Timeline: Barcelona 8th – 11th
We started our day much the same as the one before, riding the bus into Plaza Catalunya, checking mail at the Apple Store and then embarking on a walking tour of the Bari Gotic, the center of the old city of Barcelona. Many of its buildings date from medieval times and it retains a labyrinthine street plan, with most of the quarter closed to regular traffic.
Our first stop on the tour was the Els Quatre Gats (Café 4 Cats). Opened in 1897 it has enjoyed many roles in its history with Pablo Picasso visiting many times during his early career and residence in Barcelona. We enjoyed a coffee and then set off deeper into the Bari to the Placa Nova, the largest open-air space in the Gothic Quarter. Here you’ll find the facade of the Collegi de Architects, the city’s architecture school, which features a frieze designed (but not executed by) Picasso.
In front of you is a remnant of the Roman wall that originally encircled the city and a short distance to the left sits Cathedral de Barcelona. Constructed from the 13th to 15th centuries, its roof is notable for its gargoyles, featuring a wide range of animals, both domestic and mythical. A neo-Gothic façade was constructed in the 19th century to cover over the original nondescript exterior.
We arrived at the Cathedrals doors fifteen minutes before the period of free entrance concluded, so got just a brief glimpse at its interior. We decided not to visit (we’ve reached a point in the trip where, after viewing many cathedrals, we’ve learned to be a bit more selective, particularly when an entry fee is required) we instead spent thirty minutes or so at a good sized street market sitting in the plaza below. Most of the booths displayed antique jewelry, publications, dishware and other items of interest.
It was getting close to hungry time and noticing a Pans and Company in the Placa de Jaume, we stopped in to split a Chicken Napoli sandwich and use their Wi-Fi to email Francois. We’d received a message from him that he had just found out that there were two extra beds in his room in the house he and his friends were renting and we could stay there if we so choose. We wanted to get some more details to inform our decision-making.
We then wandered through El Call, the medieval Jewish quarter, stopped for a moment to view the Negotische Bridge of Sighs which connects the Palau de la Generalitat and Casa del Canonges. Few if any of these type bridges still exist, having been built so that city elites could travel about the city without interacting with average citizens.
As we were winding up our tour, we stumbled upon the Pasteleria Santa Clara, with its windows of inviting sweet delicacies. With a full afternoon of sightseeing ahead of us, maintaining proper energy reserves would be important so we stopped and sampled a treat, or two. Back at Plaza Catalunya, we took our return bus halfway back to camp, transferring to another at Plaza de Espana to take us up to the top of the hill in the Montjuic district.
We hopped off at the last stop, Castell de Montjuic with its commanding views of all of Barcelona. Touted as being free to enter in the guidebook, a less than inexpensive admission fee and lack of compelling interior features convinced us to just enjoy the views, and then begin an hour or more of simply walking back down the hill to Plaza de Espana.
Passing the Piscina Municipal de Montjuïc, which hosted the diving events and the water polo preliminaries for the 1992 Summer Olympics, we ended below the Museu Nacional d’ Art de Catalunya with its impressive series of fountains, which are lit at night in a performance known as the Magic Fountain. Unfortunately starting later than we could stay in town, we would miss the show and instead head back to camp, picking up some supplies for a simple dinner.
Our destination the next day was Sagrada Familia, the famous and sure to become even more so cathedral designed by Antoni Gaudi. Not being sure when we would visit, we’d not purchased tickets in advance, which had been recommended. We arrived around 9:00 am to find a long line, one that would take us about 90 minutes to get through. A McDonalds was located across the street so we made a couple of coffee runs there (they have a surprisingly good one euro coffee) and when we finally purchased our tickets, it was for a 1:30pm entry time.
Putting the time to good use we hopped on the metro for a ride over to Passeig de Gràcia to see the three adjacent houses that were built there between 1898 and 1906 by three important modernist architects, Casa Amatller (designed by Puig i Cadafalch), Casa Lléo Morera (designed by Domènech i Montaner) and Gaudí’s Casa Batlló.
We returned to Sagrada Familia at our appointed time and spent more than an hour touring this impressive facility. Still under construction, it is scheduled for completion by the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death in 2026, including its central spire of Jesus Christ with a total height of 560 feet, making it the tallest church building in the world.
As with so many of these very impressive cathedrals, trying to describe the experience is nearly impossible. I encourage you to follow the links below, view the pictures there, and absorb some of the history.
We left Sagrada Familia and began walking up Avenida de Gaudi, a pleasant pedestrian only boulevard towards Hospital de Saint Pau, known for its Moorish architecture. Along the way we stopped for a bite to eat at a very small hot dog shop, the Rapa Nui. We ordered a beer and hot dog to split. When asked if we wanted it “Super Complet” we responded yes and waited to see what we’d get. It was a nice large hot dog, with mayonnaise, tomato and best of all, some of the tastiest guacamole we’d had in ages.
We finished up our snack, walked to the Hospital, took a picture or two and made our way to a bus stop to take us up to Park Guell, a community planned by and built by Gaudi between 1900 and 1914. Ultimately unsuccessful as a housing development, it has since been converted into a municipal park which contains the Gaudi House, one of only two houses originally constructed in the development and lived in by Gaudi and his family until his death in 1926.
It’s a spectacular property and one we could have spent more time in, but our long day was ending and we chose to just ride the bus back down to Plaza Catalunya for a last journey out to camp. Still full from our hot dog snack we felt no need for dinner in camp and so began to make our preparations to close up shop for the next days journey to Tossa de Mar and our rendezvous with Francois and friends. Would we camp in town there at Camping Can Marti, or would we stay at the house? Stay tuned for more exciting details.
Els Quatre Gats: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Els_Quatre_Gats
Cathedral de Barcelona: http://www.catedralbcn.org/
Pasteleria Santa Clara: http://www.pasteleriasantaclara.com/
Castell de Montjuic: http://www.bcn.cat/castelldemontjuic/ca/welcome.html
Museu Nacional d’ Art de Catalunya: http://www.museunacional.cat/ca?lan=001
Piscina Municipal de Montjuïc:
Sagrada Familia: http://www.sagradafamilia.cat/
Antoni Gaudi: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antoni_Gaud%C3%AD
Passeig de Gracia: http://www.aviewoncities.com/barcelona/casabatllo.htm
Rapa Nui: http://rapanuirestaurant.com/
Park Guell: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Park_G%C3%BCell
Gaudi House Museum: