Thursday, 1 December 2016

Thursday 1 December–Barcelona

**Where’s Colin?** He’s still at the CityStop Aire in Barcelona.

It was an early start this morning (by our usual travelling standards) as, at €30 per night, I wanted to get maximum value out of the day.


__Good vehicle! Dwarfed Colin, mind, who you can just see poking out at the rear__

A three minute walk from Colin took us to the nearest Metro station, where no queuing was necessary to buy our ticket (a T10, 10 trip ticket between us, at €9.95 was what I’d decided would give us best value for getting around). The train then arrived about 10 seconds after we’d stepped onto the platform and thus we arrived at the Sagrada Familia, five stops down the line, half an hour earlier than intended. That gave time for a mooch around the outside of the magnificent/crazy building largely designed by Gaudi, before we got down to the serious business of sightseeing, whereupon we walked straight up to a ticket desk without queuing and managed the same at the entrance. There weren’t many people inside when we arrived. It was a different story by the time we left. 


__The oldest facade, dating from 1889__


__One of the newer facades__

The Sagrada Familia is not a cheap outing. We opted for the audiotour, costing €26 per head. I’m pretty sure that if we’d pre-ordered online, that would have been €22, and I’m also entirely sure that we could have managed just fine with one audiotour between us (they give you earbud earphones, so we could have had an ear each). We probably could have managed without the audiotour at all, particularly as the €8 each it cost only covered seven points of interest, most of which were subsequently covered in the museum. However, it did give us some good insights as we went, and we can feel like we’ve contributed in a very small way to the ongoing funding of the building, which is currently scheduled to be completed in 2026 (the centenary of Gaudi’s death).

I didn’t take many photos of the inside, because there’s absolutely no way I, or my phone camera, could produce anything remotely representative. I did try a few snaps of the fantastic stained glass windows. The cool colours to the east side didn’t come out too badly…


…but the phone couldn’t cope with the richness of the warm colours on the west side:


I had already been somewhat bemused (as I always am) by the number of people inside the church who were busy preening themselves in the front-facing cameras on their phones, before taking selfies, without apparently spending any time looking around them. In the museum, though, it really started to irk me (irrationally; what other people do is entirely up to them) how many people walked from exhibit to exhibit taking a photo of every single one, without even a microsecond’s pause to look beyond the camera to consider the subjects of their photos. They must have the dullest photo collections in the world, and probably can’t explain any of them.

The exhibit below, I liked a lot (it’s an inverted model made by Gaudi, of a different church as it happens (there was also one of the Sagrada, but it was so big and complicated it doesn’t really work in a photo) using string and weights to demonstrate the catenary design). We should, perhaps, have tried explaining what it was to the couple of American girls next to us, who had been told they had to see it, but clearly had no idea what they were looking at and why it was so clever:


Our verdict as we left, after a two and a half hour visit, was that even if it is an expensive place to visit, by church standards, it was definitely worthwhile. We’ve visited a lot of churches and cathedrals, and the design of this one is remarkably different, striking and awe-inspiring (particularly in respect of how light and open it is inside). Take time to have a proper look around the museum and you’ll get to see how the design changed once Gaudi took over (thank goodness the original architect left so quickly, or it’d just be another unremarkable gothic cathedral-esque building).

A quick spot of lunch then fuelled us for the half-hour walk up to Parc Guell – another Gaudi design, which was intended to be an entire housing estate, but only got as far as two houses being built. Aside from being relatively near to the Sagrada Familia (or, at least, a lot closer than it would be if we were in the centre of town), our guidebook told us that if we only saw one park whilst in Barcelona, then this was the one to go for. Thus we saw the viaducts:


…and, from the top of the park, a fine view over the whole of the city (see the lump on the right? That’s where the 1992 Olympic park was sited):


Alas, it turns out that, since our guidebook was written, the park has ceased to be entirely free and thus if we wanted to see the craziest bits of Gaudi design, then we’d need to pay €8 a head. We didn’t, and thus had to make do with the bits we could see from outside the fee-paying area (which was quite a bit):


It’s a long walk from there back into the heart of the city, but we shunned public transport. The walk was probably worth it just for the Harry Potter/Grimauld Place moment of seeing a solid-looking part of a building’s facade, comprising plenty of blockwork and two doorways, swing open to give access to a parking garage. Should have grabbed a snap but I didn’t. I was more fastidious with the snackage which featured en-route:


Apparently (per the Rough Guide) __everybody__ starts their visit to Barcelona with the Ramblas. Clearly, we didn’t, but because of that statement, we thought we’d best go an see what the fuss was about. I’m a bit mystified. It’s just a city street. We did walk it from end to end, however, with a detour off at one point to take a quick squizz at the Cathedral:


We didn’t go in, as two major churches in one day felt like one too many, so we simply wandered back to the Ramblas and onwards to the marina.

At 5pm the sun was starting to sink, so off to find a Metro station we went and this time we didn’t have to wait even ten seconds for our train – it was ready to depart as we jumped on.

Twenty minutes later, we were back in the Aire, where we took the time to look at some of the artwork adorning the walls here:


A top day, during which we covered around 11 miles!

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