After packing up our campsite, which is no small feat to clean everything up, fold and repack furniture, bed sheets, clothes, and of course the tent, and get it all into the car, taking about 3 hours all up. Fortunately the kids were able to enjoy one last day at Mini Club, and Didi has of course endeared himself to all the staff, and we were able to do the disassembling in relative peace! Mini Club was over at 12.30, and we had left nothing in our campsite plot, and the kids walked down to have a look and were suitably impressed. We then jumped in the car for a very short hop - an hour and a half to Barcelona!
We are staying in an area of Barcelona called Poblenou, which was a factory area originally, but since the 1992 Olympics has been gentrified, and very nearby is the site of the Athlete’s Village, and less than ten minutes walk from one of Barcelona’s amazing city beaches. We are staying in a converted factory in an apartment hotel, it has enormously high ceilings and rough brick walls, polished concrete floors and exposed pipes, very trendy. Pool on the roof too.
Never done this before, but with expected temperatures of around 30 degrees, we opted to join the Bus Turistic for 2 days, there are 3 routes here in Barcelona, and lucky for us we were staying just off the Green, or beach route... so we joined the tour bus, which took us around the main sites of Barcelona, with some easy changes to other lines.
Our priority for Barcelona was Gaudi. The Basilica was the high point, but the buses only went in one direction, and the time around the routes was over an hour, so we needed to plan visits accordingly. So on Monday, our first stop was La Pedreda, an apartment building commissioned by one of Barcelona’s bourgeoisie in the early 1900s. Unfortunately for us, the facade is currently swathed in scaffolding, so we didn’t get to appreciate the ‘petrified’ wave, but we did get to enjoy the tour of the museum, and were blown away with the architectural features of the house. In the attic, an exhibition showed how Gaudi incorporated elements of nature, for example plants, animal bones, shells and water erosion, into his architecture. The roof ‘garden’ was amazing, felt a bit like a labyrinth, undulating with steps up and down, and sculptures shaped like the sea, and some covered with bits of tile, and others rendered smooth.
Next stop on our Blue Route bus tour was the Basilica. Could not believe it when we jumped on the bus that we ran into a colleague and her family from school. We were only going a couple of stops to get from La Pedreda to Sagreda Familia, and had to sit downstairs, inside as the upstairs, outside was full, and there they were, the seats just in front of us! They were heading to the Guell Park, and suggested that we might have a little issue with entry because of queues... but we needed lunch. We found a little place with a terrace and had a few Tapas dishes, then went back to join the queue to buy tickets at Sagreda Familia. Hmmm... 45 mins to buy tickets, to be told that the soonest we could get in was 5pm (over 2 hours away!) so we opted to buy tickets for 6.30, and ‘squeeze’ another site in beforehand! Back on the Blue Route Bus, to Park Guell - a park designed by - you guessed it - Gaudi! It was intended to be a property development, and be a private garden, but the housing development part fell through, and eventually, Guell donated the land to be a public park. Gaudi’s own home is in the grounds. After about an hour wandering, we headed back to our trusty bus, to sit on the whole circle back to Sagreda Familia. Didi had a wee nap, we listened to the commentary and enjoyed the late afternoon sun.
Sagreda Familia was amazing. We sat outside for a bit and examined the facade. At the moment, the entrance is through the old section, which Gaudi was actually alive and saw constructed. The kids picked out some of the things they could see, like a lady playing a bassoon, and another one playing a harp and a menagerie of animals. We looked at a bronze statue which shows the expected finished product. And then we went inside.
I can’t describe it. You’ll have to go and visit it. My photos don’t even do it justice; in the slightest. Some possible adjectives include: high, tall, sweeping, amazing, outstanding, enormous, elaborate, inspirational, polylithic (specifically Mike’s adjective), overwhelming, awe inspiring, genius, holy, OMG... The light which filtered in, was so gentle and soft, and the colours through the stained glass just lovely. And it seemed so light and airy.
