Saturday, May 23, 2015

Postcard from Barcelona - final part

Today, ending the Barcelona travelogue with a stroll through the El Born (or short Born) district. It's part of 'the old city' (many buildings date back to medieval times), and it's full of lovely restaurants and boutiques, interesting architecture, a fabulous food market, beautiful churches and the Picasso museum.

Below is the 'Palau de la Música', a stunning Art Nouveau building with intricate and brightly colored mosaics, sculptures, iron work and stained glass, which houses orchestral concerts, classical guitar recitals and flamenco shows, and you can book tickets here

Palau de la Música - column details

The 'Mercat del Born' is Europe's largest covered square. It was used as a market from 1873 until 1971. In 2002 it was decided that the large cast iron structure should house Barcelona's 'Biblioteca provincial'. During excavation a medieval city buried underneath was discovered, and the library was moved to another location. It turned out that the buried city was in ruins... demolished by King Philip V. who defeated Catalonia in 1714's Great War of Succession, and put an end to Catalonia's independence, making it part of Spain. The restored market re-opened as a cultural center in 2013, marking the anniversary of nearly 300 years of oppression by the Spanish crown.

The El Xampanyet Tapas Bar. Absolutely wonderful, and because many people think so too, it can get very crowded. Arrive either very early or very late (i.e. outside lunch hours) to get a tiny little table, otherwise just stand by the bar or at one of the bistro tables (if you are lucky!).

Don't miss out on the Picasso Museum, which shows his early work in the most beautiful and tranquil surroundings; five interlinked palaces/town houses, which date back to the 13th-15th centuries. In the Palau del Baró (No. 17) an opulent neoclassical reception room dazzles on the main floor, decorated with crystal chandeliers, marble and a mix of baroque and classical elements.

A Flamenco dancer's office in one of the neighbouring courtyards (at No 20)

The Santa Caterina food market dates back to 1845 and was totally renovated in 2005. The result is an ultra modern structure with a swooping roof, covered with brightly colored tiles from Seville. Inside, traditional food stalls offer fresh food of every kind imaginable, and it is a perfect place to buy some of the famous Jabuga ham to take back home.

Located in the main building, the 'Cuines Santa Caterina' is a perfect place for lunch. The produce comes fresh from the market next door, and the space is light and airy, filled with plants and decorated with a fragrant wall of herbs.

The lovely 'Ohla Hotel', with it's friendly staff and calm and beautiful rooms is located in a fabulous position...the Gothic and El Born districts are literally on your doorstep, and it is just a five minute walk to the Passeig de Garcia (2mn to Massimo Dutti..)

The Ohla's roof terrace with it's pool, bar and lounge areas, and above all, it's fabulous view over Barcelona (on the right you can see the towers of 'Barcelona Cathedral' in the heart of the Gothic quarters)

Who would have thought it... the young man walking next to me is DS!

This was taken on our last trip to Barcelona, in February 2009:

Barcelona's famous son, Christopher Columbus, pointing towards America

Adiós, Barcelona! Until the next time...

Palau de la Música Catalana, 4-6, 08003 Barcelona

Mercat del Born, Carrer del Comerç, 2, 08003 Barcelona

Tapas Bar El Xampanyet: Carrer de Montcada, 22, 08003 Barcelona, +34 933 19 70 03

Palau Dalmases Flamenco: Montcada, 20 08003 Barcelona

Picasso Museum, Carrer Montcada, 15-23, 08003 Barcelona

Santa Caterina Market: Francesc Cambó 16, 08003 Barcelona. For opening hours click here

Cuines Santa Caterina: Francesc Cambó 16, 08003 Barcelona, Tel: +34 932 689 918

Ohla Hotel: Via Laietana, 49, 08003 Barcelona, Tel: +34 933 41 50 50

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Barcelona part III - A monument to Nature

If there would be only one thing I could do in Barcelona, it would be a visit to Gaudi's Sagrada Familia, in fact it would be worth a trip alone. The Sagrada Familia is a most beautiful, astonishing and breathtaking monument to nature, and a most joyous and awe inspiring place to be. 

Gaudi's plans and visions for the construction, function and decoration of the church were entirely based on the organic forms and shapes of nature, while inventing ground breaking structural designs based on his studies of plants. 

The immensely tall supporting columns follow the natural weight distribution of trees, branching out when rising to/reaching the ceiling. Whether indoors or outdoors, there are no flat surfaces or straight lines.. instead, the structural and ornamental shapes resemble those of plants, animals, minerals or planetary systems. Stair cases look like giant snail shells, while local flowers and native wildlife are part of the decorations and detail. Light is captured and reflected through a double roof, and streams through numerous large windows, recreating the effect of sunlight pouring through the branches of a forrest.

The basilica's inner forrest, with 'tree' columns stretching towards a starry sky

Nativity façade with sculpted ivy bronze doors

Amidst the bronze ivy leaves you find sculpted bumble bees, earthworms, lady bugs and lizards. A little opening in the door allows a lizard to see the inside of the church. How can one not adore a building which gives such consideration to a small creature!

The construction started in 1893, and it is still work in progress. The building of the Glory façade only just began, and the tallest towers (which will almost double the church's height) are yet to be added. The estimated completion date is 2026.

Clockwise from left: A glowing canopy with a latin cross (Gaudi's only concession to traditional church design) and decorated with vines is suspended above the raised altar. Holy water basin, made from a giant oyster shell. Ceiling detail

Capsule pieces: Sky blue linen shirt (here available online) with off-white pants.
Accessories: Hermès 'Mytiques Phoenix' cotton Pareo, Karla bracelet in caramel and Kelly 35 in etoupe. Pendant necklace in or (back in stock soon).
Shoes: off-white Superga canvas sneakers

Incredible progress has been made since the last time we visited, in 2009

Sagrada Familia: Carrer de Mallorca, 401, 08013 Barcelona. To avoid queues, you can pre-book your tickets online: here

Part IV of the Barcelona travelogue (final part) to come soon.

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