I had set my alarm at 6.30 AM, but was awake before it went off…
I knew I had to try to visit the remaining items on my “must visit” list today.
I didn’t rush myself, but managed to leave the breakfast room before 8 AM.
Something I had planned to do early in the morning, was Park Güell.
Metro L3, which had become my main form of transportation, was good as empty, and within 10 minutes I was already exiting the Vallcarca station.
Raul had suggested this station to me, and not the one before it: Lesseps. Lesseps station in fact is suggested on several websites, tourist brochures and travel guides when you want to go to Park Güell, but afterwards, I was really happy Raul had made that suggestion!
Vallcarca station is close to a side-entrance of the Park. There are escalators taking you up the hill, but when I got there (around 8 AM) they weren’t activated yet 😦
I puffed as I did all those stairs “the normal way”, but when I finally arrived at the small entrance to the Park, the route towards the monumental area goes downhill (YAY!).
The path is very curvy, and very nice! You have a great panorama over the city and the Park itself. Every now and then you can see a part of the park you see on pictures, you even pass one of the colonnades with helicoid columns!
When I finally reached the monumental entrance, I was thrilled! Besides a grey cat there wasn’t a living creature in sight! I could have a seat on the bench behind the famous Gaudí Dragon, and enjoyed the silence of this usually busy area. I let my hand glide over the smooth surface of the (restored) dragon’s head, and continued my way around the site.
The Hipostyle Hall (the Doric colonnade area underneath the square), has unique mosaics on it’s ceiling. There’s so many, and each one is different, it kept me wandering there for a while, before I took the stairs up to the actual square.
Once up on the square, the curvy bench was bathing completely in the early sunlight, with not a single person sitting on it! That soon changed as I placed myself in the centre of a curve, and chilled. It didn’t take too long until some other early people were slowly arriving at the square.
I offered a young Japanese guy to take a picture of him and his dad, in order to ask to return the favour 😉
For the next hour, I explored the rest of Park Güell.
La Torre Rosa is one of the only house projects realised here, because the entire Park was originally a real estate project that flopped. Today it is the Casa-Museu Gaudí. It’s only € 4 to enter it, but if you wanna know my opinion: it’s not a necessary stop, bit of a “tourist trap” in fact. Inside you’ll see a small recap of the life of Gaudí, with some of the original furniture that was inside the house, and a couple pictures, sketches and models of his projects. You’ll have seen several before in Casa Milà, and will see others in the Sagrada Famíla.
Half an hour later, I had walked back towards the monumental area, and noticed it was time for me to say goodbye to this famed Park, as many tourists had now claimed the main entrance. I quickly purchased a nice postcard in one of the small fairytale buildings that functioned as souvenir shop, and strolled out of the main entrance gate.
Remember Raul advised me not to take the Lesseps station to go to Park Güell? Well, considering I now was leaving it, I figured I’ld found out what the difference between the 2 routes actually is.
You first walk downhill for a quite a while. When you’ve reached the bottom, you’re on a busy main road. When you’ve walked down the road, crossed a square and a busy intersection, you’ve finally arrived at the Lesseps station of Metro L3.
So, here’s a quick recap for all those planning to take the metro to go to Park Güell:
- Vallcarca station: “about” 600m to walk; short but steep hill to climb, which has escalators (when activated, I was there at 8 AM, and they were still off); arriving at side entrance to the Park; once inside it’s downhill towards monumental area, passing a couple of features by Gaudí
- Lesseps station: “about” 1500m walk; constantly uphill (not steep near Lesseps station, but as you get closer to the park it becomes a pretty steep hill); arriving at main entrance to the Park; still have to go uphill in the Park itself
Both routes go uphill, and have sign posts showing direction and distance to the park.
Personally, I’m very grateful Raul had made the suggestion to get off at Vallcarca! It is a different way to “meet” the park, but I think it is a better way!
