Tag: Gaudi

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.

Barcelona Quarterly Visit

Barcelona Quarterly Visit

Barcelona, Spain – March 16, 2011

This is another of my regularly scheduled trips to Barcelona.  I am due to return to Madrid in two days, this Friday, at about 16:00.  That will put me back in enough time to help my good friend, Ron, get his van out of the repair shop and get it home.

At one point in the journey, as the Renfe train was traveling along, it had to slow down from 300 k/hour (186 mph) to 150 k/hour (93 mph) because there was a stretch of several miles in which it had snowed.  The temperature dropped to 4C (39F).  It appeared there was up to two inches of snow.  It was quite beautiful and quite unexpected.  Regardless, at 150 k/hour, it was almost like crawling through the area.

The train arrived in Barcelona at about 15:30. Walking into the station from the train platform, I noticed there was a McDonald’s.  My last meal that day was breakfast, so I decided to stop.  It has been a very long time since I have eaten there.  I must say, it really hit the spot.  When I finished my meal, I stopped by an information booth and picked up a map of the city.  Then I walked out of the train station and hailed a cab.

On the way to my hotel, the cab driver told me the economy in Barcelona is still very bad.  He thought the unemployment rate is right around 21 percent.  That is a big number.  He also mentioned there are increased robberies happening.  Most of those are drug-related.  Regardless, he said there are still many tourists that come to Barcelona.  He said Barcelona is the number five spot in the world for tourism.  He got me to my hotel very quickly and he was very nice, so I gave him a 2€ tip (US$2.44).  That seemed to have made his day.  I was proud of myself that I understood all of what he was telling me since he was speaking entirely in Spanish.  My command of Spanish gets a little better each day.  As I have noted before, I am still not fluent, but I understand a lot of what I hear.  I think it is just a matter of time before I really pick up the language.  I cannot wait!  That is something I have wanted to do for years and years.

I am staying at the Hotel Claris again, at Pau Claris, 150.  It is overcast today with some intermittent sprinkles.  Since I had such a late lunch, I do not think I will eat dinner.  I will probably just walk around with my camera.

I ended up at a little street-side café called La Bodegueta, enjoying a café Americano.  That is simply a Spanish espresso with some additional hot water added to increase the volume of liquid.  I just sat there watching the world go by and taking photos.  The tables and chairs for the café are in the median of the street.  It is essentially at the corner of Rambla de Catalunya and Calle Provenca.

Tabletop at the café on Rambla de Catalunya.
At times it rained quite hard on Rambla de Catalunya.
Pedestrians on Rambla de Catalunya.
Walking past Panama Jack.
A quaint shop on Carrer de Provenca.

On my way to La Bodegueta, I stopped and took some photos of the apartment building that the renowned architect Gaudi designed, Casa Mila “la Pedrera.”

The Gaudi apartment building, Casa Mila.

From Gaudi’s building, I walked to Passeig de Gràcia.  It is by far the largest, busiest street in the area.  It is also a very exclusive shopping street with stores such as Louis Vuitton and Channel.  Somewhere along my path, I saw what looked like a good Italian restaurant.  I will try to find that for dinner tomorrow night.  For “dinner” that first night, I had a banana, an apple, and some Edam cheese.  Those were just a few items I picked up at a little market just around the corner from the hotel.  I just was not very hungry.

Casa Mila at dusk.
Some people window shopping at Louis Vuitton.
An ornate light post on Passeig de Gràcia.
The Chanel building at dusk.
People passing by Chanel in a light rain.
One of the window displays.
A full moon over Barcelona.
A motorcycle shop near my hotel.
Another nearby motorcycle shop.
A wine shop appears very colorful at night.
A one-of-a-kind window display.

In the hotel on my first morning in Barcelona, I picked up a copy of the Wall Street Journal.  I found the article “Spain Ramps up Job Efforts” very interesting if for no other reason than the statistics.  It listed Spain’s unemployment rate at 20.4 percent.  A quote read, “at more than 20% and rising, Spain’s unemployment rate is far and away the highest in the developed world.”  That certainly confirmed what my taxi driver said on the way from the train station to the hotel.

