Wednesday, 4 December 2013


In December we were performing at the Festival Temporada Alta in Girona. As usual we were flying from the UK into Barcelona airport. This year we were offered the chance to fly out early to Barcelona and have a couple of nights holiday before we needed to arrive in Girona to work. I jumped at the chance and flew out 48 hours early. It was a small group of us on the same flight and so we shared a cab from the airport to Placa de Catalunya and from there split up and headed off to our various hotels. I towed my suitcase down La Rambla to the budget hotel I had booked into. After a quick freshen up I grabbed my camera and set out for a wander. I crossed over La Rambla and walked around the Barri Gothic area.

This is the cathedral and in the square outside there was a big Christmas market with lots of stalls selling yule logs and traditional nativity characters including the local El Caganer.

Rather than a visit to Santa the local children visit the Yule log - Tio de Nadal. The tradition here is that the log is fed during nativity and covered with a blanket to stop it getting cold. Then on Christmas morning you hit the log with a stick while singing songs to get the logs to defecate some small treats that are shared amongst those in the house. Here the children are hitting the Yule log whilst piped Christmas music was playing. It looked like great fun!

Some great graffiti spotted on the walk back to the hotel. 
The next morning I had a gentle start, a lie in and then a bus tour which I took from around the corner from my hotel.

Lichtenstein sculpture in Port Vell
The tour went past the port and sea front,

Casa Batllo
along Passeig de Gracia past two of Gaudi's apartment blocks,

La Pedrera (Casa Mila)

to La Sagrada Familia. I got off here and had a walk around the outside of the building. However, the queue stretched almost halfway around the site so I decided against joining it and instead got back on the bus to Park Guell.

I stopped here for a cup of coffee before exploring the park.

This is Casa-Museu Gaudi, the house Gaudi lived in for the last 20 years of his life and now housing a museum.

After Park Guell, I walked back down the hill and caught the metro from Lesseps to Passeig de Gracia.

I had a closer look at the outside of Casa Batllo which I had been past on the bus.

Next up was La Pedrera. First stop was the roof terrace with some amazing sculptural chimney pots, stairwells and ventilation towers.

Here you can see the supports for the roof and in the edge of the frame a replica of one of the models Gaudi used to work out the shapes of the supports that he would need.

The inner courtyard of La Pedrera

Paving along Passeig de Gracia based upon ceramic floor tiles found in La Pedrera.

After a stop for a sandwich I made my way through Placa de Catalunya to La Catedral in Barri Gothic.

There were some great views of the city from up here.

The nativity inside the cathedral cloister, this also featured live duck, chickens and geese.

Mercat de Santa Caterina

Then it was back to the hotel for a shower and change of clothes before meeting up with a small group for dinner at Pla de la Garsa in El Born.

The next morning I got up bright and early, packed my bags and checked out of the hotel. Then it was on the tube to La Sagrada Familia and hopefully a short queue. My early start paid off and there was no queue at all. I opted to have the audio guide and spent a hour or so wandering around and through this stunning building.

The Passion Facade - work here is based on drawings and instructions left by Gaudi.

You can see that the armour of the guards behind Christ here has been based upon the chimney stacks at La Pedrera (pictured below)

The Nativity Facade - completed in 1930, this facade faces the rising sun and is very different in style to the Passion Facade on the opposite side of the Cathedral.

Inside the building the sunshine was throwing the colours from the stained glass across parts of the roof and the columns making me glad I hadn't queued to get in the previous day which had been overcast.

The supporting columns are based upon trees and branch out to form the support for the roof. There are also clear glass windows high in the walls and clear glass windows within the roof itself (many of which are covered whilst construction work continues overhead) which help to make the building feel very open. Words and pictures really aren't enough to describe this building, it really is something that you need to see for yourself.

You can see one of the ceiling windows here.

It was a flying visit to Barcelona but one that I'm very pleased that I took. It is definitely somewhere that I would like to return to.

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