(Above photo from Citylife Barcelona)
Antoni Gaudí i Cornet (Catalan pronunciation: [ənˈtɔni ɣəwˈði]; 25 June 1852 – 10 June 1926) was an architect from Reus, Catalonia, Spain. He is the best known practitioner of Catalan Modernism. Gaudí’s works have a highly individualized and distinctive style. Most are located in Barcelona, including his magnum opus, the Sagrada Família. (Wikipedia)
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This will be my final post about my trip to Spain with my husband in May. If you read my recent posts, you’ve learned that I was very pleasantly surprised at how much I loved the three cities we visited: Madrid, Seville and Barcelona. I would love to go back to other places in Spain some day, but meanwhile a trip to Greece is just around the corner (mid-September) so it’s time to say farewell to Spain.
In my previous post I wrote about how sad I was to hear the news about the terrorist attack on La Rambla in Barcelona, Spain which left more than a dozen people dead and many more seriously injured. Having just visited Barcelona and strolled on La Rambla, I was shocked at what happened.
A few days ago, while reading a followup news article about the incident on La Rambla, I learned that Spanish authorities, who were investigating the terrorist cell responsible for the attack, discovered a plot by the same group to bomb La Sagrada Familia.
To want to destroy one of the most amazing monuments dedicated to the grandeur of life, in the name of Islam, is reprehensible. My son experienced similar grief when he first heard of the destruction of Palmyra and Damascus, Syria having visited both just months prior to their destruction. There is clearly a pattern to these terrorist incidents. All the special places we treasure and therefore visit have become the targets of a group filled with hatred for us.
One of the main reasons we decided to go to Spain is because both our adult children raved about the Gaudi masterpieces they visited during their individual trips there. And they were right to rave; Gaudi is truly a creative genius. Whether it’s the thought he put into creating a unique door handle or a window casing for one of his apartments in Barcelona, or a whimsical chimney stack for one of his apartment buildings, or a cathedral that resembles a giant sandcastle, his style is one of a kind…and appeals to millions of visitors who swarm Barcelona during the tourist season just to see his work.
Our first Gaudi excursion was to the northern part of Barcelona to visit Parc Guell. This park and the residences he built there were designed for those less fortunate on the edge of the city, but the funding fell through before completion so it became a city park.
I was very excited because I had seen so many pictures of this park which truly unique features. After a three-hour tour of Barcelona on our first day in the city, we indulged in a cab ride to Parc Guell which is situated on a high promontory overlooking the city. My daughter had recommended the cab because she felt the climb to the park from the metro station would be too strenuous for me. She was absolutely right! As we stepped out of the cab I saw what looked like a very short line. What luck! But I was wrong.
As we stepped up to pay our admission fee, we were told we would have to wait three hours to gain entry, as the admissions to the park are now “timed” to regulate the flow of visitors. No one had ever mentioned this to us, and this is a relatively new development because there was no admission fee when my children visited in past years. And there certainly was no such thing as a three-hour wait. My heart sank. I knew we would not be coming back, since it was a bit of a journey just to get there by cab, and our days in Barcelona were limited. What was even more frustrating is that we could see the park and its attractions through the wrought-iron gate at the entrance which also offered a view of the dragon that overlooks the entry. I felt as though I could reach through the gate and almost touch the dragon.
I could also see people sitting above us on the wrap-around bench Gaudi created for people to sit on and enjoy the spectacle of the park.
So near, yet so far; it was agonizing. I felt like crying.
Since we had made the trip we decided to linger for a while and walk around the park that encircled the enclosed Gaudi attractions. It was a hot day so we slowly ambled up the circular road which led to a viewpoint from which you can see all of Barcelona and the sea beyond it. Along the way we encountered an interesting, organically-shaped, sandstone structure created by Gaudi as a kind of natural walkway with an overhang providing shade for strollers such as ourselves.
Beneath this structure were ensconced many tourists also seeking shade, and some musicians and craft vendors.
We paused for a while to hear the musicians, then walked a bit further up the hill and found a bench from which to enjoy the sights below us, including Parc Guell and the many tourists who were lucky enough to get in.
Determined not to experience another mishap, we took extra care on our visits the following days to two other Gaudi sites: Casa Mila and Casa Batllo. Casa Mila, also known as La Pedrera, is most famous for its rooftop which is filled with chimneys fashioned into unusual, whimsical shapes.
The second home, Casa Batllo, is a designer’s dream.
Built with a nautical theme, this Jules Verne fantasy dwelling includes balcony fixtures of schools of fish, porthole windows…
stained glass windows…
amber-colored polished wood handrails and doors…
and a marvelous elevator shaft, with tiles of graduated blue, that allows light to flow throughout the building.
It is really impossible to describe Gaudi’s work. It must be experienced in person, using all one’s sensory awareness, since his creations were clearly designed to be enjoyed that way.
Our final Gaudi adventure was, of course, a visit to La Sagrada Familia which so recently escaped destruction.
So often when people rave about a particular spot, one may feel some disappointment on finally getting there. Not so with La Sagrada Familia.
When I stepped inside I felt like I was entering a truly sacred space. Unlike most other cathedrals where the light is often very dim, the Sagrada was filled with light that was undulating across the entire cavity of the cathedral.
Gaudi designed his stained-glass windows to create this effect of the light in constant movement, filling the entire space inside the cathedral. He designed the floor to ceiling pillars to look like trees reaching to the heavens.
In fact, all the details of the cathedral were a testament to the glory and grandeur of nature. We stood there for about ten minutes, transfixed by the light, then spent an hour just walking around inside the cathedral taking in all its unique features.
When I reflect on our time in Spain, I feel very grateful that we were able to enjoy so much art and beauty and local hospitality, culminating in our visit to this spectacular cathedral. Spain has designated 2026, the centennial of Gaudi’s death, as the date for completion of La Sagrada Familia. I am sure it will be one of the most spectacular celebrations of all time, anywhere in the world. I wish I could be there.