Tag: Barcelona

Barcelona – Last Time Ever?

Barcelona – Last Time Ever?

Barcelona, Spain – June 6, 2012

The train departed Madrid, Spain, bound for Barcelona at about 08:30. It will be my final trip during this tour, maybe my last trip ever to Barcelona. I have been very fortunate to have made some dozen or so trips to Barcelona while living in Spain.

My stay in Barcelona is for three days and two nights. Once again, my hotel of choice was the Le Méridien on La Rambla. I have not yet decided what I will do after hours. I feel like I have seen and done nearly everything, but I am sure I will think of something.

I arrived at the hotel at about 17:00. By 17:30 I checked-in, bought a bottle of wine, some cheese, and some pistachios. That would ultimately be my dinner because I had a large lunch that day.

When I left the hotel, I grabbed a red apple. I decided to head toward the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MAC BA). I at the apple as I walked. Part of why I chose to go there was because the hotel provided a complimentary entry ticket.

I am thrilled the ticket was gratis. People say, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Well, this beholder did not see a great deal of beauty. To be fair, several exhibits were closed because they were either being assembled or disassembled.
Regardless, on three floors of exhibit space, I did not see one item that appealed to me. The other “strike” against the museum was the fact that it does not allow photographs. However, I was able to take a picture from an exterior balcony of an abandoned church across the street from MAC BA.

After I trekked through the three floors of the museum, I stopped at the museum shop. I was able to buy two magnets for Leslie’s collection. They are magnets that will remind us of La Rambla and Plaza Catalunya.

In front of the museum, there was a lot of activity. Since it was in the shade by then, numerous people sat on top of a small wall in front of MAC BA. In front of that was an expansive plaza. People talking, walking, and riding skateboards crowded the square.

A couple of sidewalk cafés just outside the MAC BA museum.

Detail of the abandoned church across the street from MAC BA.
People sitting on the wall in front of the museum.
A skateboarder doing tricks in front of the museum in the Plaça dels Àngels.
Pedestrians passing the museum.
The wall was a popular place.
Another skateboarder doing tricks in front of the museum in the Plaça dels Àngels.
Yet another skateboarder doing tricks in front of the museum in the Plaça dels Àngels.
The sign in front of the museum.
The abandoned church.
View along the top of the wall.
A bicycle rider departing from near the wall.
A unique sculpture above an apartment.
A car driving along a very narrow street.
A wall, fence, and hedge along the narrow street.
People walking past Two-Hand Photocopies.
My welcome at my hotel.
A building across from the hotel with some art deco-looking statues.
Looking down on La Rambla as a buss passes.
A taxi on La Rambla.
Cars and bicycles on La Rambla.
Pedestrians in the center median of La Rambla.
A car and skateboarder on La Rambla.
A building across the street from the hotel.
Pedestrians after dark.

After work on Thursday, I strolled south on La Rambla. My mission was to photograph many of the street performers that were out working. The first one I spotted was a portrait painter. Dressed entirely in white, he had a paintbrush and a palette; both also white. He had a small white frame that those posing with him held in front of their faces. That made it look as though he was painting their portrait. After the painter, I saw the space alien. He had the most fun and also had attracted the biggest crowd. A little farther down the road was a woman made up to look like the figure in Salvador Dali’s painting, The Burning Giraffe (1937). Her costume was complete with the open drawers one sees in the original painting. Lastly, there were two different performers with the same get-up, each riding a bicycle with a skeleton sidekick.

Painting a masterpiece?
The space alien having fun.
A crowd gathered around the space alien.
Pedestrians on La Rambla.
Flowers for sale on La Rambla.
Plants and tourist trinkets also for sale.
Gardening seeds for sale.
People coming and going from St. Joseph Market off La Rambla.
An Erotic Museum??? I did not have the gumption to enter.
The Salvador Dali street performer.
The woman “from” The Burning Giraffe by Salvador Dali.  Note the chain attached to the money jar.
The bell tower of the Basilica de Santa Maria del Pi.
An advertisement for a Titanic exhibition.
The most unique feature of a building near the Liceu Metro stop is the dragon holding a lamp with an umbrella leaning against the lamp.
A unique building near the Liceu Metro stop.
A wider view of the building and plaza.

