10 May 2010 – Exploring Barcelona, Gaudi’s Works

This morning we had a very good breakfast buffet, beginning with “cherry lemon pepper juice”.  Amara was our guide for most of the morning on “Whisper” Channel 12.

Meat hangng in the Bouqueria

We walked on La Rambla, which, according to her, means “sand” but our bus driver said it means “river bed”.  So I figure it’s a sandy river bed.  I wonder if  that is how we got our word, “ramble”.  We headed for the market, which has several names, but the people call it La Bouqueria.  It was a great old fashioned market with meat hanging in the stalls, and fresh fruit everywhere. The stalls are rented from

Tasting Dragon Fruit

the city and are highly regulated.  Teresa and I tried the Dragon Fruit, which tastes a like a combination of Kiwi fruit and Jicama.

We then walked to the Pi Square, named for the Pi tree, and which also gave its name to the church there.  I have now figured out she was probably saying “pine tree” and we were in Pine Square, with the Pine Church nearby.  That makes a lot more sense.

Many of the streets are named for trades, e.g. “straw”street.  We  saw graffiti everywhere, some more interesting than others.

We then came to a large square, with blocky metal sculptured letters BORCINO, which was the original

Barcelona graffiti

Roman name of the town, which became Barcelona.  Romans founded the city 21 centuries ago.  Now there are four languages, Catalan, Castillian, Gallego, and Ouskia (Basque), and many dialects.

Picasso sent sketches for sculpture for a new building, but they applied the sketches directly instead, which worked out very well.  Picasso had wanted to come back to Spain, but he was not willing to come back to Spain under Franco, and unfortunately,

A design by Picasso

Picasso died two years before Franco, so he never made it.  We are looking forward to seeing the architect Gaudi’s work, and there was his name on a building to the left of the cathedral we were standing in front of.  However, it was just a charity building with no major connection to Gaudi.  It seems to me I’ve seen buildings on the left of churches being the charity building in other European countries before.  Maybe it’s a tradition,  or conventional layout.

It’s simply called “The Cathedral” because there is only one in Barcelona, and that is because there is only one Bishop in Barcelona.  Its patron saint is a girl named Eulalia, who was martyred at the age of 13, and is buried in the crypt.  In the choir, there is a panel dated with the year 1518.  In that year, the Knights of the Golden Fleece met under the auspices of Charles II, and each of the leaders had a choir stall assigned and painted with his emblem.

In the Cloisters, we saw a chapel provided by the plumbers and construction workers rather than a wealthy family, which is more typical.  Nearby, there was a monument and a small statue of St. George, who is no longer a saint, inasmuch as slaying a dragon is no longer a credible miracle.

In the 1930’s, they built a bridge in historic style to connect two government office buildings.  They also built King’s square

A bridge between two office buildings, built in the 1930s.

with a gap between the buildings to provide a view of the tower.

In the 13th and 14th Century, the North was Christian and the South Muslim, with constant fighting.  Ferdinand and Isabella married, uniting the Catalan and Castillian regions, which gave them the resources to drive the Moors out, with Toledo becoming the capital of Spain.

We came to a square where the fourth wall of the square is a building that was

This building was moved stone by stone to this location.

removed from another location to make room for a highway, and stored until 1920, when it was reassembled numbered stone by numbered stone.  In the process, Roman ruins and artifacts were found four meters below street level.

Our  bus, driven by Manuel, then took us to Gaudi’s Cathedral La Sagrada Familia (Holy Family),

La Sagrada Familia (The Holy Family) by Antoni Gaudi

through Plaza Catalona, the main square of Barcelona.  Gaudi’s cathedral was more amazing than I could possibly have imagined.  The shapes of the main construction elements split and

Inside La Sagrada Familia

swooped to make wonderful compositions overhead wherever you looked.  Construction was going on in many parts of the building, and you could look through glass panes to see the craftsmen making reinforced plaster casts of the decorations to be cemented in place.

An artisan at work, casting reinforced plaster. His wife is a cathedral guide.

