks of brilliantly colored fruit and vegetables are inspiration for any textile design. Fortunately, the sellers are used to photographer tourists and are not bothered by our gawking.

Looking for more than fruit? You can shop for any meal here, including dessert, and every stall is a work of art. If you don't want to cook at home, several stalls offer tapas consisting of small plates of freshly grilled seafood and vegetables. Delicious!

Gaudi's Parc Guell Home - Gaudi designed two houses for the community and lived in this one. It overlooked the city and in the distance he could see the beginning construction of his masterpiece, the Sagrata Familia Cathedral.

Outdoor Dining in the Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter) - It may seem that Barcelona is all about Gaudi, but it has a long history and many existing buildings to show for it. The medieval Gothic Quarter sits just to the east of the Rambla, and was actually built over the first Roman settlement. It is a maze of pedestrian walkways, with balconied buildings tightly packed over the narrow streets. Everywhere you find the narrow streets open to small plazas perfect for outdoor dining.

Gaudi's Palau Guell: Up on the Roof - Architect Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926) was born at the right time in the right place. Barcelona experienced tremendous prosperity at the end of the 19th century and a new architectural style was sweeping Europe. Known as Art Nouveau in France, Modern Style in England and Secessionist in Austria, Barcelona's Moderniste movement's architects brought a new look rich in color, organic pattern and over-the-top playfulness to the expanding city. Gaudi is the best known, and his work is found throughout the city. After a slow start, in 1883 Gaudi became the architect for Eusebl Guell, a textile(!) magnate, and designed his patron's house on a small street just off the Rambla. Given an unlimited budget, Gaudi directed the city's best artisans to work their magic with stone, wood, glass and most Catalan, tile. We visited the house on the morning it opened after an 11 year restoration. (We didn't know that until the end of the visit, and all the while I had been marveling what fantastic condition the house was in.) While the Modernisme movement was extremely popular in its day, it fell out of favor during Franco's regime. Now, with more than 50 Moderniste buildings, Barcelona celebrates its unique heritage. Palau Guell is one of the most astonishing.

Gaudi really had a field day up on the roof. Each chimney was covered in a broken up tile pattern creating a fanciful topiary camouflage for the otherwise industrial stacks.

The Rambla - Barcelona's best known boulevard is the Rambla, which stretches from Placa Catalunya to the waterfront. Tourists and locals alike promenade past cafes, bird and flower stalls, magicians, performers of all kinds. The trees offer shaded comfort from the warm sun.

Gaudi's Palau Guell - Architect Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926) was born at the right time in the right place. Barcelona experienced tremendous prosperity at the end of the 19th century and a new architectural style was sweeping Europe. Known as Art Nouveau in France, Modern Style in England and Secessionist in Austria, Barcelona's Moderniste movement's architects brought a new look rich in color, organic pattern and over-the-top playfulness to the expanding city. Gaudi is the best known, and his work is found throughout the city. After a slow start, in 1883 Gaudi became the architect for Eusebl Guell, a textile(!) magnate, and designed his patron's house on a small street just off the Rambla. Given an unlimited budget, Gaudi directed the city's best artisans to work their magic with stone, wood, glass and most Catalan, tile. We visited the house on the morning it opened after an 11 year restoration. (We didn't know that until the end of the visit, and all the while I had been marveling what fantastic condition the house was in.) While the Modernisme movement was extremely popular in its day, it fell out of favor during Franco's regime. Now, with more than 50 Moderniste buildings, Barcelona celebrates its unique heritage. Palau Guell is one of the most astonishing.

The Barcelona Pavilion - Right down the hill from the museum sits the renowned Mies van der Rohe Barcelona Pavilion. Designed in 1929 for the German contribution in International Exposition, it couldn't be in starker contrast to its 'classic' neighbor on the hill and all the moderniste architecture so popular in this city. Imagine the exposition attendees' shock to come across this low slung building with its cool marble surfaces void of any decoration except one very elegant statue in the reflecting pool. Mies designed his iconic stainless/leather chair for the pavilion. The original pavilion was razed after the event, but fortunately it was reconstructed in 1986. The cool rainy day we visited seemed to complement the serene space. I was thrilled to visit this masterpiece on such a quiet afternoon.

