Friday, 8 November 2013

Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain

Barcelona, Capital of Catalunya an ancient kingdom in Spain. So here I get to practice both my Spanish and try to read Catalan which is a lot like French and can confuse sometimes when you read a sign and you make the mistake of thinking it's in French when in fact it's in Catalan, though the meaning is the same. We arrived early this morning 7 November, after all the waves, the sea now is like a mirror, sunny blue sky and warm weather around 23C.

We are docked in front of the Column of Christopher Columbus at the foot of La Ramblas this wide pedestrian avenue which leads up to Plaza Catalunya where you will find Corte Ingles the famous department store. We can easily walk everywhere from the ship.
We got off around 9 am and took the Hop On-Hop Off bus which takes you to all the sights with no effort. Barcelona is truly a beautiful city, full of great architecture and style and an elegant relax atmosphere. It is also a University town with 8 universities dotting the city.

It is easy to walk around, there are lots of good restaurants and we found one today for lunch quite unexpectedly. A little cafeteria-Café in the neighbourhood of Parc Guell. It was obviously a neighbourhood restaurant, all the customers new each other and the owners, the average age was about 65. The food was wonderful, good portions and the price could not be better. I had a lovely soup and 3 of those big sardines (the size of 3 fingers) on the grill, very fresh fish and good tasting too, we do not see them in Canada we are so used to the little ones in tin. Will had a paella of seafood, a generous serving for one and then a chicken breast with home made french fries. The kitchen was at the back and you could see the 2 ladies working. A glass of wine was 1 euro and a beer 1.40 euros. We thought not many fellow passengers would find such a place and we were happy to simply walk around and stumble upon it. We have found quite a few good local restaurants this way. The restaurant was called, Il raco de Dalt on Travessera de Dalt 52. The menu was in Catalan, so we had to ask for a few explanations which were given in Spanish, no problem. Perfect place for a very nice lunch, often the best meals are found in just such places.

The one thing that bothers me a lot are the gypsies you have to have your wits about you. They are everywhere so you have to be aware of who is around you, they are very good pick-pockets. There is also a lot of police watching them. Bus stops and busy areas are of concerns because they tend to congregate in those areas. I was their victim once, so now I am very leery of them.

We have been to Barcelona before, but the details of this previous visit were a little sketchy. We visited the old Cathedral built in 1058 by the Count and Countess of Barcelona, their emblem a black bat is also the emblem of the City. This is a medieval building in the romanesque style, which is built directly into the old Roman Walls which can still be seen all around the church and the old Roman Gate, the town was then called Barica. This part of Barcelona is ancient and the streets narrow but so beautiful, so many shops offer all manner of services to decorate your house or have some repair made, antiques, porcelaine, silverware and old objects. Many services we once had in Canada but no longer have due to the shopping mall craze.

Cathedral of St-Eulalia and of the Holy Cross of Barcelona built in 1058

Tomb of the Ramon Borell Count of Barcelona and his wife Ermesenda de Carcasonna in the Cathedral

We then went to the Gaudi Church of La Sagrada Familia, and I will devote one full posting to that church still under construction after 100 years, it is a unique building and it is now 80% complete with a completion date of 2026, I will be 70 years old then and would love to see it complete, it is a marvel as it is now. There are so many architectural details, you constantly discover things your eyes simply missed. Gaudi has tried to incorporate the New Testament and all of stories and names into the building, it is a riot of details, columns are trees with branches, fruits and vegetables are represented as well as animals, the church building is a large canvas for the story of God's Creation.
So I will devote one entry just to Gaudi and this very special building. If you come to Barcelona and manage to see just one thing, that would be it.

La Sagrada Familia by Gaudi to be completed by 2026.

Some of the stained glass windows have now been installed.

On our second day here, we went to visit a site we had missed on our previous visit, the Reial Monestir de Santa Maria de Pedralbes. This monastery of the St-Clare Nuns, the female branch of the Franciscan Order. Queen Elisenda de Montcada founded this cloistered Monastery in 1327 with the help of her elderly husband King James II of Catalunia and Aragon. It is known that she was about 30 years old when she founded this monastery of the site of her Palace Pedralbes (white rocks), she went on to live there as a nun after the death of her husband. In her will she gave the land and all the buildings to the Abbess of the order. It has remained to this day a monastery for the nuns of St-Clare. Many of the Abbess were Noble Ladies like Francesca Ça Portella who was engaged to marry Lorenzo il Magnifico Medici.
Cloister of Santa Maria de Pedralbes

It is located way up in the posh neighbourhoods of Pedralbes and Sarria. It is well worth a visit, all the buildings are very well preserved and the cloister has 3 levels which is unusual for the period. Beautiful frescoes, the Chapel of St-Michael is under restoration and is reminiscent of the style of Giotto. There is a beautiful exhibit on the restoration of the frescoes and a video presentation explains how a single panel would be done over a period of 22 days by the artist and the technique he would follow. The garden at the centre of the cloister has a large herb garden and an orchard of orange trees with a beautiful cistern done in Majolica tiles and a circular pond surrounded by cypresses. A very peaceful place. The church itself is rather austere and done in a severe style. There are several royal tombs and a seating arrange according to monastic order, minor and upper. The nuns also have an isolated area for contemplation and prayer. The church use to be more ornate prior to 1906 when it had gothic decoration, then all was removed to return to building to its original decoration, even the side chapels were dismantled. Looking at it now, despite the magnificient original fourteen century stain glass windows, the look is severe though beautiful in its simplicity. The monastery was briefly abandoned by the sisters between 1931-1933 during the period of the Spanish Civil War and the government of Catalunya confiscated the buildings and its treasures. Opening it up to the public for the very first time since its foundation in 1327. The sister returned and re-occupied the premises, today it is a museum and a monastery.

There is so much to see in Barcelona and it is worth seeing it all, we will have to return to this beautiful city. 

No comments:

Post a Comment