Sunday, November 28, 2010

Andrew Christina Barcelona

Barcelona was wonderful! It's definitely one of my top 3 in Europe. One of my top 5 overall, even! What are my "tops" you want to know? I'm delighted you asked! My tops are my favorite cities judged on very specific and scientific criteria. I ask myself the following questions about every city I visit: (1) Can I picture myself living here? (2) Is there enough in this city to keep me busy, entertained and interested? (3) Is there enough outside of the city for me to take weekend road trips to a lake or mountains or beach or all of the above? (4) Is there diversity in the city? (5) Is the nightlife, restaurant, and museum scene good? (6) Is the architecture beautiful and interesting? If I can answer "Yes!" to all of these questions, the city makes my "tops" list. Right now, my top 5 (in no particular order) are Santa Barbara, New York, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Paris.

Now, after sludging through all that bs, your rewards are the long-awaited Barcelona photos. And they are plenty, my friends. Plenty! Just getting out and walking around the city would have been enough for me for days. The buildings were so gorgeous and there is art strewn all about the city. They really take pride in their art and architecture in Barcelona.

Beautiful flamenco dancers on this building.

Some lovely lady statues resting in the park.

Look at the pattern in the sidewalk! Even art beneath your feet!

Amazing attention to detail. This was the crowning piece on the top of a building.

One of the last remaining original blue trams in Barcelona. In operation since 1901!

We took one of those "hop on, hop off" double-decker bus tours in Barcelona and we really enjoyed it. We got to see a lot of the city so we could decide exactly where to "hop off" at. This is Andrew on the bus. We rode on the top level, of course.

Attention to detail. There were little colored tiles in with the brick and look... see the dragon on the top of the gate? Very cool! A lot of these are photos from the bus tour.

Everything was so lush and pretty!

They had a lot of very beautiful female statues all over the city, unlike the uber-macho Italy with a bunch of male warrior statues everywhere.

More amazing buildings - beautiful red "tiles" in this glass building.

I really loved all of the balconies too and every building had it's own unique, ornate facade.

Love this one!

Beautiful domes and spheres topping a lot of the buildings.

And fountains too! Don't forget the fountains!

We took a walk down La Rambla street - major tourist street, but good bars and restaurants for locals too, I think. It was kinda like being at Venice Beach with all the vendors and artists and people wanting your money. These guys looked like they were straight from a comic book.

This lovely lady was just watching the birds!

There were so many pigeons in Plaza de Cataluna, but the kids seemed to love them! The vendors actually sold bird seed. And crazier still... people actually bought it!

This little one looked like she would get swallowed up by all the pigeons!

Casa Batllo, my #2 favorite Gaudi structure!

Another dragon, this one in an "industrial park." Literally, a concrete park. It draws lots of bicyclists, skateboarders, rollerbladers, etc.

Beautiful, tree lined streets. All of the buildings are built shoulder-to-shoulder, but the streets are still so tree-lined, you'd think you were in a smaller town!

It rained on us off-and-on during our first day, but there were moments when the sky was a beautiful blue dotted with puffball clouds.

More art on the street. Andrew and an elephant balancing on his nose!

Have I mentioned in previous posts how pretty the fall is there? Gorgeous colors in the leaves!


This building was topped with a tower and a winding staircase up to the top.

Andrew and I at a spot that looks out over most of Barcelona.

Me! At that same spot.

We were down by the pier and the docs and the harbor and yadda yadda, sea terms, blahbity blah. This structure was cool! It was meant to call upon the shapes of the waves.

I loved it... took lots of pics of it.

Okay, Spain. I'm a little disappointed. This is in honor of Columbus. While that is enough to be disappointed about, over the years I've come to accept the worldwide honor of a genocidal maniac who really wasn't the first to discover America. (Sorry, but my childhood discovery of this sham in history books marks the realization for me that not all information is good information and began my intense desire to question absolutely any bit of knowledge or any belief that I come across and it's served me well over the years. So I'm a little sensitive about Columbus. It's a personal thing.) What's disappointing about this is that Columbus is supposed to be pointing to the new world. But the statue is actually pointing East. What happened, there? I do not know.

The pier... err... dock... err... walkway... WHATEVER... that connects the old... whatever with the new... whatever along the waterfront (shops, restaurants and other various ways to part with your money).

This reminded me of The Wild Things for some reason!

Okay, the women in Europe like tight and short skirts. Even when it's 40 degrees outside! I had to document some proof of this. You're welcome, gentlemen.

Dinner! Let me just say that this meal was awesome from start to finish! We had this lovely potato dish as a starter. Potatoes with a perfect aioli over the top, then drizzed in a slightly spicy tomato sauce. SO GOOD!

