Europe, Spain

Barcelona: Part 2

January 6 – 9, 2022

With just a few hours of sleep, I groggily woke up on Saturday and got ready for my 9:30 AM tour of Sagrada Familia, followed by Park Güell at 12:15 PM. I had booked these both with Amigo Tours which were included in my GoCity Pass.

These two sites are perhaps the two biggest/well-known attractions in Barcelona and two of Gaudi’s main works. In fact, Sagrada Familia was truly his life’s project and what he spent the last 40+ years of his life working on. 135 years later, the Sagrada Familia still remains unfinished. They’ve aimed to complete it by 2026 (the year marking 100 years since Gaudi’s death), but current disruptions due to COVID will likely delay that. Gaudi completed sections at a time, rather than working on it all and slowly building up. He felt it’d be harder to abandon the project this way. At the time of his death, only the crypt, apse and part of the Nativity façade were completed.

Gaudi was inspired by nature, and this is apparent in so many of his works. What I was most taken aback by with the Sagrada Familia was the different color stained glass depending on which side of the building you were facing and whether it faced sunset or sunrise.

Anything created by human beings is already in the great book of nature.

Antoni Gaudi

After our guided tour around the space, we had about 90 minutes to see the museum and do anything else we wanted to do before meeting at Park Güell. The museum had a lot of interesting information and examples of how Gaudi planned out his work.

Next, I headed to Park Güell. This was a bit outside of the city and not very accessible by bus. Our guide recommended taking a taxi, so that’s what I did. Eusebi Güell hired Gaudi to design a housing development for upper-income families. The work began in 1900 and was named Park Güell because it was meant to mimic British neighborhoods. It would have space for some 60 plots of land, as well as public spaces and paths. Güell and Gaudí moved into properties on site, but by 1914, no other plots had been sold. As such, the project was abandoned. In 1926, it became a public park after Güell’s heirs gave the land to the city council. In 1984, it was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Our tour guided us through the main parts of the park, and then we were left to explore on our own. It was quite a busy place, and I can’t imagine it during peak tourist season. Certain parts were closed due to COVID-19, namely some of the inside exhibits in one of the houses, but most of it was still open.

After I finished wandering around, I began to make my descent back downtown. I had heard of the Gaudi 4D experience and seeing as I passed by it on my way, I decided to stop in. It was an interesting and somewhat unsettling experience (would recommend not eating right beforehand) but it was a worthwhile stop. I don’t have any photos from inside the exhibit, but it was essentially like a 3D movie but with movie seats, wind, and so forth.

Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau

The Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site is a hospital and healthcare complex that was operational until 2009. The Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau came together after the merging of six hospitals in 1401. After many years operating, a new and improved hospital was needed to meet the demands of the city. Banker Pau Gil left a significant amount of money for the construction of a new hospital and Catalan architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner was assigned to the project.

In drawing up his project, the great architect was inspired by the most modern hospitals in Europe. Embracing the latest thinking on sanitation and hygiene, he designed a hospital organised as a series of separate pavilions, surrounded by gardens and interconnected by a network of underground tunnels.

Domènech created a square plan articulated by two diagonal axes, one north-south and one east-west, in the form of a cross pattée, the emblem of the old Hospital de la Santa Creu, patently summarizing and symbolizing the history of Barcelona’s hospitals and the allegorical values ​​of the Middle Ages.

The Art Nouveau Hospital

Work began in 1902 in the Eixample district, and the hospital was officially opened by King Alfonso XIII in 1930. Each building was dedicated to a different medical speciality, and the role of sunlight and open spaces in healing and wellbeing was prioritized. After operations moved in 2009, restoration began to go undo some of the architectural changes that had happened over the decades. One particularly interesting thing is the underground tunnels that connect all the buildings that visitors can pass through.

Casa Mila

Next, I rushed over to Casa Mila (La Pedrera), another one of Gaudi’s significant works, to get in before they closed (unlike last night). I personally was in awe of this building more than Casa Batlló (although they are both remarkable). Casa Mila has five floors, sculptures, stairwells, the tenant’s apartment, courtyards, and an intriguing roof with sculptures and an amazing view of the city.

I did not decide to go to sleep, even though I wished to, so I could rise early and contemplate, in daylight, this city, unknown to me: Barcelona, capital of Catalonia.

—Hans Christian Andersen

Plaza de Cataluña

Next, I wanted to head towards the waterfront down Las Ramblas, which is a 1.2 km walkable street connecting Plaça de Catalunya with the Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell and is filled with shops and restaurants. Being quite tired, I took the subway from Casa Mila to the plaza and then planned to keep walking from there.

Museo Erótico de Barcelona

One site I had seen when exploring things to do on Las Ramblas was the erotic museum in Barcelona. This reminded me of the Musem of Sex that I had seen in NYC, and I wanted to check it out. This museum had a long span of history that it covers and the cultural depictions over time of sex and sexuality.

While my heart wanted to continue down Las Ramblas and see the monument and waterfront, my body was at the end of its rope. Two back-to-back 25,000 step days and not a lot of sleep made me call it a night around 11 PM. I’m hoping to come back to Barcelona this summer, and the city isn’t going anywhere. So, I’ll have some things to see next time.

I went back to the hotel and bought my plane ticket for the next morning (procrastination much?). I woke up around 4:30 AM and began my journey to the Barcelona airport. Three subways and one hour later, I arrived just in time for check-in. It was a quick process, so I had about 90 minutes to enjoy some coffee and Netflix.

My flight was direct to Alicante, which is a city in Valencia bordering Murcia. From here, I took a bus to Murcia city and then connected to Cartagena. After three hours on buses, I was finally home.

Oh, and it was my birthday, so I enjoyed reflecting on the last 25 years of life, all the wonderful things I’ve seen, and how much more there is to see.

I am grateful.

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