We've been in Barcelona for the past 2 days. We forgot how bustling a city is after our time in Provence. As soon as we alighted from the train, we were met with throngs of people rushing through the station, transferring to the underground, taxis or busses. We took the underground to Placa Catalunya, a large open tiled square with sculptures, a fountain, people everywhere and pigeons galore. It was only a 10 minute walk from there to our hotel. We're never sure what a hotel will bring when it was found through an internet search. But we hit the jackpot with Hotel Catedral. We are adjacent to the Barcelona Cathedral and the Barri Gotic.
Barcelona Cathedral Cloister
The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia (colloquially known as La Seu) is Gothic and built in the 13th-15th centuries. We couldn't understand why the facade looked newer and more modern than that until we overheard a guide explain it was constructed in the 19th century over the "nondescript exterior". The interior is quite lavish with gold everywhere. Mass was being conducted while we were there so our observations were limited. My favorite part was the cloisters where 13 white geese are kept to commemorate the martyrdom of Eulalia at age 13. Wayne kept insisting they were being fattened for foie gras. La Seu sits raised above the Placa. The Placa is always filled with people and performers. Sunday there was a small band playing on the steps and locals dancing a traditional ring dance. Across the square very athletic young men were performing gymnastics.
The Barri Gotic is not as old as one would assume with this name. Most of it was built in the 19th and 20th century. There are Medieval buildings to be found, however. We liked walking through the labyrinth of small streets and then suddenly finding ourselves in an open square. Favorite among these was the Placa Real, a place we remembered from 20 years ago. There are restaurants cheek to jowl here. On the afternoon of our arrival, we just picked one with a vacant table outside and on the square's edge. Luckily they had a wonderful paella and grilled squid. That night we returned to the district and had tapas where one self serves from an array of tapas and is charged by the number of toothpicks on the plate.
Next to La Seu is the Antoni Gaudi museum. Our intention with our one full day was to visit some of the Gaudi buildings. The museum seemed the perfect place to start. The curator has done a thorough job of documenting Gaudi's life and explaining his design sources and inspirations. Two of Gaudi's best know buildings are within a few blocks of one another. We admired the exterior of one and explored the interior of the other. Originally built as an apartment building, today La Pedrera houses commerce on the ground floor, 4 private residences and the remainder opened for tours. The main courtyard is beautiful with frescos and undulating walls. Each apartment occupies a floor and circles completely around the interior courtyard. The roof is amazing with stucco chimneys that look like stormtroopers from Star Wars and glass covered arches.
We continued on our way to Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's famous unfinished church. The area seemed more of a tourist destination that we remembered. The facing park was beautiful with blooming red bud trees. But the front of the church was packed with tour busses and lines of visitors. We elected not to go in. We had been in before and had a dinner date we needed to be back for. Instead we visited Michael Collins' Irish pub where we repeated our experience of 20 years ago and had a refreshing beer. Nothing had changed. It is a terrific Irish pub with a very long bar extending through 3 rooms, dilapidated tables and showcases full of dusty stuffed birds, one mangy fox, and IRA uniforms. The bartender was from County Cork but didn't know my ancestors from County Claire.
Continuing in the vein of our nostalgic agenda we returned to the 7 Portas for dinner. I have two sea snail shells from a dish we had on our first visit. Wayne was determined to collect more but we couldn't determine from the menu which dish to order. We finally looked up the snail on the internet and showed the waiter. He not only got us the dish but later brought a bag for our snail shells. Off the Valencia tomorrow.
Saturday in Barcelona on flickr.
Sunday in Barcelona on flickr.
Barcelona Gymnists on YouTube
Music at the Cathedral on YouTube
Dancing at the Cathedral on YouTube