I returned to the old part of Barcelona. The McDonalds at the Rambla was a very tempting place to have lunch, since it wasn’t noon yet, so not very crowded. All I can do is quote the 2 American girls that were in front of me: bad experience! I understood enough of what the different dishes had to offer, so tried to order in Spanish, and mentioned which drink I wanted with that. The girl however had to call in help to help me in English. After I finished eating, I had to go to the bathroom. Well… I was welcomed by completely wet floors there, and the cubicles are the narrowest I’ld ever laid eyes upon!
The Picasso Museum was on my “must see” list, but turned out to be closed today due to the San Juan feast. With not much else planned, I decided to tour around this part of town.
I re-visited the Santa Maria del Mar church. There was a service going on, so quietly sneaked around. I sorta felt bad when I tried to take a picture, but still managed a nice one when I left the church.
Not too far from the Santa Maria del Mar was the Gothic Santa Església Catedral Basílica de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulalia (aka “La Seu”) of Barcelona. I had visited it before, but that was a very quick visit. This time, I wanted to take my time for it.
The front was covered for restoration. The canvas had a picture of what was behind it (EU regulation), together with a call for help to the restoration fund.
Entrance is only € 5, not much if you ask me. What surprised me is that you can visit the roof now. Last time I was here, that wasn’t possible. I must say that taking a picture of the centre tower is not easy: it was just too big for my camera to capture! Solution: photograph it at an angle, that way you can pature a bit of everything.
Another difference from my last visit was the crypt: it was lit all the time (used to be coin-operated). Taking a picture of that was much easier now compared to before (the picture I had taken of it in 2002 sucked!).
The courtyard and secluded garden still were as tranquil and pretty as I remembered it, and this time I had to take a picture of a small fountain I didn’t manage to photograph before. The perspective from the small horseman behind the big Gothic arches had been a sight I remembered for all those years, and now I can look at it as much as I wanna!
When I had completely finished the tour around the Cathedral, I was in the mood for something else.
Another item on my “perhaps” list, and a recommendation by Raul, was the Palau de la Música Catalana. It’s about 10 minutes walking from the Cathedral, so easy to do by foot.
The first thing you hear after getting your ticket for the guided tour (€ 10 for a 50 minute tour): no photography allowed inside the building. When you hear this, you’re of course a bit sad, but the reason is simple: the Orfeó Català, who ordered this building in 1905, still owns this building, and all the rights to it.
Naturally, you respect their property, cuz it’s a rare occasion that a building like the Palau is still owned by those who ordered it’s construction in the early 1900’s, and I understood they like to protect it in all possible ways they can (I would be the same, as I’m sure would anybody be).
The Palau was built in a time many changes were happening in Barcelona. Lluís Domènech i Montaner, the architect, was hoping that when the building he designed was completed, a house block right in front of the main entrance would be demolished, and a nice public square could do justice to the very ornate facades he designed. Sadly, that never happened, and today both colourful facades are situated in narrow streets.
Despite that, the inside of the Palau remains very bright. Natural light can enter from many directions all around the building.
The Foyer floor has a very airy open plan design, originally divided into small offices made out of frosted glass and wood. This is partially demonstrated by the partition walls at the back, and at the bar in the centre of this room.
When the tour starts, you’re taken into the Chamber Music Hall, behind the partition wall and which lies directly under the main stage. Usually used as rehearsal room (because of the same size of the stage in the concert hall) or for more intimate piano concerts, this is the place where you’ll see a short movie about the history of the Palau.
The movie itself is shot in an impressionable way, it managed to briefly gave me goosebumps a couple times!
If you think the movie wasn’t “all that impressive” as I think it was, wait till the guide takes you upstairs.
You first enter a nice size reception room, with a view to the mosaic tiled columns and walls on the terrace. Next, the guide will take you into the actual concert hall. Here’s where you’ll really have to hold your jaw to prevent it from dropping to the floor!