At one point along La Rambla, I found myself at an exit/entry of the Metro.  Suddenly, nuns began streaming out of the underground Metro onto the street.  Based on the habits they wore, I believe they were part of the Missionaries of Charity.  That is the group founded by Mother Teresa.  I was not the only one to stop and photograph their exit.

Mercenaries of Charity exiting the Liceu Metro stop.
There seemed to be nuns everywhere!
A happy baby.
A street performer dressed as The Mask.
A bike rider and skeleton.
Good ol’ KFC!
An intricate water fountain on La Rambla.
Two people posing near another bike rider and skeleton.
A typical street scene on La Rambla.

 

I ultimately ended up in the “art” area of La Rambla, an area with caricature artists and painters of nearly every variety. I watched one artist ply his trade with spray paint. It was amazing what he did and how quickly he completed the canvas. He began with a white, stretched canvas, and in about five minutes, he had a finished work of art. It looked like a beach sunset scene. Beside him was a box of a dozen or so spray paint cans. He had only one nozzle that he quickly detached from one can and attached to another in a split second. At one point, his cell phone rang. Once he answered the cell phone, he cradled it to his ear, and he was right back to painting. I do not think this was his first day on the job! Some of the detail work, such as the palm trees and birds, he did by hand; other than those, it was spray paint only.

Shortly after that “booth,” I found an artist that did oil paintings on canvas. One of the large pictures reminded me of the art Leslie, and I had just seen at the Thyssen Museum in Madrid; Saint-Honore Street in the Afternoon Effect of Rain by Camille Pissarro (1897). The artist wanted €120 (US$146). I talked him down (the first bartering I have done in Spain) to €80 (US$97), so I bought the painting. It may have been too expensive, but oh well.

The spray paint artist.
The spray paint artist on the phone. Notice his right hand is still moving furiously.
Placing the finishing touches.
Some colorful art for sale on La Rambla.
THE painting!

 

On my way back north on La Rambla, I spotted a small plaza off to the east by about a half-block. I walked into the square and took a seat at a table at la Terrassa del DO for a glass of wine and a tapa. I decided to have patatas bravas, one of my favorites. When I asked the waiter the name of the plaza, he said, “Plaça Reial.” That translates to Royal Square. Like so many other sidewalk cafés, it was delightful and relaxing to sit there and watch the world and the people. To occupy my time, besides the wine and tapas, I took photographs and wrote in my journal.

The patatas bravas had a wonderfully delicious white sauce on top of each potato. The waiter explained that it was a specialty of the hotel, a mixture of olive oil, garlic, and eggs. I had never had a sauce like that before. It was decadent. On top of the white sauce was a dollop of the traditional red sauce commonly used on patatas bravas.

While I say enjoying my patatas bravas and wine, a three-piece musical group came by to entertain anyone in the plaza that would listen. There was an accordion player, a clarinet player, and a drummer. After their song, they went table to table with a hat to collect money. I gave them €3 (US$3.66) for their effort. I found out they were from Romania. One’s name was Steven, one was Tosh, and I did not understand the name of the third member. After they left, I ordered some calamari and another glass of wine. It was very relaxing.

When I finished, I walked back to the hotel and packed, in preparation for my departure the next day.

Mopeds lined up as far as the eye can see.
People sitting around the water fountain at Plaça Reial.
People walking past the cafe at which I sat.
The musicians stopped for a smoke break.
Playing one of their songs.
The three musicians at my table.
Posing for a photograph in front of the fountain in Plaça Reial.
A woman walking a dog and two boys.
Two women posing near my table.
Barcelona with Flat Stanley

Barcelona with Flat Stanley

Barcelona, Spain – March 21, 2012

When I woke up this morning, it was raining. That is the first precipitation we have had in many, many months. It was coming down somewhat hard. I got myself ready, finished packing, and left the house to meet my neighbor for a ride to work. When I arrived at his car, I was surprised to see it covered in snow. The rain had switched to snow. Luckily it was not accumulating on the ground.

Shortly after arriving at the office, I hailed a taxi to take me to the Atocha railway station to catch my 08:00 train. It had stopped snowing, but it was still raining. The cab dropped me off at the station at about 07:25. As always, the train departed precisely on time. We were scheduled to arrive in Barcelona at about 10:30.

