April 15-16, 2012 – Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona is one of our favorite places to visit – we have been here three or four times on cruises….
… and we have always wished to stay longer. It is truly one of those places that it might take an entire summer to see completely. Hmmmmm???
The port is large, but at the center of activity in Barcelona, and it requires a short shuttle bus ride to get to the main drop off point, which is the statue of Christopher Columbus (or Colon as he is known here) at the base of Las Rambla (much more about Las Rambla to come).
Folks here are quick to point out that if Chris had gone the way he was pointing, he never would have found us.
If you ever have a chance to visit this wonderful city, don’t pass it up – it is spectacular!
The ever present Hop On Hop Off was at the Columbus statue, so we bought a two day ticket and launched into the tour. We have learned that the best way to do it, normally, is to ride the complete circuit once, and then start around a second time, getting off and exploring. That may be tough to do in Barcelona with so much to see.
Many of the things pointed out on the first part of the tour are from the Barcelona Olympics. Much of the activity took place in an area between the “old town” and the seafront, and in preparation for the games, there was an extremely large amount of urban renewal – old factories and slums were replaced with modern apartments (originally housing the athletes) hotels, parks, and the beach which had been ignored, was built up and parks were added. Many sculptures were created for the games.
As the bus moves through this part of town, the renewal due to the Olympics is apparent in the apartment and office buildings.
The waterfront area was also redone, creating many parks and beaches.
It is impossible to view or discuss Barcelona without acknowledging the import of the architect, Antoni Gaudi, to the city. Gaudi, born in 1852 had a huge impact on the building landscape of Barcelona through his many projects in the city, including his masterpiece, and life’s work the Sagrada Familia. It was begun in 1899 and he worked on it until his death in 1926. Work continues on the yet to be finished church, through the use of donated funds. It is constantly “under construction” with scaffolding and workers surrounding it each time we have visited. Taking pictures of it is most difficult due to the number of visitors, the construction activity, and its size and location.
Gaudi’s works are scattered all over Barcelona and it took us both days to get a glimpse of most of them, but I am including all of the photos of the various buildings here.
One of Gaudi’s earliest commissions – these are the gates to a large estate on what was the outskirts of Barcelona at the time.
An apartment designed by Gaudi. His work was obviously controversial for its time, and indeed it takes a certain perspective to enjoy it, even today. As a side note, there is a Gaudi inspired home in Dallas, in Highland Park, at the corner of Armstrong Parkway & Preston Road, and the comparison between this apartment and that house is quite obvious.
Gaudi’s influence extends to much work in Barcelona, but there is more to the architecture here than just Mr. Gaudi. Barcelona has done a wonderful job of urban renewal as well as new construction, to create a very pleasant blend of the old and the new.
Las Rambla is also a Barcelona “must”. This wide avenue runs from Christopher Columbus statue, up toward the center of town for a mile or two – or if you are smart in your walk, you get off the Hop On at the top of the hill, allowing for a downhill ramble. The street has a single lane of traffic on each side, with a wide median walkway, which contains sidewalk cafes, souvenir shops, gelato shops, flower shops, and tens of thousands of walkers – both tourists and locals. It is a target locale for strolling dates, dinner dates, and tourists. On each of our visits here we have enjoyed a walk on Las Rambla, and this time was no exception.
Most times we have encountered really spectacular mimes on Las Rambla, usually many of them, but this time there were only two, but they were great.
About halfway down Las Rambla, is the Mercado (Market) – a beehive of activity and smells.
At the base of Las Rambla, on the way back to the ship, is the statue of Christopher Columbus – the detail of which, shows Christopher relating the shape of the earth to the boy’s ball. Gotta love it!
I repeat – you must come here! If you missed Mumbai, or Thailand, or Egypt – OK. But don’t miss this place. And now on through the Straits of Gibraltar to Cadiz.