La Boqueria: Everything From Almonds to Zucchinis - One of the favorite tourist destinations is La Boqueria, Barcelona's biggest food market right off the Rambla. The stalls are filled with anything/everything fresh, edible and delicious. The stacks of brilliantly colored fruit and vegetables are inspiration for any textile design. Fortunately, the sellers are used to photographer tourists and are not bothered by our gawking.

MACBA in the Ravel: The Interior - Just on the other side of the the Rambla from the Gothic Quarter is the Ravel neighborhood. While many of its streets have elegant buildings and quiet courtyards, it has a grittier ambiance, with a history of ladies of the night hangouts. In fact, Picasso's ground breaking cubist masterpiece Desmoiselles d'Avignon's subject matter and name come from one of its streets named Avignon (not Avignon, France). The Ravel now houses the ultra modern MACBA (Museum of Contemporary Art Barcelona) designed in 1992 by American architect Richard Meier. Its gleaming white structure is a sharp contrast to the older buildings nearby.

We loved the interior space. Flooded with light, it is like being enveloped is a piece of sculpture. In fact, the purist black and white space seems to work best as a background to the visitors. Its cool interior was popular with folks posing for portraits, and the spaces made by the strong geometric shapes turn into abstract 'paintings' when viewed 2D.

Masterpiecess of Moderniste Architecture - These superb examples of Moderniste architecture are on a single block on Passeig de Gracia. Casa Amatller, on the left, was designed by Josep Puig i Calafalch in 1900. On the right is Casa Battlo. another Gaudi masterpiece.

The Catalonian National Museum of Art - The Catalonian National Museum of Art was originally built in 1929 as the centerpiece for the International Exposition. Heavily frescoed, it is an imposing home to a mix of Catalonian, Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance art. Not many years before, Gaudi and the Modernistes were filling the city with another kind of architecture.

Chocolates at La Boqueria - One of the favorite tourist destinations is La Boqueria, Barcelona's biggest food market right off the Rambla. The stalls are filled with anything/everything fresh, edible and delicious. There are mouth watering displays of sweets. Fortunately, the sellers are used to photographer tourists and are not bothered by our gawking.

Late Afternoon: Barcelona's Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter) - It may seem that Barcelona is all about Gaudi, but it has a long history and many existing buildings to show for it. The medieval Gothic Quarter sits just to the east of the Rambla, and was actually built over the first Roman settlement. It is a maze of pedestrian walkways, with balconied buildings tightly packed over the narrow streets. Barcelona's impressive 15th c City Hall and beautiful plazas and many small restaurants are found in this historic area. In the late afternoon locals and tourists seek out their favorite tapas bars.

La Boqueria: Everything From Almonds to Zucchinis - One of the favorite tourist destinations is La Boqueria, Barcelona's biggest food market right off the Rambla. The stalls are filled with anything/everything fresh, edible and delicious. The stacks of brilliantly colored fruit and vegetables are inspiration for any textile design. Fortunately, the sellers are used to photographer tourists and are not bothered by our gawking.

Placa Real - Just off the Rambla is the Placa Real, an elegant square home to a few notable folks. The lamp posts were designed by Antoni Gaudi.

Gaudi's Casa Mila (La Pedrera) - In addition to individual home commissions, Gaudi designed this apartment building on one of Barcelona's the most fashionable streets. Now one of his best known works, it was greeted with horror and scornfully nicknamed the Rock Pile as the balconies resembled gypsy's cave dwellings complete with with seaweed-like ironwork railings. There isn't a straight angle in the place, and once again, the roof decor is most intriguing. The eerie figures could be veiled Saharan women or helmeted warriors. Whatever the case, tourists get to wander through the chimney stacks and get a great view of his cathedral down the road.

Gaudi's Sagrada Familia Cathedral - In 1891 Gaudi took on the design of the Sagrada Familia Cathedral. Originally begun by a different architect in 1882 with a traditional gothic style, Gaudi transformed it into an indescribably unique structure that attracts millions of tourists a year. "My client is not in a hurry", Gaudi told anyone when asked about the timetable of the Sagrada Familia Cathedral. Good thing, as it continues to be worked on to this day, funded with private donations and tourist admission fees, with a hoped for completion date of 2025. Like his other projects, the building's structure is made up of references to nature while telling the complete story of the Christian faith. The four towers seen below are only a few (and shorter) of the 18 towers that will finally be built. Two of the 3 entry facades are complete.