When I returned to the hotel after work, I changed my shoes and slacks and went out for a walk.  I ended up at the Cathedral de Barcelona.  It is only about 10 blocks south of my hotel.  It was a very large cathedral and there were some very beautiful parts.  However, I still think my favorite cathedral is the one in Toledo.  I think it is larger.  Additionally, more of the cathedral in Toledo is open to the public.

For dinner, I went to the Restaurante Pomarada.  It was particularly marginal. I had the Four Cheese Pizza.  it was a thin crust pizza.  I think I may have had a different opinion if I had gotten a pizza with meat.  The good news is I was able to take some nice photos.

The façade of the Lluís Domènech i Montaner designed Palau de la Música Catalana (Palace of Catalan Music). It is difficult to capture the exterior of the building because of how narrow the street is in this area of Barcelona.
Mopeds everywhere!
A building with some odd ornamentation.
The cathedral undergoing renovations.
The renovations of the cathedral did not deter hundreds of people to walk through.
Detail of the ceiling.
One of several coffins hanging on the wall. The inscription is difficult to read; however, the date at the bottom is unmistakeable, MLXXVI or 1076.
The artwork at a side chapel.
A crucifix in the cathedral.
The scale of the interior space is stunning.
An altar at a side chapel.
One of the smaller stained glass windows.
A statue of Jesus above the doors to the cathedral.
There were several people on the steps of the cathedral listening to this man play guitar.
This vendor sold all sorts of porcelain and ceramic items near the cathedral.
Yes, those are Picasso sketches on the façade of the School of Architecture.
A National Police car parked across from the H3 restaurant.
Many of the late 19th century buildings have some spectacular detailing.
People walking past a hat shop catering to men and women.
The view from the rooftop bar at my hotel.
A window display touting the 2011 collection.
Artwork in a dining area of Restaurante Pamarada.
An elevator at the building housing the Restaurante Pamarada.
1st DOS Business Trip

1st DOS Business Trip

Barcelona, Spain – September 15, 2009

This was my first business trip as a Department of State employee.  Barcelona is a regional responsibility for me, so I HAVE to go there once every quarter; tough duty!

I left home this morning at about 05:30.  I had a taxi take me to the Atocha train station in downtown Madrid.  I was to go with the facility manager that was working here when I arrived.  We met at the train station at about 06:00 and entered the Preferente lounge.  That is a sort of “frequent flier” lounge.

We boarded the train at about 07:00 for a 07:20 departure.  The car we were in was virtually empty.  I assume the hour was just too early for the average Spaniard.  At 07:20 exactly, the train pulled away from the platform!  In no time at all, we were traveling at 150 km/h.  Ultimately, the train made a top speed of 301 km/h.  That is nearly 200 miles per hour.  I was surprised at how smooth the ride was and the fact that it did not seem we were traveling that fast.

The scenery at nearly 200 mph!
WOW!! 292 km/h = 181 mph!!
Passing the Spanish scenery.
The front/rear of the bullet train.
The view of our AVE train. We were in the second coach, where the attendant is standing.

It only took about two and a half hours to make it to Barcelona.  Once off the train, we took a taxi to our hotel.  After we checked in we took the Metro to the stop nearest the Barcelona Consulate.  It is a beautiful 1920’s house that has been converted to our use as a consulate building.  It sits on an acre or so of land.  The gardens are quite beautiful and well kept.

At the end of the workday, we went back to the hotel and took a nap.  We met up again at about 20:00 to go out for dinner.  We sat down for dinner at 20:30!  That is nearly my bedtime!  Oh well, when in Rome…

I only spent one night in Barcelona.  The rest of the time was jam-packed with work, so the only “sight” I saw on this journey was the apartment building designed and built by the renowned architect, Antoni Gaudí. The apartment building is known as Casa Milà or La Pedrera (The Stone Quarry).  The building dates from around 1910.  Also, if I understand the story correctly, Gaudi died after being struck by a streetcar in Barcelona.  At first, no one knew who he was, so he did not receive very good care.  By the time people realized who he was, it was too late.  He died in 1926.

The apartment building designed by the famous architect Gaudí. It is known as Casa Milà or La Pedrera (The Stone Quarry).