Posted by: ganymedes1985 | July 21, 2008

My Barcelona vacation, Day 3: 23rd of June 2008

First of all I wanna say I’m sorry there’s a pretty big gap between the posting of day 2 and day 3, but I’m quite busy, trying to focus on the Musa Artis project I’m in with some friends.
More news on that soon!
Anyway, let’s continue 😉

Day 3… already halfway!

This day started slow, with me not managing to get out of bed at all!

I was in the breakfast room around 8 AM, which was more then an hour and a half after my alarm had gone off!
I ate fast, and packed up a couple cookies again, and by 8.30 I headed out towards what I knew would be one of the highlights of my trip: Casa Milà, better known as La Pedrera.

I arrived there around opening time, and was really really lucky: there were only 3 people in front of me at the ticket window (which is on the right of the actual entrance).

Your first stop is the central court, it’s really astonishing. The colors, the curves, the way the light is reflected in all the windows… You can sit down on a small bench, or just gaze upwards… I did both 😉

I knew I couldn’t gaze very long, so dropped my bag at the depot, got an audio guide and took the elevator.
You arrive in the loft, the “attic” that was designed as a place to do laundry, and keep the heath out of the actual apartments.
I did the “full exhibition tour”, pausing at each display cabinet and listen what the audio guide had to tell about what was shown.
It took me a bit over half an hour, but since the loft floor was good as empty, I really enjoyed it. Architecturally, this building is a real gem! After I finished the tour around the attic floor I enjoyed sitting down on a pouffe for a while, and observe it’s repeating brick catenary arches.
As I went towards the stairs to go to the roof, I noticed the first (of many) groups stroll around the corner with their guide.
I told myself to step up my pace a bit more, or I’ld get stuck with a busload of noisy American teenagers all around me… Not that that’s a bad thing, but… less crowd = more fun when it comes to touring a museum imho

The roof terrace… well… words aren’t good at describing it. It’s something you really have to see for yourself.
It was already after 10 AM, and the sunlight was reflected massively on the many tiles that are so typical as decoration for Gaudí.
I toured the entire roof 3 times! I couldn’t get enough of the different perspectives and views you see when you slowly walk around. So I often paused and sat down on many places, trying to ignore the other people. It was becoming crowded on the roof after a while, many people also stalled their time here, not willing to go back downstairs, so they could “take in the beauty of the roof terrace” as much as possible, but I can’t blame them, I was exactly the same!

After having taken some pictures (which took a while since I often had to wait for people to pass) I took one last look at the beautifully tiled water reservoirs, the chimneys and air vents, and went down the stairs again.

The next stop on the route inside La Pedrera is The Apartment.
As with several architects in the first half of the 20th century, Gaudí designed a whole package: a building with matching interior decoration.
They did a really good renovation on this, and every now and then you’ll spot something you wish still would be a feature in our modern day apartments.
Personally, I loved the bathrooms. There’s bathtubs and sinks in a style you can’t find anywhere these days, perhaps in specialised shops, but you’ll spend a small fortune on one of these. I’ld love to have one of those sinks, and one of those shower heads!
An other feature that made me pause for a more observant look were the wooden floors in the drawing/dining room. They’re really something you just have to see! Craftsmanship like that is practically non-existant nowadays…

Right before you leave The Apartment, next to the small souvenir shop, you can go to the bathroom. I really recommend everybody to use it, because this is the only chance you’ll get to actually use one of the original doorhandles designed by Gaudí!
All other places I’ve seen show replicas of these handles and knobs, together with a “please don’t touch” sign.

The Main Floor of La Pedrera is converted into an exhibition centre.
It’s included in the price, so after a short rest on that small bench in the courtyard I went up the grand staircase and visited the current Japanese prints exhibit, with works dating between the 18th- and 19th-century. It was a nice exhibit, focusing on several things: landscape drawings, portraits, young women from respectable families on excursion, erotic (and the occasional pure pornographic) prints 😉
Actually, this exhibit was pretty big, seeing as that I was there for almost an hour! But sadly my feet were starting to hurt again halfway, and there’s only 2 benches where you can pause on that entire floor… I vote for at least a 3rd bench!