Tourists can take an elevator up the bell tower on the far right, and it's well worth the wait. The four towers seen below are 2/3 the height of the tallest (560 feet) ones yet to be built over the nave. The city views are incredible, and you can see the construction of the remaining towers in progress. The tops of the towers are decorated with Gaudi's signature elements.

Gaudi's Parc Guell - After completing Palau Guell, Gaudi's patron Guell came up with another idea: Create a housing community in the hills above Barcelona with 60 Moderniste-style homes tucked among the area's trees and gardens. Inspired by the English Garden City model, the centerpiece would be an open air theatre over a covered marketplace. It was a great idea, but after only 2 houses were built, the project was stopped, as Barcelonians preferred to live closer to the city center. Guell ended up giving the land to the city, and its now a delightful park full of fantasy mosaics and wandering paths that climb the hillside. Gaudi lived in one of the houses while working on his cathedral project. As you can see, Gaudi went crazy with tile. This is the serpentine bench along the open air theatre space, looking out over the city, decorated in Gaudi's distinctive style.

Inside Gaudi's Palau Guell - Architect Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926) was born at the right time in the right place. Barcelona experienced tremendous prosperity at the end of the 19th century and a new architectural style was sweeping Europe. Known as Art Nouveau in France, Modern Style in England and Secessionist in Austria, Barcelona's Moderniste movement's architects brought a new look rich in color, organic pattern and over-the-top playfulness to the expanding city. Gaudi is the best known, and his work is found throughout the city. After a slow start, in 1883 Gaudi became the architect for Eusebl Guell, a textile(!) magnate, and designed his patron's house on a small street just off the Rambla. Given an unlimited budget, Gaudi directed the city's best artisans to work their magic with stone, wood, glass and most Catalan, tile. We visited the house on the morning it opened after an 11 year restoration. (We didn't know that until the end of the visit, and all the while I had been marveling what fantastic condition the house was in.) While the Modernisme movement was extremely popular in its day, it fell out of favor during Franco's regime. Now, with more than 50 Moderniste buildings, Barcelona celebrates its unique heritage. Palau Guell is one of the most astonishing. This is the view from inside the entryway with ironwork designed by Gaudi.

The Tram to Montjuif - After a week of perfect sunny mild weather, we had a cooler, on again, off again rainy day. We headed for Montjuif, the towering hill overlooking the city which is the site of the Castell de Montjuif, a 17th c. fortress; Catalonia's National Museum; the Joan Miro Foundation; and Mies' Barcelona Pavilion. Quite an eclectic mix, all surrounded with lush landscaping/forests and offering phenomenal views of the entire city. The most scenic way to reach the sites is by funicular, right up the mountainside.

Inside Barcelona's Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter) - It may seem that Barcelona is all about Gaudi, but it has a long history and many existing buildings to show for it. The medieval Gothic Quarter sits just to the east of the Rambla, and was actually built over the first Roman settlement. It is a maze of pedestrian walkways, with balconied buildings tightly packed over the narrow streets. Barcelona's impressive 15th c City Hall and beautiful plazas and many small restaurants are found in this historic area.

La Boqueria: Everything From Almonds to Zucchinis - One of the favorite tourist destinations is La Boqueria, Barcelona's biggest food market right off the Rambla. The stalls are filled with anything/everything fresh, edible and delicious. The stacks of brilliantly colored fruit and vegetables are inspiration for any textile design. Fortunately, the sellers are used to photographer tourists and are not bothered by our gawking.

Inside Barcelona's Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter) - It may seem that Barcelona is all about Gaudi, but it has a long history and many existing buildings to show for it. The medieval Gothic Quarter sits just to the east of the Rambla, and was actually built over the first Roman settlement. It is a maze of pedestrian walkways, with balconied buildings tightly packed over the narrow streets. Barcelona's impressive 15th c City Hall and beautiful plazas and many small restaurants are found in this historic area.

Els Quatre Gats Restaurant - One night we ate at Els Quatre Gats, designed in 1896 by Moderniste master architect Josep Puig i Caldafalch. Located in the Old City, it was the site of Picasso's first painting show in 1899. The interiors have much of the original decor of the early 20th c. The large paintings by Russinyol and Casas are now copies, with the originals safely hung in the Catalonian National Museum of Art.