Gaudi was the second architect to work on the cathedral.  The first, Francisco Villar, was going to make a much smaller and conventional structure.  Gaudi’s astonishing work was not well accepted at first, but is now revered in Spain.  It was based on supporting columns, rather than thick walls and flying buttresses, and on re-used materials.  It was started 128  years ago, in 1882.  Gaudi lived on site, and died in 1926 at age 74, when he was hit by a tram.  It is funded by private donations, a “believer’s wish”.  The choir holds 3500 people and the main area will hold over 10,000.

For strength, the arches had to be in the shape of a catenary.

Gaudi used a clever way of designing the arches for maximum stability.  He made an assembly of strings that would hang in a catenary, which is the ideal shape for a strong arch.  The amazing part is that he added weights in bags to simulate other loads, which allowed him to design arches that were tall and slender.

The side we were on represented the birth of Christ.  We headed underneath the church, where the craftsmen were working, to the other side which represented the death of Christ.  This was done in a completely different, angular, more modern style by another artist, Subirachs.  Gaudi approved the concept.

The death of Christ, by another artist

We then headed to the area of the Olympic Stadium, where many of the buildings were built for the event.  The stadium was not new and had been built in 1926 and renovated for the 1992 event.  The diving venue, where we had a view stop, does indeed have  have a wonderful view of the city.

In 2009, 1300 cruise ships called at Barcelona, which has  been a popular destination ever since the Olympics.

It was Fred’s birthday today, and Patricia gave him a birthday cake with two toothpicks for candles.

As far as dining goes, Patricia advised us that many French restaurant  have the “Menu of the Day” a prix fixe three-course meal.  At a restaurant if you ask for a menu, the waiter will assume that is what you are ordering.  You need to ask for the “carta” to see what else is available.

We decided to eat at Els Quatre Gats for lunch which features the art of Picasso, Dali, and Miro, and was a favorite hangout of Picasso, at least.  We ate with Margo and Jim (also from Yale) and Bob and Jackie.

Lunch at the Four Cats

On the menu cover it said “Es serveix buere y menjar a totes hores”  which Google Translate renders as “Buere and food is served at all hours”.  Four of us had “The Menu” in variety of combinations while Teresa and  Jackie had the the restaurant’s version of paella which was called “Soupy Rice”.  It was a leisurely lunch, and we didn’t get out until about four o’clock.  I got up to check to see if the pictures on the wall were originals, and knocked over an empty wine glass with a clatter.  That was not enough, so I immediately knocked over again, this time to the floor, where it shattered.  By then I guess everyone knew I was an American.  I went on to check the wall art which turned out to be reproductions.

After an afternoon siesta, we strolled La Rambla one more time, and then headed for Tapas around 9 PM.  We found the Jules Verne on La Rambla, which was empty, which concerned us at first, but around ten PM, people started coming in.  The wine list had only several different bottles of wine, and champagne for the price of a glass of wine.  That too was for a bottle, but being the cheapest, I ordered it.  It’s the first time I’ve had champagne with a plastic screw top.  We had melon & prosciutto, meatballs, Russian salad, chicken legs, and ham & cheese empanada.  Very good and very rich.  We had Catalan bread which was sliced French bread finished with tomato, oil, garlic and salt.

It was then time to pick up my new leather jacket.  We were warmly welcomed and  the jacket sleeves had been perfectly shortened.  As we were paying for it, the lady said, “It’s not real leather”, which really surprised me, because we had paid a leather price for it.  After a short discussion I finally figured out she was saying, “It’s natural leather”, and should only be cleaned with water.

Back to the hotel and packing for an early getaway tomorrow morning.

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2 Responses to 10 May 2010 – Exploring Barcelona, Gaudi’s Works

  1. Brett says:

    Thanks for making me hungry! That cathedral is amazing—as is all of Gaudi’s stuff, I think. Safe travels!

    • jfistere says:

      We’re on our own now, and have been to Toledo, Salamanca, and are now in Cambados, near Santiago de Compostela. The food at the Parador Hotels has been great, and I’m bringing home the menus and some recipes they publish. We go to Gijon tomorrow, then Santillana (Altamira Caves), Argomaniz (near Bilbao), Figueres (Dali museum), Barcelona, and home.

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