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  • on July 22, 2007 -
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Barcelona, Day 2

The Bus Turistic, our mode of transport for the day

June 23rd was the last day of our vacation (apart from a full day for traveling home). As usual we were up and out the door before 9am, before most of Barcelona was awake (and before a few night owls went to sleep, it appeared). We stopped at a nearby cafe for a light breakfast of croissants and hot beverages. We headed north on Les Ramblas towards Pla├ža Catalunya and the “hop on, hop off” Bus Turistico that travels three routes through the city all day, stopping at dozens of sites. Les Ramblas is very peaceful in the early morning, there are few pedestrians, almost all shops are closed, and only sporadic traffic. We started on the Red (North) route, and got to choose the best seat on the top section as the first passengers on the bus.

One of Gaudi’s many buildings

Much of Barcelona’s architecture was designed by Antoni Gaudi in the mid-1800s. Whether you like his style or not, there’s no arguing that he had a unique style. Some of the buildings we passed were so unusual, it’s hard to believe they actually got built.

Another Gaudi creation in Barcelona

We hopped off at Sagrada Familia, the (incomplete) Church of the Holy Family, also designed by Antoni Gaudi. Construction started in 1882 and is still chugging along, with an estimated completion around 2026. Most of the work inside and out is extremely abstract, also described as Art Nouveau run wild. There are two completed outdoor facades. The Nativity Face is the oldest and only one to be completed before Gaudi’s death (he was hit by a tram while crossing the street). Filled with nature (turtles, doves, birds, mushrooms, etc), this facade contains a scene of the birth of Jesus. The style is rather interesting and looks almost as if it has eroded over time, most of the figures are smoothed over and there are very few sharp features. The facade is crammed with so much information, one could spend a lot of time just looking at this one face.

Gaudi’s Nativity Facade of the Sagrada Familia

On the opposite side is a complete counterpart, the Passion Facade. The style is wildly different from Gaudi’s face and was the work of Josep M. Subirachs in 1952, the figures very elongated and rather stylized and harsh.

The newer Passion Facade, constructed after Gaudi’s death

The interior of the church (one section still completely open to the sky above) has huge columns of basalt, granite, and other stones that look almost like tree trunks that branch out at the top. We took the elevator to the top of two of the towers, where there are several open areas to view the city. On one side, you can look down at the top of the church and spires, and across at the other two towers.

The inside of Sagrada Familia is as unique as the outside

We hopped back on the bus and saw several more sites before hopping off at Poble Espanyol, the Spanish Village. This was built for the 1929 World’s Fair to showcase various styles of Spanish architecture. The place seems rather reminiscent of Epcot Center (or vice versa) with the architecture and wide-open squares. There are shows and activities that take place here but we didn’t run into any. One of the original purposes of the village was to showcase some of the provincial crafts such as ceramics, paper-making, weaving, sculpture, mosaics, etc. The village is home to 40 craft workshops, a sculpture garden, and the Fran Daurel Foundation which contains works of contemporary art. After grabbing some lunch, we wandered in and around the shops, looked at the architecture and headed back out to the bus. The Village seemed awfully quiet and low-key, a good place to relax and shop but not much else to do to justify the entry fee.

This poor turtle has to support the weight of an entire church!

After touring the rest of the city on the bus, and listening to the provided audio guide, we headed back to our hotel to call it an early night — after all, we would be getting up at 3:00am to get our taxi to the airport the next day. Barcelona seemed like a very nice city full of remarkable museums, architecture, and culture, but after 2 weeks of constant, fast-paced, no-stop touring, we just couldn’t take it in. It’s someplace we’d like to visit again and see more thoroughly in the future. In the meantime we couldn’t wait to get home and stop looking at so much beauty, art, and culture!

The Sagrada Familia
 

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