Barcelona, June 4 / June 12, 2011

Michael J. Ferguson

Journal Index


1  Introduction
2  Montréal to Barcelona, Sat. Jun. 4 / Sun. June 5
3  Barcelona, Mon. June 6 to Sat. June 11
4  Barcelona Architecture
5  The Sagrada Familia
6  Tres Estrellas to Montreal, Sun. June 12

1  Introduction

Barcelona is a centre of art and architecture. I have seen pictures of the fantastic creations of Gaudi and am looking forward to seeing them myself. This is also the home of artists Picasso and Miro. I much less interest in them and didn't visit any of their exhibitions.

2  Montréal to Barcelona, Sat. Jun. 4 / Sun. June 5

It was a beautiful ride to the airport, but it was Saturday, so the bicycle paths were quite crowded. I was the only one that appeared to be going any great distance. After about an hour, I arrived at the airport, and another hour or so later, I had packed my bag and trailer and headed for the Air Transat counter. It was much less crowded than on the Friday I went to Venice, but Air Transat compensated for it by having fewer active checkin counters. We were about an hour late leaving because the Air Transat caterers were on strike and their backup was a little slow loading the plane. One nice thing about Air Transat service is that they still give you a small glass of free, and reasonably decent, wine with dinner. It was a pleasant and uneventful flight.

However, the baggage pick up was fraught with trauma. My trailer came out well enough, but my bicycle was no where to be seen. I wasn't all that worried because there were about 20 others that were still waiting for their bags. Then things finally really stopped and the rest of the passengers trekked over to the local baggage handlers office only to find it was closed. When I arrived, a woman was venting here frustration at the lady at the desk of another baggage service that had nothing to do with it. Just by these offices was a Special Baggage belt, and on it was a big black bag that looked like my bicycle. It, indeed was, so I didn't face the trauma of trying to remotely retrieve it and figure out a way to get to the campground. It was quite a relief.

My GPS said that I had 15km to ride to get to my campground, but if I were a pedestrian, it was only 6km. Pedestrians are routed the wrong way down one-way streets and highways. The only complication of using pedestrian routing for a bicycle, is that stairs are also ok for pedestrians.

After a few wrong turns, I found the Tres Estrellas campgrounds. On the way I passed two very dead campgrounds that were still on my map. A major advantage of Tres Estrellas is that they have a supermercado, which, given that it was Sunday, was probably the only store in town that was open. This meant that I had something for supper, and, most importantly, they sold Camping Gaz so I would be able to make coffee in the morning.

3  Barcelona, Mon. June 6 to Sat. June 11

On Monday I had just a small breakfast so desperately wanted to find the McDonald's on my way into Barcelona. Unfortunately, my GPS kept routing me on non-existent small roads so I failed. My second attempt was a Carrefour in a large shopping centre but I arrived well before it opened. Everything starts and finishes late in Spain. I was very hungry until early in the afternoon when I found a delicious crêpe sandwich.

My first real stop was the Plaça Espanya which is the central square in Barcelona. It is large and not very quaint. The fountain is the work of Josep Maria Pujol, another Barcelona architect.

The Arenas de Barcelona used to be a bullring but is now apparently being converted into a shopping centre.

The Mont Juic is the largest hill in Barcelona, and has the impressive Avinguda de la Reina Maria Cristina, with two Venetian Towers at it's entrance leads to the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. As with many other impressive buildings in Barcelona, it was specially built for an world? exposition,

The Magic Fountain in front of the columns would have been more magical if there had been some water.

Much to my surprise, on Saturday, the entire avenue was taken over by a publicity stunt for the NBA, the US National Basketball League which has strong desires to become a global brand.

On my towards the Bari Gotic or the old city, I passed one of the protests that I had read about, a tent city in the Plaça Catalunya. During the week after I got home, the demonstrations grew more animated with noisy confrontations in front of the Catalunya parliament building.

The centre of the Bari Gotic is the Barcelona Cathedral.

I went inside the cathedral for only a few seconds because my bicycle shorts meant I was not appropriately dressed.

Gargoyles are everywhere, adding their charm.

The Palau del Lloctinent houses the Archivo del la Corona de Aragón with a second sign on the right half of the door in Catalon, Arxiu del la Corona d'Áragó

indicating another of the linguistic conflicts that exist around the world. Inside the Palau del Lloctinent is a small courtyard, and all the through on the other side in the Plaça del Rei is Museo d'Historia de Barcelona.