About 25 minutes into the journey, I began to see snow had accumulated on the ground just enough to turn the ground white.

Another 20 minutes further along and there was snow! I estimate it was about three or four inches deep, complete with some drifts. It was a pretty sight. The train slowed from 300 kilometers per hour to 160 kilometers per hour (186 mph to 99 mph) going through that area. It was also very foggy.

About halfway through the journey, I walked to the cafeteria car and spent 3.40€ (US$4.15) for a cup of coffee and a croissant. I stood at the counter in the cafeteria car to consume those. The croissant was huge. Chasing a bite of a croissant with a sip of Spanish coffee is heavenly!

I arrived at the Barcelona train station at about 10:42, the late arrival no doubt due to our trek through the snow at about half-speed. It is the only time I can recall being on a train that arrived late. It was raining in Barcelona. I took a taxi to the office and then, later, I took a cab to my hotel.

After unpacking at the hotel, I walked next door to the grocery store to buy a bottle of wine. Once there, I decided to pick up some tapas. I bought some sliced Havarti cheese, chorizo picante (Felix de Murtiga Jabugo – lberico de Bellota), and some pistachios. When I returned to my room, I was surprised to find a bowl of fruit and some mineral water. The fruit consisted of a huge strawberry, grapes, a pear, a kiwi, and a plum. So, all of that food became my dinner. Partly because it was there and partly because I did not want to go out in the weather to a restaurant.

Just before leaving for Barcelona, we received Flat Stanley in the mail. He came to us from a friend in Colorado. He is working with their second-grader as they learn about the world. So, one of the first things Flat Stanley did was look out of the hotel window onto La Rambla.

Flat Stanley looking out of the hotel window.

The next day, after work, Flat Stanley and I decided to go to the Picasso Museum. We decided we would walk to the museum. It is only about 1.5 kilometers (0.9 miles) from the hotel. Just as we began our walk, I saw one of the Go Cars. When I later looked at the photograph I had taken, I was surprised by the numerous modes of transportation captured by the camera; of course, the Go Car, the numerous mopeds, the pedestrians, the cyclist, the van approaching in traffic, and the taxi behind that.

Several modes of transport are available in Barcelona.

We continued on our walk, through the plaza in front of the Cathedral and then on to Carrer Princesa. Shortly after turning onto that street, we came across a shop, Arlequi Mascaras. Flat Stanley desperately wanted to go inside and have a look at all of the masks. While there, I bought a key chain for Tyler and a broach for Hillary. Flat Stanley did not buy anything, but he did want his picture taken with some of the masks his size. There was a sign in the store that photographs were not allowed. However, after meeting Flat Stanley, the shopkeeper, Anna, said I could take his picture. She commented after seeing the photo, “Flat Stanley looked like a fish in the water with all of those masks.”

A couple dining above the fountain.
A lot of people on Carrer Portaferrisa.
Students gathering around the Barcelona sculpture.
A bustling market in front of the cathedral.
Dozens of people gathering outside the cathedral.
A Roman-era wall and tower.
The very narrow end of a building.
One can go either way to the Picasso Museum.
Flat Stanley on the way to the museum.
Flat Stanley shopping for a mask.

From that shop, we continued toward the Picasso Museum. In all of my visits to Barcelona, I have never been to this museum. I have passed by it many times, but I have never gone in. I think that is because the entry line has been too long in the past. This time there were only about a dozen people in front of me. I am delighted I spent the 11€ (US$13.42) to enter the museum. Picasso’s works absolutely stuff the museum. The vast majority of them are from the period between 1890 and 1917. During much of that time, he lived in Barcelona. Additionally, there were several works from 1957 when he was living in Cannes, France. Following are the artworks I most enjoyed seeing:

Mother and son with handkerchief, 1903 - Pablo Picasso

Mother and Son with Handkerchief – 1903.  Photo credit WikiArt (https://www.wikiart.org/en/pablo-picasso/mother-and-son-with-handkerchief-1903).

 

Olga in a Mantilla, 1917 - Pablo Picasso

Olga in a Mantilla – 1903.  Photo credit WikiArt (https://www.wikiart.org/en/pablo-picasso/olga-in-a-mantilla-1917).