I felt a bit stuck after my extensive visit of La Pedrera. It was not yet 1 PM, so had plenty of time before I met up with Raul for lunch at 2.30 PM, but not enough to actually visit something.
All I could think of was to take a rest, to let my feet relax a bit so I’ld be able to do something later.
The Passeig de Gràcia has a very neat way to combine it’s stylish lanterns with seating accommodations: the usual concrete or stone “feet” that hold heavy wrought iron lanterns, like the ones used on this avenue, are turned into benches here, decorated with the multicoloured decorative tiles you spot all over Barcelona.
Now there’s an idea I wish more cities would use! They’re pretty comfy, and the one across the street of Casa Milà is great for taking a last good look of the curvy facade of the building (and for taking a picture!).

Raul explained me how to go to the Gràcia area of Barcelona, where he worked.
Metro L7 is owned by a different public transport company then the metro lines I had used so far. The FGC area at Plaça Catalunya has a very different style in both design and decoration compared to the stations from the TMB company I had gotten used to.
At least you can use the entire transportation network with 1 single ticket in Barcelona, thanks to the fare-integrated system covering all major transportation types. Thank you ATM!!!

Lunch was good. Raul took me along to a small restaurant called Spezzie (Carrer de Régas nr° 35) behind the Gràcia metro station. He helped me pick something I’ld like, but after having a taste of the more spicy dish he had ordered, I sorta wished I had taken the same, it was good!
Still, I had a tasty 3 course meal, for a bargain price!
We chatted for as long as time would permit us, but much too soon to my liking we had to part.
Raul quickly showed me the direction towards I needed to walk to find an other house designed by Gaudí, and after a good, warm and tight hug-and-kiss, he rushed back to his office.

Casa Vicens (Carrer de les Carolines nr° 24) was the first important work of Gaudí.
It’s a fun building, in a Moorish style: many coloured tiles, plenty of coned and cubic shaped details and a decorative wrought iron fence that can only impress those who see it (srsly, r.e.s.p.e.c.t to the guys who made it!).
The street it’s located in isn’t very wide, so taking pictures of the full house is nearly impossible.
So far, it was not open to the general public, because it remained an inhabited house.
I was quite surprised when I heard the house has been put for sale!
Anybody got € 30 000 000 aside for this UNESCO heritage classified home?
I hope that the person, or company, that can purchase this, will treat it with the same level of respect used at La Pedrera.

My hunger for architecture was still not over, so next on the list: Casa Batlló!
Raul had informed me how to get to the Fontana station of Metro L3, which is close to Casa Vicens, and is only 2 stops from the Passeig de Gràcia station, practically in front of Casa Batlló!

I was able to get my entrance ticket pretty fast, but so far this was the most expensive entrance fee yet: € 16,50! You do get an audioguide included in that price, and with the Barcelona Card you will get -20%.
The Bel-etage is the only apartment you’re able to visit. It was the home of the Batlló family.
The other 4 floors have 2 apartments each, not open to the public.
There’s a bigger focus on the interior design here compared to The Apartment at Casa Milà, since most of the rooms here aren’t furnished. I didn’t mind, I like design!
I for one loved the intense details hidden in many items: the painted pattern on the ceiling and some windows in the vestibule, the stained glass in the door frames, the shape of the ceiling in the living room… I could say more, but it’s more fun if you go discover them yourself!

The spacious living room at the front of the house was an ocean of light, thanks to beautiful decorative window that almost completely makes up the front façade.

Funny detail (told to me by Raul) : Madame Batlló had complained to Gaudí about not having a single straight wall available to place her piano (she had the type you place against a wall, not a Grand piano).

The views into the stairwell from the house are very cool! It’s nice to see how the light comes down from above, lighting the walls that are completely tiled in more intense blue as you go higher (dark blue tiles at the top, white tiles at the bottom, to reflect as much light as possible).

On the terrace at the back, there’s some heavy wrought iron gates and fences. Just like the massive lanterns you have outside on the Passeig de Gràcia, these gates and fences were embedded in walls, decorated with multicoloured tiles.

There’s a lift that can take you upstairs, but I took the stairwell. As you go up, watching the white tiled walls slowly turn into intense blue tiled walls, is a nice thing to witness.
Once upstairs, you’ve reached the loft, with laundry rooms and storage space for each apartment.
Besides washing and storage facilities, the loft also functioned as a temperature barricade, just like in Casa Milà: in summer, when temperatures rise intensely, the loft would become the hottest part of the house, not the top floor apartment (this actually is a feature still used in many modern house projects).

