It’s more than a city. There no place in Europe
with the magic of Barcelona. I have been there often but each time I go
there I discover a new area, new side of the city, new excitement, new
thrills. This year was no different.
I chose to stay in the gothic center, the Barri Gotic.
Our hotel was the Duc De La Victoria on a typically narrow street near Las
Ramblas.This is the oldest part of the city with Placa Catalunia its nerve
center and la Rambla its nerve center running down to the port. Here,
Columbus stands tall, looking out to sea and casting a shadow on the
refurbished port, that warren of restaurants, souvenir shops and exotic
places to meander or drink in the fresh Mediterranean air. Here we walk on
Avinyo where Picasso painted “Les Desmoiselles”, or lean on a section
of a 3rd century Roman wall. It’s a constant historical
holiday where more than 4,000,000 people work, frolic and thrive.
Barcelona moves, especially at night. It is not unusual to find people
drinking and laughing in bars at 4 AM. Even dinner is late in this sunny
place. The restaurants are crowded at 11 PM, sometimes later. And while
the fare is sumptuous and diverse, the mainstay of the early evening snack
are the Tapas bars that serve open-faced sandwiches or tiny dishes of what
we would call hors d’ouvres. These hot or cold snacks are special and
more exciting because of their diversity. Everything can be served as a
Tapa. And to wash it down, what can be better than Sangrila, that fruit
flavored refreshment made of juices, fruit and wine? Served with ice, it
is the best drink in town as far as I’m concerned. But it goes well with
Paella too and Paella is one of the mainstays of Catalon cooking. The
upscale tapas bars are lively, noisy and places to dawdle. We sat around
chatting one night for almost two hours. Total fare for 2 was about eleven
Euros. There was enough to eat so we skipped supper.
The best lunch I had was at the world famous Els
Quarto Gats. Here, you should make a reservation. The large restaurant is
a trip into the past when Picasso and his gang of artists, poets,
dreamers, drank, argued and created in this beautiful setting. Even the
poster that announces the restaurant is a design by Picasso in the days he
lived in Barcelona. He wasn’t famous yet He was in Barcelona while his
father taught at the art school. But things would soon change. Picasso
would find fame in Paris.
Our meal that day was a fresh Carpaccio salad
followed by grilled fish and the Catalonian version of Crème Brule. I
picked up a lovely T shirt as a souvenir and when the manager found out I
had written a book about Picasso, he gave me a recent historical
publication on the establishment.
for reservations at 93 319 41 40.
But food is only one small part of this amazing city.
There is food for the soul and food for the eye.
We walked through the Bari to the Museo Picasso. Here
we saw the most accomplished paintings from Picasso’s youth. Much is
from 1895-1904 but there are works from 1917 when he worked with Cocteau
and Diaghilev. I especially enjoyed the series he did that was inspired by
Velazquez’s Las Meninas. Of all the Picasso museums and exhibitions
I’ve seen, I enjoyed the Barcelona museum best. This 15th
century mansion, noted for its courtyard and open staircase with richly
carved windows, is open Tuesday-Sundays. Call ahead . It’s well worth
the visit. Even the building is unique.
Again, sticking to the Bari, we visited the Palau de
la Musica Catalona. I must confess that it is the most impressive building
I have ever seen. How can you not like a colorful glass domed building
with lavish floral themes and figures with mosaic busts in relief. Even
before the music starts you are treated to a feast for the eyes. The
acoustics are near-perfect in a building boasting walls of colored glass.
That’s partially because of the special seats that absorb some of the
sound. Constructed in 1908 under the direction of Lluis Domenech I
Montaner, and continuously being expanded, this modernist concert hall was
declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Just standing in the vestibule
near the magnificent mural by Massat is reward enough. You can have a
guided visit hourly during most days. But try to get a concert ticket. You
will not believe the atmosphere. It is truly a magical experience. Notice
the centerpiece. It’s a stained glass sun that dominates the room.
Try to see it from the side and from below.
Actually, architecture is a major theme in Barcelona.
