Gaudi Barcelona, Rain , Goat heads and Birthdays

Trip Start Nov 07, 2013
Trip End Dec 11, 2013

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What I did
Colonia Guell, La Sagrada Familia, Casa Battlo, Las Ranblas, La Boqueria, El Cortes Ingles

Flag of Spain  , Catalonia,
Monday, November 18, 2013

Because we did not go to Valencia, we spent three days in Barcelona. Day 1 was a mess. It poured rain all day.  We watched it come down in the morning.  After lunch the Susans convinced Andrea to go out into it.  Ken decided to stay dry.  We got out our rain gear and climbed aboard the shuttle bus for our first excursion into the city of Barcelona.  Susan was on a quest for a soccer jersey and this is a BIG soccer city.  We put up our umbrellas and walked down the famous pedestrian street known as La Ramblas.  It is a lovely avenue with very large sycamore trees and lots of kiosks selling souvenirs and flowers.  We learned later that it used to be a river, which Andrea finally figured out was why they had such an unusual sidewalk.  Look at the picture of it.  It looks like it is wavy and uneven but it is just an optical illusion that evokes the river.  Very clever.  We walked all the way up the avenue to the BARCA team store located on the Placa Catalunya, which is the heart of the city.  After purchases were made, we went over and poked our heads into El Cortes Ingles, which is a large, old fashioned department store.  Reminded Andrea of the Dayton's of her youth.  Then back out into the rain, with a stop at La Boqueria, a large covered food market.  This is a most amazing place.  It has everything you would ever need to eat and some things which here unidentifiable.  Fruits and vegies were gorgeous, Lots of butcher shops, with shops that specialized in offal like tripe, tongue liver and goat heads.  I will not post a picture of the goat heads here be we have them if any of you want to see them.  They are pretty graphic.  We enjoyed a fruit drink for 1 Eu that was delicious.  There were nuts of all kinds, chocolates, ready made goodies like empanadas and other things that I couldn't identify.  It was pretty overwhelming.  Then we went back out into the rain.  By this time everyone was soaked but good natured.  We returned to the ship and got on dry clothes.  And then you will never guess what we did – we played Trivia and lost again because Andrea screwed up her answers and sincerely apologizes for being stupid.  However Andrea will also point out that even if we had gotten those questions right we wouldn't have won.  Once again Bingo was canceled.  It was then cocktails, dinner and time for bed as we were exhausted.  When Ken and Andrea got back to their room they discovered that the Birthday fairy had been there and decorated the room for Ken's birthday with balloons and towel animals.  

Tuesday we woke up and were still in Barcelona!  On Tuesday we had a Gaudi tour, this is not to be confused with a gaudy tour, which would have been something else, even if Gaudy derives from Gaudi.  We did not dress in sparkly, bright colored clothing and feather boas.

Gaudi was a Spanish architect in the Art Nouveau style.  He was an incredible outside the box thinker and his buildings are like nothing you have ever seen before, unless you have seen his work..  He invented the Catenary arch which Wikipedia defines as:

The equation of a catenary in Cartesian coordinates has the form[27] 

where cosh is the hyperbolic cosine function. All catenary curves are similar to each other. Changing the parameter a is equivalent to a uniform scaling of the curve.[30]

I hope that is all clear to you now.  In other words it is an arch created by taking a chain and holding on to both ends and moving them towards each other.  The curve this creates is a catenary.  Gaudi took that curve, turned it upside down and made it an arch.  If that still isn’t clear, look at the pictures.  Gaudi designed many churches and house and his defining work is La Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona which we will discuss later

We began the tour by learning a little about Barcelona.  It is in the northeast portion of the Iberian Peninsula in a province called Catalonia.  Catalonia has 7 million people and Barcelona has 1.6 million.  It is the most visited city in Spain and the 4th most visited in Europe.  The 1992 summer Olympics put Barcelona on the map.  Before those Olympics, no one went to Barcelona.