With every step you take, something new hits your visionary field.
The first thing you see is the back of the stage, where 18 women of different nationalities, each in their own dress and accompanied with their local musical instrument. The dresses are made out of mosaic tiles, but from the waist, the women protrude the wall, and surround the performers as muses.
Above the stage you’re sure to be impressed by a well designed pipe organ.
A couple steps further into the hall and you’ll notice the decorative arch “framing” the stage.
On the list is a bust of choir director Anselm Clavé, and around him the tree and some girls from Clavé’s best known song: “The Flowers of May”.
On the Right, the top is dominated by “The Valkyries“, underneath them a double Doric column to symbolise classical art, and between those you have the bust of Beethoven, as a way to honour his classic compositions.
The choice of the classic masters on the right, and the (for that time) new and modern developed songs in music on the left, was made specifically: they are a way to show that both classic as modern music is welcomed at the Palau.
On either side of the top balcony, Pegasus is depicted, as representation of “the high-flying imagination”.
And finally, when you’re about halfway the hall and get out from under the 1st balcony, you’ll see the skylight.
It’s without question the jewel of this hall. Flanked by ladies, the centre of the skylight “drops” down, and resembles the sun.
Words can’t really do it justice, you just have to see if for yourself!
As the guide demonstrated the renovated pipe-organ, all went silent and gazed around, most of all upwards to the skylight.
The decoration of the hall is of such beauty, it’s hard to notice everything. Still, the high level of decoration isn’t really dominating, because it’s broken by large windows, allowing even more natural light to enter the hall.
I reluctantly followed the guide to the upper balcony for some more decorative aspects that could be seen better there. I really wanted to stay down, where you could see the skylight properly in all it’s glory.
When we returned downstairs, and got some more information about the front facade and it’s unusual ticket boots inside the columns, I assumed the tour would come to an end soon.
I was right. I didn’t follow the majority outside, but went to the bathroom behind the double staircase instead.
I wanted a drink here too. It wasn’t very warm inside the Palau, but I hadn’t had a drink in a couple hours. The bar in the Foyer room of the Palau had already tempted me with their small snacks placed on dishes. They were € 2,50 a piece, which I thought was enough, but I still made a selection of 4, and ordered a small coffee to go with them. They were good treats! Well worth their price!
The gift shop across the new square on a modernised side of the Palau wasn’t too impressing, but I did get a nice postcard there of the skylight.
Since the Picasso museum was on my “must see” list, I had to switch that with something else that was on that list and that I had planned for the next day: the Sagrada Família.
After a small detour towards a cash machine I knew would accept my card, I took the metro and got off 1 station before the Sagrada Família: Monumental.
It wasn’t open, but I just wanted to see the Plaça dels Braus Monumental (the bull ring).
It’s got a mix of Moorish and Byzantine design, with blue and white tiled domes on the 4 low towers. Personally, I’m not into bullfights, but often these bull rings somehow manage to interest me architecturally 😉
After trying to take a good picture of El Monumental I looked towards the towers of my next destination, just a couple blocks away.
The opening hours of the Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família were on one of the many prints I had made as preparation for my trip. It was already after 5 PM, so time was starting to run out. I hasted myself back to the metro and a couple minutes later I payed the guy at the ticket booth € 8,00 to enter the site.
I had about 2,5 hours to visit everything, and read that both gift shops would close 15 minutes before closing time. Ignoring the Passion of Christ façade in front of me, keeping them for last, I just walked into the building.
As I had heard, the inside of the Sagrada Familià is in fact a very big construction site. It’s still nice to see how they manage to execute every aspect Gaudí had designed.
Your eyes are drawn towards the sky, witnessing how the “forest of columns” is already starting to take shape.
The ceilings are designed in a very wierd way: holes are left open in the middle, where a ray-like pattern of reflecting tiles will guide the light inwards when the entire building is completed.
