Saturday was essentially the day of Gaudi. After purchasing some breakfast at the Mercado, we hopped on the subway and headed to Parque Güell, Gaudi’s famous park built into the hillside at the edge of Barcelona. The metro station left us with more than a short walk to the park, but on the way we were able to catch part of a bocce game being played in a local park by some ancianos enjoying the beautiful Saturday morning.
We reached the park and were immediately immersed in both the incredible architecture and the hundreds of other visitors. Parque Güell was originally conceived as a housing development by Count Eusebi Güell, but when the houses didn’t sell it was converted into a public park. Judging by the number of people visiting the park while we were there, it’s was definitely a good choice to keep it around!
The entrance to the park is dominated by a white marble staircase and beautiful tile mosaics. We spent hours walking throughout the park, listening to the street musicians, and enjoying the breath-taking panorama of Barcelona. With all the walking and the warm weather, we were all pretty hot. With the beach only a short metro ride a way, most of the group headed to the shore to tomar el sol and cool off in the Mediterranean. I made the tough choice to stick Gaudi and headed to Casa Batlló with Emma and Anna.
The house was absolutely incredible. Living there must have been quite the experience. The entire building flows, from the oval windows to the rounded doors there seemed to be no typically constructed piece of the house. The very first glimpse of the house once you emerge from the metro lets you know that what you will see inside is a design found nowhere else. The balconies that adorn the façade of the house look like masks of bone, looming above in a haunting yet beautiful way. We entered the house and were greeted with floors of curved surfaces and beautiful tile mosaics. Gaudi must have had such an interesting view of the world!
After the tour we headed to the Sagrada Familía, the enormous cathedral designed by Gaudi. We refueled with a quick lunch beneath the Gaudi designed streetlights and headed to the cathedral for some photos. The building breaks all established norms of a Cathedral, looming above the Barcelona skyline as a eyesore to some and a marker of the brilliance of Gaudi to others. Still under construction, the building is a constant subject of debate for the people of Barcelona. Unfortunately the building closed at 6 and we reached the entrance at 5:55. Undeterred we took the metro to meet up with the beachgoers at the Museo Nacional, located in the beautiful Palau Nacional that was built for the World’s Fair in 1929. A short walk from the Plaça Espanya, the Palau Nacional provides a beautiful view of the Venetian Towers and the city of Barcelona from the base of Montjuïc. Unfortunately we ran into timing issues again, but this time we were allowed to enter the building and go through a security check before being told the museum was closing in 10 minutes. I like to think that we have just finally adapted to the Spanish sense of time.
Defeated by both the Sagrada Familía and the Museo Nacional, we headed back to the hostel to prepare for the evening. After a brief siesta we got ready for our big night out in Barcelona. We headed down to the beach to take part in some of the local Paella, some of the best in Spain. We walked for a bit and came upon a street full of different paella restaurants and picked one at random. We chose wisely in our ignorance and had one of the most delicious meals I’ve eaten in Spain. Needless to say there was nothing left in the dish. After the Paella we headed to the metro stop near Razzmatazz, one of the larger clubs in Barcelona. Leaving the metro we found ourselves in a disconcerting area with dark, warehouse-like buildings and filled with people of the goth and punk persuasions. I wasn’t sure what I had gotten us into! We finally found the club, however, with the help of some kind locals and went to a nearby bar to have some drinks in first. A unique local place, the bar was neither empty nor filled with a younger Spanish crowd that would dance and sing to the songs being played. Ready for the night, we headed back to Razzmatazz and danced the next few hours away, making our way to each of the five salas and ultimately meeting up with the other group of program students visiting Barcelona for the weekend.
Morning came much too quickly with a ringing telephone and a pounding on the door. It was 10:55 and we were supposed to be out of the room at 11:00. Joder. Still in a post-fiesta/still-asleep haze we packed everything up, located the key, and checked out with the exasperated hotel employees. After a night on the town what else is there to do but head to a museum first thing the next day? Clearly nothing, so we bought some breakfast and hopped on the metro to see the Picasso museum before our flight home. We had to wait in line a while for the museum, but it was definitely worth it. The museum houses many of the pieces we’ve studied in art history and it was an amazing experience to see them in the real world. When I was a child I only knew of Picasso’s cubist period and thought of him as some fluke who managed to convince the world that his childish drawings were incredible modern art. Naturally I realized how wrong this assumption was as I grew older, but if there had been any doubt left in my mind it would have been evicted after visiting the museum. Picasso’s journey from child prodigy to world famous artist was traced chronologically, following his changes in periods and styles. Amazing to see how such a prolific and talented artist continued to reinvent his art while maintaining his artistic identity. Incredible visit with which to end our visit to Barcelona.
A fast-paced, hectic and incredible weekend, Barcelona left us all exhausted and glad to be back home in “quiet” Alcalá. So glad to have seen the city and visited the architecture of Gaudi and the art of Picasso while taking part in local cuisine and markets. The quick weekend in Barcelona helped me appreciate how much there is to see everywhere in the world. Three days in any city is never enough, particularly in a city as rich in culture and history as Barcelona. I look forward to revisiting it some time, maybe at which point the Sagrada Familia will finally be finished!