There were many who fashioned new ways of expressing their personal
architectural flavor. One in particular was Puig I Cadafalch whose Casa
Amatller is a neogothic building decorated with polychrome ceramic on the
façade. Just next door at on Passeig de Gracia Casa Batllo by Anton Gaudi
with its sparkling mosaic façade using dragon-like forms, a theme now
associated with this unique architect. His Palau Guell with its stone façade and wrought iron
arches is also a World heritage Site. This is an easy building to find as
it is just off la Rambla.
Two other feasts for the eye are Gaudi’s Park Guell,
the most famous park in Barcelona, and his La Sagrida Familia. There is
much to say about both by way of criticism and marvel. I like to believe
that these are two of the greatest sights in Western Europe and I’ll let
you discover them for yourselves.
Anton Gaudi I Cornot was born in June 1852 in the
nearby province of Taragona. The son of copper worker, Anton came to his
craft naturally. The architecture uses ceramics and designs hitherto
unknown but the iron grill work he used was an art in itself and one of
his main traits. He had worked unstintingly for a friend, Eusebi Guell,
for whom he created some of his greatest masterpieces. It was towards the
end of his tragically shortened life that gaudi threw himself into his
last work, the temple of the Sagrada Familia. He was killed in 1926 when
run over by a trolly. The completion of the temple continues today, based
on drawings Gaudi left.
The Park Guell, built between 1900 and 1914, was
Gaudi’s attempt to create an urban development in the country. It is a
collection of twisted and curved shapes. I especially enjoyed the columned
space with ceramic suns, originally intended as a market. The columns
support a large open terrace. My other eye-catching favorite
Is the waterfall at the entrance with the gurgling
water descending through the mouth of a multi-colored lizard. I bought a
small replica of that lizard which I proudly display. There’s a long
list of Gaudi buildings including streetlamps on the Placa Reial, the
Finca Miralles Doors of meta where a statue of the architect has been
installed at the entrance porch, Casa Vicens, Casa Mila, (La Pedera),Casa
Batillo or the St. Teresa of Avila College. It’s easy to take a Gaudi
tour of Barcelona and it’s well worth it. You can pick up an inexpensive
guide and do it yourself.
But there are other areas and themes to visit, in and
around this unusual city. A
walk along Las Ramblas with the street entertainers, the bird and flower
vendors and the throngs og tourists is very much ‘Barcelona” So too is
the great cathedral in the Gothic quarter with the street artists,
puppeteers and entertainers. I particularly enjoy walking around the
refurbished waterfront or on the lovely Montjuic which became a part of
the city with the Universal Exhibition of 1929. Visit the Montjuic Olympic
Stadium. It’s awesome.
I sit under a palm tree on The Plaza Reial, making
notes and taking pictures. There’s too much to write, too many pictures
to take. Barcelona is a happening by day or night. It’s a place that
welcomes you and beckons you to return. I certainly will.
Other places to visit:
Parc Joan Miro (spectacular street sculpture)
Citadel Park(Transformed in 1888 for a
Parc Clot (with a natural amphitheatre and
Monastery of Montserrat (outside the city atop
TOURIST INFORMATION (CATALUNYA)
Phone: 93 238 40 00
From Abroad (BARCELONA):
Phone: 93 368 97 30
In the United States:
You can Contact Professor Arnie Greenberg at:
Over the past few years, Professor
Greenberg has traveled with groups to France, Italy, Spain, Greece,
Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague and both Sorrento and the Bay of
Naples plus most of Sicily. His tours traveled to the far reaches of the
globe including Italy and most of
China (Beijing -Hong Kong) and to Russia where his group cruised the waters
from St.Petersburg to Moscow.
"He took a group to Greece and another to northern
Russia. In Nov 07 he took a tour group to much of India and ended his tour
groups by revisiting France. He now travels with his wife and friends. They
winter in Argentina or San Miguel Mexico. His newly found spare time
is taken up with his painting and writing. "I must write every day." His
current work is a cautionary manual for would-be tour leaders.. "So
You Want To Be A Tour Leader."
Arnie now travels with friends. He continues writing
Travel articles about unusual places but often concentrates on novel
writing. Two books based on French Art will be published this year.
Keep reading his web for travel ideas. His next
novel HELLSTORM'S Folly,
will be available this fall. He now
lives in British Columbia.
www.top-travel-ideas.com or contact him directly at
(More about the writer.)