Europe 2017 – Barcelona, Part Two

November 12-15

Walk to Casa Mila

The Walk to Casa Mila

After breakfast in the apartment, we set out for the 20-minute walk to Casa Mila.  Followers of this blog will recognize our fascination with Antoni Gaudi (much like with Frank Lloyd Wright) and this would mark the third time on this trip we’d visited a building he was responsible for or had some connection to.

Casa Mila

Casa Mila

Popularly known as La Pedrera or “The stone quarry”, a reference to its unconventional rough-hewn appearance, it was the last private residence designed by architect Antoni Gaudí and was built between 1906 and 1912.  The building was commissioned in 1906 by Pere Milà and his wife Roser Segimon and it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984.

Casa Mila Up Close

Casa Mila Up Close

At the time of its construction, it was controversial because of its undulating stone façade and twisting wrought iron balconies.

Sagrada Familia in the Distance

Sagrada Familia in the Distance

The building did not respect any rules of conventional style, for which Gaudí received much criticism.  La Pedrera is in fact a nickname assigned by the citizens who disapproved of its unusualness.

Several structural innovations include a self-supporting stone façade, an underground garage and it’s spectacular roof-terrace.  The self-supporting stone facade is free of load-bearing walls and connects to the internal structure of each floor by means of curved iron beams surrounding the perimeter of each floor.

This construction system allows, on one hand, large openings in the facade which give light to the homes, and on the other, free structuring of the different levels, so that internal walls can be added and demolished without affecting the stability of the building.

Interior Courtyard

Interior Courtyard

Also aiding in the use of external illumination was the organic design of the two large internal courtyards that form the basis of the whole floor plan and maximize the buildings light and ventilation.  The roof is crowned with skylights, staircase exits, fans, and chimneys.

The Roof

The Roof

All of these elements, constructed out of brick covered with lime, broken marble, or glass have a specific architectural function but are also real sculptures integrated into the building.

Gaudi, like Wright, believed in architecture in harmony with nature.  Part of the tour included exhibits on how he incorporated the natural world into his design; the draping of chains and the spine of a snake provide the inspiration for the ribbed ceilings of the attic which support the roof above.

Snake Spine

Snake Spine

We wound our way down to the fourth floor to walk through the Pedrera apartment, which shows how a bourgeois family lived in Barcelona in the early 20th century, recreated with furniture and domestic equipment of the time.

It also reveals the building’s interior layout and the ornamental elements designed by Gaudi (handles, knobs, moldings, doors, and flooring).

Ergonomic Door Handle

Ergonomic Door Handle

Finished with the tour we made our way down Passeig de Gracia walking in the direction of the harbor.  With nothing more on the agenda for the rest of the afternoon except finishing up our souvenir hunting and returning to the apartment to finish our packing, we stopped in at Txapela for a bite to eat.

Txapela Menu

Txapela Menu

They have an extensive tapa’s menu and we made the most of it, sitting outside in the warm sunshine, savoring three plates and, best of all, a Bitburg beer on draft.

As we made our way back to the Ramblas, after a diligent hunt for souvenirs, we stopped in at the Mercat de la Boqueria (Central Market) to walk its colorful aisles and sample a fresh juice (Zumo) and a cone full of a high-quality Serrano Ham.

La Boqueria

La Boqueria

It was the perfect way to finish up our afternoon and begin the wind down to the trip home.

Later in the evening, after having packed all of the bags in anticipation of an early flight, we searched Trip Adviser for a place to eat and found a good one, Casa Jaime, just a few blocks away from the apartment.  We made a full run at the menu, ordering 3 glasses of wine, two appetizers (calamari and mussels), two entrees (rabbit for Joanna and chicken ‘Catalan Style” for me) and finished off with a tart of the day and a brandy.

Rabbit for Dinner

Rabbit for Dinner

It was a fitting way to end the trip, eating delightfully good food at a reasonable price (43.6 euros), reminding us of all we had eaten along the way over the course of our journey.  We walked back to the apartment, talking about how much we enjoyed Barcelona and how at some point in the future, we’d like to live here for a period of time, maybe swap houses for three months.

Chicken Catalan

Chicken Catalan

A good night’s sleep (as good as one can get anticipating an international flight the next day) refreshed us as we arose the next morning, showered, and found our taxi waiting for us at the appointed time.  Airport check-in went quickly and with a lot of time to kill, we enjoyed coffee and breakfast items from the kiosk at our gate, then spent some last euros in the duty-free shop before boarding for our flight home.

A Gaudi Geek

A Gaudi Geek

Three months had flown by in the wink of an eye, as is almost always the case with any trip.  This one was different than any other we’ve taken, given our almost total reliance on hotels for lodging and trains and busses for transport.  I’ll go into more detail about the logistics and our final thoughts in the next couple of posts, but regardless, we’d do it again in a heartbeat.

And His Lightpole

And His Lightpole

Links

Casa Mila: https://www.lapedrera.com/ca/home

Txapela: http://www.txapelarestaurant.com/

Mercat de la Boqueria: http://www.boqueria.barcelona/

Casa Jaime: http://www.casajaime.rest/en1/

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