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Day 1 (Monday)
I fly Swiss, and transit via Zurich – at some point, I need to go outside this airport and see the city. They make me take my kindle out at Swiss security – which seems weird! Twitter tells me normal in Europe though (Munich, LHR).
Staying at the Pullman Barcelona Skipper, which is a beautiful hotel. I have lunch at the cafe, because it’s late – and Spanish restaurants tend to open late for dinner. The food is OK, not amazing, I order some kind of cheese which there is just way to much of.
No time to go and see any museums or anything, but I take a walk along the wooden path along the beach which is stunning.
Day 2 (Tuesday)
The hotel isn’t the closest to other things, so I have breakfast there. It’s very tasty and 14 euro seems reasonable.
Start the day with a walk to Sagrada Familia, but it’s packed with incredibly long queues. You can buy tickets online, but it doesn’t work on my phone. I give up and walk to Casa Batllo instead.
Casa Battlo is incredible. So beautiful. It’s a little like the Casa Mila, which I’ve seen twice before, but more intimate. I love it. Gaudi is amazing.
Late lunch which of course has to be tapas! Foursquare leads me to Cervecería Ciudad Condal which is pretty nice, I like the asparagus and mushrooms.
Afterwards, I head towards the Picasso museum, but on the way I get side tracked by the Dali museum. This is incredible – crowded, with many lesser works, but so beautiful. Loved the melted watch over the coat hanger sculpture – I’ve seen the picture with the melted clocks at MOMA, and seeing the sculpture is amazing. Dali always pulls the same face in pictures! It’s lovely that pictures are fine to take here in this museum (note – some horrifying politics in his biography; key quote from George Orwell: “One ought to be able to hold in one’s head simultaneously the two facts that Dalí is a good draughtsman and a disgusting human being”).
It takes forever to get to Picasso Museum, I arrive and there is a queue and my legs ache from so much walking and standing, so I get a delicious hot chocolate at a nearby cafe, Lilipep. And after that, there’s no queue. I’m annoyed because they ask if you want a guide, but there is no leaflet in English so if you want to know what the pictures are you have to pay for one. Why not just charge English speakers 3 euro extra!
I worry I’m too grumpy to enjoy the exhibit but I do, the early work is interesting – almost photo-real, impressive paintings. In Picasso‘s later work his people don’t always look so people-like, but looking at his early work which is so, almost photo-real, makes it abundantly clear that is a choice. I think I have intellectually known that, but seeing it is something different. Seems like there is a lot missing though, there are only, in the end, about 2 pictures that take my breath away. Lots of studies (so much work goes into a painting!), sketches, early work… which are good, but not amazing. My favourite is a picture of his last wife, Jaqueline.
On the way home, I find some awesome boots!
Day 3 – Wednesday
Gaudi-tastic day. Walk to Parc Guell. It’s a long way from the hotel, over an hour to walk there, but so beautiful. It’s 8 euro entry, plus another 5.5 for the Gaudi House which was worth a visit. So lovely.
Then after stopping for a snack at La Nena, I head to Casa Mila, or La Pedrera – one of Gaudi’s most famous buildings, and one that I’ve seen on both my other trips here, but it wouldn’t be a visit to Barcelona without it. Good timing, as the sun is just going down as I’m on the roof. The apartment is spectacular, I love the natural light in every room.
Another longish (45 minute) walk back to the hotel. My legs hurt so much, and I’m just too late to swim – so annoying since the gorgeous pool was part of why I booked this hotel! But at least I’m out and about seeing the city. However being outdoors it shuts at 8, and isn’t open until 9am. Still, I walked well over 10k today, although the Nike Fuelband is only recording a little over 20k steps. I’m pretty sure my stride is not half a metre.
Day 4 – Thursday
I’m tired and visually overstimulated from the previous days of intense wondering and decide to keep today light, I’m aiming to be back at the hotel by 6 for a nice swim and an early night. I had wanted to go see if I could catch a show, but I’ll keep that for another time – when I’m not jet lagged and passing out at 8pm.
First stop, more Gaudi – I head to the Palace Guel (admission: 12 euro), which was one of his first commissions. It’s very cool, much grander than the others. I guess that is why it is a palace, and not a “casa”. I love it, the use of light is just as spectacular. But, unlike the others, I don’t want to live there.
Foursquare recommends a nearby tapas bar, I have some delicious tomato bread, and pork ribs, then I wonder through the Gothic Quarter – which is the centre of the old city of Barcelona. I stop in one clothes shop and try a bunch of things on, finding a miniskirt that I adore, and buy in four different colours, and then stop at Caelum for tea and chocolate cake.
Final stop of the day is the Museu Diocesà de Barcelona, admission 8 euro. A weird place by the Barcelona Cathedral. It contains a lot of religious stuff, which bores me, but has a gorgeous temporary exhibit by Julio Nieto. His work is gorgeous. And, there’s a Gaudi exhibit, and discussion of his faith.
I have a hard time reconciling the idea that a man so mathematically brilliant could be so fervently religious. I don’t even think you can argue the time, the end of the 19th, start of the 20th centuries wasn’t the dark ages?
I learn that Gaudi died after being run over by a tram, and the driver thinking he was someone of low socioeconomic status just left him there, until he was found the following morning, by a priest. Tragic in so many ways.
A whole room is devoted to Gaudi’s first designs for a church, at the Colonia Guell, which in the end wasn’t completely finished. The concept is incredible – he took chains and hung them, creating parabolic arches, and then inverted it to create the building. Amazing. The hanging chains in Casa Mila I saw yesterday make more sense – they are probably related to this. It’s just a mind-blowing example of his brilliance. I love it.
I get back to the hotel in plenty of time, and head to the pool. I dip my toes in – it’s freezing! I can’t do it, and hang out in the hot tub for a bit. It’s quiet, so I can float diagonally in it, and look at the sky. The rooftop is beautiful, and the sky is a gorgeous shade of deep blue. After a while, I go back to the pool and put a hand in it. It doesn’t feel quite as baltic, and it is supposed to be heated… pools often seem cold before you get in… I opt to go for it and jump in.
Arrgh it is that cold! Back to the hot tub – I will not be swimming laps this evening!
Day 5 (Friday)
When checking out, I comment on the temperature of the pool and I’m assured it is supposed to be about 25 degrees. It definitely wasn’t! Makes it extra disappointing that I didn’t get to enjoy the pool, but hey, the hot tub was nice.
I go to the Museum of Contemporary Art, arriving just as it opens. This is awesome, because by starting on the top floor and making my way down I have most of the rooms to myself. There’s a cool exhibit on women’s voices but other than that I don’t connect with very much. I’m not sure if I’m just a bit visually overstimulated from all the other culture I’ve been experiencing this week, or if the content is a bit meh. Probably a bit of both.
After lunch at a nearby tapas place, I’m short on time before I need to leave for the airport. I could probably fit in the Miro centre but it would be rushed and I am a bit cultured out, so I decide to skip it. I’d planned the botanical gardens for the way back, but they are further away than I thought and in the end I decide to just go to the airport early. It’s been great, I love love love Barcelona, but I’m ready to leave.