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Barcelona, Spain - Nature and Art - 23rd May 2002

Posted by Edmond on Friday, September 20, 2002

Tour of the Museu Picasso. A walk around the Parc de la Ciutadella including the cascade fountain and lake late in the morning. After lunch, a pre-booked guided tour of the famous Palau de la Musica Catalana for an hour followed by the Sagrada Familia. Finally, a tour of the famous ornamental houses around the Eixample district, including a paid visitors tour of Casa Mila and a walk around the Casa Lleo Morera, Batllo, Terrades and Amatller.

Museu Picasso, Parc de la Ciutadella, Sagrada Familia and Eixample:
1. Museu Picasso
2. Parc de la Ciutadella and the ornamental fountains
3. Arc de Triomf
4. Palau de la Musica Catalana (bookings essential)
5. Sagrada Familia
6. Casa Mila and visitors tour
7. Casa Terrades, Amatller, Batlo and Lleo Morera
Parc de la Ciutadella
Sagrada Familia
Museu Picasso

Another early start to the morning today. We arrived at the Urquinaona to go to the Palau de la Musica Catalana or "the Palace of Music". However, when we arrived, we were surprised to find that we had to make a booking to tour the music theatre for the day. We chose the afternoon session, bought the tickets and headed for the Museu Picasso (about a 10 minute walk down Via Laietana) to occupy the rest of our time.

Finding the Museu Picasso would have been difficult had the banners on the side of the building not been put in as the main building blended seamlessly with the surrounding terrace houses and shops. The museum provided a faithful documentary on the works of Picasso, from his beginnings as a promising young art student right up to his prime years of his style of Cubism. The variety of Picasso's collection is evident by the large display of ceramics, drawings, engravings and paintings all done by the artist. However, some of his famous works including the "Weeping woman" and "Girl Before a Mirror" were not present.

After more than an hour wandering around the Museu Picasso, we took a relaxing walk around the Parc de la Ciutadella starting from the entrance outside the Passeig de Picasso and Carrer de La Princesa. I was surprised to find parrakeets flying around the park, thus giving a very tropical atmosphere to the park. As these parrots tend to like the tree-tops, it was fairly hard getting a perfect shot of them even with my 300mm lense. Putting aside the parrots, we walked around a huge ornamental cascade fountain that was designed by Josep Fontsere and Antoni Gaudi. Beside the fountain was a huge and tranquil lake. Other buildings and monuments of significance include the Museu de Zoologia (built during the Universal Exposition in 1888), the Museu d'Art Modern and an old Chapel left from the old fortress that use to stand in the park.

We left the park and walked north up to see the Arc d' Triomf. Since we had to navigate through a food market, we thought this would be a good place to stop for lunch only if they didn't just sell fresh produce. Built as part of the Universal Exposition in 1888, the arch is built of brick and its frieze on the top on one side represents the city of Barcelona welcoming foreign visitors while the other shows a prize-giving ceremony. Admittedly, it was less spectacular than the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and we could not climb up to the top. Afterwards, we stopped at a nearby brasserie for lunch.

The Palua de la Musica Catalana was our next stop and we easily made it to our allocated booking. Also known as the "Palace of Music", it has a splendid coloured dome and facade and the columns are brilliantly decorated with colourful tiles. I found the best time to take photos was in the morning but as the sun hits the dome, it gives out a strong reflection, so I used a polariser for photos. The guided tour begins with a audio/video presentation of the history in one of the practice theatres - modelled to follow the acoustics of the main theatre. We then followed our guide into the lower floor of main theatre where we saw the beautiful sculptures and stained glass dome that decorate the hall. We then went upstairs to the top gallery to talk more about the large stained glass dome on the ceiling that functions additionally as a skylight as well as efforts made by the designers to bring in nature as much as possible to the interior of the hall. Unfortunately, we did not get to the balcony as the area around it was booked for a conference.

The Sagrada Familia would be our next stop for the afternoon and as usual, the entrance was packed when we arrived from the metro. This was due to the fact that there was only one ticket box and one line outside the entrance. Some rude foreigners tried to push past us but we managed to brush them aside and enter the site after more than half an hour. During our time at the Sagrada, we walked around the construction site and around the outside to see the Nativity Facade. We then climbed up the stairs inside the Nativity Facade and walked back down to tour the crypt. The crypt shows the history of the cathedral from its initial construction and additions made by Gaudi and his team of subsequent contributors, the designs and also the final product (whenever it will be finished). It is also where Gaudi himself is buried. Finally we finished off back at the main entrance to take a closer look at the Passion Facade, which depicts the crucifixion of Jesus Christ designed by Josep Maria Subirachs.

Our next and final stop was Quadrat D'Or which was just a few metro stops away from Sagrada Familia. After getting out of the metro at Diagonal, we walked down the Passeig de Gracia to visit the houses of Casa Mila, Batllo, LLeo Morera and Amatller. We could not find a way into the strange structure of Batlo, but we managed to see the stained glass skylight window of Amatller. We then worked our way back to Aving'uda Diagonal to see Casa Terrades. Since it was still 6pm, we decided to visit the Casa Mila which involved paying a visitor's fee. As the top of the building was due to close in half an hour, we headed straight for the top to get some photos of the strange-looking chimney stacks. Modelled with soldier-like heads, the chimneys looked like a useful deterrant to would-be attackers or theives than to serve as a modernistic projection of Gaudi. Below the roof was an exhibition of Gaudi's works, including the Sagrada, Park Guel and the Casa Mila and others.

It was starting to get dark now and since there were lots of restaurants and cafes around the street, we dined at one of the restaurants opposite the Casa Lleo Morera making a convenient end to our day. Although we have seen a vast amount of Barcelona, bear in mind that most places are in close proximity and the metro in Barcelona is one of the most efficient transport systems we had come across.

Edmond, 2002