On the way towards Barcelona's most famous pedestrian mall, La Rambla was the small Plaça del Pi with its church, the Església de Santa Maria de Pi and a building memorial to the 100 year old Ganiveteria Roca 1911-2011 Fem 100 Anys.

The first that I saw of La Rambla were the turrets of the Església de Carme.

La Rambla starts at the Plaça de Catalunya and continues down to the Columbus Monument at the old port.

On my last trip to Spain, I read that sixty percent of the tourists in Barcelona were robbed. Fortunately, on this trip I was in the other forty percent.

The Columbus Monument in the Plaça del Portal de la Pau at the end of La Rambla, is flanked by the Gobierno Militar and Customs Building and an exotic guarded, and unnamed building.

Although La Rambla is really too crowded for riding, not all of the pedestrian malls were that way. Some were pleasantly deserted. The only deterrence was being pelted on the head with pervasive yellow (acacia?) flowers.

The Old Port has its own Rambla, and a very crowded small boat harbour.

Just across the basin from the Old Port is La Barceloneta. Just before I headed into Barceloneta, I stopped to rest on my 3-legged stool and was approached by a young North African man. He didn't want to sell me anything but was curious about where I was from and how old I was. I told him I was 70, and he said that in his country, men of 70 just shuffled around or kept in their bed. To me he said ``Keep it up ... keep riding!''. My Michelin Mustsees Barcelona guidebook says that a car in Barcelona is not worth the hassle. It recommends a bicycle and notes there are a large number of bicycle paths. That was true, but they did not necessarily go where I wanted. However, bicycles seem to be allowed on all sidewalks. The major problem there is that the pedestrians, for some reason, feel they have the priority, and sometimes it is even difficult to walk both with and against traffic.

Barceloneta was designed by a military engineer on land reclaimed from old military barracks. The streets are narrow, on a rigid rectangular grid.

Except for the sky, you can almost imagine being in the barracks. This spit of land is bordered by Barcelona's largest, and obviously popular beach, Sant Sebastia.

Not far from the beach is the Parc de la Ciutadella. It is the home of the Catalan Parliament, several ponds, a large fountain, and the Castell dels Tres Dragons, designed by Lluis Domenech I Montaner to house a cafe for the 1888 Exposition.

The park is at the end of a long mall that starts with a monument that every country feels it should have, an Arc de Triomphe.

The Parc de L'Estacio del Nord two blocks away has a very interesting large tiled flower pot.

Generally the churches that I saw had rather uninspiring, perhaps even dull, facades, and were crowded by the city around them. One exception was Església de Santa Maria del Mar. It is apparently the only Catalan Gothic church in Barcelona that has a completed facade. It is also unusual because it was completed in only 56 years, lightening speed for a medieval church. The modern monument beside the wall is to the Martirs de 1714 that died freeing Barcelona from an Austrian occupying army, It was only yesterday.

4  Barcelona Architecture

Barcelona is a feast for the architecturally inclined. There are none of the soaring Gothic cathedrals in the rest of Europe but there is an exotic mix of the modern and the fantastical.

One good place for the fantastical is sitting down at McDonald's on Passeig Gracia in front of Illa de la Discòrdia. From this single spot you can see the works of at least three different architects.

Antoni Tâpies is apparently an artist rather than an architect, but there is an aluminum wire sculpture on the roof of his museum, with a chair that is obviously a little difficult to sit on.

Along with the Castell dels Tres Dragons, Lluis Domenech I Montaner designed several other buildings in Barcelona. I found very few of his and one I did find was the Hospital de Sant Pau which is now undergoing rather heavy restoration.

The Casa de les Punxes has a certain amount of charm, and was the only one I found by Josep Puig I Cadafalch.

The most celebrated of the Barcelona architects is Antoni Gaudi. His name is magic today.

I think he, almost single handedly, has made Barcelona a prime tourist attraction. This bust of him is displayed in his most famous creation, the La Sacrada Familia.

Gaudi's first major commission was the Casa Vicens, built for the owner of a ceramics factory. It is rather flamboyant, perhaps to impress future customers.

It was a surprise to see, and smell, the fragrant magnolia.

The Casa Calvet was built for a textile merchant, and, although considered ordinary compared to his other designs, does have thread bobbins stacked to make the columns on either side of the front door. Since both houses were closed to the public, there was no way to appreciate the internal detail.

