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barcelona: gaudi by day, party by night

May 17, 2009

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March 14, 2009

Sometime around dawn, I get off at Lesseps station and walk the 300 something stairs leading to Park Guell.   Today is dedicated to exploring the works of Gaudi, his  fantasy worlds, organic shapes, colorful mosaics, gothic structures, funky curves, unconventional designs and all around eccentricity.  He is, in my mind, the architect version of Dali.  Dali in 3D.  I try to picture what it was like to be Antoni Gaudi, to live inside his head, to tiptoe across the tightrope between reality and imagination. Surely he must have been trippin’ 24/7.  His buildings look like they arose from one big acid trip, a lucid dream, a colorful subconscious, a genius madman’s mind.

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“The secret of Gaudi’s art is that he succeeded in grasping the patterns present in nature and the organic world and was capable of selecting from their infinite variety of shapes those that could be transposed into architecture. He pursued this course with great imagination: tree-trunks, branches, bones ribs, fishing nets and flowers all became ideas for designs which he used in churches, parks, schools and other buildings.

All his work was based on logic and reasoning and was thought out down to the smallest detail. Underlying the exuberant fantasy of the shapes he used, there was always a rational calculation and a far-reaching study of the loads and forces involved and of the function of all the structural elements which he brought into play.” by Daniel Giralt-Miracle, Unesco Courier

casa battlo

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I follow the curves of the park for hours. Parrots squeeze their way into nests high up in palm trees, vendors sell jewelry on the plaza.  Gaudi’s buildings stand like something straight out of Alice and Wonderland.   I buy a ticket to Casa Batllo, which is one of the best 16 euros I’ve spent on sightseeing so far. I want to live in a gnome-like home built by Gaudi; room after room of magic, all fluid and inspired by nature and sea.  It may look like a topsy turvy funhouse to the untrained eye (including my own), but behind all the fancy mosaic is a sound structure.  So even if you don’t find Gaudi’s designs aesthetically pleasing, you still have to give the guy credit for being a phenomenal architect.

barcelona shop

After lunch at a little side street bakery, I make my way to La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s great unfinished masterpiece.  I pass shops closed for afternoon siesta, one garage door after another, most with graffiti, some colorful, some dodgy, not all indicative of what hides behind them.   The cathedral is massive with 18 tall towers and spires topped with grape, orange and maize mosaics.  Giant snails and snakes slither down the sides.  Unfortunately, there are also a million cranes surrounding the church, which makes it challenging to  take photos without some sort of visual eyesore.

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Eventually, the call of the gelato stand in the park facing the cathedral is too alluring to ignore.  C’est plus fort que moi… I pull away from one religious experience to savour another.  I follow the scent of the waffle cones where I discover crème brulée gelato.  Because crème brulée isn’t ambrosial enough, they had to make it into gelato, scoop it in a waffle cone and pretty much present it as a gift strait from heaven.

segrada familia and gelato

Back at the hostel, I check into room 205 and meet my new roommies, Andy and Phil, from Canterbury England.  Phil is studying to become an architect.  Andy is a carpenter.  Both are hilarious.  Within minutes of meeting him, I discover that Andy straightens his hair with a GHD iron that cost him something crazy like 100 quid.  He informs me that many guys straighten their hair in London, to which I respond mmmm hmmm,  you and the Gallagher brothers.  We all have a good laugh and on that note, we hit it off immediately and end up spending the rest of the evening together.  We head to dinner around 9pm with Simon, an engineer from Australia who is biking around Spain.  We share a bottle of red and some damn good tapas. Cheese and cold cuts (these ain’t your ordinary cold cuts, son), tortilla de patatas, roquette, beef, corn chips and guacamole, fish paté with bread.

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After dinner, we meet Ryan and Liam from Canada, two equally hilarious characters.  At a pub, in a plaza, by a fountain, we share some pints and some laughs.  I don’t remember the last time I laughed so hard.   I walk back to the hostel with Phil around 2am.  We stop at a little pizzeria and get a couple slices of pizza with corn.  Strange, corn kernels on pizza, yet… good.  And in case you are wondering… no, I did not kiss the boy at the end of the night.  Sheesh.  What kind of a girl do you think I am? (wink)

In bed, Andy passes me his iPhone from the bunk above and makes me listen to this sweet track by Paul Weller.  There are a few more late night giggles and then we all fall into a deep sleep, bellies full of beer and heads filled with visions of a day well spent.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. May 18, 2009 1:44 pm

    Can’t believe I haven’t made it to Barcelona yet. Seville, Madrid, but not yet Barcelona: O! GAUDI! Must go, must!

  2. kathryn Guerriero permalink
    May 18, 2009 5:05 pm

    me too me too, i’ll live in a Gaudi house, actually I want to go wherever you describe… your tales have an uncanny influence on me combined with your brilliant photographs and i sit on the edge of my seat ready for the next adventure. LOVE

  3. May 18, 2009 11:06 pm

    loving your adventures….so beautiful but fun packed

  4. May 19, 2009 2:24 am

    La Sagrada Familia is my favourite building on the planet! It isn’t due to be finished for another 20 years or so. It’s is like standing in a cartoon movie set. Gorgeous fun.
    All that and Paul Weller? My my.

  5. May 19, 2009 12:21 pm

    *swoon

    I want to live in a gnome like home built by Gaudi … oh wow!! xo

  6. May 20, 2009 4:48 am

    Oh how i love Barcelona. I fell in love with it the first time i went there and always thought i would love to live there. Thanks for bringing all the lovely memories back.
    The architecture is stunning.
    Thank God for Gaudi!

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