Amy and I, with our new found friend Kelea, got up rather begrudgingly (at 9 am) Wednesday morning to already climbing temperatures. Kelea pointed out another walking tour over breakfast and liking free things as I do we set off for Plaça Reial. The weather was fantastic so there was already a small throng of people gathered around the Runnerbean Tours guides. We quickly grabbed stickers for the Gaudi tour.
Operator: Runnerbean Tours
Duration: 2 1/2 hours
Operator: Runnerbean Tours
Duration: 2 1/2 hours
1. Plaça Rieal: The tour met here, at the sight of Antonio Gaudi’s only public work – a pair of lamposts. I was starting to wonder if Gaudi was really before his time at all. They were definitely specialist interest and I think even if they were built today people would have a thing or two to say about them.
Our guide however, Debbie, was a bubbly woman from the US Virgin Islands. Her first task was to introduce us to Gaudi and then inform us that her goal was to give us an idea of Gaudi and his works so we can decide for ourselves which of Barcelona’s many sighs we wish to see closer. She had a way of speaking that just makes you want to listen. Particularly as she introduced us to her orange folder – the beacon we followed across the crowds of La Rambla.
2. Palau Guell: This is the mansion Gaudi designed for his eventual patron, Eusebi Guell. Gaudi got his hands on it between 1880 and 1889 when the final touches were completed. It is partially open to the public and is full of Gaudi symbolism. The Catalan flag is represented in the iron façade, for example. It is just a beautiful building all up and looks to me as though it is covered in scoops of ice cream! I am suddenly hungry and remain so for the rest of the tour.
Gaudi had the great fortune of living in Barcelona at a time when the wealthiest families were going through a period of ostentation. Everyone wanted to display their good fortune where the rest of the population could see it. This is why there are so many magnificent façades in Barcelona. You don’t need to enter the houses and museums to see the beauty.
3. Casa Batllo: Next we jumped on the metro and made our way to Passaig de Gracia. From there we had a walk about up the road to visit two more of Gaudi’s commissions. The first was Casa Batllo which is a nineteenth century building remodeled from 1904-1906 right next to a former chocolatier which was also redesigned, though by another architect.
Debbie has the group guessing. What do we think the building resembles? Skulls, the sea, a dragon! Although Gaudi had a strong idea about what he wanted the buildings to represent there is plenty of opportunity to have your own interpretation – like all good art.
4. Casa Mila: We move on to Casa Mila which has perhaps the funniest story of the flamboyant artist, the tramp husband and the rich wise. Mila employed Gaudi to redesign the façade of his building with his rich wife’s money. Gaudi and his employer were at loggerheads from the start. Unsurprising as Gaudi had a tendency to go exorbitantly over budget! When the building was finished in 1912 it was proclaimed a disaster – not by the architect of course. It is said that women would cover the eyes of their children as they passed.
Mila’s wife, in particular, hated the building. However, she managed to wait until Gaudi’s death before plastering over her apartment. I have to wonder if she realized the little snarks Gaudi made in the design. Particularly the bird on the third floor balcony that looks as though it is defecating on Mila’s apartment! Overall it looks a little like something out of the Flintstones.
5. La Sagrada Familia: A second metro ride later and we reached the place I had been dying to visit! La Sagrada Familia sprung up like a craggy cake. We wandered the periphery, observing the gorgeous sculpture work while Debbie read us the story of the bible – in pictures. In the end I was definitely worse for wear, but completely ecstatic to be standing at the foot of one of the most famous buildings in the world.
The following morning Amy and I took off early for the metro. Following some of Debbie’s hints from the day before we rode the L3 metro to Vallcarca we followed a trickle of wiser tourists towards Park Guell. The reason she suggested this way was the open air escalators which would convey us to the top. Amy and I had previously determined that we did not need a thigh work out.
The park was already full of people. Every vantage point was crowded, but we found a bench to eat our handily packed cheese sandwiches. This was not the longest park bench in the world – which Park Guell also boasts, but a little wooden one in the shade.
We spent a few hours walking about and taking photos before trudging back down to the metro. At this point the skies opened and it did not stop raining even after I was on my way to the airport. Unfortunately this meant we decided to skip a visit to Barceloneta as we were thoroughly drenched. I guess that means I will have to go again?
When my flight got in to Dublin Airport at 1 o’clock in the morning Friday I was really happy to see my boyfriend and a bunch of roses waiting for me! Happy to be home 🙂