 

Gutted horse, 1917 - Pablo Picasso

Gutted Horse – 1917.  It reminds me of some of his later, modern works at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid. Photo credit WikiArt (https://www.wikiart.org/en/pablo-picasso/gutted-horse-1917).

 

El Paseo de Colon, 1917 - Pablo Picasso

El Paseo de Colon – 1917.  Photo credit WikiArt (https://www.wikiart.org/en/pablo-picasso/el-paseo-de-colon-1917).

 

Las Meninas (Velazquez), 1957 - Pablo Picasso

Las Meninas – 1957.  It was a series, culminating in an extensive, maybe eight feet by 10 feet canvas, done as a likeness of the Velazquez hanging in the Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain. Photo credit WikiArt (https://www.wikiart.org/en/pablo-picasso/las-meninas-velazquez-1957-4).

 

Before going to the museum, I had looked up some information on the internet. It was there that I discovered that Picasso was a regular at a restaurant known as 4Gats (Four Cats). It is a small bar/restaurant that has been in existence since about 1897. Picasso did the artwork for the first menu. I thought Flat Stanley and I needed to see that restaurant. Even though I had drawn myself a map, I still had to ask a police officer for directions. By that point, we were within a couple of hundred meters, an easy walk.

The bar is at Carrer de Montsio, 3, just a few blocks north of the Cathedral. It is one of the tiny streets in the Gothic quarter of Barcelona. The slogan of the restaurant is “food and drink are served at any time.” Of course, I ordered my standard glass of vino tinto. When the waiter brought my wine, he also brought some olives. That is very normal; however, these were the smallest olives I have ever seen. The largest ones were maybe 1/2 inch in diameter. Usually, I like olives, but these were quite bitter.

There were a fantastic number of tourists that streamed through the restaurant, got a coffee or wine, took some photos and then left. It is a unique establishment. The floor is done in red bricks about four inches by eight inches, laid in a square pattern. Filling the center of the square is either a white or black piece of marble. The pattern repeats throughout. Looking at the floor from either the front or rear of the restaurant, these are all rotated 45 degrees so they appear to be diamonds. The marble forms a line from front to back, alternating one line white and the next black.

One side wall toward the rear has a large painting, again about eight feet by ten feet, of two men on a tandem bicycle. I think it was painted by Casay, undoubtedly a contemporary of Picasso.

 

A statue near the Roman-era wall.
Detail of the Roman-era wall.
Mopeds seem to be everywhere!
The cathedral spire rises above the street.
A dog on one of the small side streets.
The entrance to the 4 Gats Restaurant. Beginning at age 17, this was one of Picasso’s hangouts.
Wine and olives at 4 Gats.
The bar at the rear of the seating area in 4 Gats.
Detail of the bar.
The tandem bicycle painting in 4 Gats.
The formal dining room of 4 Gats.
The 4 Gats sign after dark.
A plaque marking the centenary of the 4 Gats Restaurant.
The gate next to 4 Gats reads Pasatge de St. Joseph.

The sidewalls of the restaurant, on the floor, begin with a wooden baseboard about twelve inches wide. On top of that is a dark wood decorative molding. Above that is a wide stripe of alternating white and green tiles. The tiles are triangular, with two of them forming a square about five inches by five inches. The total width of these tiles is a band, four squares tall. Above that is a band of two tiles, with each four forming a flower pattern. Those same tiles repeat at the front of the bar. The ceiling is open-beams of dark wood, with the bottom portion painted green.

The wall opposite the painting of the men on the bicycle has wood and glass doorways repeating all along the wall, each formed by a pointed arch. Within the arc are the wooden frames of the windows and the doors. Above the doors, the windows contain numerous disks of colored glass. It almost looks like this building was part of a parish hall at some point.

While I continued to sit in the restaurant, I decided to have a tapa. I ordered Croquetas de la Casa. They are a deep-fried concoction about the size of a Jalapeno popper, filled with a mixture of cheese, meat, and a kind of doughy substance. I like them. My family does not like them.

My bill for the evening came to 14.47€ (US$17.66). That price included 3.24€ (US$2.02) for a magnet depicting the cover of the menu done by Picasso. I thought it was a very reasonable price for all that I received. I would highly recommend this stop to anyone, whether or not they are a Picasso fan.

