You want to build what ?
15.03.2012 - 22.03.2012 27 °C
For me the words "Barcelona" and "Antoni Gaudi" will be forever synonymous. There is no other city on the planet where the architectural signature of a man figures so strongly.
A little research reveals that his personality mirrored closely the eccentricity and quirkiness of his creations.
As a young man he was very much the dandy.....overtly flashy and confident. In his latter years he is reputed to have been the diametrical opposite...often being mistaken for a tramp as he supervised work on his final project the soaring and majestic Sagrada Familia , a structure combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms with a brilliance that is awe inspiring.
The project was commenced in 1863....and was only a quarter completed at the time of his death in 1926.
Construction continues to this day.....interrupted on occasion by the fact that it is entirely funded by public donations. Amazing!!There was also the small matter of the Spanish civil war which held things up a little. Completion is scheduled for 2026....the anniversary of the mans death ...which adds a nice symmetry.
It may say a little about the urgency of the Spanish building trade...but that would be a cruel suggestion !!
I'm no expert on architecture....far from it.......I have seen some magnificent and beautiful buildings during my recent circuit around the planet but I will never forget my first glimpse of Gaudis meisterwerk as I made my way down the Avenida de Gaudi graced at its Northern end by another Gaudi creation. The Hospital de St Paul.
Its hard to describe the intricacy and detail of some of these buildings but ceramics, wrought iron and impossibly curved stonework immediately remind the observer who designed them.
When handing him his degree, Elies Rogent, director of the Barcelona School of architecture is reputed to have said: "We have given this academic title either to a fool or a genius. Time will show."
From my perspective the latter undoubtedly holds true.
But there is more to Barcelona than Antoni Gaudi and If I had arrived in Lisbon with no expectations and no preconceptions of what i might find, then my arrival in Barcelona was disproportionately laden with them.....
Having heard much regarding the resplendent tree lined elegance of Europes favourite boulevarde ,Las Ramblas.Moreover the splendour of The Passage de Gracia stunningly blessed with sublime architecture , including some of Gaudis most intricate and eccentric works ......(as well as one of the finest seafood restaurants at which it has been my pleasure to dine....Fishop....best sushi on the planet) it is hard not expect something special.
Barcelona does not disappoint.
For the on foot explorer the city is an absolute delight....the Tapas is amazing (probably no surprise)....and the coffee ....mmmmm the coffee.......probably edging out Lisbon in the excellence of preperation in most of the cafes I chose to sit and watch the world go by.
The public transport is excellent moreover and the subway ranks highly on my league table of subterranean transportation in the cities I have visited. For the tourist in a hurry the designers were able to cleverly create an awesomely functional metro system delivering one to each point of interest with flawless efficiency.
I have found that travelling on the Subway...Metro...Subte...Underground of whatever city I happen to be in has proven to be an excellent yardstick in an assessment of the particular genetic blueprint and intrinsic style of the people of the city of wherever I happen to be and it struck me whilst travelling on the green line from the north of the city where I was staying at "the Garden Hostel" (Highly recommended).....just how elegant and genetically gifted this race of people is. Its hard not to be intimidated by just how attractive they all seem to be.
Now at the risk alienating some of my British friends!!
When travelling on the Underground in London for example...as I have recently.....one becomes conscious of what a ragged mixed bag of races inhabit my nations capital. Don't get me wrong....Integration and the benefits of a cosmopolitan society is in itself a good thing...but when you fish out the overseas visitors and the expat Europeans the British residue is "chequered" to say the least.....and I can say that because I am indeed British..
Now Im not saying the British are a nation of Ugly Buggers........after all me and Jude Law are both from Blighty........but when in Barcelona its difficult not to be impressed by the talents of the Celestial engineer who seems to have been having a particularly good day when he was putting together the men and women of Barcelona.
Like much of Europe Spain is doing it tough in GFC terms....but it doesn't seem to get them down......and everyone wants to come to Australia....a seeming constant throughout my travels.
Another refreshing thing is that Spain seems remarkably untouched by the outstretched palm of American popular culture...and with the exception of Macdonalds Barcelona is deliciously and determinedly Spanish.
Other "Must sees" for the visitor to Barcelona listed in no particular order.....The Plaza Catalunya...at the opposite end of Las Ramblas to the Port.....the Gothic quarter......The Placa Real (home to the wrought iron lamposts which were Gaudi's first commission for the city). The fountains of Mont Juic (go and see them at night when they are beautifully and artfully illuminated and synchronised with the music).
Barca....probably the best club side on the planet....(I'm so upset my visit didn't coincide with a home game).
Finally...there is a restaurant down by the beach known as the 7 Portes. they serve the best paella in town......but what I liked about it most was the fact that it has been a favourite haunt of many luminaries through the years........if you look closely there are small brass plaques identifying the favoured seats of the likes of Dali and Picasso....and more recently Lou Reed and Yoko Ono.
So there you have it....Barcelona......love it.......get there if you can.
Next stop Blighty !!