Land of Gaudi and Picasso

Gaudi's Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain

I recently had an opportunity to revisit Barcelona, Spain, in cooler climate than in the summer 1987, when I experienced 90-95+ degree heat in September.  It’s obvious in 25+ years since I last visited Barcelona that much has changed.

I had remembered the Sagrada Familia, the most recognizable landmark of the city,  as just a shell of a cathedral (no roof!) with towers that led up to dead-ends.  Now, there are Venetian glass windows of four of the apostles in the tower, viewable from the interior, amphitheatre-style chorus seating, and the columns that hold up the ceiling are shaped like tree trunks, with the limbs spreading out, making it look like you’re in a forest… really unique!  In the basement, there are displays and models of the building plans that show what an ongoing engineering feat the cathedral really is, even after more than 100 years of continuous construction (and it’s still not done!) 

There are several other Gaudi-designed buildings that stand out as their own pieces of art throughout the city.  It was worthwhile and fun to use a map to locate and admire them for their unusual, architectural style.  Another Gaudi project, Guell Park, sits on a hill overlooking the city.  I was a bit disappointed that there’s a supplement charge to visit certain parts of the park, but overall, it was a fun and whimsical place.

The Picasso Museum displays a lot of his very early work, when he lived in Spain, and then some of his work in later years, after he was a famous artist.  When I visited, there was a temporary exhibit of photos taken throughout later in his life by a photographer friend.  This gave me a glimpse of his personal life that I found to be interesting. 

Down the Ramblas (the liveliest boulevard, though sometimes a bit, um, commercialized and tacky), we found ourselves in the Boqueria, one of the largest (maybe the largest?) indoor produce, meat, seafood, etc. markets in the city.  Food selection and variety abounds.  Displays of pata negra (expensive melt- in-your mouth ham), vegetable, butchery, seafood stalls, tapas bars, crowds and crowds….so crowded that a quick round through makes you want to get out lickety-split.  

We duck out of the Ramblas and tuck into a side street and found ourselves wandering through the pedestrian alleys of the Gothic quarter.  A little seedy and touristy, until we reach the Gothic Cathedral of Barcelona.  We continue to wind our way through, stopping at a churro shop for a thick hot chocolate and churros.  Yum….and a stomach ache in the making. Super rich -- but you’re in Barcelona, you have to stop and try…….

We continue to wind our way over to the El Born……We love this area.  It’s calmer than the Gothic quarter and more inviting, and also has narrow pedestrian-only streets.  Plenty of tapas bars and restaurants to choose from.  To maximize our tapas bar experience, we hopped from one bar to another to sample their different culinary offerings…..roasted octopus with garlic and olive oil, empanadas, pata negra, different croquetas, roast artichokes, washed down with their light sparkling wine, cava………….Yum!  can’t wait to go back for a longer visit!

Sony Yip