Underneath the main apse, was a museum, with models showing how Gaudi had worked out the shapes of the ceiling, amazingly he had worked it out using chains, or strings and weights and gravity, and then inverted it using a mirror. I have to admit, it took me a while to get it. But once I could see what he had done, I recognised the genius!
At 8pm, when we were ‘kicked out’ we made a last minute visit to the ‘working church’ underneath, a service was about to be held, so we were super quick to get out and home for a very late dinner! Not surprisingly the kids fell asleep as soon as their heads hit the pillow, and didn’t wake up until late the next morning!
We all felt the effects of such a big day out, and were slower on our second day. But smarter, because before we left we bought tickets for the two main things on our agenda online! And for the first, Casa Battlo, an elaborate Gaudi home, we also bought ‘Fast Pass’ - yep, just like Disneyland... so loved it, when we jumped off the Red Route bus, sauntered over to the door, had a bit of a look up, and noticed the queue snaking around the corner, to walk straight in, and just wait for the people in the door already to be given their headsets! This building is still a working home, with private people using (living or working in) the apartments on each floor, the first floor is the open apartment, with stunning stained glass, inside and out. Gaudi was particularly focussed on natural light, and so had incorporated light wells into the building, each with windows. To maximise light into each floor, the window size varied slightly, with the top floor having smaller windows where the light is brighter, and the lower floors having large ones to let in as much filtered light as possible. The light wells were also tiled in blue, and at the top it was a dark blue, to help cool it down, and at the bottom it was such a pale blue, almost white to enable additional reflection. Casa Battlo also had an outstanding roof terrace, the roof at the front looks like a big dragon is climbing over the top, and is covered with fragments of tiles.
From Casa Battlo, we had a quick tapas lunch, and then jumped on the Red Route to take us all the way around to see something completely different... Joan Miro’s Gallery. He established a foundation to showcase contemporary artists, and also provide a home for his own extensive collection of art, plus his own work. It was an amazing gallery, and provided a terrific contrast against all the Gaudi art we have seen so far! The most amazing thing I saw was a mercury fountain, which was presented to the foundation by the artist Alexander Calder, in memory of Miro. It was in a contained glass box, so the mercury couldn’t splash around, but it was truly mesmerising. There were sculptures (by Miro) on the roof and in the gardens, and it was really lovely. We watched a movie on his history, and he was an experimental artist, and one of the first to do ‘junk’ modelling!
We then walked a little way to ride on the funicular, or cable car, Telerific de Montjuic, which took us up to Castle Montjuic overlooking the ports and all of Barcelona. The views were stunning. We watched the cruise liners, and the working port, and looked at the views to the mountains, and over the city.
We had an amazing dinner, although we have been eating very late - after 9.30 every night... I don’t know how the kids are doing it, and staying up so late! I don’t know how we did either! We had a jug of sangria and a few tapas plates - the one which was outstanding was a very lightly seared tuna with a light sauce for dipping.
A sleep in was required the next day, and we didn’t end up leaving the hotel until nearly midday! The kids slept in until after 9, and woke up on their own. Didi had been begging to go to the aquarium, so again, we bought tickets online, and could skip the queue!! As far as aquaria go, it was ok - we have been to better, we have been to worse. We got home early to use the pool on the roof before going out for dinner again.
It ended up being another late night with our last Spanish paella and sangria, and although delicious, due to a mistake in the kitchen took forever, and so we were home after 11, and a second jug of sangria...
Today we have driven to Bordeaux. We had the most amazing drive through the Pyrenees. We went over the top of the mountain from Spain and into France, peaking at 1920m above sea level. The scenery was breathtaking, and we stopped the car at this point (signposted on the road) and had a look around, we could smell edelweiss and hear cow bells - truly alpine!
We arrived in Bordeaux, checked into our apartment and went out for dinner. What will we see and do here??