There’s a small exhibit about the temple and Gaudí, but pretty quick you’ve reached the other side, and arrive on the terrace in front of the Nativity of Christ façade.
I looked around at the statues for a while, but kept an eye on my watch.
There’s 2 elevators: one that will take you up on the Passion of Christ façade, and a 2nd that goes up on the Nativity of Christ façade. I knew using them was € 2,00 (not much at all) but I didn’t know this was “for each” elevator! And I only brought € 10 in cash with me, so had to make a choice!
After asking at an information booth on the site, I decided to only use the elevator on the Nativity side.
There’s a waiting line for both elevators, but the one for the Nativity side was considerably shorter compared to the elevator going up the towers on the Passion side.
You had to pay the elevator operator while going up, and once you’ve reached the top floor, there’s only a narrow staircase in front of you.
You don’t have to climb it much to reach the passage towards the 2nd tower, and soon enough you’ll get to the bridge behind the cypress tree with the white doves, taking you towards the 3rd and 4th tower.
The view on this bridge is awesome! The wind is very strong here, and everybody wants to take a good look at the decorations on top of all the towers, without risking leaning over too far.
As you make your way down the 3rd or 4th tower, you pass a couple balconies where you can enjoy viewing different sides and aspects of the building.
At a certain point, you reach the “helix” stairwell. Everybody has seen a picture of that I’m sure, but when you’re starting to actually go down, mixed feelings rise: there’s the excitement that you are actually taking these stairs, but at the same time there’s caution, because these stairs aren’t totally safe. There’s nothing but air in the middle. If you slip and fall towards the left, you’ll fall down about a meter, and after that… well the only place you’ll stop falling is when you’ve reached the bottom.
So, caution is in order here, and there’s some sort of relief coming over you when you finally arrived at the iron door on the ground level.
The crypt has been converted into a museum. It’s quite big, and I stayed a pretty long time down there. The main focus lies on the construction. Sketches, prints, scale models: you name it, it’s all there!
I also spotted something down here I just had to try and get a copy of: a sketch by Josep Maria Subirach, showing the knights on the Passion of Christ façade, together with the chimneys of Casa Milà which inspired him for the knight’s helmets.
The private crypt where Antoni Gaudí is buried sadly was closed at the time I was there, but I really had to hurry up. It was nearing 7.30 PM, and the gift shops would soon close. I had spotted the one on the Nativity side was much smaller compared to the one on the Passion side, and figured my best chances on getting a replica of that sketch by Subirach would be in the big one.
I only just managed to enter the souvenir shop in time, as a minute later a guy went to close one of the 2 entrance doors. I felt the shop keeper’s eyes on my back but managed to find what I was looking for quickly, and more!
I left with 3 posters: the sketch of the knight with the chimneys of Casa Milà, another sketch of a knight riding a horse, and a print of the completed Temple, showing the Passion façade.
Since it was a couple minutes before 8, I quickly visited the old school building for the sons of the workmen. It was not at all an ornate building, but architecturally it must have been very inspiring for those boys!
I took a rest in the park across the street after I took some pictures of the Passion façade, trying to figure out what I might still be able to do. The only thing that sprung to mind was to chill out somewhere.
There was no rush, so I tried to catch a metro heading back towards Plaça Catalunya. Once there, I strolled down the Rambla again, and explored some side streets.
After a while I ended up near the Santa Maria del Mar again, and searched a nice place to eat.
Bar Bubo (Caputxes nr° 6 and nr° 10) was a place I also had made a print of. It’s not exactly a restaurant, and there’s 2 of them in fact: one is a dessert shop, the other is a tapas bar. It wasn’t “very expensive” compared to prices here in Belgium, and it sure tasted good! A very tasty, and very sweet finish to my day!
Not into doing anything else that evening, I slowly returned to my hotel, and went to bed, again completely spent after a great day 🙂
Flickr photo set of Day 4
(note: pictures of Day 5 are also included in this picture set)