Modernisme all over Barcelona: Hospital Sant Pau - While Gaudi is the Moderniste star, there are other great examples of the over the top architecture by other masters. Gaudi's professor was Lluis Domenech i Montaner and he designed several equally noteworthy buildings at the turn of the century. Influenced more by the English Arts and Crafts movement, his Hospital de Sant Pau (1900) is set in 40 landscaped acres with ventilated open windows and sunlit rooms and colorful mosaics that he believed would help in patients' healing.

A Tapas Bar in Barcelona - Tapas are now a Barcelona specialty. While invented in nearby Andalusia, tourists and locals flock to restaurants for the hors d'oeuvres-like tastings. Best shared among friends, there are plenty of restaurants catering to diners' demands for these delicacies.

In the Ravel - Just on the other side of the the Rambla from the Gothic Quarter is the Ravel neighborhood. While many of its streets have elegant buildings and quiet courtyards, it has a grittier ambiance, with a history of ladies of the night hangouts. In fact, Picasso's ground breaking cubist masterpiece Desmoiselles d'Avignon's subject matter and name come from one of its streets named Avignon (not Avignon, France). There are many examples of turn of the century architecture in this area.

The Rambla - Barcelona's best known boulevard is the Rambla, which stretches from Placa Catalunya to the waterfront. Tourists and locals alike promenade past cafes, bird and flower stalls, magicians, performers of all kinds. The trees offer shaded comfort from the warm sun.

Barcelona's Cathedral de Seu - In the center of the Barri is Cathedral de Seu, built 1298-1450. Its quiet courtyard provides cool respite on a hot day.

Gothic Quarter's Cathedral de Seu - In the center of the Barri is Cathedral de Seu, built 1298-1450. Around the cathedral are quiet streets with classic guitar performers and on Sunday afternoons, the citizens get together in front and dance the traditional Catalonian Sardana, a somewhat formal circular dance. This isn't done for the tourists, but for their own joy.

Modernism in Eixample - In 1891 Gaudi took on the design of the Sagrada Familia Cathedral. Originally begun by a different architect in 1882 with a traditional gothic style, Gaudi transformed it into an indescribably unique structure that attracts millions of tourists a year. "My client is not in a hurry", Gaudi told anyone when asked about the timetable of the Sagrada Familia Cathedral. Good thing, as it continues to be worked on to this day, funded with private donations and tourist admission fees, with a hoped for completion date of 2025. Like his other projects, the building's structure is made up of references to nature while telling the complete story of the Christian faith. The four towers seen below are only a few (and shorter) of the 18 towers that will finally be built. Two of the 3 entry facades are complete.

Gaudi's Sagrada Familia Cathedral - In 1891 Gaudi took on the design of the Sagrada Familia Cathedral. Originally begun by a different architect in 1882 with a traditional gothic style, Gaudi transformed it into an indescribably unique structure that attracts millions of tourists a year. "My client is not in a hurry", Gaudi told anyone when asked about the timetable of the Sagrada Familia Cathedral. Good thing, as it continues to be worked on to this day, funded with private donations and tourist admission fees, with a hoped for completion date of 2025. Like his other projects, the building's structure is made up of references to nature while telling the complete story of the Christian faith. The four towers seen below are only a few (and shorter) of the 18 towers that will finally be built. Two of the 3 entry facades are complete.

La Boqueria: Everything From Almonds to Zucchinis - One of the favorite tourist destinations is La Boqueria, Barcelona's biggest food market right off the Rambla. The stalls are filled with anything/everything fresh, edible and delicious. The stacks of brilliantly colored fruit and vegetables are inspiration for any textile design. Fortunately, the sellers are used to photographer tourists and are not bothered by our gawking.

MACBA in the Ravel: Skateboarder's Delightl - Just on the other side of the the Rambla from the Gothic Quarter is the Ravel neighborhood. While many of its streets have elegant buildings and quiet courtyards, it has a grittier ambiance, with a history of ladies of the night hangouts. In fact, Picasso's ground breaking cubist masterpiece Desmoiselles d'Avignon's subject matter and name come from one of its streets named Avignon (not Avignon, France). The Ravel now houses the ultra modern MACBA (Museum of Contemporary Art Barcelona) designed in 1992 by American architect Richard Meier. Its gleaming white structure is a sharp contrast to the older buildings nearby.

The museum's courtyard ramp has become a favorite playground for Barcelona's best skateboarders.