Pedestrians on Avenida Potal Angel.

One of the shops on Avenida Portal Angel.
A “sneaky” way to sell sneakers…?
“Trapped” in the window display.
A pharmacy along La Rambla.
A kiosk on La Rambla.

The next day, after working about half a day at the office, Flat Stanley and I boarded the AVE train for our return trip to Madrid. We arrived at about 17:10, hailed a taxi, and braved some horrendous traffic to get out of downtown.   All in all, it was a great trip.

Christmas Lights in Barcelona

Christmas Lights in Barcelona

Barcelona, Spain – December 13, 2011

 

As I left Madrid for Barcelona, it was cold and cloudy. I had not taken the time to look at the weather in Barcelona, so I was not sure what I was in for upon my arrival. As it turns out, nearly every day was registering about 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit. It was very comfortable.

Like my other trips on the AVE train; when the ticket says the train leaves at 09:30, the train leaves at 09:30. It is nice that the train can cut a six-hour drive into a two and a half or three-hour ride. Even still, I was a little disappointed that the train I had booked made four stops on the way to Barcelona; Guadalajara-Yebes, Zaragoza, Lleida Pirineus, and Campo de Tarragona. I do not believe we were at any of those stops for more than five minutes. So, if one is getting off or getting on at one of those stops, one had better be ready!

After I checked into my hotel, I went out to see the Christmas lights that were around my hotel. The Le Meridien Hotel is on the street called La Rambla. Loosely translated, that means the promenade. La Rambla seems to be loaded with people always, regardless of the hour or the weather. This evening was no different. In addition to many people, blue Christmas lights strung along La Rambla for as far as the eye could see. On the various side-streets or other streets off La Rambla, one could see different styles of Christmas lights on each one.

Pedestrians and vendor kiosks on la Rambla.
View down Calle de Santa Ana from la Rambla.

 

Because there were so many people, when I would stop to take a photograph of the lights, I would invariably capture shots of those walking near me.

As I walked north on La Rambla towards Plaza Catalunya, I saw a sign strung across La Rambla. Facing south, one could read the sign; “Associacio d’Amics, Veins, Comerciants.” That translates to the Association of Friends, Neighbors, and Merchants. It just so happened there was a chair near the sign. I decided to sit down and watch the people pass. It did not take me long to notice I was even with the site where many would stop to photograph the sign. In the first photo I took of that area, there were six people in the photograph that were either preparing to or had just taken a picture of their own.

The chair I sat in was direct across from a restaurant, Pizza Marzano. That is one of my favorite places in Madrid. I decided I would take a photograph. Just as I did, a lady walked right in front of the camera. Oh, well, they make many of the photos more interesting.

Since this seemed to be “the place” to take photos, I began to take pictures of the people that were taking pictures. I started with an older man in a green jacket. He stopped, but everyone else obviously kept walking. When I noticed everyone besides the photographer was continuing on their evening stroll, I decided to change the settings on my camera. Most notably, I changed the shutter speed to 0.30 seconds, essentially a third of a second. The first photographer I caught with my new setting was taking a photo looking toward Plaza Catalunya, not the La Rambla sign. Those that continued walking were nothing but blurred images. I liked what I saw, so I continued to experiment.

A sign above la Rambla.
Posing for a photo under the sign.
A man taking a photograph of the La Rambla sign while others walk past.
Capturing a view toward Plaza Catalunya.
A group stops to take a photograph of the La Rambla sign while others ghost past.
Two women posing for a selfie.
Taking a photograph of her companion and the La Rambla sign.
Yellow passing by while another photograph is captured behind.
La Rambla can be a blur of motion.

 

Sitting there, some people walked directly in front of me. That resulted in some “earth-tones” eerily moving by my camera. Next up were a man and his friend. They were taking a picture of themselves by holding the camera at arm’s length. For me, the fascinating part of the photo is that they are in relative focus while all of the other pedestrians blur by the camera.

