As you are climbing uphill; what seems like a continuous climb throughout the many hills of Parc Guell, you bravely steel a glance or two downwards and think that this is it. This must be one of the more beautiful experiences of your life. Gingerly you take each step with your camera in hand, careful not to drop the camera or anything else as you find yourself looking at, well, everything. It’s an overwhelming experience, and in a good way. Earlier in the year, my dad passed away, thereby making this my first vacation in a decade where I did not suffer from any family distractions. No worries, but did I ever miss him! I still do. But it was one less thing to ponder as I was transversing uneven stone steps with nary a handrail in sight. But I was just starting to speak of the beauty about this park, a must-see for anyone who travels to Barcelona, when I hit a few detours. Count Guell was a prominent businessman in Barcelona at the early part of the last century. He engaged a prominent architect, Antoni Gaudi, to design a garden city with sixty houses on a hill called Montana Pelada. The venture was not successful and only two houses were built. But an unsuccessful venture led way to one of the more beautiful parks you will ever see. At the entrance, you will find the main staircase with a dragon fountain made of broken bits of glazed ceramic tile, a signature style for Gaudi. This leads to the Salon of a Hundred Columns which really number eighty-four, but who cares? The ceiling of the salon has more tiled mosaics. In fact, they’re everywhere in sight. The on-site museum contains splendid furniture that Gaudi designed. And so it goes; you’ve walked for three hours, and have a big smile on your face. You can’t wait to tell the story to all you know.
You’ve planned a week in Barcelona because you are wise and know that you will not be bored for a second. You will want to come back. As you continue drinking in the various Gaudi shrines throughout this beautiful city, you get to understand a bit more about the architect with each building. Casa Batllo is truly amazing and I would suggest to go early in the day to avoid crowds. The details on the doorknobs and locks; the center court and other means of ventilation were ahead of their time. The rooftop dragon is not to be believed. Next up is Casa Mila, his iconic monument to the Modernist movement. It does not seem very livable, but once again, it’s all in the details. The Sagrada Familia is no problem for anyone familiar with waiting on lines at Disney. Wear comfortable shoes! If you are able to go to the top of the towers, then you are lucky for you will view this beautiful city in the most unique way and it is breathtaking.
Okay, I lied. It’s not all about Gaudi. It’s also about the food. As I’m re-reading my diary, the secondary descriptions that do constant battle with architecture are of the fantastic food. As I read about the various meals of fish, meats and risotto, my mouth waters and I desire to savor them all over again. Since we are incapable of dining at 10:00 PM, we chose instead to have our main meals of the day at lunch and have a more casual al fresco experience in the evening.
I lied some more. It’s all about the walk. Ever since I was twenty and I traveled to San Francisco with friends, I have always made note of how compatible I am with the place I am visiting. San Francisco was fine but I quickly realized I couldn’t live with Californians. In Barcelona, at some point we stopped and thought, “could I live here?” Yes was the answer. It is walkable; it is friendly; it is safe and clean; it is modern; it is old. Barcelona is ideal. The week was brimming over with a travelogue of lists consisting of everywhere we ambled and places we didn’t quite get to at this time. Maybe, next time? Because there was so much good stuff that really good architects had the sense to design and get built all in walking distance of each other. More Gaudi, so much to see in the Gothic Quarter as you walk past what is left of a Roman aqueduct, the Picasso Museum and the Palau de la Musica Catalana (a music hall with a gorgeous stained glass ceiling). And then there’s Gehry’s Fish. Barcelona’s golden fish sculpture sits in Port Olimpic at the base of one of the tallest buildings in the city. Frank Gehry was commissioned to build the piece for the 1992 Summer Olympics and brought the city to the attention of the world! Wow!