This was THE BEST sangria I have EVER HAD! It was a Cava sangria. Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine. SO GOOD!

I wanted to drink the Cava sangria like this.

But I settled for drinking it like this.

I tried for the pitcher again, but Andrew wouldn't let me. :(

My meal - Shrimp fajitas with homemade guacamole. Good, except they don't seem to value a clean shrimp anywhere in all of Europe. They don't clean the "main vein." The "chocolate highway." The "poop shoot." Catch my drift? It bothered me a little. Andrew had a hamburger patty smothered in this sweet onion glaze and a bowl of ceviche. Not sure what happened to the photo.

Spanish creme brule!

The next morning, Las Ramblas, bustling with tourists just hours before, was dead quiet and serene. See what I'm talking about? All the trees? It's wall-to-wall businesses, townhomes and apartments behind all those trees.

This next set of photos is from our Gaudi tour. Gaudi is an architect who lived in Barcelona and was inspired mostly by nature for all of his designs. His philosophy can be summed up by his observance that there really are no perfectly straight lines in nature, so why use them in our buildings? I took lots of Gaudi pictures at Parc Guell, La Sagrada Familia, Casa Batllo and Casa Mila. I was in heaven there. There were cool things to see everywhere you turned!

At Parc Guell.

Gaudi also grew more and more religious as he grew older (almost a crazy fanatic) and at the park, he put along the walking path these "beads" in the ground meant to function as rosary beads so you can pray while you are out in nature.

No, the camera isn't tilted. The walls and columns are.

Under the overlook at Parc Guell. The columns are all angled outward from the center. and the ceiling is a honeycomb texture.

A Spanish guitarist (second reference to the movie Vicky Christina Barcelona, for you non-movie buffs).

I thought this was really cool. This was part of the ceiling. Look closely. you can see that the glass "tile" pieces are broken fragments from other things...

See the neck of the glass bottle?

More beautiful designs with fragments of glass that would have otherwise become trash.

The sky was clearing up for us, but plenty of big, thick clouds were still looming.

For all the Christians in da house!

Andrew next to the Parc Guell mosaic Salamander!

Me in front of the gingerbread house (at least it looked like a gingerbread house to us).

Us in front of the staircase leading to the trails and viewpoint.

The top of the gingerbread house.

Andrew pretending to be Gandolf with a giant wizard hat. The worst part of this photo is that it was my idea. He has made me such a geek!

La Sagrada Familia (The Sacred Family) church. One of the most interesting buildings I've ever seen (talking about just the outside).

This was so awesome! Little ropes strung and weighted with tiny sand bags. Then a mirror is placed over this upside-down structure and the mirror shows how the building will look (as outlined by the ropes, not the sandbags) when it's freestanding. It allows for the builders to follow the natural curves to create the unique columns and towers of the building. It actually turns out to be a very sound structure and goes along with the laws of gravity as opposed to fighting them.

Andrew had to have his picture taken with it. Gaudi was sheer genius!

If you've read any more of this blog, you know I love me some cool ceilings!

When I walked into the La Sagrada Familia, my breath was literally taken away. I think I did one of those 'hand to my chest and gasp' kind of motions. The stained glass had such bold colors and wonderful patterns, it made the entire entrance to the church glow with big splashes of color.

The columns and walls were lit up with the colors from the sun coming through the stained glass.

So awesome!!!

Part of the ceiling.

So much color, but La Sagrada Familia isn't even finished yet! Gaudi died before it could be complete, and they are slowly (very slowly) finishing it. The work keeps up with the pace of the money that comes in to complete it. So, all of these windows (and so many more) will shine even more color into the building.

I want a necklace like this... oval stone with pretty scrolled wire patterns over it.

More glowing colors. These photos have not been altered!

Look at the texture on the walls. It helps direct the light.

Loved the blues and purples!

Me standing by one of the brightly lit columns, wondering why it seems religion is the strongest motivator for people to make such beautiful structures and hoping that one day libraries and universities (my temples of worship) will inspire beauty at the same intensity and frequency.

I couldn't take enough photos.

Crucifixes usually creep me out, but this one still wrapped, looking like a mummy, REALLY creeped me out!

The reflections and light even shone on the floor!

Now we're at Casa Batllo. The most amazing house ever! I took lots of photos. Beware!

Look at the lines! This allows the light from the skylight to shine from the top floor (4 floors, I think) all the way down to the bottom.

Beautiful wood and the handle on the staircase is curved to fit the hand perfectly.

Cool knob-things on the staircase.

Look at the door! It folds open like an accordian and is cut in waves.

Andrew liked the door too.

All of the knobs and handles were meant to fit the hand perfectly, with grooves for your thumb and forefinger.