One of my favorite shots is the one with the person in yellow pants, kneeling to capture his friends. The friends can be seen on the far-right side of the frame. Another one that struck me was the young woman that was getting ready to take a photograph or had just completed a picture, and her attention was suddenly moved off her subject. I am not sure what caused that. I did not see nor hear anything. Ultimately, she and her friend regrouped for an “arms-length” shot with them and the sign.

After sitting on that chair for about 25 minutes, I began moving myself and my focus toward Plaza Catalunya. One building right on the corner of La Rambla and Carrer de Pelai had some beautiful, blue lights. From there, looking back south on La Rambla, it is always bustling. All the colors certainly add to the festivities. Looking westerly on Carrer de Pelai, the Christmas lights looked like stars that were falling from other stars. Those were also punctuated with the Bones Festes sign, Merry Christmas.

A building on Carrer de Pelai decorated for Christmas.
Pedestrians along La Rambla.
The El Corte Inglés on La Rambla.
Christmas lights above the traffic on Carrer de Pelai.
Merry Christmas!

 

I walked across the street into Plaza Catalunya. It is the same plaza where months earlier there had been some rather rambunctious protests. Now, at night, with the Christmas lights, it looked much more serene. I caught my first glimpse of the ice-skating rink that had been set up. Off in the distance was one of the El Corte Inglés buildings.

There was plenty of holiday activity in the plaza. There was a beautifully lighted Christmas tree in the square, just across from the Bank of Spain. Also, on that northern end of the plaza, there were some fountains and many, many Christmas lights. From one angle, from one of the fountains, a statue is silhouetted against the El Corte Inglés building. Much like Madrid, the El Corte Inglés building has a changing pattern of snowflakes on the building façade. On the top floor of the El Corte Inglés building, one can make out some different looking interior lights. That is where the cafeteria and restaurant are. I ultimately went up there for my dinner that night.

From that north end of the plaza, I was able to look into the skating rink. It did look like fun, but I did not take the time to skate. It surprised me to see the skating rink there, but I was also surprised that the plastic windows for the arena were all open. While it was a chilly evening, it was by no means anywhere near freezing. One of my favorite views of that end of the plaza was the photo of the lighted trees above the Metro station, with the skating rink in the background.

Buses stop along Plaza Catalunya.
A Christmas tree in Plaza Catalunya.
The El Corte Inglés across from the fountain in Plaza Catalunya.
People walking through the plaza.
Some of the tree lights near the fountain.
Several trees lighted above the Metro entry in Plaza Catalunya.
A sculpture at one of the water fountains.
People enjoying the temporary ice skating rink in Plaza Catalunya.
Looking past the sculptures toward the El Corte Inglés.
Colorful trees in the plaza.
View toward the ice skating rink.
View along Passeig de Gracia.
The BBVA bank across from the Plaza Catalunya.
Snowflakes projected upon the El Corte Inglés building.

 

After having a Caesar salad at El Corte Inglés, I made my way south out of the plaza, down the pedestrian area of Avenida del Portal Angel. Like many other times, I have been to Barcelona; there were several artisan booths set up along the street. I was able to find a beautiful ceramic vase for Leslie’s upcoming birthday. The benches one can see at Park Guell seem to be the inspiration for the vessel. That is the park that was designed by the famous architect, Gaudi. I also bought her a small tray, about two inches wide by nine inches long. It holds incense sticks. I bought it because I liked the painted design on the ceramic. It was in this booth area where I noticed it was 16 degrees Celsius (about 61 degrees Fahrenheit) as I noted earlier, a little warm for ice skating.

Making my rounds back to my hotel, I found another sign; Bon Nadal. That also means Merry Christmas.

Christmas lights on Avenida del Portal Angel.
Along with the Christmas lights is a thermometer reading 16 degrees Celcius (61 degrees Fahrenheit.
People shopping at some artisan booths.
Another view of the thermometer.
The lights seem to go on forever.
Many pedestrian passing under the lights.
A light-ball above one of the entries to El Corte Inglés.
The interesting façade of the building.
Single light panels above Called de Santa Ana.
Merry Christmas!
Many different lights.
Merry Christmas!

