Just Hours in and We Love Barcelona Already
Saturday, September 4th, 2004: Barcelona, Spain
St. Jean de la blaquiere to Barcelona: 353 kilometers
Spain welcomes us in the early afternoon as we drive south and cross the border, past the Costa Brava and into Barcelona. We are staying in l‘Eixample, the area of Barcelona renowned for the Modernistas and the Gaudi buildings Casa Batllo and La Pedrera. It is a lovely and very fashionable area. We navigate the difficult and intimidating lanes of the Gran Via and the Diagonal and find our hotel. Many of the buildings are beautiful six or seven story tenements built in the 19th and early 20th centuries with shuttered windows and filigree balconies that hark to the Beaux Arts period. We schlep our bags up one flight and do a quick orientation and then walk the couple of blocks to the other (or should I say, main) Gaudi masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia, for a mid-afternoon tour of the incomplete church.
Our first views are of the church are of the famous spires topped with multicoloured Murano glass tiles in their fantastical round shapes, one of the signature designs of Gaudi. But we approach from the new Passion Façade, not the older, more familiar, Nativity Façade. Construction cranes are also part of the vista and we quickly realize as we approach that the church is a construction site both outside and in. As was the way with all great cathedrals of Europe, it is still an unfinished marvel, started in 1882 and with no completion date in sight.
Tickets and audio guides purchased, we brave the throngs and start our tour. Our first views of the great interior space are of the tree-like, extraordinarily-angled, beautiful columns soaring to the still non-existent roof. Gaudi envisioned a forest here and indeed it feels like one; he also calculated the load each column would bear, and chose different stone for each column, depending on its load.
We move along the well-planned route and watch the stone cutters and craftsmen doing their intricate jobs, the labourers hoisting each section into place. It is a monumental space and fantastically conceived. We mention to each other how nice it would be to come back and see the finished product but realize that this will not happen in our lifetimes.
La Sagrada Familia keeps us enthralled for a number of hours before naps and a late dinner. Although it is after 10 when we are seated in the restaurant, we are still early arrivals; by 11, the place is almost full.
The city is buzzing with activity and it is a wonderful city to walk and enjoy. Wide green avenues with cafés and restaurants invite you to eat or enjoy a coffee. Cascading fountains are flowing and everywhere people are out with their children and dogs, friends and lovers.
We love Barcelona already.