The Casa Batllo is a part of the Illa de la Discordia

Immediately upon entry, you climbed a wooden staircase to find the fireplace in a room that appears to be dedicated to it.

The view out the window of main room was surreal,

and the patio rather simple for Gaudi.

The internal skylight, which seems to be a feature of all Gaudi houses ran from the ground floor, up the five stories to the roof.

The roof, like all the Gaudi roofs was populated with whimsical tiled creatures.

The Casa Mila is considered one of Gaudi's masterpieces.

I don't think there is a straight line in the entire building. Each of the iron railings on the balconies are unique.

The inside atrium has its own railings and rises to a skylight on the roof.

The roof is populated by an incredible collection of creatures.

The house has quite comfortable apartments, but the stove would require an old skill set.

The Güell name appears on several of Gaudi's works. The Palau Güell, Park Güell, and Colonia Güell. Eusebi Güell was an industrialist and patron of Catalunya arts.

The Palau Güell is a very large town house crowded by its neighbours.

The basement has an appropriate dungeon feeling for a palace.

The interior is appropriately sumptuous.

The roof, of course, had its soothing creatures.

Next door, someone was trying to emulate Gaudi's creations.

I rode up to the Colonia Güell on Friday afternoon just after the morning rain had stopped and the sun came out. I had hoped that was the end of the rain but that was wishful thinking. I got totally soaked. Even my GoreTex jacket and hood did not keep me dry. The Colonia Güell was to be a model village for textile workers employed by Eusebi Güell. Gaudi designed the church for the village, but it did not progress beyond the first floor, as the project went bankrupt.

The Park Güell was bought by Eusebi Güell in 1899 and he entrusted it to Gaudi to turn it into a city garden. Gaudi worked on it for 4 years until the project was cancelled because it was not making money.

Gaudi lived for twenty years in this house on the grounds, although he did not design it.

These two small houses near an entrance are obviously by Gaudi.

The white house on the hill is quite elegant.

5  The Sagrada Familia

The Sacrada Familia is the most popular tourist attraction in Barcelona. I finally got into it on my fourth attempt when I arrived at the ticket booth at 8:15am, 45 minutes before it was to open. When I arrived there were about ten people waiting, and the first people in line had been there since 6:45am. The day before I arrived at 9:30am, when I mistakenly thought the ticket booth was to open. It actually opened at 9:00am, and by 9:30am, the line was already around the corner, probably 100m or more. The previous two times I tried, the line stretched almost to the back of the church. The 45 minute wait was not too painful. I sat down on my stool and was quite comfortable. Since the booth was not open, I didn't have to move. Although the Sacrada Familia is a working Roman Catholic Church, it is deemed so important to the city that I was allowed in wearing my bicycle shorts.

The Sacrada Familia was Gaudi's passion. He died, after being run over by a street car in 1926, before it was completed, and as can be seen it is still a work in progress. Perhaps it will take as long to complete as some of the old medieval cathedrals.

The front facade is known as the Glory Facade.

The Nativity Facade is the rear facade and looks rather cluttered and rough, but has surprising sensitive detail.

The inside soars, and is breathtaking.

It is possible to take an elevator to the top of either the Glory Facade or the Nativity Facade. I took the one on the Glory Facade side.

The basement holds a small museum with a portable pulpit and confessional

and models of the evolution of the design of the church. Gaudi started with an old Gothic design, but modified it to be base on parabolic curves.

He then apparently learned some geometry and based the current design on hyperbolics.

Gaudi new it would be difficult for his workers, so he built a school on the grounds for their children.

6  Tres Estrellas to Montreal, Sun. June 12

The ride to the airport was very short, dry, and sunny. I found a baggage cart, and managed to get my bicycle and trailer ready for flying in about an hour. The checkin was easy, but the agent insisted that I put the Air Transat plastic bag around my bicycle bag. We both put mine inside, but he didn't have any tape to seal it. As I expected, my bicycle arrived in Montreal without the plastic bag.

The flight was pleasant without any surprises, and although the captain said that Montreal had light showers, it beautiful and sunny when I got out of customs and immigration. I decided to unpack my stuff and ride home, but just as I was finishing, the rain started. The ride home was not totally unpleasant, but I did get soaked. However, I was home so it didn't make much difference. It was a good trip.

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On 20 Jun 2011, 10:01.