The next evening, before going out, I stumbled across an area that is part of the Museu d’Historia de Barcelona, the Romana Sepulchral Way. It is in a small plaza known as Plaza de la Villa de Madrid. It cannot be more than 150-meters (about 500 feet) off La Rambla. At this plaza is a “sunken” area that did not appear to be accessible by the public. From the railing, one could see several tombs. I did some research later and discovered these were Roman tombs. The burials dated from the first through third centuries. Apparently, at one time, these were along a Roman side-road that connected the old village of Barcelona with another nearby town.

That night I ultimately ended up at the Arts Hotel. The hotel staff invited some other people from the consulate and me to participate in a Christmas “thank you” to some of their clients. It was a very high-tone gathering. The chef had prepared numerous stations of hors d’oeuvres. The hors d’oeuvres at each station had impeccable presentations. They each tasted just as amazing. There was also an open bar, so I was able to enjoy some very good vino tinto as I wandered around. I have never stayed at that hotel before, but I may try it in the future. It is right next to the casino on the beach in the Mediterranean.

The sign for the Roman Sepulchral Way.

A view of the Roman Sepulchral Way in the midst of one of the business districts of Barcelona.
Detail of the Roman Sepulchral Way.
A fountain in the Plaza de la Villa de Madrid.
A cyclist riding past a police car.
The façade of the Royal Academy of Science and Arts.
The flags flying above the entrance to the Royal Academy of Science and Art.
A fish shape at the Arts Hotel.
View from the Arts Hotel.
Palm trees at the Arts Hotel.
Barcelona Quarterly Visit

Barcelona Quarterly Visit

Barcelona, Spain – September 14, 2011

This visit was another of my quarterly business trips to check on the U.S. Consulate in Barcelona. However, this time was different; my lovely wife accompanied me. After work, we were able to fit quite a bit into a short time.

We visited Park Güell. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so designated in 1984. After receiving a commission from Eusebi Güell in 1900, the renown architect Antoni Gaudí began work on the park. His “canvass” was a land area of about 11.2 hectares (28 acres).

Güell’s vision was an English-style residential park. The site of the park is on a place known in the late 19th century as Muntanya Pelada (bare mountain). It offered a sweeping panorama of Barcelona and the Mediterranean Sea. Designed with some 60 lots, Güell knew the development would quickly sell out. It did not. Güell moved into his house in the park in 1908. He died at that home in 1918. His heirs offered the park to the City of Barcelona, which agreed to purchase it in 1922. In 1926, the municipality opened the park to the public.

For those interested, additional information about the park and its history is at the Park Güell website.

Gaudí’s vision and works in the park might be considered in the Modernisme movement style, a sort of an offshoot of the art nouveau style. Honestly, the only way to adequately describe Gaudí’s creations is through photography. The following photographs barely scratch the surface of what one can see at this incredible park. It is a must-see if one is ever in Barcelona.

 

Just inside the entry gate to Park Güell.

In Park Güell, this is known as the guardhouse.
The lizard on the Dragon Steps, probably the most photographed location in the park.  Upon closer inspection, one might spot someone of interest in the background.
The guardhouse on the left and the bookstore on the right.
The Dragon Stairs is a popular gathering and photography site.
Detail of the people at the Dragon Stairs.
The Dragon Stairs ultimately lead to the Hypostyle Room, another popular photo spot.
Detail of part of the ceiling in the Hypostyle Room.
The Greek Theatre or Nature Square is a very popular spot in Park Güell. The Mediterranean Sea is in the distance.
Looking uphill from the Greek Theatre or Nature Square.
The spire of Gaudí’s house as seen from the Greek Theatre or Nature Square.
The City of Barcelona falls away from Park Güell to the Mediterranean Sea.
Detail of the continuous bench at the edge of the Greek Theatre or Nature Square.
Friends sitting on the continuous bench at the Greek Theatre or Nature Square.
Another detail of the continuous bench at the Greek Theatre or Nature Square.
The backside of the continuous bench at the Greek Theatre or Nature Square.  The trough and lion-head spouts helped collect water, a precious commodity in the rather arid climate.
A refreshment area in Park Güell.
The building under construction in the center of the frame is the Sagrada Familia Church, also designed by Gaudí.
A panorama of Barcelona and the Mediterranean Sea.
A view of Casa Trias in Park Güell.
Visitors walking past a large cactus plant.
The Pont de Baix, a viaduct in Parc Güell.
The Greek Theatre or Nature Square is directly above the Hypostyle Room.
A pigeon on the backside of the continuous bench.
Detail of the very unique fence found throughout Parc Güell.
Another view of the fence.
Looking toward the guardhouse.
Merlons alongside the Dragon Stair.
Detail of the mosaic tile work alongside the Dragon Stair.
Detail of the tile mosaics.
The Dragon Stairs, the Hypostyle Room, and the Greek Theatre or Nature Square.
The guardhouse.

