Over the past few days AGA and I have been having a short holiday in Barcelona.
The holiday was the grand finale of my fiftieth birthday 'celebrations' and I was really looking forward to going, because while AGA has been there a few times, this was to be my first visit.
Modern Barcelona consists not only of the old town of Barcelona, but various nearby villages as well. All the spaces in between these various communities were filled in (in the 19th Century) with a street system laid out in a grid pattern, for which we have to thank the great urban planner Ildefons Cerda i Sunyer. This is similar to Melbourne (albeit on a smaller scale) which was laid out by the equally far-sighted urban planner Robert Hoddle.
I liked this aerial photograph of Barcelona because the orderly grid is smudged by older areas with their narrower, twisting streets and lanes. The smudge near to the harbour is the old town of Barcelona.
That diagonal road on the left is the 'Diagonale'. It is a wide boulevard, which in common with a few other streets in the city has, for much of its length, a tree-lined, pedestrian 'walkway' down the middle, which is very convenient for strolling about with no fixed intent.
The first thing that struck me about Barcelona was how exotic it looked; with its palm trees, heat, and raucous parrots... In small ways it reminded us of Melbourne.
Another thing that I noticed was that Barcelona is a bilingual city. All signs and notices are in Catalan and in Spanish (often termed 'Castilian'). This is similar to the Welsh and English usage in Wales. In Barcelona many many people speak English too.
Catalan sounds like a cross between Spanish and French - or at least it did to my ears - and I found that I understood more than I thought I would.
Our hotel was just off the Diagonale and it was nice to sit on the balcony, in the cool of the evening, after a long day of tourist-like activities!
When I spoke with work colleagues about going to Barcelona, words such as 'Sagrada Familia', 'Gaudi', and the 'Modernista Movement' were mentioned. These are things of which the city is justly proud, however there is much more as I soon discovered!
Having never been to Barcelona before I wanted to get an overview of the city and so, having arrived at our hotel, we bought two two day passes to travel on the 'Bus Turistic'. This is a 'hop on, hop off' bus service, travelling three different routes throughout the city. I think that it was well worth the money.
There are three routes and we went on all three over the two days allotted.
Having been on the two main routes though, I was ready to explore.
(The third route goes by the beach and we left that to the afternoon of the second day)
AGA told me that as this was my birthday trip we would do whatever I wanted. So grab your hats and sunglasses and come with me on my own tour of Barcelona...
From our hotel, we could walk into the centre of the city by way of:
When you have walked the entire length you come to the Plaça del Rei, crowned with a statue of Christopher Columbus:
The figure on top of the column looks like this:
The old town is an enchanting maze of winding streets and little courts.
La Rambla cuts through the old town, and so we decided to turn to our left and plough straight in. Known as the 'Gothic Quarter' it is where one finds the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia:
It is a casket of many treasures! For me an important one is this:
In the crypt sits the tomb of the Roman Martyr Saint Eulalia. She is the patron of Barcelona:
Attached to the Cathedral are the original cloisters. Here are kept the thirteen cathedral geese. They are thirteen in number to represent the age St. Eulalia was when martyred:
Fresh water comes from the well of St George. If you cup your hands you can get a cool drink from it.
If you are brave enough to go up to the roof, there are some wonderful views of the city to be had. In the interests of this blog I made the ascent even though I do not care for heights. I felt like an intrepid reporter!
Next to the Cathedral is the old Royal Palace. In this chamber sat the infamous Inquisition. It was said that the walls themselves would move if someone told a lie. It was also in this room that Ferdinand and Isabella greeted Christopher Columbus after his returned from the 'New World':
The Courtyard of the Palace reminded both AGA and myself of Siena:
And beneath the Palace, the Courtyard, and part of the Cathedral, are to be found the largest subterranean Roman ruins in the world. The ancient city of Barcin:
The ruins stretch for quite a way and while it was rather warm down there, I found it to be very interesting. They have even discovered a piece of marble engraved with the town name:
I read that Barcelona was originally settled by the Carthaginians...
Did someone mention hats? This is the place to go:
I bought two very nice Panama hats here. AGA bought one. I justified buying two as I need a larger brimmed one for the summer and a trilby for Spring and Autumn when the sun is still out but not quite as hot...
There are so many things to see in Barcelona . . .
At this time of year one can find flowers and fruit all over the place:
Everywhere one looked there were beautiful buildings:
There were more Roman remains:
(That archway is the remaining piece of the Roman town aqueduct.)
There were little reminders that once Barcelona had a thriving Jewish population:
Reminders that the city was once the headquarters of a powerful family of Counts:
And reminders that in the not too distant past, this city was the scene of bloodshed and turmoil:
This is the church of St Philip Neri. It was to this church that Antoni Gaudi was travelling for Daily Mass when he was knocked down by a tram and received injuries from which he later died. Some say that marks on the walls here were made by bullets as people were executed during the Civil War and others say that no executions took place here but the pockmarks relate solely to the incident when a bomb was dropped onto the square, killing both adults and children sheltering within the church. It is has been left unrepaired as a monument to those killed.
This chapel in the Cathedral has been set aside in memory of the many priests, monks and nuns killed during the Civil War:
There is of course the famous Sagrada Familia. Very much 'under construction':
Inside is the largest collection of Romanesque Artwork in (I believe) the World:
Much of it has been rescued from Civil War damaged Churches and Monasteries. They have made what looked to be fibreglass molds of church buildings, into which the rescued frescoes and paintings are set:
It was very impressive. As was the exterior of the building and its surrounds:
And from the main entrance there is a wonderful view to be had across the Plaça Espanya and the distant hills:
There are many beautiful buildings from the Modernista period.
This is the famous Casa Battlo:
And there were 20th and 21st Century buildings too:
Everywhere there are wonderful balconies:
Beautiful examples of carving in stone:
Interesting door decoration. . .:
. . . I could go on and on but I fear I have already written far too much. So I shall end with one small recommendation. It involves cakes. I love cakes and pastries and this café was a highlight of my visit to Barcelona. It is called 'Caelum'. and can be found at de la Palla 8. I would definitely recommend it
While AGA had a cappucino with a lot of froth on top, and an almond and egg yolk cake, I shall always remember that it was here that I had my first taste of the heavenly Tarta de Santiago. . .