Me by the window on the 2nd floor.

Check out the curves in the ceiling! It's like the ceiling is made of fabric and someone grabbed it from the middle and started twisting it.

Awesome light fixtures. I don't know if these were Gaudi or not. This one seemed to be, but others didn't fit... chandeliers with lots of right angles. Not his style!

This is in the very center of the house. The stairways going up sort of winding around it. All of the tiles have curved edges and are blue, but as this atrium(?) climbs higher, the tiles are a darker blue. BUT they all look the same shade from the vantage point of the lower floors. I have pics of the darker tiles (that you can't tell are dark in this photo) coming up.

I loved the hand-painted tiles so much! It was like a live Monet painting!

The tiles on the ground in the back yard/patio were pretty too!

Close up of the hand-painted tiles that reminded me of Monet.

Another view of the tall atrium(?).

Awesome patterns in the staircase.

I loved the use of this googley-eyed glass (or wet glass... these are my technical terms for it). Here you can see that the tiles are dark. This is at the top level but from the lower levels, they look pale, which match the ones at the lower level perfectly.

Curved passageways and ceilings and staircases, oh my!

Loved these long, curvy hallways.

The stairway led to the roof.

All of the chimneys came together in a mosaic cluster on the rooftop.

Chimneys with the spine-of-a-dragon-looking point of the roof and Gaudi's signature cross.

The sky was beautiful and so were the mosaics.

Close up of the spine-of-a-dragon-looking point of the roof (you can see scales on the other side).

Me in front of it.

Perfect reflection in this trash can. I don't know why I loved this so much.

WONDERFUL light fixtures. I loved the texture!

Couldn't get enough of the light fixtures.

I REALLY couldn't get enough.

And Gaudi's furniture... very classic and beautiful and timeless.

Loved these ornate little details!

This was something on the top of a building that I took a shot of the previous day, but it wasn't very clear out so the details and colors didn't come out as well.

The building next door to Casa Batllo. Loved the tile work!

The outside of Casa Batllo.

More of the outside (and the line of people to get in).

and more...

Close up... I so loved the colors!

Another close up.

This is on our walk to Casa Mila. I loved these arches with the wood panels behind them.

Casa Mila!

It's really an apartment building. The entire building is to represent the sea. The curves of the building represent the waves.

The iron work on the balconies is seaweed.

The entrance! Love it! Reminded me of a turtle's shell.

The ceiling once you enter. Beautiful watercolor.

There was a display in the building of some of Gaudi's furniture as well as some sketches, models and designs, but I was just fascinated with this part of the building and how the brick was formed into these curves.

Lovely Gaudi bench.

Bench again. I want one.

The curves just amazed me.

Andrew going toward the light!

Another model like the one above with the mirror hanging over it. This is the shot looking into the mirror. The curved building design was created by dangling chains from a piece of wood.

Andrew on the rooftop of Casa Mila.

Me in front of one of the curvy, swirly, tiled structures on the roof.

I loved all of these things... the curvy lines. It all seemed so feminine-meets-masculine!

Andrew again.

This building down the street was cool!

Chimney, maybe?

I loved the clouds with the texture of the structure.

These door handles were shaped by Gaudi himself... his fingers shaping the grooves in the metal.

The view from outside as we were touring the old apartments.

Awesome patterns in the ceiling.

Beautiful patterns in the wood on the floors too (and my shoe and scarf).

Don't know what I love more... the view or the curtain!

Now patterns in the ceiling along with pretty painted flowers!

A balcony!

Okay, I want this purple-lined chest. I really want it. Some of the other old stuff in the room was cool too (skis, saddle, bike). But I want the chest.

We were all done with Gaudi and wrapping up our time in Barcelona, but we had to go to a tapas bar first! And luckily we found one with ham hocks hanging over the bar. Because who wants to go to a tapas bar WITHOUT ham hocks hanging everywhere? I do not know.

Yep, those are all hams.

Another lovely night with a delightful pitcher of sangria keeping me company. Oh, Andrew was there too.

Our food... these were cod fritters. They were so light and sweet and salty and savory. I still wake up at night in a sweat having dreamt of them. Okay, I'm exaggerating. I do still crave them, though. Behind them is a sausage with some veggies.

A beef kabob with fries and behind that is a potato pancake, I think (wasn't great).

Us with the hamhocks as we're leaving the restaurant. Those little cones catch the juices as they drip. The guy behind the bar volunteered to take the photo.

More amazing artwork in the form of a sidewalk!

A beautiful bench.

Casa Batllo at night.

And that's it. Farewell to Barcelona, one of my all-time fav's. I was super sad to leave, but little did I know, another favorite was only a day away! Paris!!!!!