 

The following evening, we decided we would eat dinner at the restaurant, la Gavina at the Barcelona Marina. To get there, we decided to stroll along la Rambla. A walk on la Rambla is always an experience. It usually is jam-packed with people, street performers, and various vendors. There often is a pick-pocket or two interspersed in the crowd. We have been lucky never to have been victimized.

Part of the charm of la Rambla is the numerous sidewalk cafés. Sitting at a sidewalk café with a vino tinto and watching the world go by is both very relaxing and entertaining.

After our wine, we continued our walk to the port area. As we arrived, we saw the colossal yacht, Stargate. Suffice it to say that one needs about US$500,000 to “fill ‘er up”! At 80 meters (262 feet), Stargate is tied with three other yachts as the 93rd largest super-yachts in the world. There was another yacht docked in front of Stargate, but I neglected to get the name. It was not as large as Stargate, but it was a thousand times larger than any boat I have been aboard.

A Spanish fan vendor squatting in the midst of the pedestrians on La Rambla.
Motorcycles lined up forever…
An ornate building decoration.
People and buildings on La Rambla.
Yippee ki yay buckarette!!
The far end of La Rambla near Plaza Colom.
A beer poster on La Rambla.
The Port Authority – Admiral Historic Authority building at the port.
The sunset.
The sun setting behind some buildings.
Pedestrians crossing Passeig de Colom at sunset.
Stopping the bike ride to admire the Barcelona Marina.
An old sailing yacht and a sleek new yacht.
Two docked yachts.
The yacht is a bit larger than the boats…

 

We had a wonderful dinner at la Gavina. It was my second time there, both have proven to be very good. We had two glasses of the house red wine, fried shrimp for a starter, two huge pieces of sole, and dessert. The total bill came to about 150€ (US$183).

During our entire meal, we both found ourselves distracted by a couple at a nearby table. The man was older and stocky. The woman was very petite and quite attractive. She wore a diamond ring so large that I am sure she would have quickly sunk to the bottom of the marina if she had fallen into the water. I do not know how many carats the ring may have been, but the stone was as large as one of my fingernails! Leslie and I speculated that the man was the owner of the Stargate — but we have no idea.

My dinner date at la Gavina.
The 80-meter (262-foot) Stargate motor yacht.
The Barcelona Marina under a full moon.
Another motor yacht, smaller than Stargate, but still more than adequate.
The bow of the other yacht.

The following day we walked through part of the Gothic Quarter to the Barcelona Cathedral.  That area of Barcelona is always bustling with people.  Across the plaza from the cathedral is the Col·legi d’Arquitectes de Catalunya (College of Architects of Catalonia).  It boasts three murals on its façade done by Pablo Picasso.  There was a time when I may not have been impressed with the murals, but now that Picasso has become my favorite artist…

The Basílica de Santa Maria del Pi at Plaça Del Pi.
Amigos Skateboards.
One of the Picasso murals on the Col·legi d’Arquitectes de Catalunya (College of Architects of Catalonia).
The Barcelona Cathedral undergoing renovation work.
Two women trying to orient their map with the one on the pole.
Another of the three Picasso murals on the Col·legi d’Arquitectes de Catalunya.
The third mural on the Col·legi d’Arquitectes de Catalunya.
A side street in Barcelona.
A store in Barcelona.
Unique lighting fixtures.
The Attic Terrace restaurant on La Rambla.
Somebody lost their head…
My two favorite dancers.
Two lone street performers.
A vendor picking up his wares to move on before the police stop to chat.

As with our trip to get to Barcelona, we rode on the AVE train back to Madrid.  The AVE is a high-speed train, reaching speeds of up to 300 km/h (186 mph). The train turns a 6.5-hour drive into a 3-hour, very comfortable, train ride.  Well worth the money.