Another similarity between Casa Batlló and Casa Milà, are the catenary arches to support the roof.
Here, they’re plastered white, and open! There’s plates placed on top of each other at an angle, leaving a small gap open between each plate. Rain can’t come in, but air and natural light can. The effect created by the intense sunlight sure is pretty!
Besides the laundry rooms and storage space, there’s a larger room at both the front and the back of the house: the “Dragon’s Belly” (a room resembling a chest cavity) and the “Fire Space” (a more contemporary space designed by Ingo Maurer).

At the end of the corridor, you can take a spiral staircase to the roof terrace.
Casa Batlló has smaller roof terrace compared to Casa Milà, and also is less decorated, but the items that are decorated, sure are beautiful!
The multicoloured roof at the front of the house, showing resemblance to a dragons pinnacle skin, is the biggest eye catcher here. There’s literally hundreds if tiny mosaic tiles, and the chimney shaped like a three dimensional cross completes the surreal appearance of the rooftop.
There’s a small room inside that roof, which used to be the place rain water was collected, to use for laundry. Today there’s only a small fountain inside, that harkens back to the days of it’s original function.
Aside from the “dragon roof”, there’s the chimneys. These too have curved lines, and are covered in multicoloured tiles.

I needed a rest. At the back of the roof, there’s a small oval shaped gap, with a wrought iron grill behind it, and I just sat down there for a while, looking at the chimney in front of it, and how the sunlight played with the different angles of each mosaic tile.
I don’t know how long I stayed there… long enough to have taken many pictures of several people in front of that chimney, and to have asked somebody to “return the favour” and take a picture of me.
After a while, I got up, descended the 2nd spiral staircase, and went to the elevator to go back down.
After a quick visit to the bathroom downstairs, I rounded up my visit by taking a last good look at the stairwell and the grand entrance hall, and headed out.

I wandered around a bit on the Passeig de Gràcia, enjoying the different architectural styles of the buildings, catching a bit of sun on my face, enjoying myself, looking at shop windows… in other words: I was strutting! And what the heck! If any place in Barcelona is good for strutting, it’s the Passeig de Gràcia 😉

When I was sitting in the metro again, I wondered what I could do next. It was a bit before 8 PM, and not at all in the mood yet for dinner.
Something that was on my “perhaps” list, was Avinguda del Tibidabo. I thought it would be nice to see the stately homes that make up this avenue, and since I noticed earlier it was the final stop of Metro L7, I decided to finish off what was already an “architectural highlight”-day, with some more architecture 😉

Tibidabo Hill, which is dominated by the Torre de Collserola, appeared to be much longer then I anticipated.
The clouds were starting to cloak the sky around the Collserola Tower, a faint breeze was cooling off the city, and me with it, so I figured I’ld be able to climb the hill if I didn’t rush myself…

The avenue is a must for those who like extravagant architecture. There’s plenty of architectural eyecandy, on both the Avinguda del Tibidabo, and it’s surrounding streets, but at one point I stopped and turned around. A full day of wandering around in houses, streets and metro corridors, and with the bad-shoe-choice I made the day before, my feet were heavily protesting with each step.
If I ever come back here, I’ld take the bus, or the Tramvia Blau.
Before returning to the metro station, I sat on a bench for a while near Casa Roviralta (aka “El Frare Blanc”), a well known mansion by Joan Rubió i Bellver, another modernist architect and assistant of Gaudí.

The metro took me back to Plaça d’Espanya, hoping to catch the Font Màgica in front of the MNAC this day. Sadly, they weren’t on (it turns out that’s only during the weekend) but there were lot’s of children shooting fireworks for the San Juan feast held the next day.
After watching the fireworks for a while on one of the big pedestrian bridges near the Font Màgica, I grabbed a snack in one of the many little restaurants, returned to the hotel, had a quick refreshing beer at the bar, and finally went to bed… waisted of a very full, but perfect day.

Flickr photo set of Day 3

Casa Milà (La PEdrera) Rooftop

Casa Milà (La Pedrera) Rooftop


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