The first stop on our tour was out of the city in a place called Colonia Guell.  This was really interesting especially since no one in our group had ever of itm even Ken.  It is basically a specially designed and built company town.  It was built around a textile factory and contained worker’s housing, the director;s homes, shops, a school for girls and a school for boys, a hospital and a church.  Gaudi designed a number of the buildings in the town.  The made velvet at the textile factory.  Mr. Guell was the factory owner, who also owned many other factories and seemed to be kind of a robber baron type..It was constructed in the late 19th and early 20th century and was kind of a social experiment.  It had a doctor who services were free, as an attempt to control absenteeism at the factory.  The housing was a great improvement over the housing the workers had in Barcelona. There was a community of Carmelite nuns who lived there and cared for the elderly and the sick.  The girls went to school in the convent to learn how to be good housewives.  The boys "had to study" according to the guide and had a separate school.  They also made use of cold showers in the boys education.  Their school was designed by Gaudi and loved like a medieval castle.  This town has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site.  The church was never completed, only the crypt was done.  It is used as the church.  Gaudi abandoned this project to work on La Sagrada Familia.  It will never be completed.  It was in planning for 10 years before the first stone was laid and was a laboratory for La Sagrada Familia.  It contained catenary arches.and pillars that look like they are coming out of the ground like trees with many religious many religious symbols.  Gaudi was also a big believer in recycling and the grill work on the windows is made from old needles from the textile factory.  He also built a place just outside the church for the men to wait for their wives as, so the guide said,  the men didn't go to church, only the women went.  Take a look at the pictures. 

 We then drove back to the city and on the way learned that bull fighting has been banned in Catalonia and the bull ring has been turned into a shopping mall.  They have an art museum that contains the largest collection of Romanesque art in the work (so now all you Romanesque art lovers know where to go).  One of the most interesting things about Barcelona is that when they enlarged the city outside of the medieval walls, the design required that all of the street corners are chamfered.  This opens up the intersections in an amazing way, making the city feel very open and inviting.

Our next stop was La Sagrada Familia.  This is one of the most amazing religious structures Andrea had ever seen.  it is huge and incomplete.  She had no idea how gigantic it is.  One side was completed while Gaudi was still alive and is in a very distinct art nouveau style.n  Everything looked like it was dripping down to her.  It depicted Jesus' life as a young man.  The other sides are not complete and are in very different styles.  They are done with s=much cleaner straight lines.  Believe it or not the whole think=g appears to ve decorated with fruit bowls a la Carmen Miranda.  The guide said that Gaudi paid tribute to God by using symbols of nature.  Well, take a look at pictures and decide for yourself.  You either love it or hate it.
We then visited Casa Battlo, which is a residential building designed by Gaudi.  Actually this is how Gaudi made his money.  He became very wealthy designing residential structures.  There wasn't any money in building a gigantic church.  The owners of the building lived on the first two floors and rented out the rest.  We toured the first two floors, the attic and the rooftop garden.  There are still people living on the other floors and we were all amazed at how they put up with tourists tramping up and down the stairs all day.  It was very beautiful and does not include one straight line.  The exterior is undulating and filled with mosaics.   Take a look at the pictures.

That was the end of our tour in Barcelona, The next day the Susans left to go home early in the morning and Ken and Andrea walked La Ramblas, because Ken had not seen it.  The market is unbelievable and this time we saw the fish market, which was closed up when Andrea was there with the Susans.  We then walked through El Cortes Ingles looking for a rest room and saw the whole store, which is like Macy’s, Best Buy, Office Depot and Ikea all combined.  In all of that, there is one woman’s restroom with two stalls (at least that we could find).  The Spanish ladies must never have to go to the bathroom.

After that we returned to the ship to prepare for our transatlantic adventure albeit Susan-less. 
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Tama on

I am so envious of this part of your trip. I went to Barcelona when I was in college and loved it. I had written a paper on Gaudi for History of Architecture class and got to see it close up. Sounds like a wonderful trip overall.

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