In two days time, my family and I will be packing up our bags heading to our next destination. For the time being recalling my travel last Autumn, I remember the city of Barcelona.
Every time I think about the city of Barcelona, I can only hear Freddie Mercury singing the titular song at the 1984 Olympic games, exclaiming the name of the city….
Barcelona !! It was the first time that we met
Barcelona !! How can I forget
The moment that you stepped into the room you took my breath away
Barcelona – La música vibró
Barcelona – Y ella nos unió
And if God willing we will meet again someday
It was 28th October when we landed in Barcelona. The first glimpse was this sprawling city near the shore of the Mediterranean Sea.
Our first stop is the symbol of Barcelona, the Sagrada Familia. The overpowering church of the “Sagrada Familia” (Sacred Family) was one of the few churches of the left untouched by the church-burning fiasco that accompanied both the 1909 ”Tragic Week” rioting and the 1936 revolution. More than any other building, it speaks volume about the Catalan urge to glorify uniqueness and endeavour. It is the most fantastic of the modern architectural creations in which Barcelona excels. The celebrated architect who begin this project was of course Antoni Gaudi.
The Ramblas is the city’s most vibrant thoroughfare. The Ramblas derives its name from the Arabic ramla (sand), which refers to the bed of a seasonal stream that was paved over in medieval times. In the 19th century, benches and decorative trees were added, overlooked by stately balconied buildings, and today – in a city choked with traffic – this wide tree-lined swath is still given over to pedestrians. Lined with cafés, restaurants, souvenir shops, flower stalls and newspaper kiosks and thronged by tourists, locals and performance artists, it’s at the heart of Barcelona’s life and self-image.
After dinner, we went to the Tarantos restaurant where they always perform the Flamenco to a full house, twice a night. Flamenco is an import from Andalucian and is not a Catalan art. Flamenco songs often express pain. Generally, the voice closely interacts with improvising guitar, which keeps the compass (rhythm), the two inspiring each other, aided by the jaleo – the hand-clapping palmas, finger-snapping palillos and shouts from participants at certain points in the song.
Aficionados like us shouted Ole! for encouragement. This is the first time I watched a Flamenco performance, and I can’t begin to tell you how mesmerised I was with her intensity and contemplative dance movements.
The next day, we went to Parc de la Cieutadella (Citadelle Park). The monumental fountain in the northeast corner was designed by Josep Fontsere I Mestres, the architect chosen to oversee the conversion of the former citadel grounds into a park, and his assistant in the work was the young Antoni Gaudi, then a student.
The giant brick Arc de Triomf is studded with ceramic figures and motifs, and topped by two pairs of bulbous domes. The reliefs on the main façade show the city of Barcelona welcoming visitors to the 1888 Universal Exhibition.
Barcelona’s mighty cathedral, La Seu, whose intricate, high façade and soaring towers dominate the very heart of the medieval quarter, is one of the great Gothic buildings of Spain. Located on a site previously occupied by a Roman temple and then an early Christian basilica, it was begun in 1298 and finished in 1448, save for the neo-Gothic principal façade, which was completed in 1880s.
La Seu is also known for the richness of its 29 side-chapels. These are the most impressive side-chapels I have ever seen. The side-chapels contain tombs that hold the remains of an earlier count and royalties.
Mirado de Colòn (Columbus monument) – Inaugurated just before the Universal Exhibition of 1888, the striking Mirado de Colòn commemorates the visit made by Christopher Columbus (known locally as Cristóbal Colón) to Barcelona in June 1493. The explorer tops a grandiose, iron column, 52nm high, guarded by lions at the base, around which unfold reliefs telling the story of his life and travels
I know this Japanese lunch is at odds with the scenic and Catalan culture of Barcelona but restaurant Wok Yutaka offers a €10 eat all you can Japanese lunch buffet. We would be foolish to miss this! When you are in Barcelona, remember to hop over to 307, Carrer del Rosselló and eat all you can!
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC)
The towering, domed Palau Nacional, set back on Montjuic at the top of the long flight of steps from the fountains, was the flagship building of Barcelona’s 1929 International Exhibition. Used for the opening ceremony, the palace was due to be demolished once the expo was over, but gained a reprieve and ultimately became home to one of Spain’s great museums, showcasing a thousand years of Catalan art in stupendous surroundings.
It was a great view from the top of MNAC. I took a picture of the Sagrada Familia from here.
and the Arena, which is converted to a stylish shopping mall in 2011.
Distracted by the sweeties along the La Ramblas, these mouth watering chocolates and sweets are sinful and a wonderful piece of art.
The Boqueria market (Mercat de la Boqueria) is built on the site of former convent between 1836 and 1840, the cavernous hall stretches back from the high wrought-iron entrance arch facing the Ramblas. Everything radiates out from the central fish and seafood stalls – bunches of herbs, pots of spices, baskets of wild mushrooms, mounds of cheese and sausages, racks of bread, hanging hams and overloaded meat counters. There are seasonal fruit which looks quite artificial as every piece of fruits look so perfect.
It was Halloween season when we visited Barcelona.
We spend the last day at Costa Brava. Some 66km northeast of Barcelona is the small town of Lloret de Mar, where we took a boat ride around the coast of Costa Brava to Torre Del Mar.
Tossa de Mar is quite a sight upon arrival by boat: medieval walls and the turrets of the old quarter, Vila Vella, rise pale and shimmering on the hill above the modern town.
Founded originally by the Romans, the town has twelfth-century walls that surrounded the old quarter – a maze of cobbled streets, whitewashed houses and flower boxes.
As we look back, it was a short and beautiful trip to Barcelona. I remember thinking how surprisingly beautiful and sophisticated Barcelona is, both old and new. Goodbye for now, as we headed off to Paris the next day (1 November 2012) after visiting Barcelona.